Thursday, November 26, 2009

Abuse & Cover Up...Again

I blogged about the The Intelligence Squared debate on the Catholic Church with Stephen Fry and Ann Widdecombe a while ago. In that debate Stephen Fry, very effectively, brings up the way the Catholic Church has covered up child abuse committed by its Priests worldwide. If you haven't already, I would recommend you watch the debate included in the link above.

Today we saw the Irish Government admit that a report commissioned to investigate child sex abuse claims against Priests in Dublin, going back to the 1960s, showed extensive abuse and a systematic covering up of it by senior figures in the church with the collusion of the Irish police. In my opinion this is a massive story. I don't understand why it isn't leading every on-line/dead tree newspaper headline and television news cast this evening. It's as if we have become desensitised to the idea of child abuse by Catholic Priests and subsequent cover ups by their seniors.

What amazes me is that, had any other organisation with responsibility for the care of children been found guilty of this kind of abuse and cover up, it would have been mercilessly attacked in the media, prosecuted and banned from having anything to do with children in the future.

But, because this is a church, a religion, it is treated differently. Indeed, it is because this is a religious organisation that it was so easy for the Priests to abuse these children. Not just because they had easy access to children but because they were trusted as "men of God" and any accusations against them could be easily dismissed as ridiculous, even blasphemous.

It's this kind of story that has helped drive me to my atheist point of view from my previous, rather lazy and non-controversial agnostic view of religion. To me this shows that religion isn't just irrational and archaic in a modern society, it is positively dangerous. You can see how, in this case, religion led to the abuse and cover up. The unnatural celibacy of these Priests (required by Catholic dogma) unsurprising led to sexual deviancy; the need to sustain the image of the infallibility of God's chosen representatives on Earth led to cover up. And so the abuse was allowed to continue and proliferate.

Yes, you can point to good works undertaken by religious organisations around the world and some people will decry the dredging up of this "old" Roman Catholic child abuse story again. But, as Stephen Fry points out in the debate... "It's like a burglar in court saying "I knew you'd bring up the burglaries again, what about that present I bought for my Dad on his birthday that time".

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Twitter "#Don'tBuyThe Sun Campaign" - Labour Hypocrisy

I've never bought The Sun and never will for all sorts of reasons. I prefer my newspaper to have actual news in it for example.

Today a Twitter campaign with the hashtag #dontbuythesun is trending to mark the 40th anniversary of the Hillsborough Disaster and the way The Sun subsequently reported the event, effectively blaming the fans for the deaths when a later official report showed the Police's crowd management was at fault.

Fair enough you might think, as I do. But what I find offensive is the way some Labour activists and even politicians are hijacking the hashtag campaign to have a go at The Sun simply because it recently switched allegiance from Labour to the Conservatives.

They really are pathetic and utterly hypocritical. You didn't hear a peep out of them when the paper supported them. If I was from Liverpool (and not a Labour supporter) I'd be offended by Labour perverting their perfectly understandable campaign to remind people what pain and anger gutter journalism can cause.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Another Pointless Article in The Times

Recently, I tweeted about a particularly pointless article I read in The Times related the Opposition's contact with Sir Christopher Kelly after the Queen's speech this week. Then today I caught sight of the following headline in The Times on-line:

Public faces of Richard Dawkins' atheism campaign were ... devout Christian children

The article starts off describing how the British Humanist Association campaign, backed by Richard Dawkins, is fronted by two young children (aged 7 and 8) who "could not look more free of the misery with which he associates religious baggage".

It then goes on to "reveal" that in fact...shock horror... the children come from a devout Christian family! Apparently the father is a drummer for the "popular Christian musician Noel Richards". So, the belief system of the father is well established, at least.

It's not until the article reports the BHA's response that the message of the campaign is described. The message being "don't label children with the religion or philosophies of their parents, allow them to make their own minds up".

Whether you agree with this message or not, the stories angle is completely undermined. It doesn't matter a toss whether the parents of the models used by the ad agency have religious parents or not. That's the whole point of the campaign. In fact, the very fact they do and The Times chooses to point this out, describing the children as "devout Christians", rather highlights the issue the campaign is addressing.

