Month: March 2012

Jailed for a tweet; social media isn’t your internal monologue

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No – it isn’t me!

I’m sure that everyone has heard about the footballer, Fabrice Muamba, who collapsed with cardiac arrest during a Bolton Wanderers (his team) vs Tottenham Hotspur match a while back. Thankfully, he is now seemingly recovering, conscious and alert, which is only a good thing for everyone.

But onto the more recent news, that a twitter user has been jailed for 56 days for making quote-unquote “racially offensive comments on Twitter”.  Allegedly, he made a number of comments with the first coming moments after the collapse, including “LOL **** Muamba. He’s dead!!!” (which is just sickening).
As people replied to him in complaint, he made further offensive replies back, before trying to delete comments and his entire Twitter account. Here are some choice replies he made:

  • you are a silly c**t… Your mothers a w*g and your dad is a rapist! Bonjour you scruffy northen c***!
  • owwww go suck a n****r d*** you f*****g aids ridden c**t
  • go suck muamba’s dead black d**k then you aids ridden t**t! #muambasdead
  • go rape your dog! #C**t!
  • I aint your friend you w*g c**t ….go pick some cotton!
  • only taking the p**s, obviously people can’t take a joke

(Feel free to observe more of his timeline here)

Unfortunately for him, police received complaints from across the country, and they placed him under arrest. Despite claiming initially that his account was hacked, and then that he was drunk when he made the tweets, he has now been jailed.

“So what?” you say. Why do I care enough about this story to post. Well, a few reasons really. You might remember the Tottenham riots? And the guys who got jailed for creating a riot event on Facebook, even though the event never happened?

There are a few arguments at play here. You might say that it is a kind of thought crime, where you should be able to hold your opinion no matter how distasteful, and only physical manifestations are actionable. ‘Freedom of speech’ and all that? Bullshit. Re-read what this guy says above. Besides, he has the freedom to speak his mind, but nothing says we have to accept it as a society. But… Do I agree with jail time? Not really. The guy is clearly an asshole, and it is now evident for all to see. The 50 days in jail may seem like a paltry punishment, but actually the criminal record alone, plus the fact that this guy was until now a student with a very clean record, mean that his chances in life just got a whole lot less. He’s branded as a racist now forever, regardless of the jail time, and moreover as an unbelievable idiot. Is that enough? Especially in comparison to other jail terms, such as the over-over-over mad aforementioned Facebook guys, or the lenient community service sentences?

Part of the problem (perhaps unfairly) is, that public mood dictates jail terms, and that is a dangerous position to be in. Am I saying he got treated harshly, not necessarily, but he certainly didn’t get treated fairly. This guy got caught, let alone jail, BECAUSE he commented on a famous person. Had that just been someone tweeting about someone in the street, probably not even looked into by police. If judges cannot look at sentencing without passion influencing their opinion, it calls into question the neutrality of the courts. It merely teaches people “don’t fuck with someone famous”.

However, and this is something I’ve been saying to people for a while not, social media is NOT your diary or your internal monologue. Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, Disqus, Tumblr… you name it, they all allow comments, they all allow sharing, they allow in many cases anyone and everyone to see your posting. You therefore have NO RIGHT to get mad when people do read it, or comment on it, especially if their opinion differs to yours. All too often I see people saying “If you don’t like it, hide my statuses / why did you read it? / don’t comment / unfriend me” etc. What you must realise is you have the responsibilities round the wrong way. It is not my or anyone else’s responsibility to censor and moderate you, it is your own. Blaming someone for commenting on something you chose to share on a platform built for sharing and comment is a very foolish thing.

Social media isn’t private. For most of us, it’s fun and stimulates discussion. But, don’t let yourself think for a second that just because it is online, you are shielded from retribution. You aren’t, and whilst sometimes the authorities go too far (such as the guy who got jailed for making a Twitter joke about blowing up an airport), if they get wind of you, they will come. Think before you post, and more importantly, be prepared for the consequences for when you do, whether these are the establishment, a future employer, or just your friends and peers. That is what I’m trying to point out.

