Twitter: Free Speech vs. Censorship

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Twitter

Over the last week there have been several stories about trolling, threats of rape and even bombing on Twitter mostly if not exclusively aimed at women. Why is this happening now and should or could we ban and censor these people.

Police are investigating bomb threats made on social networking site Twitter against several female journalists. Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman, Independent columnist Grace Dent and Time magazine’s Catherine Mayer all said they had been threatened. It follows rape threats made on Twitter against MP Stella Creasy and feminist campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez. – BBC Website

I am a huge supporter of free speech and the ability to express your opinions on any given subject – but what these men are doing is to persecute women by threatening violence through explosives or sexually motivated attacks. Strangely I took a decision myself to remove any instances of Ask.fm from my Facebook account as I saw this very problem on my timeline regarding one of my former pupils and it’s not something I want to see to hear about. Those on her ask page were making jokes about sexual attacks on her, and even though she appeared to be laughing it off it’s not something I want to see and I’m sure she feels the same. It appears that the threat of rape is now a socially (networked) acceptable way of expressing yourself and that is not on. Rape is not something that should ever be joked about either in person or on the internet – it’s far too serious a crime to be flippant with.

While I also have a sense of humour about many things, this is not one of them. My sense of humour is very dark, but at no point could the “it was only a joke” excuse be used to try to back out of threatening someone with rape. The sad thing is that the overwhelming majority of the people who type such things are not likely to ever actually carry the threat and are probably decent enough people most of the time. They see the Smartphone, Laptop or PC as a safe place to throw these comments out without fear of reprisals – but as we’ve seen since the London Riots two years ago the law is catching up with the technology and prosecutions are happening more frequently. These “brave” keyboard warriors are nothing more than sad little boys, teenagers and young men looking to troll and wind up everyone connected with the person. There is the problem however, that it only takes one person to be serious and the threat to be real for that argument to fall down.

There is a fine line here between someone saying something stupid which can be blocked, deleted and ignored as opposed to those who continually bombard individuals with threats and abuse. Banning them is not enough as we have seen they have started up a new account within half an hour of the previous one having been closed. Perhaps there is an argument to remove the anonymity on sites like twitter and you should have to register fully with them so you can be properly monitored. The argument against that is that information can always be misused and misrepresented; so where do we draw the line?

If someone makes a specific threat against another individual or tries to incite such behaviour in others then there is a case for the police to step in – if it happened in the street with someone coming up to you constantly threatening you then you would deal with it through the authorities so why not online? My worry is that there are many idiots out there, perhaps after a few drinks or other substances, who make one comment that can end careers and see them prosecuted. The first essential step is an abuse button on Twitter and Facebook to remove such offending comments and alert the hosts to the issue, then there needs to be a grown up and not knee-jerk reaction by the government and the police as to how to approach these cases through the legal system. Currently Judges are using guidelines that are not made to measure for the age.

The danger is that those in power will not tackle this correctly and will end up as another “porn filter” exercise where you and I are going to be punished and our freedoms curtailed just to keep a few idiots from doing damage – but is it a price worth paying to stop these women from facing a torrent of lewd and unacceptable abuse? Or should we all grow thicker skin and accept this as part of the price of freedom online and learn to block and delete such inane comments?

JD

A day to hate the Tories

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Camoron

I grew up in a family full of Labour voters on both sides Grandparents who were staunch Union men & women r socialists that believed in the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few. It is this streak in me that stands up today and shouts with anger over the treatment of this country by the Tory led government.

I don’t pretend that Labour or any other party is perfect in any way, but the stories today in the news just reminded me how nasty, self-centred and arrogant those on the right of politics are in their approach to our lives. The stories were:

