Tag Archives: Social media

Water cannon. Free speech. The right not to listen.

22 Jan

 

A metal toggle switch with plate reading Listen and Ignore, symbolizing how we choose to pay attention to certain messages

The robust exchanges of the last few days on the subject of so-called “brokens” and the need to control or silence their allegedly “broken” speech reminded me of Human Rights Freedom Commissioner Tim Wilson’s unfortunate tweet, posted shortly before he was parachuted into a job created specifically for him by Attorney-General George Brandis. Wilson was apparently walking through a public space in Melbourne on his way to somewhere else, when he suffered considerable affront at the sight and sound of an Occupy Melbourne protest:

@timwilsoncomau Walked past Occupy Melbourne protest, all people who think freedom of speech = freedom 2 b heard, time wasters … send in the water cannons 

What Wilson overlooked in this tweet is that nobody was forcing him to hear the protesters, except momentarily: he could walk right by them, remove himself from earshot, get on his train or tram and continue with his journey, free from the sound of others enacting their right to speak.

But Wilson was not interested in taking responsibility for himself: instead he felt an entitlement to protection from momentary affront, and it was to the state that he turned for his preferred method of protection. People exercising their freedom to protest deserved to be injured and silenced by water cannon, because Tim Wilson was aggravated by noisy views he did not share.

Engagement in social media is going to bring most participants slap bang up against views they do not share, oftentimes expressed in a manner to which they are not accustomed, and do not necessarily like. This happens to me regularly. I can either take the Tim Wilson route and demand these voices be silenced by some authority because I have a right not to listen to them,  or I can use my mute button, my unfollow button, or even my block button, and take responsibility for creating my own online environment that doesn’t include people who, for whatever reason, bother me.

The right not to listen goes hand in hand with the responsibility to take your own measures to protect yourself against another exercising her freedom of speech, if the content or manner of her expression bothers you, rather than appealing to the state or some other authority to do it for you, or demanding that the bothersome voices somehow be silenced so you aren’t subjected to them.

There are laws already in place that deal with dangerous situations and threatening people, but they don’t deal with boring people, or repetitive people, or people who don’t want to stop arguing their case, or people you think are stupid, and neither should they. I have the right not to listen to people who aggravate me, and I have a responsibility to enact that right myself when I have the means to do so. I’m not entitled to demand that the environment I want be created for me by the silencing of others.

None of us is entitled to protection from momentary affront caused by someone else enacting their right to freedom of speech. None of us has to listen either. But my right not to listen doesn’t trump your right to speak, unless your speech is illegal, or you’re forcing me against my will to listen.

One person’s broken record is another person’s gutsy persistence, and there are countless examples of situations in which injustices of all kinds would have continued unchallenged if it wasn’t for one person’s gutsy persistence, that could well have been perceived by others as “broken record” behaviour. There are also countless examples of people who vainly thrust at windmills, and so what?

If you desire civil discourse you won’t call for the water cannon, either literally or metaphorically, to silence those who in some way fail to attain your standards of debate. You’ll engage with others who have the same goal, rather than complain and angst about what we have to do to get those “brokens” as evolved as we are, or is it better just to condemn them to the margins because they’re incorrigibly dumb and boring and not worth the energy.

If you’re so damn smart, how come you haven’t worked out that you don’t have to listen, it’s a choice, and you’re the master or mistress of your online domain, if you only take responsibility for it?

 

 

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Abbott admits he’s wasting 4.3 million taxpayer dollars.

26 Jan

 

 

Abbott on frugality

 

This, today from a Prime Minister who spends 4.3 million of taxpayer dollars monitoring social media, and employing spin doctors to “offer strategic communications advice” from the information gleaned:

I’ll leave social media to its own devices [said Abbott today]. Social media is kind of like electronic graffiti and I think that in the media, you make a big mistake to pay too much attention to social media,” Mr Abbott said. You wouldn’t report what’s sprayed up on the walls of buildings…

In spite of that 4.3 million taxpayer dollars’ worth of strategic communication advice, in spite of the iron control reportedly exerted over the PM by Chief of Staff Peta Credlin, Abbott continues to make the most astounding, cringe-worthy gaffes that stretch all credulity, and nobody wants him anywhere near them.

So it would seem the spin doctors and Ms Credlin are catastrophically useless at their jobs, because just when you think Abbott can’t get anymore bizarre, he goes and smashes all his previous records of stupid.

If Credlin and the strategic communications advisors were employed by anyone other than the LNP government they’d be sacked. I wonder how any of them will ever find alternative employment, given their unbroken record of spectacular failure with the Prime Minister.

Please do leave social media to its own devices, Mr Abbott, and stop wasting our money on monitoring it to see what it’s saying about you. It’s never anything good, you can be sure of that. How many millions of our dollars do you need to spend to find out what an absolute fool we think you are?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear. No matter how many dollars and spin doctors  you throw at it, you just can’t. A pig’s ear is a pig’s ear and right now, on Australia Day 2015, we have a pig’s ear in charge.