I have to say I agree with the campaign. For most of my life (until relativity recently anyway) I've described myself as C of E when asked by officialdom to fill in forms, even though I have never had any strong religious belief (my rather splendid parents never forced religion on me). So, even those of us that don't align ourselves with any religion still sometimes consider the religion label as a vital part of our identity, akin to our race or nationality. If there is, in fact, no cultural significance to us it's of no significance whatsoever and it's about time we stopped labelling our children and encouraged them to make their own minds up when they have the intellectual capacity to do so.

Cnut? Brown?

Wednesday night's Party Election, sorry Political broadcast was a master class of Goebellsesque propaganda. It's original objective was to motivate Labour activists at their conference earlier this year, and for that purpose it was a great piece. However, (apparently) via a campaign by @BevaniteEllie (or should that be BenInite Ellie - see video below for explanation), the film was used for the Queen's speech Labour Party Political Broadcast. Now, I'm not convinced it was thanks to this campaign and suspect the Twitter storm was generated for publicity. But whatever its provenance they chose to broadcast it, which I'm glad they did because it's provided an opportunity for much mischief making and fun at Labour's expense. One of the best attempts at which comes from Tory Bear and Guido Fawkes...

This is all fun stuff. But I worry that the focus on the PPB (at least in the bloggersphere and Twitterverse) are slightly distracting from the true awfulness of Labour's plan to use the next 6 months of parliamentary time to play party politics instead of properly addressing the dire state of Britain's economic and social problems. In an Cnut style attempt to change the prevailing political tide (more mention of Cnut in a bit), Gordon Brown proposes several bills that, instead of addressing the real needs of the country, are aimed at casting the Tories in a bad light.

But already, the measures outlined in the speech are falling apart.

  • The ridiculous idea of legislating to reduce the nation's debt rather than just getting on and doing it has been roundly criticised. What's the point? What is the punishment for not complying? Who gets punished, the Chancellor?? No one will be punished, of course, it'll just be the same as Brown's golden borrowing rule, he'll ignore it as soon as it becomes politically expedient to do so. Read more here.
  • The proposal for free home care for some older people has also come under attack. It sounds like an excellent idea, who could possible oppose such a thing? Well, that was Brown's motivation for proposing it. The idea being that the Tories would be cast as the nasty party blocking home care for the most needy. But, now it's come under attack from within the Labour Party! Labour Lord Lipsey, a former member of the Royal Commission on Long-Term Care turned on the proposals pointing out they were unaffordable and divisive, "one of the most irresponsible acts to be put forward by a prime minister in the recent history of this country". Damning stuff. A committee were already looking at home care with a non-partisan approach that aimed to produced legislation that could have had a clear route through parliament with full support from all parties. But that was not what Gordon Brown needed. He needed to draw a thick red line between Labour and the Conservatives. So this policy was rushed in and blows all the previous good work out of the water, just for petty party political advantage. Typical of the man. Read more here
  • No mention at all on the implementation of the recommended changes on MPs expenses. These will require legislation and the public want to see quick and decisive action, so this is an appalling oversight showing just how out of touch the PM is.
  • The Digital Economy bill looks like it's going to be a typically authoritarian affair that could cripple the UK's on-line community. The BoingBoing web site report on a leak of the plan and say... "This is as bad as I've ever seen, folks. It's a declaration of war by the entertainment industry and their captured regulators against the principles of free speech, privacy, freedom of assembly, the presumption of innocence, and competition"
  • A "Flood and Water Management Bill" - not a lot of detail yet on what this entails but it's already being dubbed the "Cnut" bill. No, it's not a typo referring to Gordon Brown, but a reference to the the famous King who thought he could control the tide.
  • All sorts of "guarantees", one of which is to be seen by a specialist by 18 weeks of a GP referral... well whoopy shit!
Of course, there's nowhere near enough time to pass all of these bills if the Commons and Lords do their duty and properly scrutinise the legislation put before them.

