Not Mid Morning Matters

JD in the Morning, off air…

Tag: social media

Change Trumps Change

Of the few certainties we get in life, as we circle around the sun, change is one of them. Sometimes it is our change to make. Sometimes it’s a change forced on us. It can be a change around us that we react to. Or we can do nothing, which also changes things.

In the last two weeks we have seen many groups, interests, countries, cities and towns rise up and march against changes they don’t like. These worthy protesters don’t want this, that or the other and they want to change it. As is so often the case it is the groups affected most who protest and it is the young who are the loudest. The art of the protest march had all but died since at the beginning of the millennium but now someone calls, usually using social media, hundreds maybe thousands hear it and rally to the cause. We truly live in an energized political time, but why protest the result?

Brexit is happening. Of those who voted (and both sides miss the point that almost 1 in 3 didn’t vote on 23rd June 2016 so it is not the majority of the people only the majority who voted) Vote Leave won by a margin of 4%. They won. Some are not happy, some march, some want to change it, some even throw a sickie to avoid voting on a bill that will make it happen. The result is clear but what is confusing about all the result is the media got it wrong. It is often claimed by the media that politicians have lost touch with the people. Maybe it’s the media that is scrabbling about in the dark trying to reach out and touch somebody, anybody. 27.5% of the UK electorate were not touched by anyone.

The election of Donald Trump is another example of the media getting it wrong. Early in the Republican Presidential campaign Donald Trump was the outsider in the vast field of political heavy weights. Former Senators, Governors and even a son and brother of two former Presidents all saw this election as their time. It was going to be a Republican win, Clinton never stood a chance as the democrats had the gig for the last eight years. One of these battle tested GOP warriors was going to be the 45th President of the United States. It certainly was not going to be property billionaire and reality TV star Donald J Trump. From “that” hair to never having held or been elected to public office and all points between nobody really took Trump seriously. Except Trump. The media loved him, he would say the most outrageous things and this made him box office for the papers and TV stations across the US. And Trump knew it. He got coverage that the other candidates could only dream of and certainly could not afford. Trump won the nomination despite and because of what he said and how he said it.

There was, of course, no way that Trump could actually win the Presidency though, thought the media. Look at all the things he said he would do. Build A wall, drain a the swamp, cut taxes, make America great again, the ridiculous list was endless. Then came that tape and that phrase “grab them by the pussy”. That had to be the end of it, the end of him. What started as a joke that the media thought they were reporting on was now reality. The media were not laughing.

Trump was laughing and Trump won, democratically elected by the very same system that elected Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush and so on. The biggest surprise was yet to come. All the things he said he was going to do, that the media reported on and the people voted on, that he won the presidency on he is now doing. Like it, him or not the 45th President of the United States is doing what he said he would do in his election campaign. Many are shocked, and not just by what he is doing but by the fact that he’s doing it. Politician does what he says what he was going to do. Maybe some of those who voted for him are shocked by that too?

The media are struggling with the result and so are many who didn’t see it coming. This is where change trumps change. If you want to make change you have to affect the result not protest the outcome. If you didn’t win then you didn’t make the change, win the argument and convince enough people. 27.5% of those who could have voted leave or remain in June last year didn’t vote. What would have been the outcome if they had? Protesting post the result is really is too late. If you don’t like it do something about it. Standing about shouting with a witty banner really isn’t going to change anything. It might make you feel better for a bit though, which is nice.

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Experts; aren’t we all?

What makes Doctors think they are special, “so very special” that they don’t have to work 7 days a week like many of us? Actually, in reality, Doctors do already work 7 days a week on rota but they currently get more money for weekends than what’s being offered in their new, soon to be imposed contract. How you side in this Junior Doctor’s dispute, be it the emotive BMA “patient safety” or the Government “manifesto commitment to a 7 day NHS” against the constant “crisis” backdrop the NHS is always in, the whole thing is all about money.

Back to the initial question. What makes Doctors think they are special? Is it the commitment to be a doctor that starts in their early teens when they select their GCSE’s? Is it the vision, commitment and passion to select and get the right A Levels and grades to match? It could be the 4/5 years at Medical School followed by a decade or more of training, exams, more training and more exams? Maybe it is the constant changing of jobs and hospitals to gain vital experience, which could also mean travelling 100’s of miles a day, including at weekends? Perhaps it’s the failed relationships and missed family moments as being a doctor is all-consuming? Hard to know really what makes a Doctor special but in a world of Google and Social Media, where we can diagnose ourselves without having to do any of the above, what’s the point of all that effort and commitment? Doctors aren’t special. We don’t need experts.

