Monday, 19 October 2009

Not so fucking proud of Twatter today

See, now I feel like a bit of a cunt, really. Having been all enthused by what Twatter can do to support free speech, I've now seen what it can do to stop free speech.

This is the thing about free speech: sometimes it's fucking nasty. Sometimes you have to support the right of people to say hateful and unpleasant things. I didn't agree with Jan Moir's nasty, innuendo-laden nastiness at all. But I fully support her right to say such nasty things so that everyone can see her for the nasty bitch she is.

Stephen Fry and Derren Brown have led a charge to bully advertisers into withdrawing from advertising on that page. And they're full of triumphalism about their success. Now I would have had no problem with M&S or whoever saying themselves "Fuck that, we don't want to be associated with this nasty old bag." But this was just a massive bullying campaign from people who didn't like a particular point of view being expressed.

Just stop and think about this for a moment: where does this end? If Stephen Fry doesn't like what Geert Wilders says and launches a Twitter campaign to get him banned from the country, where do you stand then? If a hundred thousand Daily Mail readers start a campaign to get Stephen Fry banned from ever appearing on TV again, where do you stand then?

This kind of unthinking, vindictive mob nastiness is, in my opinion, not significantly more intelligent or conductive to our well-being as a society than Jan Moir is.

The two freespeechers have a slightly ironic take on this: they don't want anyone to read the Mail.

Update: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has a curious post about freedom of speech here: basically, she says, freedom of speech is fine, until you cross the line. And the line is defined, by, well, our liberal elite betters:

However, though I passionately believe in free speech, I am not an absolutist nor a hypocrite.

In other words: "I believe in free speech until someone says something that I really disagree with. Oh, and then I'm not a hypocrite because I say so."

I guess what fucks me off about this story is that instead of the government telling me what I am supposed to think and say, I now have Stephen fucking Fry and Derren fucking Brown dictating the norms by which I must live.

Update 2: As if by magic ...

22 comments:

JuliaM said...

"Just stop and think about this for a moment: where does this end? If Stephen Fry doesn't like what Geert Wilders says and launches a Twitter campaign to get him banned from the country, where do you stand then? If a hundred thousand Daily Mail readers start a campaign to get Stephen Fry banned from ever appearing on TV again, where do you stand then?"

That's the problem when advertisers get leery and say 'Oooh, 10,000 of you wrote in, so we'll take the ad down'.

What's to stop 10,001 people Twittering to put the ads back up? Perhaps, some of them paid for by the company?

Constantly Furious said...

Damn right. If you agree with a twitter campaign, its 'popular sentiment', if you don't, its 'mob rule'.

Oh, and, what the fuck did you link to B&D for? I've been trying to give up the guilty pleasure of winding those twats up, and now you've got me started again.

Angry Exile said...

Let's also remember that Stephen Fry defended the fucking MPs expense piss taking on the grounds that everyone did it, even him, and journalists were particularly into loading expenses claims. I said at the time that if the twat couldn't see the difference then he's not remotely as bright as he comes across. This latest bit of Fry-ery just backs that up. He's a good quiz host and entertainer, but he's also a bit of a prick.

Old Holborn said...

Apart from the obvious failings of Boring and Demented to understand Libertarianism, the effect of twitter is really not so far away from my ideal goal, Swiss Democracy

Basically, if you can find 100,000 people who agree with you on an issue, it gets put to the voting public as a referendum. Very democratic. Both sides can argue and it can go to a vote.

What happened with the Daily Mail issue is that Ian Dale decided it would be good to try and use his "overt gayness" and twitter to:

1. Get media attention as he made his bid to be Bracknell MP
2. Use the "Obama" style guilt vote where he hoped people would vote for him because they didn't want to be accused of homophobia

And he used twitter to do it. Because no one could stop him. It didn't go to debate, it didn't go to referendum, it was the call of the General to his troops to simply attack "the enemy"

Whose enemy? The peoples? Bracknells? Nope.

Iain Dales.

I had a long arguement with him yesteday evening over this piece he wrote in Saturdays Observer. ( he has since deleted me from his friends after calling me lowlife scum) The bottom line is that Iain created an artificial snowstorm in order to become one of the 646 who will dictate every minutae of the lives of 60,000,000 people. He is blaming homophobes for not electing him and will continue to do so until he IS elected as a Tory MP.

Expect many, many more twitter campaigns from Iain. None of them to do with liberty, small government or low taxation. All of them to do with Iain getting what he so desperately craves. REAL power over you and I.

Obsidian said...

Don't see the issue - freedom of speech isn't the same as being protected from it's consequences.

Moir, and the Mail, are free to say what they like, equally people are free to suggest you boycott them, and people are free to ignore or recognize a boycott.

Advertisers are free to remove their advertising if they don't wish to be associated from the content of that speech.

Far as I can see, this is just freedom doing what it says on the tin for once.

Old Holborn said...

Obsidian

You misunderstand.

One person stood to profit greatly from a twitter campaign against the mail. Just one.

