Censorship semantics

It’s long been my own personal lament that news online seems to only pass a wandering eye over an issue before moving onto the more important aspect. I am, of course, talking about How Social Media Reacted.

In the face of something even remotely controversial, or something which happens to challenge current popular convention, news stories (at least in this country) mention the issue in passing before opening another paragraph with “Users on Twitter…”, followed by descriptors of how they lost their collective shit.

I’ve long held the view that Twitter posts are not news, however it seems that news organisations largely disagree. Something odd happens, or Trump utters a sentence, and news stories emerge with celebrity comments, sharp barbs and randomly picked nonsense that seems funny to those whom lean a certain direction.

Okay, so I am clearly on the outer with regards to Twitter comments being non-news. Fine. Sure. Let’s run with that. If people want to have their voices heard, then Twitter is often where you go to have people listen.

Except, Twitter now controls who and what is said. They control what is trending. Same as Facebook, who will bury something which could have grown completely organically. Youtube (ie the premier platform for viral videos, political punditry, peanut galleries and cooking shows) is also rigging their system to shaft those who publish “controversial” content, or as others would suggest, “Views That Are Problematic”.

So, on one side you have people complaining about censorship. On the other, people claim that Youtube, Twitter et al can do whatever they like. It’s their platform. They don’t have to host it.

I’m firmly in the middle of most issues, but I can’t help but lean toward the former than the latter. Are Facebook, Twitter and Youtube private companies? Yes. But they also have in their possession a place that multiple news sources lift news from, and are the go-to for most people to obtain their information. At some point, the dominance of a platform (or in this case, platforms) requires a certain level of responsibility.

Sure, Youtubers can go to other platforms such as Dailymotion or Vid.me, but with that they lose a lot of eyes. Those disillusioned with Twitter can go somewhere else as well, but I cannot recall any time when something went viral from Gab.

Many people would surely disagree with me on this, however my immediate response (as always) would be “What if it was stuff that you were saying being demonetised?” At this point the silencing is happening to those who disagree with a lot of what The Left says, but what if these platforms were built by those from The Other Side? Would the gimping of revenue streams for Leftist creators be accepted with a shrug and a forlorn trudge to an alternative network?

I sincerely doubt it.

My other response would be, “What about deplatforming?” A number of conservative speakers have attempted to talk at college campuses, or on television shows, and the reaction from social media has been to pressure the venues for hosting such hateful figures. When Milo Yiannopoulos was booked to appear on Real Time with Bill Maher, there was much gnashing of teeth, insults at Maher and a panelist dropped out.

But Maher can book whoever he wants, right?


Napkin-back Numbers – Politician pay rises

This is a subject that is often raised, but never really followed through upon. There’s typically a lot of noise as everyone bellows their outrage, but eventually after a couple weeks, people shrug with the resignation of “Politicians gonna politician”.

Politician pay rises. They come somewhat frequently, are seldom refused, and seem to not hinge upon any kind of merit or Key Performance Indicator. Just this past month, politicians in Australia snuck a very quiet pay rise to themselves.

This post is not the question whether they are deserving of pay rises. That’s the kind of bickering that happens every single time something like this happens. Every time, nothing occurs. The electorate has (and I cannot remember which politician said it) a memory of roughly two weeks. After this time, the public find something else to be outraged at.

The pay rise in this instance pushes MP pay above AU$200,000.

Let’s just unpack that a little bit.

Anyone who is paid $200,000 a year will earn (according to an old HR method I know), $7667.73 before tax. That person would, in Australia, pay around $2600 in tax, leaving a nett pay of around $5000.

So far, so humdrum, right? These people would pay more in tax a fortnight that many people earn outright for that same fortnight. Then consider the fairly generous perks that politicians also receive, and suddenly that sweet, sweet $5000 per fortnight looks all the more saccharine.

Then there are the extra benefits that more senior politicians enjoy, but are seldom declared, such as having meals and drinks offered for conferences they attend, or the access to cars to help them with their commute. Eventually you see a recipe in where those who can most afford to pay for things don’t actually need to – while the person who earns the same per fortnight that these people pay in tax, is left to cover their food, bills, commuting expenses and the like.

And that’s before you consider how much someone can put into tax deductions if they had a lazy $5000 to cover themselves for a fortnight.