During the now widely discredited Referendum Campaign (discredited on both sides in a report by the Electoral Reform Society published this last week) one of the most revealing moments was when Leave campaigner Michael Gove (remember him) said “I think people in this country have had enough of experts”. Experts had been telling us what might happen if we chose to Leave or Remain in the EU. It is fair to say that following the result to leave on 24th June all of the doom predicted by those experts has not happened, so far. In fact, after the initial shock, the UK economy has returned to pretty much where it was when the (then) Prime Minister David Cameron (remember him) called The In/Out Referendum in February this year. It’s been a very long 7 months.

Is Michael Gove right in his assertion that we don’t need experts? Is our existential age a time of instant information and connectivity to anything, everything and everyone making us all instant experts? We can now have hundreds of “friends”, we crave “likes” and most of us have more “followers” than Jesus could manage when he was “alive”. Does this means we don’t need real experts, doctors, elected politicians, public servants, journalists, newspapers, radio, TV because we can all get what we want when we want it, all at a click or swipe or scroll? The internet has democratized information and for those who wisely choose to go beyond one single source of information or a single “trusted” news site we can be better informed. You can check and cross reference anything.

Yet there is a problem with all this. If we don’t like what we see, read or hear we can trash it, troll it, attack it and get our “friends” and “followers” to pile in too. We don’t need experts. Your opinion is not mine. Your politics is not mine. Your race is not mine. Attack. We live in the moment were we can easily be extreme and many relish this. We are entitled to do so. We are entitled. Nobody is worth more money than me. Nobody. Social Media is allows us to be everything including judge, jury and expert.

Starting with newspapers many centuries ago, for almost the last hundred years radio followed by TV was all we had. This so-called traditional media is now changing fast to adapt to the social media world and rightly too. As this old media tries to marry with the new maybe the new needs to respect the old a little bit more than it currently does. Our rush toward Social Media is not taking account of the long path it took to get to this point. It took hundreds of years from the first printing press to create the first mass-produced published book. Facebook is just 12 and half years old. Would you just trust a 12-year-old with your life, business and future? We need to respect what was and how it came to be more than we currently doing or we risk losing the bath water, baby and the bath.

This is the case with junior Doctors too. We need to respect what happened in the past. This past and path gave us the Consultant Medics and Surgeons we rely on today and will have to rely on even more with the coming strikes. Both sides in the Junior Doctors dispute would do well to remember this and would do better to talk less and listen more. Doctors know better than most the power of listening. It saves lives. Taking a “history” is vital to diagnose and treat anyone. We need to respect our past, our experiences and do a little less existential scrolling, clicking, swiping and living. Doctors are special and we do need experts.

What M.E?

In the last few weeks I have seen the best and the worst of what we are capable of. The worst was on a beach in Tunisia and those who died at the trigger of an Islamic Extremist gunman. This is only the beginning of this story from the country that seeded the Arab Spring. Tunisia and Europe will struggle to come to terms with the consequences of summer of 2015 and the biggest problems may have already begun. Any country that relies on tourists spending money for a significant part of its GPD is going to hurt as this cash tap is turned off. The financial pain that Tunisia will feel will be very easily harnessed by those who have no desire to encourage the West back with their flabby white bodies to its turquoise seas and sandy beaches. Maybe this is part of the terrorist plan? As ever social media will have its dark, digital hand in all this.

Yet something else has kept my hope alive and well.

Two weeks ago I went to see a 38 year old woman called Naomi at her home to interview her for my BBC radio programme. I don’t like doing what are known as a ‘pre-rec’ after a three hour live programme. I always feel ‘flat’ and feel I lack the ‘spark’ a live show and red ‘ON Air’ light gives me. After this interview I will never be so pathetic again.

Naomi has lived with M E, Myalgic Encephalopathy, for 25 years of her life. She went from being a bright, vibrant young girl to seriously ill in a matter of weeks. Now Naomi is barley able to get up from her bed for 20 minutes a day because of a virus and how her body reacted to it. When I knocked on the door to interview Naomi I knew little about M E. other than its dodgy reputation and the questions about whether it was actually a real illness. When I left Naomi’s parents home where she lives, having spoken to her, her mother and brother for an hour I cried.

I played the recorded interview out on my radio programme, put the video of Naomi’s story up on social media, lovingly made by her brother Tom, and thought that was it. I was wrong.

