Twit twit To-where?

A company takeover rarely hits the front page, but for Twitter, the biggest celebrity social media site and Elon Musk, the biggest celebrity tech entrepreneur, it fills volumes. (Wondering why does little good in the fervent political atmosphere, but that stifling atmosphere has something to do with it.)

Tesla and SpaceX are utterly brilliant: we have to ask then whether Twitter can become as brilliant too.

The gossip has concentrated on how freely one may speak on the platform. It is a private company and can make its own rules.  I know that if I ran a social media platform I would be worried about what people were saying on my site, effectively (to my mind) in my name. I would want it to be respectable, and to ban way-out material like Holocaust-denial, race-hatred, loony conspiracy theories and socialism.

My forum, I think, would not last long, turning away so much custom

The value of Twitter, financially, is in the volume and variety of commentary and bile spewed out on it, which produces data which can be sold. In the old days, a company with a product to sell might hire a marketing consultant to go round knocking on a hundred doors: now fora like Twitter have the unfiltered brainspills of millions of customers available to analyse. In a decade or so, marketing departments might learn how to read the data properly. Bans and threats of bans will skew the data. Liberating speech is a most noble motive: it should also be a profitable one.

The new owner might just leave Twitter ticking along with a few adjustments to its policies, and commentaries have made that assumption, with perhaps too a few tweaks like adding an an ‘edit’ button. It works as a business model at the moment. That is thinking very small though, and Twitter is shrinking so business-as-usual means decline.

At the moment it works on the surface with simplicity. You might think that no revenue stream goes untapped, but it looks flat, suggesting that there is more that could be done to expand the Twitworld in more dimensions and bring in more facets than ever before. I would not know where to start, but I am not Elon. It is only a petty sideshow for him, but if he shows that vision for which he is famed, his new sideshow may become something so good that even I might be interested in it.

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Closing the web

We now have the long-awaited, long-feared Online Safety Bill before the House of Commons. It is nowhere near as bad as the proposals which preceded it, though that is faint praise: past proposals were repulsive.

In 226 pages of dense-packed text, the Bill will lose you. It is badly written tortuous, self-contradictory, tautologous, recursive: it is written by those who do not know what they are talking about, to be sent out for administration by those who do not know what they are doing. That is just how new law works. A curse lies within its heart; OFCOM, whose name appears some 650 times. This is not law: it is command by apparatchiks.

The Bill is not  the monster presaged by earlier consultations: it does not seek to ban all subjective harm and hand the power to do so to an easily bullied official.  It narrows the scope of this intervention to actual illegality and children’s online safety, both of which are needed.  Then again, the impenetrability of the Bill may hide more than it admits.  There is also “Adults’ online safety”, which could in fact be used to ban anything, as far as anyone can tell.

“Harm” means psychological harm amounting to at least serious distress.

Nadine Dorries has praised the bill as liberal and assertive of free speech. I cannot imagine that she has read it. If she wanted to protect web users from actual online harm, if the Bill just did what she says, it would have been done on fewer than 10 pages, with no power to make codes and regulation, and just one line about OFCOM.

Instead, we have a civil servant’s wildest dream. He who controls OFCOM will control the web, and not just social media, but it can rope in all academic research, commercial marketing and information of any sort. Just thirty years ago, research was carried out on paper, in dusty libraries with whatever volumes a librarian thought to place there. The Web was created initially for academic research, but we could weirdly find ourselves in a position that the paper libraries are the better source again.

Trying to get into the guts, this Bill tries to pin the amorphous web into three categories of services: not “1”, “2” and “3” but “1“, “2A” and “2B“. (Those forest cultures said to have no numbers beyond two are perhaps more advanced than we thought.)  Anyway, these three innumerate categories are of services all of which must be entered on an OFCOM register:

  • “Category 1”: a regulated user-to-user service meeting “Category 1 threshold conditions”;
  • “Category 2A”: a regulated search service or combined service meeting “Category 2A threshold conditions”;
  • “Category 2B”: a regulated user-to-user service meeting “Category 2B threshold conditions”.

Lest you think these are defined, each refers to a preceding subsection, which refers to a Schedule for “threshold conditions”, which contains no definition but hands power to make the definitions to the Secretary of State. Yes – in two years’ time, your internet access could be controlled by Angela Rayner or Diane Abbott.