Peace, out
– Matt

KONY and the Invisible Children – Does the truth matter?

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I’ve not heard much about Kony… apart from of course the COUNTLESS facebook, twitter, blog, news, counter-blog, etc etc reports about the issue. Honestly, I’m kinda a bit tired of hearing about it, but I’m also intrigued by the controversy about the organisation, Invisible Children, that has made some headlines.

I haven’t watched the video, by the way, and have no intention of doing so. Why not? Because I think I’ve got the gist –  Kony is a bad guy, top of a few wanted lists, uses and abuses children and kills people. Frankly, screaming at me about a “highly emotional video” is just pointing out a hyped, hyperbolic piece of propaganda at best, or at worst a manipulative money-spinner.

A few things stick out to me. First off, Kony is bad. I don’t think anyone out there questions that, and he should be caught and brought to justice. So that’s right off and dealt with. Bad guy is bad – clear and deserving of support.

However, Invisible Children and the controversy is what I’m finding most interesting. Let’s start with the most ‘damning’ –  the allegation that they fund the Ugandan Army, which is guilty of many of it’s own abuses, and have posed for at least one photo holding guns. For their part, they have said that neither do they endorse nor fund the Ugandan Army and acknowledge it has it’s own problems, however they claim that as the best organised army in the region, they simply must work with these people to catch Kony. Further, they claim that the photo was a joke posed photo for family, and they hate guns.

If indeed the Ugandan Army are the most capable outfit in the region, it’s kinda obvious you have to get their help – I doubt anyone believes that Invisible Children can go tramping around the jungle themselves hunting him down, and if this man is so dangerous, you have to have a military or police force to combat him. So this criticism is unfair and stupid in my opinion. One could argue that as Kony is no longer very active (apparently) the money could go to fighting the Ugandan Army abuses? Perhaps. Another argument is that as Kony uses children, military action against him will cause many children to die. Unfortunately, what can you do on this one? It is a lose-lose, but at least catching the guy is for the greater good. The photo is pretty goddamn awful. Not only is it a terrible photo 😉 but it really portrays them in a strange light, and their explanation isn’t very good either. They could at least have lied, and said that everyone needed to give the impression of being armed, for safety. However, idealistic people need to wise up a little. You aren’t going to catch this guy with rainbows and fluffy bunnies.

The other prong in the criticism is of their charitable structure. The critics claim that only 33% goes to front-line work in Africa, while the rest goes to video campaigns, merchandise and wages, as well as miscellaneous and travel expenses. Their rating is only 2/4 from some ‘Charity Watch’ organisation, denied the external auditing of accounts, and they have not signed up with the US Better Business Bureau, a voluntary organisation with a respected code of conduct.

I’ll be honest, if it helps a charity survive, and if it helps spread awareness, and if it encourages donations, what does percentage matter? Every little helps, as the Tesco saying goes. Surely, the ABSOLUTE value of their monetary benefit to the good causes is what is important? Moreover, before you criticise people for “only” donating 33% to front-line services, calculate for me your percentage charitable donation from your salary. Sure, they could donate more, but couldn’t you? Doesn’t the net result of their awareness raising encourage more donation, thus leading to a net gain in front-line product? As an example, I develop a mobile phone app. I can charge £5 for it, and maybe it’ll sell to 100 people willing to buy it at that price. Or, I can sell it for 50p, a 90% discount, and I would expect to sell to more people. If I sell to 1000 people at the low price, I still make the same money, but I have 10x the market penetration, 10x the word-of-mouth advertising.

As for their charitable status, their audits are a matter of public record in the US, and they pass their inspections year on year it would seem. Their failure on the “Charity Watch” and “BBB” are more curious, and they claim that this is because their management board has only 4 people instead of the required minimum of 5. They say this reflects their grassroots nature, which might suggest a small, loosely-governed organisation. This might indeed be a bad thing, although again, if these guys are passionate and good at being charity volunteers, they might not be so good at the bureaucracy, but does that matter? They should definitely use some money and hire a few people who can help them be a better organisation, but does this reflect on their charity potential? I’m not sure.