To end, I don’t mean to say that people do or do not deserve the wages they are paid. Rather, look at how much that are paid per fortnight and compare it with your own. Remember that many of their expenses are covered even without delving into their $5000 per fortnight. Think of how you could provide for your family and children.

Then wonder why we aren’t up in arms about being trapped in a caste system.

Leftist or right wing nutjob?

If anyone meandered through the ether of the internet and somehow found themselves flushed down the pipes to land at this blog, they might wonder about my allegiance to either the left or right wing of politics.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t believe I am either, and I do try to look at issues with some degree of impartiality. Also, because I think that reductive labels do nothing to discourse, and serves only to pigeonhole people into two separate trays of “Who I should like” and “Who I should dislike”.

The follow up to this determining of my position is to wonder what it is that I hope to achieve here. If I support neither side, then what am I trying to impart to the reader of this hovel?

I don’t seek to convert people to any one ideology. Seeking converts is for religion and cults, and I don’t need people aligning with me by virtue of wearing the correct colours.

After being told over the past decade that right-wing people are deluded imbeciles with no attachment to reality, I did consider myself leaning toward the left. The moment of detachment from this was in 2013 when Wendy Davis filibustered a piece of legislation that would have consequences for abortion clinics in Texas.

It’s not that I agreed or disagreed with her stance, or her filibustering, but this part of the proceedings (from the story):

At about 11.45pm, Senator Leticia Van De Putte, who had arrived from her father’s funeral, felt she was being ignored by the presiding officer, the Republican Lt Gov David Dewhurst. She asked him: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognised over her male colleagues?”

That sparked boisterous chanting from the public gallery which lasted until after midnight and threw proceedings into turmoil. Amid the din, no one was sure if a vote had taken place in time. Democrats claimed it happened a minute or two after the deadline, while Republicans said the vote should stand.

That a rukus caused by people can impact the democratic process did not clang well with me. I would detest it if these tactics were used for a piece of legislation I agreed with, and I could not celebrate the win for the filibuster using such means. It set a very dangerous precedent, and these tactics could be employed against the very people who cheered them from the gallery.

As I’ve said before, the tactics you employ are the tactics you endorse and allow to be used against you. Being an upstart might win you today, but tomorrow could bring a louder upstart from the other side.

In conclusion, I am not writing these things to convince people that one side of the debate is better than another. Rather, I am writing these things to hopefully have people realise that their own side is just as likely to do horrible things. Even moreso if they have had the reins of power for too long.

Blind support of a team makes you blind to their evils. Today, like any day, we must be able to recognise potential for evil within our team and within ourselves.

Polls are (still) dead

I said it before, and I’ll say it again. Polls are dead.

The UK just had their election. I understand that the early call of the election was done on the back of huge polling support numbers in favour of the Tories. The thinking was that they have an early election while they’re still popular, and then solidify the number of representatives in the House of Commons.

Well, that all went to shit pretty quickly, and those who support the left are delighted.

If anything, apart from the fact that politicians shouldn’t take the constituency for fools, and that they shouldn’t rest on their laurels, they should know that polls are not the silver bullet for reading the mood of the people. Of course, there are myriad reasons for why the election resulted the way that it did, but I would direct my attention more for what the result implies.

People are sick of it all. We are beyond an apathetic voter now, and rather than them simply voting for the least hate-able option, they are livid. They are tired of polished politicians giving them the typical polished speak, and smiling promises that fail to materialise into anything apart from half-washed bullshit.

The message is clear. Be better representatives. Stop telling people how to think, and start listening to them. Yes, even the ignorant ones. Even the smart ones. Even the smart ones who pretend to be morally superior. Just fucking listen.

This isn’t about left and right anymore. It’s about who can actually offer something apart from platitudes and promises, and maybe even solutions that seem to work. For instance, clamping down on the Internet as a means to stifle terrorist events is a paper-thin idiot’s offering for a situation that people find very scary. Asking the people to make personal concessions for a problem of not their doing is a fool’s errand, and when it proposes changes that have literally nothing to do with the problem at hand, then everyone knows that you’re – to use the British expression – taking the piss.

And especially so when making society change in the face of terrorism is tantamount to capitulating to it.

Be better representatives. Come with effective solutions and not “electable” ones. Think beyond the term and look to the future beyond polling days.

Because polls are dead. Stop using them and bring actual vision.