Lord Strathclyde, Tory leader in the Lords, points out that there are only 33 legislative days left for peers to carry this duty out. Labour are already spinning this as the Tories deliberately trying to block the bills being passed. But in reality the Conservatives don't have a majority of members in the Lords (they have less than Labour) so it would be impossible without the help of the cross benches and LibDem peers. And anyway, unless there was a real reason to hold up a bill (i.e. it was truly badly drafted law), what advantage would the Tories get from blocking it? No, what Labour means is they want the legislation passed without proper scrutiny. That mustn't be allowed to happen, although it will play into Brown's tawdry plan and allow him to blame the opposition for "stopping free home care for the most needy", for example.

I'm sure the British public are wise enough to Brown now and won't be taking in. But only time will tell and the General Election, that will end this fag end parliament, can't come soon enough for me.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Update By Jack of Kent: Paul Clarke: An Anatomy of an Injustice

I previously blogged on the #paulclarke injustice or rather the reaction of the Twitter community. For an excellent and detailed investigation into the case have a read of Jack of Kent's blog...

Jack of Kent: Paul Clarke: An Anatomy of an Injustice

At the centre of the controversy is the concept of "strict liability" offences. This dangerous concept always had the potential to lead to this situation. Hopefully, in sentencing, the Judge at Guildford Crown Court will see sense.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Liability For Suicide

I hear the government are considering a proposal to introduce a new law that would enable someone to be charged with causing the suicide of another. I have some concerns about exactly how this could be proven satisfactorily in a court of law, but the principle is a good one. Anyone who drives another person to such despair that they take their own life needs to be held accountable. It's something that Iain Duncan-Smith called for back in 2006, in order to hold abusive men to account for driving their partners into taking their own lives.

However, I just wonder if there will be pressure from within New Labour from those connected with the David Kelly scandal, to avoid such a law.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Rhyme Minister

Some may have seen Labour's pathetic attempt at political satire using the X-Factor's Jedward and an amateur Photoshop job but this is real satire, very funny...

Sawn Off Twitter Storm

I found the mixed reaction to the Paul Clarke controversy on Twitter yesterday quite interesting. For those unacquainted with the story, here's a link to local paper coverage of the story. To summarise:
Paul Clarke, an ex-soldier, discovers a discarded shotgun, hands it into a police station where he is arrested for possession of a unlicensed firearm and subsequently found guilty in a crown court and now faces sentencing this week. Apparently, the minimum sentence is 5 years imprisonment. 

The main point here is that the law, as drafted and passed by our beloved leaders, leaves no room for common sense to be used once the charge has been put before the court. Now, I am not a lawyer and don't profess to have much knowledge in this area but, it strikes me as just plain wrong that this could be allowed to happen.

Whatever you think of the individual on trial or the circumstances leading to his discovery of the gun, the (as far as I  can make out) undisputed fact is that he has been charged with the crime and found guilty in court purely because he handed the gun into police, rather than calling them up to collect it (therefore, blatantly "being in possession" of the gun on the way to the police station).

Even if you think his actions were stupid or naive, surely it doesn't warrant a 5 year sentence?

Anyway, you can draw your own conclusions on the story, the thing I found most interesting was the reaction it got on Twitter. I first noticed it via a tweet from @ConstantFury drawing my attention to his blog. I was shocked by the story and retweeted it immediately. I had a few initial concerns that the whole story might not be out yet, but on the evidence already available it seems worth some attention, even if only to provide some exposure to the light of publicity.

What I didn't expect was for there to be a political divide in the response the the story. Surely, injustice is injustice regardless of who's involved or the situation? After stellar twitters like Graham Linehan (@glinner) picked up the story and tweeted it, and Twitter storm started to brew. It grew and grew until a few political bloggers on the left started to put the breaks on.

At first I thought it was just sensible questioning of the situation. But, after a bit, they all seemed to be saying the same thing: he had the gun, it's against the law, there's a rumour he was a naughty boy in the past, so he's guilty and should just accept his punishment.