  • Disabled families have lost a court challenge to social housing benefit cuts for residents with spare bedrooms in England, Wales and Scotland. The High Court ruled the policy, dubbed the “bedroom tax” by critics, did not unlawfully discriminate against disabled people.
  • Fracking should be carried out in the North East of England, where there are large, “desolate” areas, a former energy secretary has said. Lord Howell of Guildford argued there was “plenty of room” for developments and less concern than was the case over “beautiful natural areas”.
  • Nurses in England say they are having to “ration” care because of time pressures, a study suggests. The paper in BMJ Quality & Safety found areas that suffer include monitoring patients adequately.The fewer nurses there are, the higher the risk care will be compromised, according to the study which involved almost 3,000 nurses.
  • The UK must do more to stop online fraud and deter state-sponsored cyber-espionage or risk losing the fight against e-crime, MPs have warned.
  • Nick Clegg has said he was “very surprised” to see Home Office vans “driving aimlessly around North London” telling illegal immigrants to go home. He said the vans, with the slogan “go home or face arrest”, were not a “very clever way” of tackling the issue. (all from BBC.co.uk)

The bedroom tax is an absolute disgrace of a policy. To punish those with disabilities – two-thirds of disabled people live in social housing and therefore are the most punished group by the policy. For the courts to ignore this important fact shows how far down the wrong road we have gone that all the tax loopholes those Tory donors use and the amount of Non-Doms who don’t pay tax are ignored as an issue but instead we attack those who are the weakest and poorest in society.

One of the dusty old Lords decides that we shouldn’t worry about any damage done to the North-East of England with Fracking – the Tories ran these places to the ground by the complete desolation of industry and mining, whole towns were ruined by the policies of Thatcher yet it’s okay to make it worse because it won’t impinge on those well off people’s back gardens. There is plenty of natural beauty in the north-east – an area that is still rebuilding from the damage done in the 1980s.

The NHS is being understaffed, privatised by the back door, and generally run into the ground by this bunch of posh boys and it’s a sad thing to see. We know that the pressures on doctors and nurses are growing and causing many to leave the profession or taking time off to cope with the stresses and depression the job is causing them. Jeremy Hunt is just following the same blind alley that Andrew Lansley was and fails to see that despite removing levels of management due to popular demand he failed to see the problems that would cause and the pressures on those in the front line services. We all rate the NHS when it is at its best and under the Tories it is far from there.

Camoron’s solution to the problems of the internet is to waste people’s time enforcing existing filters for porn rather than actually dealing with the real threat of cyber crime, terrorism and fraud. The porn issue is effectively censorship by another name leading parents into a false sense of security about the protection they can really offer their kids online. Stop wasting time and money on the headline grabbing actions and focus on the continued problems about our security online from those who can and will attack us as a nation or as individuals.

Finally with both Clegg and Cable both stating their disgust at the racist and embarrassing drive by poster campaign,  effectively legitimising all that the EDL are doing in a sad posturing competition with UKIP,  it appears that this brain wave was not even discussed at cabinet even though it should have been due to its high profile nature. As Diane Abbott said it is effectively bringing back “Paki go home” in an official capacity.

Hate filled, intolerant, racist, snobbish and Elitist – when will people learn that returning to the Tory party after a bad run with Labour is not the answer. The Tories will no doubt perform very well in the next election as the Lib Dem vote disappears but with the EU referendum and their approach to the lower end of society another five years of this lot could finish a lot of people off.

JD

 

The smell of jam

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Strawberries

Off for a wee drive this morning – we were heading to a model farm down in Perthshire but we appeared to be leaving behind the only sunshine in Scotland by doing so. The huge grey clouds ahead suggested going any further was pretty much a waste of time and we put our heads together for a plan B. Jill remembered there was a fruit farm just outside Montrose called Charlton Farm so we headed off towards the coast road instead – only to drive into the weather that we were trying to avoid in the first place. Yes, Jill’s great with finding places to go to but she always forgets to check the weather report first and every year without fail we drive away from sunshine into monsoon conditions.

Thankfully it was only a passing shower and we got out at the farm to go Strawberry picking, and I hadn’t done that since I was knee high to a Robinson’s gollywog mascot with my Grandparents out at Oldmeldrum. The kids loved it, especially Jenna who saw this as her opportunity to eat as much as she could reach. Four punnets later and we also picked up a punnet of rasps from the shop too (where they had ready picked boxes – why did we just wander around a field for forty minutes?) What struck me was that it was younger families that were picking their own fruit and not the silver hair brigade that I had expected. Maybe this generation of pensioner is happier to buy their produce or jam from the shop instead.

