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Christchurch Shooting – Both A Tragedy And An Opportunity To Censor Us

The Christchurch shooting is already showing the wisdom – or cynicism – of Rahm Emanuel’s comment that you never let a crisis go to waste. Or, even, of Naomi Klein’s whine about disaster neoliberalism but somewhat in reverse. For here we’ve that appalling tragedy of some nutter going postal at two mosques and the demand is therefore that all the rest of us should and must be censored. Didn’t see that one coming, didj’ya?

Except, of course, there are those who really do think that free speech for us oiks, hoi polloi, is a terrible danger to the manner the world is run. Therefore if an opportunity presents itself to curb that civil liberty then that opportunity must be taken.

Which is the explanation for what is happening here:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Technology giants were told last night “enough is enough” after the massacre of 49 people at two mosques in New Zealand was live-streamed around the world in the first “terror attack designed for social media”. Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary, condemned tech firms’ failure to stop the 17-minute video being shared for more than 10 hours after the self-professed white supremacist killer Brenton Tarrant opened fire on Muslims at prayer. Reacting to a tweet in which YouTube claimed it was working to remove the footage, Mr Javid said YouTube, Google, Facebook and Twitter “really need to do more to stop violent extremism being promoted on your platforms”. He added: “Take some ownership. Enough is enough.” Damian Collins, the chairman of the Commons culture committee, said it appeared to be a “terror attack designed for social media” and demonstrated why there had to be “statutory regulation of the distribution of content online through social networks”. He said: “It’s a viral contagion spread through social media, helped by their algorithms. The firms need to carry out a major audit into who was sharing this film and how it was shared. Groups have deliberately spread it and those accounts should be closed down.” 

Quite agree that we’d really like this particular piece of film not to be widely distributed. As we’ve said before:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] Assume that we do in fact want to stop the gunman’s video of the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand from spreading. How do we do that? We’ve now wired the world so that billions can send each other video as and when they wish for nothing. It’s a very good system, a great human achievement. But if people are to use it in a manner we’d really rather such things are not used then what do we do about it? There isn’t actually a method of doing so without imposing some form of censorship on what may be said – or videoed – by whom and how. Which is indeed a problem because the one thing we really do know is that any form of censorship will, in the end, be taken over by those who really shouldn’t have the power to determine what we may all say – or video, obviously. [/perfectpullquote]

Which brings us to Rahm Emmanuel’s point:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.[/perfectpullquote]

Or perhaps Naomi Klein’s complaint. That when disaster strikes then that’s when you can push forward neoliberalism as Milton Friedman suggests. Although that’s not quite what he does suggest. He just makes much the same point as Emmanuel. Crisis means that people are ready for a change. And what is initiated as that change will be what ideas are lying around in society’s locker room. The task is therefore to litter those ideas around so that, if and when crisis, they are initiated as the change.

This not being a neoliberal exclusive. Note the continual – and rather untrue – whining about inequality these days. Everything that happens is used as a bolster to the idea that we must reduce inequality. It’s the same concept.

And here, we’ve this horror that we, just us and alone and unguided, might be talking to each other about what we want. In an unapproved manner, without that intervention of the priestly caste of the establishment and establishment limitations upon what is an acceptable set of worries to ponder. And more, what is an acceptable list of solutions to ponder. That freedom is new, it’s only really bubbled up on a large scale since the internet, then the web. Social media is perhaps the most efficient method so far based upon those technologies but it’s the free interaction of the peeps that is being worried about, opposed.

So, here’s a crisis, and tragedy. And what is being done with it? An opportunity to remove our new found liberty to communicate. For do not, for a moment, think that any system of removing groups that spread this video will stop with the removal of these groups. Every hag with a grievance will be demanding that this new built system be used to remove what they themselves think we should not be allowed to talk about. If Mary Whitehouse were still around it would be sexy filth to the disappointment of teenage boys everywhere. Today it’ll be even wondering whether male musculature offers trans athletes privilege in women’s races. Or whether a federast Europe really is the right end game for the EU. Or that the preoccupations of the coasts are what Flyover Country should just knuckle down and accept.

Note about those last two. Brexit, the referendum result, the very idea even of Ukip. These were not supposed to happen but it was that disagreement by us oiks over the decades that finally brought it to the boil. Trump’s election was in large part a reaction to that insistence that it’s the people, the Heartland, who’ve got to change, not elite preoccupations.

That is, this free communication without filters leads us proles to think and do things we shouldn’t. Thus the tragedy becomes the opportunity to limit our free conversation. They’re doing it right in front of our eyes too.

All of which leads to a very harsh potential conclusion. We should allow nutters to stream mass murder. In order to protect our own rights and abilities to tell the Establishment to bugger off. If we should wish to of course. Not a greatly happy conclusion but the thing is it might well be the correct one. We do indeed live in a second best world.

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Quentin Vole
Quentin Vole
5 years ago

There’s an article on The Register (which used to have a reputation for being a technology site, for heaven’s sake), wailing that “if the BBC can decide not to show the video, why can’t Facebook? It’s because $$$$$$$$s.” I hope it isn’t necessary to point out the idiocy of that statement to the adults reading.

I understand that people are upset (so am I, to the extent that deaths of people of whose very existence I could never know should upset me), but that should not preclude rational thought.

Matt Ryan
Matt Ryan
5 years ago

Firstly, for those short of thinking (you lefties out there) being agin something does not make one for something else.

With that out of the way, I see the first reaction is for newspeak (extreme right wing terrorism), censorship (to Tim’s point) and gun control.

Is there no debate to be had about the wisdom of introducing foreign incompatible cultures into a western country? I would add democratic but I don’t think the immediate fallback position of banning things makes it democratic.

5 years ago

I don’t see any discussion and outrage about the 20 christians killed by islamists in the phillipines or the 40 people murdered by islamists in Nigeria recently. We already have selective censorship. The muslim world can’t produce anything of value for the rest of us, but it certainly is number one in victimhood.

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