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The War on Internet Terrorism

August 3rd, 2013 at 4:33 pm

A one off post

They call it “Trolliday”. Show your support for victims of intensive and targeted harassment by boycotting Twitter for a single day.

The original plan was to use people power — lots of people working together with a single aim — to force Twitter into adding a ‘Report Abuse’ button. I’ve added a report abuse button to this blog, too. Click it for a demonstration of how useful Twitter’s report abuse button is going to be at stopping targeted harassment: 

But Twitter, having had a lot of negative publicity for their platform have decided it’s probably for the best if they just add the button to make the problem go away. Doesn’t really matter what the button does or how it works behind the scenes. It’s a button. People love buttons.

So why is “Trolliday” still going ahead regardless? And what’s with calling these people ‘trolls’? “Troll” being a cutesy term for people who wind other people up for the lulz. That’s…. that’s not what’s happening here. What’s happening here is terrorism.

Terrorism is the use of fear and intimidation to achieve political ends. Making sure there’s a woman on British banknotes? Political. Some journalist abusing a minority in a column? Political. The war for what our culture should be is being literally fought out on the Internet.

To me, sustained threats of violence, rape, murder along with more general abuse from hundreds of people targeted at an individual? That’s not trolling. That’s war.

The aim? To silence the enemy and prevent others taking their place. The worst thing is that it works. It works really really well. Sometimes it’s intensive, targeting bullying and other times it’s just the general background noise on Twitter where you see your allies and friends mocked and abused for holding different opinions, different ideas and beliefs. Do you stand your ground, do you stick up for your friends? Or do you keep your mouth shut to avoid the aggravation of a confrontation?

I think all too often I’ve been guilty of the latter. Increasingly so. I don’t feel as free to express my opinion as I once did.

So, the way I see it? Disappearing off Twitter for a day is like protesting against the Taliban by pulling your girls out of school. It’s giving them exactly what they want.

And that’s why this is the wrong action to be taking. Tony Blair and George Bush’s kneejerk reaction to terrorism has turned airports into the most miserable places on earth, has extended the surveillance state and very nearly caused us to end up with ID cards. I thought we’d learnt that the best way to stand against terrorism is to refuse to change our way of life, to not let the terrorists win?

Freedom of speech is something that can be taken away from you by a self-selecting mob, no matter what rights the state gives you. The state promises not to interfere with your freedom of expression but that doesn’t prevent others having a go.

The only rational response is to never let yourself be silenced.

Perhaps I’ll continue being a hypocrite and keep my own mouth shut… but I mean to try harder to actually use the rights I have. And that’s why I’m going to tweet until my fingers cramp up on Trolliday. What’s needed isn’t solidarity. It’s holding the line.

 


Update: Lots of people having problems with the Report Abuse button. Here’s another button to report technical problems:

4 commentsPosted in Opinion

Lib Dems: Blowing it here.

May 6th, 2011 at 4:38 pm

There's no referendum the Lib Dems could support that would win.

Poor Lib Dems. It all seemed so exciting and new when the Coalition was formed… then they increased Tuition Fees to £9,000. In a stroke they lost the nearest thing to a natural constituency they had – namely students – and left everyone else not quite able to shake the idea that Lib Dems are untrustworthy mercenaries interested only in the fortunes and successes of the Liberal Democrat Party itself.

Is that unfair? Well, yes, up to a point. There’s only one real policy that the Lib Dems as a whole care about, that’s not open to negotiation, and that’s Proportional Representation – which, sadly, reinforces the idea that all Lib Dems really care about is the fortune and success of the Liberal Democrat Party.

Still, because of this, the one non-negotiable concession they wanted from the Conservatives was the referendum on electoral reform, in this case on AV (which, just possibly, might lead to another Coalition and a further referendum for PR). It was a classic example of short term tactical thinking triumphing over long term strategic thinking.

What astonishes me is why anyone imagined that any referendum put forward by the Lib Dems so soon into the life of the Coalition would ever be supported by the public. We all know the circumstances that led to the referendum, and we all know that the Lib Dems desperately want it to succeed. It’s my belief that no matter the question, people would always have voted against the Lib Dems out of spite. Labour and Tory alike, the Lib Dems aren’t where they should be and their wrath will not be easily diminished. If the Lib Dems said that food was good, people would stop eating.

The Lib Dems had one strategic objective going into the Coalition, and that was to prove to everyone how trustworthy and competent they were, how their ideas when put into practice delivered real benefits and improved people’s lives. They blew it, instantly, and for what? A shoddy referendum for a pointless reform. Without trust, politicians are nothing.