And that’s one of the key smells of summer for me – jam on a rolling boil in a giant stainless steel saucepan with the sweet smell making its way from Granny’s kitchen though the house and out into the garden. She made tons of the stuff and in all varieties too. Raspberry and  Strawberry were the perennial favourites, but she also made rhubarb, gooseberry, bramble and marmalade amongst others. It summed up my summer holidays, because you always had to have your summer holidays at Granny and Granda’s house for a few days. She would use the homemade jam in her baking too from home-made cakes and sponges with buttercream and rasp jam to hot puddings for Granda with lashings of bird’s custard.

The smell is almost emotionally charged and as I stood making a wee berry sauce for some ice cream tomorrow the smell hit me in the kitchen and Jill who was upstairs bathing the kids (getting the contraband strawberry stains off of Jenna) and we both faded back in time to our childhoods. There is a throwback to these skills at the moment that is linked with the British Bake off and summer fetes that are taking over the country again. We seem to be into that nostalgic kick for the skills, cooking and tastes of our childhood. And I’m all for it, not sure if my waistline is though…

JD

Do as you’re told

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billboard migrant

Well another stroke of genius by the powers that be by using giant billboard vans to drive around deprived areas of London with signs telling those there illegally to “Go Home or face arrest”. Excellent work there from all concerned at the Home Office; money well spent. It’s always worked in the past when we are told to do or not to do something we always comply because we are that stupid.

Remember how everyone gave up drugs in the 1980s when Grange Hill and Nancy Reagan teamed up to “Just say No”? It was a great day for both countries as the use of illegal and legal highs stopped almost immediately – much in the same way AIDS disappeared around 1985 because of a mass media campaign and tax fraud ended after the arrest of Lester Piggott in 1987. Wow weren’t the eighties great for stopping all the social ills of the day? Some have nothing good to say about them either!

Then there was that amazing time when we could all shop our nearest an dearest in the 2000s for a cash reward if we knew they were illegally claiming benefits – we made £30 off of the government for shopping Aunt Phyllis for giving hand jobs for tenners behind the bins of Zuu whilst claiming disability allowance. Halcyon days. I think the most success the government had was when they came up with the idea of “Knock off Nigel” to dissuade people from illegally downloading and copying films and music. Since that campaign Sony are now the third richest country in the world since the problem stopped.

Pardon? Tone of Sarcasm? Not at all – I mean you all stopped sneezing in lifts because of SARS, you avoided eating Beef ever again after CJD, Foot in Mouth and the Horsemeat scandal, you always fasten your seatbelts because Jimmy Savile told you to Clunk Click every trip and you have never, ever even considered being racist after Martin Luther King made his famous “Dream” speech. No us Brits especially are so well trained to do as we are told.

Then there may be a slight issue with these billboards because old Johnny Foreigner might not follow their instructions because they haven’t fully settled into our way of compliant life. Also the fact they perhaps cannot speak or read English might cause issues – but never fear the local branch of EDL are on street corners telling everyone of a skin tone at least two shades darker than anyone on TOWIE to “Go back to where they came from” which is terribly useful. The Muslims love a strict law so you can imagine they will be the first to pack their things up and head off, followed by the Eastern Europeans who might think there’s work back home again because we wrote it on a poster for them.

You just wonder what the police are doing really wasting their time investigating things. If only they followed this great idea and put up a poster saying something like “You killed this person here last Tuesday now you will hand yourself in, there’s a good murderer” then the clean up rates would soar. Similar campaigns with burglaries, rape and anti-social behaviour will be rolled out next. Nightclubs must be feeling the pinch now every alcohol advert has the phrase “Please drink responsibly” written on it and now no-one smokes because everyone knows it kills nightclubs must be great fun. With the lights up and music turned down for health and safety reasons – that’s why there are so many photographers in clubs now, their flashes combine to ensure lighting level is at EU regulation standard. Also it allows us to check that the underage laws that we’ve all complied with for years are still being observed.

No one can be in any doubt that all of these strokes of genius have kept us all on the straight and narrow now for decades here in the UK. Your mum was right you know – do as you’re told and there won’t be any problems. She read that on a government poster you know.