We have a key definition in Clause 2 that a “user-to-user service” means “an internet service by means of which content that is generated directly on the service by a user of the service, or uploaded to or shared on the service by a user of the service, may be encountered by another user, or other users, of the service.” That is everything on the worldwide web. It is intended to mean YouTube and those sites where teenagers upload indecent pictures, but what it actually covers is every website at all – all are created by users of the web. The DCMS could properly object that it s not intended, that there are exemptions etc, but I challenge them to interpret these. The Bill is keen on definitions, but every one is defined by reference to other definitions found scattered elsewhere in the Bill, each then defined by another, and some of which are, such as the key term “user” are, after several jumps about, found not to be defined at all.

This nonsense shames Parliament. An Act for online safety is needed, but this?  Cut out 99% of it and start again, but otherwise dump it.

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Prey to Kings and Desperate Men

It gets worse. Canada is falling, torn by unwonted divisions stoked  out of malice by Justin Trudeau, demagogue-in-chief. The state at his direction punishes dissent without trial and thugs terrify their neighbours for speaking for the dissenters. How could this be Canada? How can Canada survive it?

It is familiar from the international news, but in the United States, and now we have seen the deliberate importation of American hate-based politics into once innocent ground, without the American systems which moderate it. The certainties of Canadian life which allowed society to thrive and  which encouraged enterprise to take root and trade have vanished.  How can anyone build for their future if the government can seize property and bank accounts at will?

In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building..

I need hardly recite the familiar idiocies of the pseudo-philosophical movements in the United States; Marxism given new flesh in concepts of race theory which promote racial conflict. In a land which had a system of slavery for centuries, followed by a hundred years of legal discrimination that lasted until living memory, and a legacy of ill-treatment long after, there is a well of mistrust to be turned into hatred. Canada though did not have any of this: this is all imported, and it should not be welcomed.  It is as if Trudeau and those he has attracted around him have forgotten which country they are in.

If it were just the government of one man acting tyrannically, directing the Mounties against his opponents, that would be bad enough, but it is far deeper. Society is being destroyed with internal hatred. That is at the rotten heart of politics, as has been written here before, but hitherto it has been resisted in the True North, or so we thought. We heard of a store-owner besieged and terrorised by thugs who called her a terrorist and a Nazi-supporter, who threated violence, even murder against her an her family; just for donating a small sum to keep a trucker from freezing in the Ottawa night.  How would these chilling tormentors have got such an idea about a neighbour? How could anyone with any sense believe the protesting truckers  could be described in such repulsive terms?  The finger points to one man.

It is an evil doctrine which Trudeau has adopted, a foreign interloper, and he nurtured it. In its homeland, the United States, the doctrine is tempered by the endless levels of power across that country which can resist if they are so minded, or in adopting it form a lesson to show others what to avoid, In Canada there is no such dispersed network of power, and no guardian angel to resist the abuse of destructive power.

The truckers are annoying, certainly, but he made insane accusations which others have taken up in a mob, and every threat, every punch, every brick through the window, every nervous breakdown, is his personal responsibility. The collapse of Canada’s settled society falls upon his shoulders too.

Canadians can only look out to be told that a once settled, understood life is no more, as Donne put it in another context:

Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men, And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell.

The outlook is grim, recession looms as investment teeters, and with three years before the next election, there is a long time yet for society to be destroyed all the more. Canada is facing dark days, and I wish heartily it were not so.

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Books

 

Missing role models?

I was surprised that anyone should complain of losing a few male role models, when we have such a richness of them: models of behaviour, and warnings of what to avoid; bad models as well as good.

The first and greatest male role model is ones own father, and then there are endless books and films and stories. Sitting through Zulu will cure a hundred losses of modern limp literature.

The whole swelling sea of literature and culture has ideals and reproaches in the myriad. A couple of weeks ago when an MP bemoaned the loss to maleness of a main character in a children’s fantasy programme, I had to laugh.

There are good books aplenty, bristling with heroes and villains, with dash and excitement and lessons for life, and films bulging out of every screen. It is only modern works which have had the life scoured out of them.

Lessons in life start in earliest youth. I once spoke to a publisher of children’s books, and she explained that the only books most young children read are those which are in the school library, and schools only buy books which tie in with themes in the curriculum, and so there is no point in their considering interesting  books for publication: there is no market. It was an eye-opening conversation. This may go some way to explain the insipid nature of most children’s literature. It also explains why parents who read with their children, and encourage them to read books that have actual substance, bring up stronger, wiser children.

Teenagers are another matter, but the less said about teenage ‘literature’ the better. Dig up instead the many books of an older age suitable for teenage boys: these books loved by past generations, adventure books, all have worthy heroes.

