Thought Crimes have Real Consequences

The Bible

The internet is like many other developments in human history; it’s changed all our lives for the better, but it’s also left some unforeseen consequences in its wake. One of these more pernicious side effects has been to witness our society drowning in hyperbole. Now everyone’s a Nazi and every piece of legislation is proof positive of Orwell’s dystopian nightmare. Vaccine passports, environmentalism and international trade have morphed into the horsemen of the apocalypse and the mark of the beast, rather than issues for serious discussion by thoughtful people.

This constant ratcheting up of attention-seeking outrage has an anaesthetic effect on our collective consciousness, rendering us less able to recognise a real danger when it appears. Rather than comprehending a genuine existential threat, we find ourselves merely tut-tutting as knife violence soars and our once respected police keep files on everyday citizens who’ve broken no laws.

It’s disappointing that the Daily Mail should be the paper to highlight such an issue of genuine concern, but the truth is the truth, no matter from whence it comes. The arrest of an elderly Christian preacher for the crime of quoting the Bible in public should send shivers down the spine of every free citizen anywhere in the world.

The fact that the 71-year-old was later released without charge is no comfort, because although he has not been charged, the encounter will still be recorded as a non-crime hate incident by the police. That’s right, in our topsy-turvy authoritarian world, not breaking the law is now sufficient reason for the police to keep a file on you. The fact that quoting one of the three Abrahamic texts verbatim is now grounds for arrest and state sponsored harassment is nothing short of terrifying. It’s my sincere hope that Mr Sherwood has a Muslim friend who’s willing to stand in the same spot and quote the Koran on the same subject. It would be fun to watch the Met’s mental gymnastics team spring into action!

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Razor Wire

Damn! Now I Must Defend Piers Morgan

Razor WireI’m not really a fan of Piers Morgan.

Having watched his performances for many years now, I’ve concluded that, much like Tony Blair, the only guiding principle he really adheres to is that of self-promotion. No doubt his dramatic departure from ITV has cleared the way for his transition to yet-to-be-launched GB News. Fortuitous timing or what!

I don’t think there are many people in the English-speaking world who haven’t figured out that Piers Morgan is a self-aggrandising loudmouth, who takes every opportunity to elbow his way into the news he’s supposed to be reporting. Still, the man’s been a linchpin of the infotainment industry for a long time now and we can’t really condemn him for doing his job enthusiastically.

Being outspoken and controversial has been a solid gold career choice for Piers Morgan, so I have no doubt the show will go on. And on. And on.

Having said all that, nothing I’ve written even comes close to justifying his de facto dismissal from ITV, and for what? Well, the unconscionable crime of voicing an opinion shared by countless millions throughout the world.

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Laura Loomer

Twitter’s Looming Censorship Problem

Laura LoomerThe way some Silicon Valley giants have behaved of late leads me to wonder whether they’re spectacularly short sighted, or whether they’re so convinced of their own invulnerability that they believe they can act with impunity and never be challenged. Their politically driven editorialising must surely stem from either hubris or foolishness.

Social media and its fellow travellers have a long and well documented history of highly partisan political interference which doesn’t need to be regurgitated here. However, something’s just happened which has left the tech titans in a very precarious position.

Last night, conservative campaigner Laura Loomer won the Republican nomination for Florida’s 21st Congressional District. In fact, she won just over of 40% of votes cast, which is a remarkable achievement considering that she’s been handed indefinite bans by Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as being blacklisted by PayPal and GoFundMe. Despite this serious communication and fundraising handicap, she’s managed to amass way over half a million followers on Parler and the backing of one of the United States’ biggest political parties.

Now that Laura Loomer is an official, bona fide political candidate, will Twitter, Facebook and the rest let her speak freely?

In fairness, I’m not the only one asking that question, but I’m actually surprised that more people aren’t making a fuss about this in the blogosphere. Oh wait a minute; Laura Loomer is Jewish and critical of Islam…so of course I’m not surprised.

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Donald Trump

Did Twitter Just Re-elect Trump?

Donald TrumpIt’s finally happened.

President Trump has finally issued the Executive Order on Preventing Online Censorship. This hasn’t come a moment too soon and by the looks of this very detailed document, Trump’s had it ready in his desk for some time. All he had to do was wait patiently for someone to cock up massively like Twitter just did.

At this early stage it’s not clear whether the social media giants will respond by feigning shock and ignorance, loudly protesting their innocence or just carrying on like nothing’s actually happened. None of those responses would surprise me but if I had to guess, I’d say they’ll just carry on, while maybe announcing some kind of internal review which is far too little and way too late. Nobody would believe the findings of such an enquiry anyway. Not now.

Whilst this isn’t an actual change in the law, the executive order does explicitly state what everyone in the world, and his dog, has known for many years; namely that the tech giants have been wantonly abusing Section 230(c) of the Communications Decency Act with impunity for decades. Worse than that, they’ve been using the legal protections of Section 230(c) to censor law abiding platform users for no good reason other than their will to dominate discourse and control information.

“Section 230 was not intended to allow a handful of companies to grow into titans controlling vital avenues for our national discourse under the guise of promoting open forums for debate, and then to provide those behemoths blanket immunity when they use their power to censor content and silence viewpoints that they dislike.”

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Alien balloons

Conspiracy Theories are a Product of Freedom

Alien balloonsAt first reading, Instagram’s decision to slap a “false information” label on Jelena Djokovic’s post sharing a 5G coronavirus conspiracy video seems eminently sensible and responsible. After all, the news media is awash with stories of people attacking 5G masts and in some instances even threatening engineers in the belief that there’s some connection between the new communications system and the spread of the coronavirus.

At present there is no credible reason to think that any causal connection exists between a high-frequency communications system and a novel virus variant that attacks the respiratory systems of its victims. I for one am not expecting any such information to emerge any time soon.

Be that as it may, Instagram have made a big mistake in this instance and it’s a decision they will one day come to regret. The social media giants have been under increasing scrutiny over the past couple of years, especially when it comes to their arbitrary and politically motivated decisions to suppress some users while allowing others to continue using their platforms. Facebook has already tied itself in knots trying to explain its decision to remove completely legal posts by some users and not others; and the US Senate is starting to take the matter of online censorship much more seriously.

By deciding to effectively pass a value judgement on Jelena Djokovic’s personal opinion, Instagram has followed Facebook’s lead and started to assume the role of an editor as opposed to that of a neutral platform.

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