It fell to the, mostly libertarian, bloggers to keep the pressure up. But, inevitably, given that Twitter's heart does seem to be dominated by the left currently and with no stoking from (the mainly left leaning) twiteriety, the flurry of attention died out. It seemed this story of injustice just didn't push enough left wing buttons to be deemed important enough for sustained attention. There were no elements of racism or homophobia, the Daily Mail couldn't be blamed, no institutions that the Labour party likes to associate itself with were being criticised by Tories or white English speaking foreigners (the only kind of foreigner it's okay to disagree with without being a racist or xenophobe). No, this was just a normal man in Surrey (not an area of particular concern for the left, what with it being leafy an' all) who may be a victim of injustice at the hands of an authoritarian law. And what's more, he may or may not have been a bit silly in handling the weapon and therefore should just grin a bear it.

The left don't see the individual's liberty point of view at all. They see a rule being broken and shrug their shoulders, well that's the law, isn't it? Shouldn't have been so stupid, should he? Perhaps it's because their party is in power. But if it had been an anti-fox hunting or a G78 (or whatever number they're up to now) protester being roughly moved out of a road to clear a public highway, they'd be up in arms, tweeting like Tweety Bird cornered by Sylvester the Cat and they'd be ready to deploy an arsenal of weaponry on their foe.

I wouldn't mind so much but, as I've blogged before, the twitter community is very quick to turn on people or institutions that offend certain sensitivities. Mostly the anger is well focussed and correctly channels the wrath of decent people at those who are truly offensive. But in this instance the plight of a man going to jail for 5 years for (a the very most) being a bit silly (on the face of it at least) just doesn't motivate the left leaning members of the twitter community and therefore makes a mass response less likely to happen. I hope more attention is given in the run up to sentencing so that, either the full story gets out or the authorities receive a message that they can't treat people like this.

UPDATE: It was heartening to see the SaySorryBrown hash tag trending. Some may feel this shows it's not just left wing campaigns that can get traction. This is true to a degree, but it would be a mistake to assume all those who despise Gordon Brown are right leaning or Conservatives. It's fair to say Brown is so universally disliked, such a well timed hash tag was always going to be popular. But, again, because no celeb twitterer stoked it up, it burnt brightly for a short time before burning out. However, it did a lot better than the #thankyoubrown theme that some Labour supporters tried to counter with. I wonder when they'll get the message about their leader?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Glasgow North East By-Election Result

I've heard and seen a lot of positive media coverage for Labour over it's inevitable by-election victory in Glasgow North East. The result is being portrayed as a boost for Gordon Brown that cements his position as Labour leader until the election next year.

I've no doubt it does cement his position. After all, there's no one with the balls (oops, sorry Harriet - or ovaries) to challenge him unless he really was doing so badly that he lost, what must be, one of the safest Labour seats in the country. But is this really such a great result?

It would be churlish to suggest it isn't at least a reasonable result considering the unpopularity of Brown's government generally. But many Labour supporters are portraying this as evidence that "we can still win". While I understand their desperation for crumbs of comfort after such a prolonged period of political failure, I just don't see their case for this at all.

Usually, in order to determine the success or failure of an election campaign you look to the previous result to assess changes in support. But, all this constituency can tell us is how well Labour is doing against the SNP. And even this isn't completely clear, as the previous incumbent was in the role of Speaker at the last election so didn't face opposition from the Tories or Lib Dems and didn't stand as an official Labour candidate. To further cloud the issue the SNP had a disastrous start to their campaign when their first choice candidate had to pull out due to revelations about his personal finances.

The most relevant election to compare this years result to is 1997's, when Michael Martin last stood as a Labour party candidate proper. A lot is being made of Willie Bain's majority being over 8,000 votes, as if this is impressive. Considering Labour problems nationally and the incredibly low expectations of them, I guess it is impressive. But compare that majority with the one they got in 1997: 17326 - more that twice the size! In that poll they managed to get a whopping 71% of the votes against just 59% this time.