Looking for old-fashioned adventure stories, there are few authors in recent generations who stick in the mind, but there are some good ones. We have more books than ever, but those with the hero narrative are lessened, to leave a trail of pointless or pretentious books, well written but not suitable for educating the mind. Perhaps it is because the writers of old had lived out their stories: the Biggles books were written by an actual pilot of the Great War; the Richard Hannay stories by one who served in the ‘Wild South’ of diamond-rush South Africa and on the Western Front, and James Bond was the invention of someone not much different in his real life. Few modern writers can draw upon such experience. There is little life or heroism to be learnt in the reflection of dull suburbia.

Of the adventure novel, few will be found in a  school library, and there are active moves to banish them. The vision of modernity which activists promote is a dull, mechanistic one.

Even so, they do not have a monopoly of imagination, and the heroes are still plentiful to find, and there are still books and films being made, both sides of the Atlantic as well as Australia and of course Bollywood, and a voracious market for them. The heroic male role model is not vanishing.

It is just ‘received opinion’ amongst those who affect to despise the heroic model which would see an end to it, who know that in their petty selves they cannot match up to the ideal and would bring everything low to their level – but even they sometimes cannot help themselves when pen is set to  paper.

If I were to write a novel, would it be full of thrill and adventure, with a larger than life definitely male hero defying impossible odds, with gritty fights and grim weapons, unflinching against a relentless foe in exotic locations with women swooning over him?  Of course I would. Any first novel is implicitly autobiographical, after all.

Now, with all that said, I have written only of male role models, and that is only half the population, and the half already oversupplied with all that our culture bestows.  What of female role models? They are just as entitled to see themselves reflected, and to have a good pattern for life placed before them. I cannot take seriously any wail about a story being feminised, if it still works. (Just leave the established characters alone.) My complaint is that when a character is reimagined in feminine guise, it is too often done badly.

To promote good female role models we do not want not male characters put in a dress, but strong women with feminine reactions.  That though is another article and I have to question my fitness to write it.

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Books

Lashings of a wounded tiger

Hark, hark the dogs do bark; the beggars are coming to town –
Some on commissions and some with petitions,
And all with an earnest frown

Clearing out the Augean stables of Whitehall is no mean task, so embedded are those who foul them. Eleven years of Conservative government, and nothing visible has been done about it, until recently. There must be a change, because the beggars are fighting back.

Until Boris came along, it was understood that the head of Harriet Harman’s Equality and Human Rights Commission would be a self-selected social justice warrior with the unique take on equality and rights that the left have, but no – it now has a level-headed chairman who actual believes in the brief, about equal treatment, and respecting diversity, not suppressing it.

Other posts too have started to fill with either conservatives or politically neutral nominees with brains and determination to do their jobs for the benefit of all, not to push specious philosophies, and not with non-entities who will fold before threats from social justice warriors in their teams. No wonder the embedded lefties are furious. No wonder they are working hard to reshape the landscape while they can.

Yesterday, the Home Office cancelled a series of training seminars run by a notorious race-hustler who has personally insulted the Home Secretary and belittled her family’s race. Naturally, she had been hired to talk about racial equality in the workplace. It is a bit like hiring Al Capone as an expert in avoiding police corruption. This cancellation was only after the lecture series was exposed by the eminent blogger Guido Fawkes – otherwise we have every reason the think it would have gone ahead, along with many others from worse hustlers than this one. The cancellation is a start, but how many more such seminars are still on the calendar.

I have met enough civil servants to have some sympathy with their position. They know that they do not understand all the things that are put in their hands and they need external expertise. Sharks are circling as they reach out. If you advertise ‘We need to borrow some cash’, it is not Barclays who will knock first but Micky ‘The Razor’ Fraser.

Who then is hiring people like Afula Hirsch in spite of her appalling reputation? It might be a junior clerk with Google as his expert. It might be a determined, embedded wokeist seeing an opportunity. They might just submit the name with an innocent face, or threaten accusations in the familiar way. Threats of denunciation should be regarded as bullying; a sackable offence.

The tide of wokery is intensifying, not because it is on a roll but because its position is under threat. The Spanish Inquisition was started not when Rome had a secure monopoly on ideas, but when it was threatened.

We must expect therefore a greater push for Critical Race Theory and Gender Awareness propaganda for years, and if it is not met with a forceful pushback, it will seize the narrative, and the appointments process. Minsters are in charge of every aspect of their departments, and must make their authority felt.

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Books