If they’d been willing to go into Coalition without the referendum promise then people might – just might – have been willing to believe that they went into the partnership in the national interest rather than their own. If they’d successfully established themselves as trustworthy and competent then maybe, just maybe, the next time they were in Coalition people would see it as a good thing and look more kindly on their efforts at reform.

Yet this whole strategy of reforming Britain’s electoral system by exploiting hung parliaments looks as squalid and desperate as it ever did. This is a party that has long since abandoned any ideas it might have of winning an election in its own right and has instead taken a path which the voters, quite rightly, resent and object to.

If they want PR, they need to win a bloody general election. That’s all there is to it.

The Revolution Will Be Commentated

February 23rd, 2011 at 12:02 am

You wanna know what I think?

This post has been abridged:

Thought 1:

Machiavelli is out of date – there’s a new truism when it comes to the successfully holding onto power: No longer is it better to be feared than loved. Now, I think, it is better not to be thought of at all.

Thought 2:

If a collective wants ruin and damnation, that’s what the collective gets. I’m looking at the Middle East and I don’t know whether the people there will get what they want – or, if they do, whether they will like it once they have it.

The Big Society Bank Experiment

February 14th, 2011 at 11:28 am

Don't worry. No-one gets the Big Society.

I freely admit I still have no idea what the Big Society is. I know that, from the Government’s point of view, it’s about trying to get people to volunteer to fix things they feel passionately about rather than relying on the Government to do everything for them. Such a cultural shift would go a long way towards the ever increasing size of the British State, and the near limitless reach that it has.

Speaking of ‘near limitless reach’ they’re setting up a new Bank. Hurrah! Not an evil bank like the Big Four, though. No, this is going to be the Big Society Bank – The Little Bank with a Big Heart. It’s a new Quango, obviously, and won’t lend to businesses directly – it will, instead, lend to… er… investors.. and funds… and things. Those investors will then lend to ‘social enterprises’ and ‘New Green Industry Of The Future’ which, in turn, will create the Big Society.

So that’s the plan. The money it lends out, quite obviously, is your money. At least to start with. The contents of your dormant bank accounts are being confiscated cos, well, they can. That’ll raise them £100 to £400 million, which I’m sure they’ll be very pleased with. Then, after that money’s been used, they’ll begin buying money from the other main commercial banks at commercial rates.

Essentially, then, the Big Society Bank is a middleman between high risk investors – and the actual banks who, currently, because they have this legal obligation to make money for their shareholders, cannot even think about lending to The Green Industries Of The Future or Social Enterprises.

Such a state of affairs is considered a “Market Failure”, or “a politically inconvenient outcome”. The Big Society Bank, then, will step in place between the Investors and the Banks. When it makes a loss, as it inevitably will, it will be the taxpayer that makes up the difference. That £100m float money – which, again, is your money – won’t last very long.

Yet the Government is insistent that the Big Society Bank won’t make a loss, that it will pay for itself and from it will bloom the businesses of the Future.

If this is true, the obvious question is this: Why is Government having to set up a Bank like this? Wouldn’t it be more ‘Big Society’ if people did this themselves?

There’s two possible reasons. The first is that the barrier to entry into UK banking is as steep as they come. Not even Richard Branson can get a banking licence. Alan Sugar? No chance. Virtually every banking brand you see belongs to one of the Big Four banks, using their operating licence.

In addition to the sheer nightmare and cost of getting a banking licence, the current climate surrounding banks means that our new people powered Big Hearted Bank would be subject to the same levies, the same tax regime, the same regulatory structure. The need to make enormous quantities of money just to stay afloat would override all other concerns.

The second reason is this: Banks are only lending – when they lend at all – to very low risk enterprises at the moment. Green Tech and Social Enterprise are very, very, very high risk. No bank could survive with a portfolio comprised entirely of long shots and losers and charity cases, but the new bank won’t even be doing that – they’ll be putting your money into the hands of other people that are utterly detached from the source of the money or the people who underwrite it – that’s you, by the way. They’ll hope that the Investors are wise and clever and able to pick out the winners and losers with an unerring degree of accuracy.

As far as a business strategy goes, it’s not a very strong one. In fact, I suspect the only people who’d lend me money to start such a bank (if I were foolish enough to attempt it) would be… I guess… The Big Society Bank itself.

This fact is, I think, important. I think it’s the crux of the matter.