This, at least, gives you a view of the extent to which the seat is terminally Labourite. The result tells us very little about Labour's popularity nationally. In Glasgow NE they got away with campaigning as an opposition against Scotland's governing party.  But in a general election they will be up against David Cameron's Tories and will have to defend their record in government. It's being said that the by-election result isn't a great result for the Conservatives as they made no progress with their share of the vote, showing they continue to struggle for support in Scotland. This may be true, but one good thing for them does seem to have come out of this...

Gordon Brown will be Labour leader at the next election. Cameron will be celebrating that fact.

UK Polling Report: Glasgow North East Seat Profile

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

“That Letter” Was Just a Distraction

There’s no need for another blog about THAT letter... so, I thought I’d write one... Well, actually this won’t be about hand writing, spelling or administrative incompetence at No 10 that allowed such a letter to be sent, but what all the fuss should have be about.

For me the whole “Letter/Spelling/Handwriting*...gate” *delete as per personal preference, is completely irrelevant and, mostly, blown out of all proportion by the Sun and many (mainly Labour supporting) individuals, especially on Twitter yesterday.

The furore, and subsequent attempt by Labourites to spin this as a personal attack on Gordon Brown’s disabilities and/or a party political issue, is in danger of overshadowing the real failure of the man and his government while actually generating sympathy for him.

The real issues are not to do with his handwriting or spelling or eyesight. They are about real worry and growing anger that has been building up under the surface for a long time now. That poor mother, who is grieving for her son, is understandably angry and looking for an outlet to vent that anger. She has heard all the horror stories from the front line about lack of equipment and resources; the doubts about the government’s commitment to the campaign in Afghanistan and now her son is dead and she receives a shoddy looking letter from the man many people blame for the situation. It was the last straw for her and the catalyst for an emotional outburst I can completely understand and have lots of sympathy for. The Sun has seized on it and is giving national exposure to it, some say exploiting her for increased newspaper sales.

But when you listen to the telephone conversation between her and Brown, it is not only the letter that she refers to, it is these other underlying concerns, held by many in the Forces and their families that she has heard about time and time again and always hoped would never affect her son:

  • Shortages of equipment and troops.
  • Not enough helicopters to support our operations (watch Lord Guthrie’s demand for helicopters).
  • A lack of commitment from the Government and dithering in important decision making.

If these concerns were only coming from the grieving parents of killed soldiers or a group of worried families with loved ones still out in the battle fields, perhaps we could put these concerns down to raw emotion and a desire to “just blame” someone when thing go wrong. But it’s not. These concerns have been expressed for a very long time now by many different people. The most recent and damning for the government was Criticism from three former chiefs of the defence staff in the House of Lords.

Lord Boyce, Chief of the Defence Staff between 2001 and 2003 said:
"It is too much to hope that the present government will provide the necessary cash to allow its aspirations to be realised properly or honourably... Government does not realise we are at war."
And he points to the fact that defence spending is falling as a share of national income at a time when our commitments are great.

To pick up on the point Mrs Janes made to Brown during their telephone conversation - the government can find billions to bail out the banks but will not adequately fund the armed forces to execute their duties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sadly, the focus on whether or not Brown is to blame for the shoddiness of the letter considering his disabilities is overshadowing the real and shameful neglect of British fighting troops for which Brown should be roundly condemned and really should be apologising for. 

For other views see the following...

Oxford Spring
The Guardian
Dungeekin’s Brilliant Rudyard Kipling’s “If...” Rewrite
BBC’s The Daily Politics
Constantly Furious

Monday, November 9, 2009

Why Do British Leaders Insist On Having Faith?

Why, in 2009, do our leaders feel a need to associate themselves with faith? In an article in the London Evening Standard David Cameron describes himself as a "questioning Christian" who struggled with the tenets like the virgin birth, but who felt that his faith was important to him. It's not for me to question what another person should or should not believe in but I do find this article disappointing. Why?