In that campaign, he used mindless fools to try and change the content of a national newspaper to HIS liking. This person was not elected by anyone, represents no one and has no mandate from anyone.

Draw comparisons with Carter Ruck if you like.

Obsidian said...

OH, Carter Ruck made use of an authoritarian legal system, one that's become synonymous with silencing dissent.

Fry and friends made use of good old people power. Freedom of speech and freedom of association combined to place economic pressure on the Mail.

Nothing wrong with that, you may disagree with the intention, but the method wasn't in any way inconsistent with libertarian principles, if anything it was a display of how it can function.

The only real thorn was the attempts to get the regulator involved. That was authoritarian, simply invoking personal and individual choice en masse wasn't.

aljahom said...

We seem to be in a minority, Obo.

@OH: I agree with you about Dale, but WTF does that have to do with the Moir/Gately/Fry/Brown debacle?

@JuliaM: Human nature makes it 1000 times more tempting to go negative. 90% of M&S customers are delighted. Do you think they're ever heard from? No - it's just axegrinders who have the motivation to stand up and be counted.

@ConstantFury @Obsidian: I'm concerned that you have a fairly casual attitude toward mob-rule. If you want a pop culture reference The Simpsons articulates the concept clearly enough to see where it arises from what it leads to.

wv: packi (I shit you not!)

Constantly Furious said...

"Freedom of speech .. to place economic pressure on the Mail."

So, Fry uses his 'freedom of speech' to curtail someone else's freedom of speech?

"Nothing wrong with that"

Well, apart from the hypocrisy...

Dippyness. said...

"I detest what you write, but would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write." Voltaire 1760.
Freedom of speech in this Country, walked out when Blair walked into No.10 Downing Street.

John Steed said...

I commented on Yasmins blog. Post Shoah there can be no equivocation on the BNP/C18/EDL. "Spiritual America" banned. Plod arresting a guy for mentioning "capitalism" and "communism". Land fit for heroes? Fucking arseholes it is!

SteveShark said...

All that's happened is that the mob can now metaphorically storm the castle and perhaps remove a few heads.

You might not like the cause, but you have to acknowledge the potential here.

What seems to be at issue here is who was leading the mob and why they headed for the castle.

Would everyone here feel the same if it was for a different cause that they sympathised with?

Obsidian said...

@aljahom

I believe in freedom, and no that's not always going to turn out well - no system is ever guaranteed to given purely positive outcomes.

@CF

We're all hypocrites at some level. There are some on display here - it is fine for the Mail for have freedom of speech, but Fry and Co may not? Libertarians wishing to curtail their ability to voice their opinion? Reduce peoples choices to associate and protest in how they see fit, when they're not infringing anybody else's rights?

Thats a form of protectionism, not libertarianism.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

"Advertisers are free to remove their advertising if they don't wish to be associated from the content of that speech."

I would entirely endorse M&S withdrawing their adverts if they thought it was a reasoned decision that they made.

However, this smacks more of mob rule, which is no better or more libertarian than rule by arrogant out-of-touch fucksticks.

And Fry is really just another arrogant out-of-touch fuckstick, isn't he?

aljahom said...

Tangential, but

@Obsidian: On universal hypocrisy

aljahom said...

try that again...

http://aljahom.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/hypocrisy/

Obsidian said...

Obo, unless we've started bleeding green and grown pointy ears, reasoned decision making is more the exception than the norm. I've yet to see an individual or business where that isn't a fact.

And Fry may be an out of touch fuckstick, but last I checked that doesn't mean he has any less right to spout his views than the rest of us.

As for it being mob rule, out of interest what laws, rules and regulations would you apply in Libertopia to stop this happening? It's not as if the pink peasantry are marching to Dacre's castle with pitchforks and torches.

JuliaM said...

"@JuliaM: Human nature makes it 1000 times more tempting to go negative. 90% of M&S customers are delighted. Do you think they're ever heard from? No - it's just axegrinders who have the motivation to stand up and be counted."

Agreed. But that can be countered quite easily if someone bothers (or is paid) to do so.

Obnoxio The Clown said...

"As for it being mob rule, out of interest what laws, rules and regulations would you apply in Libertopia to stop this happening?"

Well, laws and regulations are not particularly libertarian, are they? :o)

"It's not as if the pink peasantry are marching to Dacre's castle with pitchforks and torches."

They aren't this time. But I have a very nasty feeling about this. People have seen that mobs can still change things.

Old Holborn said...

Read this

http://www.annaraccoon.com/media/exclusive-matthew-parris-on-thinking-before-bedding/

SteveShark said...

@Obo
"But I have a very nasty feeling about this. People have seen that mobs can still change things."

Quite.

How many Libertarian blogs have mentioned lampposts, piano wire and heads on stakes over the past 6 months or so?

Whilst that might be hyperbole in most cases (?), 'death by a 1000 Tweets' is one its analogues and is legal, of some proven efficacy and a new weapon that people are now able to employ.

And they will - again and again.

Chris said...

Moir's article wasn't in good taste but she shouldn't be silenced for this.