JD

 

A grown up BBQ

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BBQ

Times have changed – it’s only 9pm and everyone has gone home from the summer BBQ. A few years ago the cocktails would have been flowing, karaoke and quizzes, dressing Webby up in a suit of balloons – that he claims would have been a breakthrough for our armed forces!?! Why the change – we’re all grown up with kids now and the thought of our feet up and bedded early is appealing I guess when you kick off at 3pm.

The thing is that it was great to see everybody and I would even say I enjoyed it more in some ways because it was more relaxed as we all chatted and sunbathed and yapped. There were a few faces missing this year as other commitments took people away from the gang – and they were missed – but a good turnout and the kids all had a great time too. Our two are knackered, have been showered and they’re off to their beds for a *fingers crossed* long sleep. The weather was glorious and I know I’ll b sore in the morning as I’m a wee bitty red round the neck – topping up from yesterday’s fence painting tan. We had to keep popping inside just to cool down.

It’s strange to think that nine years ago when we started the tradition of the birthday BBQ for Jill that all our lives would have changed so much in that time. It wasn’t just our two kids but we also had Belle with Greg & Mel, Ethan and Mya with Michelle and Gordon, Mia with cousin Fiona, and the newest addition Archie with Kay and Chris. Others in the group had put kids to babysitters but even then they were heading home for some peace and quiet early doors. I wouldn’t say that any of us have changed dramatically in terms of personality over the last decade or so, but we’re all grown ups with houses, mortgages, careers etc – things that were not as true back in 2004.

You don’t realise you’re getting older in the day-to-day of life, but when you get back together again you do notice the time that has passed. It’s great to see our friends and family all so happy and settled, all at ease with each other as old acquaintances are reacquainted in the twice yearly get together at our house. Sitting chatting and laughing together is what these types of events are all about and I enjoyed catching up with people that we really should see more often. Every year or six months we all say “let’s catch up…” but for some reason we all have less time that we ever did and the get togethers are twice yearly at best. Have to put that right – so much booze left over we’ll have to get together just to drink it all!

Yes times have changed and yes we’re all older but the company is still great and that’s why we maintain the traditional summer BBQ for Jill’s birthday – now we add Jenna’s and Archie’s birthdays on as well and it’s a triple celebration. Well – any excuse 😉

JD

Sentence doubled for Hall

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Stuart Hall

Stuart Hall now faces a thirty month sentence as his original fifteen month jail term was appealed against by some of his victim who felt it was too lenient considering the number of crimes, the time span his  attacks were over (over twenty years as far as these crimes are concerned)  and the fact that some of his victims were as young as nine years old.

I’m pleased that out of all the Jimmy Savile scandal something has been done and a positive has been found amongst the tragedies that he and others perpetrated. Hall is especially vile in that he has shown no regret for his actions and has even brandished those who were brave enough to come out and speak out against him “liars”. The lack of explanation or humility from Hall is what the victims are most upset about as it would only take him a minute to show some remorse for the lewd acts and the disgraceful behaviour that he has been found guilty of – I hate to use the American phrase “closure” but it seems appropriate at this time. Those who were attacked and molested by this sick individual should at least receive an apology for what they went through.

The other side of the coin on this issue is the lack of movement on the others who have been publicly named and shamed in the press. The current list of arrestees involved include:

Gary Glitter: arrested 28 October 2012, questioned and bailed until December. Glitter’s crimes and guilt are not in question at all and we are more than aware of his continued predatory ways since his release from UK prison.

Freddie Starr: arrested on 1 November 2012,released on bail the following day then re-arrested on 24 April 2013. Still no further charges or arrests made

DJ Dave Lee Travis: arrested on 15 November 2012 he was later released on bail. The police said allegations against him were unrelated to Savile, and Travis said his arrest had been on matters not linked to children. He was re-arrested on 13 March 2013 on suspicion of further sexual offences. Since March nothing has happened on this

Max Clifford: arrested 6 December, released on bail. On 26 April 2013, Clifford was charged with 11 indecent assaults against girls and young women between 1965 and 1985.