Well, I believe Cameron to be a highly intelligent person more attuned to the real world than many of those around him (in all political parties). I was hopeful that he would come out as at least an agnostic if not a full blown atheist. I think the time has come for a leader to show he makes his decisions based on evidence and sound judgement, rather than blind faith. Of all the leaders, Nick Clegg came closest to coming out of the non-believer closet, but instead felt he had to describe himself as "not an active believer". But he's not going to be Prime Minister (sorry Nick, you really aren't) so it is to the leaders of the two main parties we must look for someone who is going to break the mould.

Sure, admitting you didn't "believe" would cause controversy amongst some sections of society (not least within the Conservative Party), but I think the inevitable debate that would ensue would cast Cameron in a positive modernising light vs the old guard that expect their leaders to believe and distrust anyone who's not "one of them". Most people in Britain do not subscribe to a religion. And of all the religions to choose from in modern day Britain, Christianity seems to be the one in biggest decline. I think distancing himself from religion would have further broadened his appeal nationwide and across all sections of society. But it wasn't to be, if it's not what he believes, then so be it.

God knows the man has had to deal with real tragedy in his life, tragedy that would, initially anyway, drive most of us to want to believe in an afterlife with a benevolent God that looks after our departed loved ones in a heaven where all exist in eternal peace. I lost someone close to me in 2001 and wrestled with this question myself before concluding that, if this was a benevolent God, a God with a plan for us all, who oversees, intervenes and presumably causes these tragedies, it wasn't any kind of God I want to believe exists.

I have a lot of faith in Cameron, it is faith based on listening to what he's had to say and how well he's lead his party. For me to have this faith he's not even had to do any miracles, although stopping the 2007 election and managing to resist leaping over the dispatch box to punch Gordon Brown in the throat are as close to miraculous as you can get.  I am just a little bit disappointed his belief is still hanging on in there, even if it's not "always the rock that it should be". Perhaps he'll see the light soon. Although, of course, it will be light made of photons in electromagnetic waves not some heavenly supernatural creation he dreamt about as a result of a story he was told as a child in church. Pah!

Is the Catholic Church A Force For Good?

I've been waiting all day for this to be posted to YouTube and finally I found it this evening.

Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens debate with Archbishop John Onaiyekan and Anne Widdecombe MP, the merits, or otherwise, of the Catholic church...

Stephen Fry's opening argument is particularly impressive. If you want to skip to that, jump forward to the 3rd video (use the ">" on the right hand side of video (appears when you hover over the playing video) and scroll 1 minute 30 seconds into it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Labour Hypocritical & Disingenuous Over Tory Euro Policy

Earlier today the Tories have announced their policy response to the ratification of the Lisbon treaty. It sounds like a very sensible and a welcome injection of acheivabe Euro realism to me. However, there are many inside and outside the Tory party who would disagree. Some on more principled grounds than others.

This evening Twitter is awash with sarcastic tweets from Labour politicians such as John Prescott and Kerry McCarthy (Labour's Twitter "Tsar") suggesting the policy is not exactly "cast iron". A reference to the guarantee Cameron made to hold a referendum on Lisbon in the run up to, what was expected to be, a pre-ratification election in 2007. I was going to blog about the accusations that the Tories policy change was a u-turn yesterday, but it has been done very succinctly here... The Patently Blog

Cameron is adjusting policy in light of events. The treaty is ratified and no referendum is going to change that. Prescott and McCarthy know this and their comments, along with that of others in their party, are deeply disingenuous. What's more their comments are hypocritical, when you consider the fact that is was Labour that promised and had the power to deliver a referendum on Lisbon and they who went ahead and ratified the treaty without one.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

PM's Response To "Just Go!" Petition

After 72,234 signatures calling on Gordon Brown to resign, Number 10 has responded...

The Prime Minister is completely focussed on restoring the economy, getting people back to work and improving standards in public services. As the Prime Minister has consistently said, he is determined to build a stronger, fairer, better Britain for all.
Convincing stuff... I've cocked everything up over the past 12 years, but now I'm trying to fix it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Disastrous Pop...

I've been listening to an album by Milow on Spotify that includes a track called "Herald of Free Enterprise" (don't ask me why, I stumbled over it by mistake).

