October 25, 2021


Words are like gold. Why? Read below?

Photo by Infrarate.com / Unsplash
San Francisco Gold Rush
Photo by Aaron Munoz / Unsplash


The most powerful word in the english language is, a simple one, and it is, drumroll please, why? Apparently, or according to family myth, my grandfather was found, when he died, with a piece of paper in his pocket. The only word written on it was why?

You could go mad or make it life's quest to find out why? Like Phaedrus, who in the book, Zen And the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, searched for what 'quality' was, or meant. Why is a powerful word. Words are powerful, sometimes so powerful that they rip the most powerful asunder.

We should be so careful that our words are protected from those who seek to control people's opinions. Often good reasons are given, but in reality control is attempted, for their machiavellian own ends. Technology has made it incredibly easy for everyone to have an opinion, even me, someone who long ago had their fifteen minutes of fame. In the big scheme of things this blog is just another of billions, sometimes I ask myself Why? Why bother?

One of my favourite sages, is Stephen Fry. Recently he tweeted:

Weep for Britain. A sick, cynical brutal and horribly dangerous coup ďétat.
Children playing with matches, but spiteful not accidentally: gleefully torching an
ancient democracy and any tattered shreds of reputation
or standing our poor country had left.

I suppose I write because I can. Technology for all its faults has made a 'voice' that is accessible to all. Unfortunately there is no filter to filter out the 'numpties' that proliferate on the internet, the anti-vaxxers, and the extremes of every hue and persuasion. We all have a problem and it will not go away. These idiots and zealots are often weaponized idiots, and all too often the sensible pay the price for the fools on the hill.

We, in the (Still) United Kingdom often censor and denigrate countries with their own censorious and controlling attitude towards online freedoms. On the reporters without borders website my home country rates number thirty three on the world press freedoms index. It is interesting to note this fact.

I would argue that we are on the crux of online freedoms being curtailed. We are indeed an ancient democracy, and we have many laws on the statute books. Surely these laws are adequate and proportionate? Do we need online freedom to be curtailed by blanket restrictions?

Looking at things at a wider angle, it seems that the internet is being weaponised by nation state actors, and their proxies. This is obviously a logical conclusion, for governments to take, because the internet is such an important part of our global infrastructure. Nation states have to take measures to protect systems that are so valuable. That is a given. However, bludgeoning the internet with restrictive, ill thought out laws is not something that should happen surely? Surely we have to be proportionate in our response to those who speak hate and vile speech. Targeted measures I have no problem with, but to use technology to suppress just because you can is something worthy of a fascistic nation state? Perhaps we in jolly old England should be careful when we pontificate on other nations restrictive practices?

I truly do not have time for those who spend their time with nothing to do but to peddle hate and fake news. But the internet is not the only repository of hate and bile? One of the awkward problems is that our world is full of people who truly do think repugnant thoughts. Their 'influence' should not be used to control 'measured' free speech? We may be on the edge of a strange harvest, we must resist a desire to do the right thing in haste, and we should not be led down the garden path, by those who are least qualified to wax lyrical on things they do not understand. Political ignorance, may lead to unexpected consequences, and the cynic in me thinks that those in power know exactly what they are doing maybe they are just playing the fool?

Often new technology or ideas are villified by those who have no idea whatsoever what they are talking about. Often moral panics are generated by the ill informed. Technological moral panics abound. Often technology has been linked to so many events, events that it is easy to blame technology for. This blaming of new technologies is nothing new. Video games were linked to 'supposed' rises in violence and violent crime. At one time cartoons were linked to percieved ills in society. Fear of the unknown is nothing new, so those who need something to blame, blame technology because it is an easy target. Back along our leaders in the U.K. wanted their spooks to master the internet, and thanks to Edward Snowden, we found out how significant inroads had been made to do just that. In many ways you have to admire the guile of those tasked with such mastery. No, honestly, you should.

It is increasingly likely that free speech on the internet may become more difficult, and soon we will accept the curtailment of freedom of expression, because we are told that technology and the internet is to be feared. So should we weep, well pass the Kleenex someone?