I am not a big fan of social media. It seems to be little more than a platform of inanity and fantasy. At it’s worst it is a vehicle of anger, hatred and allows those who delight at taking offense at anything to hide behind their made up names and say hurtful, stupid and ill-informed things without real consequence or responsibility. This is not to be confused with free speech. Free speech is saying what you feel or believe and having the courage to be seen standing up to say it. At its very worst social media is full of narcissists and the delusional with a worrying need ‘followers’ or ‘friends’, a mob of cowardly, unidentifiable cockwombles hiding, carping and hating.

Social media can also be a huge force for good; a force for change and it can give voice to those who don’t have one. Naomi’s story on the radio and  Naomi’s video story has revealed thousands like her who are suffering, thanks to social media.

I never knew how big a problem M E is. It is only through Naomi’s courage in giving what little energy she had in telling her story and allowing me to share her story that others now have a voice too. Thanks to Naomi others can get help and have hope. This includes my own stepsister who I never knew has M E until this week.

I will now do more to help others with this condition. M E is dreadful, debilitating illness that when it takes hold it never lets go. For Naomi, for all those living with chronic pain and M E, I will do more while I can. I will also use social media too because I can finally see what it can do rather than what it seems all too capable of doing now.

Islamic State and the state of social media

A British born jihadist beheads an American journalist in a self-declared Islamic State to affirm a caliphate by posting it on social media.

Those who use social media, and include myself in this, are wondering what these platforms are all about this week. The use of social media by Islamic State, IS as they are now called, is quite brilliant. Many companies and celebrities would love the attention and ‘penetration’ that IS are achieving in getting their message and methods out to the world. This is a world IS want to destroy or at the very least return to their 14th Century version of Islam. The juxtaposition of using the very apex of the 21st century communication to tell the world they are wrong and IS is right cannot be lost on them, or us.

This is the biggest issue with social media and, as has already been proven by the internet, social media is fast becoming out of control as it is being used for purposes unimagined and is now beyond the control of its creators. As fast as IS have an account closed they open another; its like a cyber version of wack-a-mole. Advocates of Twitter and Facebook, who are public companies with shareholders and business models and bottom lines to achieve, have been and are being duped. I include the BBC in this.

It would seem implausible that any BBC presenter, paid from the public purse on a network that does not advertise at all, would be allowed to say ”call me on your Blackberry or Apple mobile ‘phone, using your Vodafone provider or you can use your BT landline and your Currys ‘phone to make that call, or you can even use Royal Mail to write to me using your Parker pen and Basildon Bond paper”? They are all businesses looking for custom and profit, just like Facebook and Twitter yet social media is exempt.

Television viewers and radio listeners are regularly invited to tweet, post or like on Twitter and Facebook. It seems okay for everyone in the media to freely advertise social media providers, encourage their use, to create and enhance the platform of millions of connected users and, by endorsement, imply it’s a good thing.

Here is the reality from this weeks shocking news. A simple click of a link on social media can take you to a video of a kitten in an oversized wine glass looking cute, a drunk Russian trying to stand up in the snow or an innocent man, a son, a journalist being murdered by someone whose twisted view of his faith makes him ‘believe’ his actions are just. You are a click away from the worst of humanity, faith, belief, and what you may know or feel is right or wrong. You have no control over this unless you opt out completely. Social Media has no control either and IS know this.

Sharing views, keeping followers or friends informed is one thing but social media is fast becoming something more and it has now contributed to the murder of James Foley. Social Media gives IS a platform and that platform allows them to ‘share’ their message, ‘post’ their actions, their followers to ‘retweet’ it and there is nothing we can do about it. There is nothing social media providers, these listed companies with shareholders and profits to make can do about it.

So the question is ‘would James Foley still be alive if social media didn’t exist?’. If the act of his brutal murder couldn’t be ‘shared’ or ‘tweeted’ or ‘retweeted’ would IS have done it?

The conclusion could be to beware the advocates of social media, those who claim it is the future and we must embrace it, do more on it, make it part of our every day lives, plead for tweets or posts. Most of all beware of those who have the need for ‘followers’ and ‘friends’. These are some of the many lessons of this week.

One last thing. The bravery of James Foley shown in his face against the masked face of ‘Jihadi John’ who was unwilling to show the world his face by hiding in the cowardice of non identity and clearly lacking in any confidence that his ‘god’ believes in him tells us much about this version of Islam and IS.

N.B

I am aware I have used Social Media to publish this blog. That irony is not lost too.

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