I have to admit to laughing out loud when I first heard the lyrics; an uncomfortable "something feels wrong about this" kinda laugh... Usually my favourite of all the types of laugh. What will he sing about next, I thought.The Hatfield train crash; Lockerbie; Myra Hindley?

But this isn't a humourous song and I genuinely feel uneasy about it. I actually disapprove!!! (Yes, I'm getting all Daily Mail about it). Perhaps it's the clumsy attempt at creating pathos, perhaps it's the overly simplistic, almost documentary style lyrics. But probably it's that The Herald of Free Enterprise was the first big disaster I watched closely and, being young at the time, it had a major affect on me.

I remember watching it pan out on TV and discussing it at school the next day. A few years after it happened I remember travelling to Holland on holiday and meeting a guy that had been responsible for boarding the boat before it left that fateful day. He was a lovely guy, but his life had been destroyed by guilt. He'd lost his wife, kids, job, everything. As well as the many dead and injured on the night, there must have been many others psychologically affected like him. All very sad.

Now, I enjoy off colour humour and lets be honest, I make a lot of off colour jokes, everyday, about any subject. If this had been a joke about selling a car that had fallen of the back of a ferry, I wouldn't have had an issue. I remember laughing at exactly that joke just days after the tragedy. So, it seems I can accept humour based inappropriateness but not poor quality serious efforts at portraying tragic events in song.

Mind you, I don't have a problem with The Boomtown Rats - I Don't Like Mondays. Hmmm...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Ritual of The Bullying Ritual

Never fear! I'm not going to whine on about Twitter bullying any more. But yesterday's experience did put me in mind of one of my favourite The Day Today reports about bullying in the Church of England. Watch out for some bad ecclesiastical hurting...

Bullying In The Twitter Space

Last night, Stephen Fry was offended by a tweet posted by a member of the public, to such an extent that he has threatened to quit Twitter altogether. The offending tweet was:
" I underdstand @stephenfry's tweets but, much as I admire and adore the chap, they are a bit... boring "
This led to the following tweet exchange (read from the bottom up)...

It is obvious from Fry's comments that he is having a bad time of it at the moment and this, critical, comment has pushed him over the edge. I don't blame him for being a bit peeved and don't pretend to understand what it must feel like to have his condition and have to perform in public day in and day out receiving petty comments like this all the time.

By including "@stephenfry" in his tweet BrumPlum was effectively "copying him in" to the message, however, Fry follows thousands of people and gets mentioned by a hell of a lot more people than he follows, so the chances of him actually reading a tweet with his name on is fairly small. But that doesn't stop it being rude to tweet a dig at someone directly. However, I think he explains himself very well in his blog, published early this morning (

For me, this incident makes real a fear I've had for a while about how Twitter is used to round on individuals or institutions. Up to now I've had no real problem with it as I've felt those on the receiving end of the abuse have richly deserver it... Jan Moir, Nick Griffin, Trafigura etc. I even joined in the kicking in most cases and thoroughly enjoyed myself, to boot.

However, last week AA Gill said he'd shot a Baboon "to feel what it would be like to shoot a man". This incredibly heartless and cruel comment was rounded on and he received a lot of intense abuse from the Twitter community, led by many of the "Twitterati" (celebrities with a massive following who have a big influence on topics of conversation within Twitter and, in recent cases, real influence on events once the twitter story goes national). I have to say I found Gills comments distasteful and saw nothing wrong with the light hearted mick taking of someone who would admit to such a thing. But the abuse started getting more ferocious as the day went on. It started to become all consuming and every other tweet was about Gill. The frequency and intensity felt out of proportion to the original comments. But, still, he shot a baboon and deep down, I was happy to see someone with a cruel streak like that abused, so I wasn't all that concerned.

But it made me think. It reminded me of the Big Brother racism row. That started with Jade building up an influential role in the house and turning (some of) her fellow house mates against Shilpa Shetty. In my opinion, this was more about bullying than racism. But let's not get into that now! The point is, it felt like a similar situation. Obviously, Shetty was completely innocent and Gill wasn't, but the point is, both were outsiders and offended a group of people who then turned on them in increasingly ferocious ways. I wondered, what if a celebrity decided to pick on someone who was less deserving of a good kicking than AA Gill?