Of course, the bank – and most importantly the Government – won’t be to blame when the Big Four demand their money back when The Big Society Bank goes bust. The companies who ultimately spend the money won’t get the blame, either – after all, they’ll have tried their best. No, it’ll be the “evil” speculators and investors who will get the blame. It’s all very neat. Win win for everyone, obviously. Politicians AND banks! Everyone!

Now, will someone please explain what the difference between the Big State and the Big Society is because, from here, I can’t see it. This looks like protectionism and planning: reinvented and rebranded, but ultimately the same toxic mess it always proves to be.

On Dependency

February 5th, 2011 at 12:00 pm

A very long rambling essay which should not be read.

Despite the radical change in perceptions of the state of the country in the eyes of supporters and opponents of the current Government, very little has actually changed and, when all is said and done very little will have changed by the time they leave.

We will still be a nation fighting amongst ourselves over who gets the money and who has to pay – the sight of students acting as self-righteous citizen tax collectors demanding enough money from Vodafone to subsidise their own tuition fees illustrates this with depressing clarity.

The machinery of Britain’s surveillance state remains in place, the civil liberties we lost under Labour haven’t been restored and judging by the hideous exercise in double-think that the new Control Order system has turned out to be it would be unwise to expect much, if anything, from this particular Government.

We’re still a heavily taxed, heavily regulated country dominated by vested interests. That’s certainly not going to change under the Coalition.

And, most importantly, the majority of people seem to believe that if something’s worth having, the Government should pay for it. Dependence, we’re told, is not a sign of failure. There’s no shame, it is said, in relying on your fellow man.

Well, I think this is wrong.

Whilst it’s true that the vast majority of people will not really notice much difference between the state of the country at the end of this term of Government and the end of the last term, a small minority – the losers in the current reallocation of resources – will feel some quite striking changes in their own lives. There’s always winners and losers when Governments change hands and the winners of today are tomorrow’s losers

One group who’ll feel it most sharply are those who’ll have to move home as a result of Housing Benefit caps. Moving home is always a stressful, unpleasant experience and to combine that with the humiliation of having to leave a house because the taxpayer is no longer willing to pay such a steep rent (with the implication that the tenant has been greedy and inconsiderate of the taxpayer in choosing their current home)… well it’s safe to say I have some sympathy. I’m not entirely inhuman, it turns out, but that doesn’t mean to say I’m against the housing benefit caps or that this should be stopped.

Instead I’m going to use this as an example to illustrate that “there’s nothing wrong with being dependant on others” is as disgusting a lie as ever there was.

Living in a house on Housing Benefit is not, and never could be, a like for like substitute for owning your own home.

By asking someone else to pay your rent, you surrender control. You live in property that costs no more than the person paying is willing to pay, or you make up the difference yourself. You can’t hold the person paying to a guarantee to pay indefinitely. You lose, automatically, the ability to control how long you live in a particular property because you have placed such matters in the hands of someone else. You are, literally, at their mercy.

This is, by its very nature, is not a very attractive state of affairs to find yourself in – having been through it myself several times I know it to be utterly degrading, humiliating and destructive to what little self-esteem I have… but it is the price of getting for free what others have to work to pay for. You trade your dignity and your autonomy for it, and you hope and pray that the person in control isn’t a sadist who takes pleasure in abusing those who have no choice but to suffer whatever is inflicted.

In a polite, civilised society we prefer to leave this reality unspoken. We understand that there are people who have no choice but to take whatever they can get in order simply to survive, and it seems callous and cruel to compound the simple fact of having to live this way with reminding them that it is so.

By asking them to move somewhere cheaper, however, the Government has indeed reminded us all that it is so. Their cruelty is in exposing the lie that people who get to live in posh parts of London that normal people couldn’t hope to afford are somehow ‘lucky’. They are not.

This, they say, is the evil of Capitalism, this edge case of what happens to people who don’t have the means to support the lifestyle they’re actually living without charity from others.

Yet the alternative proposed is that the right to use money to take control and achieve autonomy is removed from all, to throw all of humanity into collectively owned housing with rent being a matter of what one can afford to pay, entirely disconnected from how much a particular property – or more likely room within a property – is worth, and where one lives becomes a matter of where you’re told to live and how much influence you have with the people who make such decisions. This is what the abolition of private property actually means.

Then we’d be equal? Then it’d be better? I think not.

It’s quite one thing to live in a society that grants people who live on welfare a certain measure of dignity and chooses – yes, chooses – not to be wilfully cruel or sadistic. It’s quite another to assume this means that there’s no difference between dependence and independence.

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