 Jim Davidson: arrested 2 January 2013.released on bail. No further action as yet

Rolf Harris: arrested on 28 March 2013, had already been questioned in November 2012. No further action as of yet

Jimmy Tarbuck: arrested April 2013 & bailed. No further charges as of yet.

I am not for a moment saying that there is not truth behind the rumours – but if there isn’t are these men condemned to be known as paedophiles or sexual predators even though no trial or charge has been proven? I do wonder what the motives for releasing these names are in the media as our justice system in the UK is innocent until proven guilty but these men’s reputations are forever tarnished just by association. There needs to be a better way of dealing with this kind of case and the identities involved.

What is interesting is that William De’ath and Ted Benson’s cases – both producers at the BBC – were dropped due to withdrawal of accusation or lack of evidence yet how much publicity did they receive for the arrest and accusations as opposed to being ruled out of investigations? In law these men are innocent regardless of speculation and we must remember that they will see out their lives with the cloud hanging over them just because their cases were publicly leaked by someone to the press.

I fully support the charging, trials and prosecutions of anyone who is found to have behaved in such a way towards children or adults, but there needs to be a line where anonymity for the accused is ensured until charges are officially brought and police or anyone else involved found to be leaking this information is held accountable for their actions too. Some of these named men like Rolf Harris are now in their eighties and with all due respect will not be with us forever. If there are charges to be faced then it needs to be done officially and not through trial by media otherwise this once idolised veteran entertainer – along with other figures like Tarbuck – will be forever associated with Operation Yewtree regardless of them being guilty or not.

More than anything this story makes me sad and annoyed that no-one really comes out of this unscathed. Those who were abused are finally finding the confidence to come forward, but in doing so are having to relive something that had a profound effect on their lives. The NSPCC are at the centre of the campaign and the report into these types of public allegations and as always they do great work. The bigger issues that need to be dealt with now is to ensure that these types of crimes are historical and not current and one way the NSPCC are trying to do that is through a campaign titled “The Underwear Rule” (see more at http://www.nspcc.org.uk/news-and-views/our-campaigns/current-campaigns/underwear-rule/the-underwear-rule_wda97129.html) which aims to inform young children in a child friendly way how to stay safe.

Every time a child is attacked, abused or raped is once too often and in the aftermath of what has been a tough year for many since the truth about Savile came out many adults have had to relive their own personal nightmares. Government, police and charities need to ensure that the support is there for those who are brave enough to speak up about it during and after the processes.

JD

 

Baby, is it safe to come out yet?

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Royal Baby

Well it’s been a hell of  week for the Media Circus in London. So many opinions, interviews and perspectives on the birth of the third in line to the throne that if we wanted an alternative to fossil fuel we could have kept the national grid going on hot air this week. A lot was said but hardly any of it mattered. There were three things we needed to know:

1) Has she had it?

2) Are they both okay?

3) Sex, Name, Weight?

That’s it really. But no instead we had to suffer the banal thought of dozens of people who claim to have insider knowledge or once worked for the second cousin of the duke of Blahblah. The mass hysteria surrounding the couple and their offspring was nothing short of boring and I avoided most of it. Not to say that I am wasn’t happy for them; both William and Kate always come across well and I think that Wills especially holds himself very well with the press considering his mother died trying to escape the parasites in Paris.

I’m glad they are happy and have a healthy child and wish them all the best – I just wish we could have survived it without the likes of Kay Burley and Nicholas Witchell waffling utter bollocks for hours on end. The smug look on the latter when he announced the baby’s name as George Alexander Louis made me wonder if that was the phizog his wife of partner has to look at in moments of passion. Urgh. He really is a “horrid little man” as Prince Charles once referred to him as. He and the others are like leaches sucking from the sore that it tittle tattle. “A source close to the couple…” no Nick just something you made up. “Palace officials tell us that” = They gave you something to get rid of you and your kind.

I am a monarchist because I don’t like the alternative option of President Cameron, but I’m happy with just a half hour news bulletin telling me the highlights. This is the issue with rolling 24 hour news – nothing to say and all day to say it in. DO us a favour – and the family – and leave them alone now to get on with the amazing adventure that is parenthood.

JD