That about sums up the criticisms, and it’s easy to read this post and assume I’m on the side of Invisible Children. I’m not. I’m certainly on the side of stopping evil people, wherever they are, but I’m not about to jump on some bandwagon because a video tells me I should, or a bunch of Facebook posts say I should be feeling guilty right about now. I can assure you I won’t be donating to this cause, because rightly or wrongly I don’t really care about it. It evokes little in me beyond the usual “How terrible”. Maybe I’m desensitised to all these causes but there it is.  Maybe I just prefer to devote my time and money to causes closer to home, where I can see the change and use it as a better motivator. Maybe I accept that capturing / killing one man won’t cure a problem. Be suspicious of anyone purporting to do good in your name.

Moreover, don’t guilt people for not ‘caring’ enough to donate. If you donate, fine, but do it because your values and your wits tell you that you should, not because someone posted it on Twitter, or because some video made you cry.

Stupidest Cardinal in the world?

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Hoo boy. I’ve reached a threshold of sorts about these religious nutbags.

Cardinal Keith Michael Patrick O’Brien. You. Are. Not. Worthy. Of. RESPECT. And I will give you NONE. Deciding to take himself to the Sunday Telegraph to bash at gay marriage, this idiot basically trolled the entire country.

I’m working off the PinkNews articles on this issue, and I’m going to discuss his spewings in the order presented in those articles.

Cardinal O’Brien writes: “On the surface, the question of same-sex marriage may seem to be an innocuous one. Civil partnerships have been in place for several years now, allowing same-sex couples to register their relationship and enjoy a variety of legal protections. When these arrangements were introduced, supporters were at pains to point out that they didn’t want marriage, accepting that marriage had only ever meant the legal union of a man and a woman. Those of us who were not in favour of civil partnership, believing that such relationships are harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved, warned that in time marriage would be demanded too. We were accused of scaremongering then, yet exactly such demands are upon us now.”

If we’d asked for marriage then, would you have given it to us? So to be honest, if some gays WERE sneaky and did it the way you are trying to imply, good on them. It isn’t like you haven’t used any dirty tricks, or worse, to us LGBT people, no? But that aside, do you honestly think your “warning” that marriage would be demanded matters at all, that “scaremongering” matters? If equal marriage is the RIGHT thing to do, does any amount of scaremongering on either side make a difference? No, it does not. Your argument is invalid.

Moreover, to suggest that SOMEHOW civil partnerships are “harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved” is a profound and unbelievable ARROGANCE that I cannot believe you can even make. You, a dried-up, old, celibate, single priest somehow are telling me that my relationship is somehow harmful, not only spiritually (which was a totally expected statement from a priest) but both physically and mentally. Really? How exactly is my relationship at any more risk of either than a ‘straight’ relationship? I don’t mean offence, but many abusive or manipulative relationships occur in both straight and gay marriage. Shouldn’t you be against ALL relationships? Or is it ok when the relationships create some troubled or untroubled little children for your church to systematically neglect and abuse, sexually? Or did you forget that scandal in favour of a ‘blame the gays’ approach?

Mr O’Brien claims: “Since all the legal rights of marriage are already available to homosexual couples, it is clear that this proposal is not about rights, but rather is an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists. Redefining marriage will have huge implications for what is taught in our schools, and for wider society. It will redefine society since the institution of marriage is one of the fundamental building blocks of society. The repercussions of enacting same-sex marriage into law will be immense. But can we simply redefine terms at a whim? Can a word whose meaning has been clearly understood in every society throughout history suddenly be changed to mean something else? In Article 16 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, marriage is defined as a relationship between men and women. But when our politicians suggest jettisoning the established understanding of marriage and subverting its meaning they aren’t derided.”

Damn right. I don’t care. YES. It IS about redefining marriage. So what? Is your marriage so on-the-rocks that the slight ripple that gay marriage being legal will create will doom yours? And about fucking time that EQUALITY be taught in schools. For far too long, schools escape the rules that the rest of us have to abide by, able to turn a blind eye to bullying on grounds of LGBT, and in Northern Ireland, the ability to avoid equality legislation altogether.