Well, that's what I think has happened with BrumPlum's tweet. By pointing the finger at him and threatening leave Twitter altogether Fry has effectively (and inadvertently) mobilised his army of supporters, plus other hangers on who just like a fight. They have spent the day abusing someone for saying they found Fry's tweets boring. To make matters worse, other powerful Twitterati have stoked things up. Alan Davies being one. The sight of a rich and famous celebrity calling a nobody a "moron" for doing little more than express an opinion is replant to me. To make it worse, anyone who challenged him or the general Twitter community's reaction, was branded a "moron", "dickhead", "idiot", "prick" etc. Very ugly stuff. These celebs are used to poking fun at those in authority but don't seem to realise it is they who are the leaders on Twitter, and they act like school yard bullies rather than true leaders.

Stephen Fry has now surfaced again and, unsurprisingly given the measure of the man, apologised for the abuse his comments unwittingly incited. He has pleaded for people to "be nice" to BrumPlum now, but it's all a bit late and Twitter has shown it's ugly side once again, this time to no useful purpose.

For reference, Alan Davies tweets tonight (read from the bottom up again). Most of the tweets he's replying to are not abusive btw (I hope he apologises when he next gets a chance)...
  1. alandavies1 alandavies1 @Firequacker if needs be
  2. alandavies1 alandavies1 Anyone has a pop at your mates you stick up for them.Twittr needs to be more like Essex.If you wouldn't say it to their face then do shut up
  3. alandavies1 alandavies1 night tweeters, decent folk still winning on here.
  4. alandavies1 alandavies1 This is the kind of thing I don't give a toss about RT @suedehead99 fuck of Davies. Who gives a fuck about your opinion on the matter?
  5. alandavies1 alandavies1 My twitter is set at gas mark egg on your face for all the morons who are trying to make out @stephenfry is at fault for tiring of abuse
  6. alandavies1 alandavies1 @JamesSki special? what does that mean you prick
  7. alandavies1 alandavies1 @lachance680 I should "inform BBC news"? You are the new "biggest tosser on twitter" well done
  8. alandavies1 alandavies1 @JamesSki "all do respect"? you utter halfwit, go away
  9. alandavies1 alandavies1 @JamesSki why are you after stephen dickhead?
  10. alandavies1 alandavies1 @DeGap you are a moron yourself
  11. alandavies1 alandavies1 @Haha_tequila what an idiotic comment, well done
  12. alandavies1 alandavies1 @hay2608 yep
  13. alandavies1 alandavies1 @Prissiethruxton wise up? you prat
  14. alandavies1 alandavies1 @Uberfemme that tweet makes no sense
  15. alandavies1 alandavies1 @JamesSki yes he is and so are you halfwit
  16. alandavies1 alandavies1 @willshome yes it is moronic, you should know , being a moron yourself
  17. alandavies1 alandavies1 Anyone who thinks that @stephenfry could even fabricate a toss about anything @brumplum or any such moron says ought to stop worrying

UPDATE: Alan Davies blocked me from seeing his tweets (or being able to follow him) tonight, as I suspected he might. It seems he's blocked anyone who spoke against the mob vs BrumPlum.  It's classic bully behaviour - avoiding those that stand up to them. Either that or he finds my tweets a bit boring.. Actually, it's probably the latter isn't it?... Fair enough.

I've been speaking to @Haha_tequila tonight. Her crime was to point out that the reaction to BrumPlum's tweet had got out of hand - an "idiotic comment" according the Davies. She tried to engage him in a very constructive manner this evening only to be blocked. 

It's all rather sad, I really liked the guy before yesterday. I guess that's the beauty of Twitter. Celebs can't hide behind stage management and get judged on their real, unscripted reactions that expose their real personalities. Alan Davies (and his loyal twitter minions - twinions... no, perhaps not, sorry) are the only people to come out of this badly, I feel. @Haha_tequila drew my attention to a piece in The Independant that I think sums it all up well.