Redefine society? Yep. How horrible that society will change for the better. How detestable that society will become more equal. You see, it isn’t about the LEGAL rights. It’s about how it sounds. Straight people get MARRIED, gay people get PARTNERED. How degrading. We’re second-class, with nothing like the respect that is given to the relationship between a man and a woman. If you can’t see that, well the priesthood must not really care for IQ much, does it?

Words get redefined all the time, and just because something has been around a long time does not protect it from being wrong and incorrect. And while we’re on the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, please, quote the full Article, please:

  1. Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
  2. Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
  3. The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
It does NOT say man + woman. It says men and women, plural, and it praises the family, not a defined parental unit of man + woman. Nothing I hate more than someone intentionally misquoting.

Mr O’Brien writes: “Their attempt to redefine reality is given a polite hearing, their madness is indulged. Their proposal represents a grotesque subversion of a universally accepted human right. There is no doubt that, as a society, we have become blasé about the importance of marriage as a stabilising influence and less inclined to prize it as a worthwhile institution. It has been damaged and undermined over the course of a generation, yet marriage has always existed in order to bring men and women together so that the children born of those unions will have a mother and a father.”

What an old-fashioned fool. Did you emerge from the 12th Century? Marriage is about producing children? What about whether people are suitable parents? What about infertile couples, should we nullify their marriages now?

“This brings us to the one perspective which seems to be completely lost or ignored: the point of view of the child. All children deserve to begin life with a mother and father; the evidence in favour of the stability and well-being which this provides is overwhelming and unequivocal. It cannot be provided by a same-sex couple, however well-intentioned they may be. Same-sex marriage would eliminate entirely in law the basic idea of a mother and a father for every child. It would create a society which deliberately chooses to deprive a child of either a mother or a father.”

No, all children deserve to begin with a family that loves them, whatever that family is. Don’t use lies and bullshit studies to try to say that only man + woman can raise well-adjusted children, that viewpoint has long-since been refuted. I mean, have you even used Google? ^_^

Mr O’Brien also appears to suggest that gay marriage may lead to three way marriages: “Other dangers exist. If marriage can be redefined so that it no longer means a man and a woman but two men or two women, why stop there? Why not allow three men or a woman and two men to constitute a marriage, if they pledge their fidelity to one another? If marriage is simply about adults who love each other, on what basis can three adults who love each other be prevented from marrying?”

Absolutely. If three people love each other and pledge their fidelity to each other, you honestly think that preventing them from marrying is going to stop them? I’m not advocating for polygamy, but it probably already happens. But for now, that’s for another day. Saying that somehow allowing gay marriage will instantly allow all sorts of other stuff is scaremongering. Fucking hell, look at the fight we’ve had for gay marriage – just imagine having another decades-long fight for polygamy!!!

He also claims that schools will become forced to stock “homosexual fairy stories” in their libraries.

This sounds fantastic. But seriously, what exactly is a ‘homosexual’ fairy story? I don’t know about you, but the biggest fairy story I know, the Bible, is all over the place. Personally, I prefer a story with a happy ending, thanks 😀

He also compares gay marriage to legalising slavery. “No Government has the moral authority to dismantle the universally understood meaning of marriage. Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that ‘no one will be forced to keep a slave.’ Would such worthless assurances calm our fury? Would they justify dismantling a fundamental human right? Or would they simply amount to weasel words masking a great wrong?”

Keeping a slave = demeaning a person to the extent that, unpaid, you have them serve your every whim. If you keep a slave, you are a terrible, terrible human being. How exactly is allowing gay people to marry in any way equal to ordering another person around, with no hope of freedom? I mean, what a lie. It’s total FUD.

 

It’s people like this that get me angry at religion. You wonder why there are so many people without faith, when you are so out of touch and nausea-inducing?  As my friend Adam said, it’s almost the perfect pro-gay strategy. I’m not sure we need to even say anything, as people like that just look like absolute fools to, I hope, the majority of logical-thinking people. Go back under your rock. Get out of my life, let me live equally and stop thrusting your religion, your sexuality, down my throat. Sound familiar?