(I suppose I should say sorry to pigs, who are really pretty smart animals.)

(Which Tony Abbott is not. A smart animal, that is.)

Pigs can fly

BREASTS. NIPPLES. BREASTS. NIPPLES. BREASTS BREASTS NIPPLES BREASTS.

21 Feb

Some weeks ago my fellow tweep, writer and philosopher Dr Damon Young, posted this cheerful image of himself naked from the waist up on Twitter, and on his website.

Damon Young

It was around the time many of us were becoming highly exercised at David Koch’s unfortunate take on public breastfeeding. Breasts were a thing, or even more of a thing than usual because if it’s a thing you’re seeking, you can’t go past breasts.

This coincidence of Damon and David stirred my outrage, albeit for very different reasons. I’ve addressed my Koch angst here.

If Damon can plonk images of his torso all over the interwebs, I railed, without fear of any consequences other than some good-natured joshing, why can’t I? Because no matter how much anybody tells me I can, I don’t think it is actually so.

Damon’s image is unadorned, taken, I imagine, as he paused in his progress from bedroom to bathroom, his mind occupied, I later discovered, with his BMI. There’s nothing vain or self-conscious about the photo: he’s a bloke in his shorts wondering if he needs to take better care of his physical vehicle.

And here we careen into the first thing a woman can’t do that a man is allowed. If I were to post an image of myself in exactly the same state of ordinary (as opposed to contrived) deshabillé, clearly preoccupied (and not with showing myself off) I would likely bring torrents of nastiness down on my head. Why? How long have you got?

Most obviously, because I’d be transgressing the cultural expectation that when a woman shows her breasts she’s got to be sexy about it. We learned that from the Koch situation, with this male commenter making no bones about it. A woman shouldn’t just let her tits hang out, especially at the dinner table, if not for erotic purposes. That is, our tits are only for display when they are being usefully employed in sexually titillating somebody. Standing in your hallway, in your knickers, concentrating on something other than how desirable you have contrived to look in that moment, is likely to be regarded as disgusting. How can she let herself be seen like that?

Nobody says that about Damon, I’m willing to bet.

For a couple of weeks I yearned to post an image of my naked torso on Twitter and this blog, because why shouldn’t I? I was, though, both infuriated and appalled by the powerful ambivalence I felt at the prospect of thus exposing myself to the public gaze. I bet Damon didn’t go through this either, I fumed. I bet he blithely stuck up his picture and thought no more about it. I don’t begrudge him or any man that freedom: I want it for myself. I want to feel as safe as a man does about just being in my body, as it is, but when it comes to publicly revealing myself, I don’t.

I then had a Twitter exchange with Helen Razer in which we contemplated our breasts, confiding to one another and thousands of other tweeps, that we both believe them to be our best feature. Neither of us posted twit pics, however, as people do with their favourite kittehs and puppehs. We also discussed our skin, our feet and our arses, but no other body part, for me at least, has the same frisson. I’m a breast woman. The word alone stirs complex and mysterious emotion in me, all of it good. It’s not until breasts collide with society that they become problematic. Left alone, stripped of imposed culture, they are, quite frankly, gorgeous.

It’s my considered belief that Western culture is alarmingly dysfunctional when it comes to breasts. Author Sarah Darmody explores this normalised peculiarity in this readable piece, titled “Why are we so embarrassed about breasts?” Having lived in the UAE, Darmody is asked what she thinks about life in a society where women are forced to cover up. “What, you mean Australia?” she retorts.

Breasts are fetishised to a degree that is maddeningly unfair. The rules about which breasts may be displayed and how are so deeply ingrained in our collective psyche that to consider transgressing them fills a woman like me with something close to terror. For example, I will not usually go out of my house on a cool day without a bra or layers, in case my nipples expose themselves, hardened, as if with desire, through my t-shirt. This is falsely described as modesty, a commendable quality in a woman, I’m told. It feels like enslavement. It feels like repression. It feels like a shocking waste of my energy.

At the same time I don’t want to send the message of sexual availability hardened nipples signify, because that is a false message and I don’t need to deal with the repercussions. A woman’s day is full of such decisions, made largely unthinkingly, in robotic obedience to received wisdom we absorbed with our infant formula or mother’s milk. There are brave women who make it their business to thwart the ingrained conventions. It’s my goal to one day join them.

Damon’s self-exposure will do nothing to detract from his reputation as an erudite, intelligent philosopher, author and commentator. On the contrary, the image reveals another side to the scholar, one that is endearingly human. Were I, a female scholar, to publish exactly the same image of myself, I suspect I would incur all kinds of lewd and derogatory commentary, and I wouldn’t endear myself to anybody. Especially not my family who would be appalled, and likely wouldn’t find it possible speak to me for some time without averting their eyes.

If a female scholar, or any female exposes her breasts on the Internet, will that become the first thing anyone remembers about her? I suspect the answer is yes.

I’m very fond of my breasts. They’ve served me well, they’ve given pleasure to me and to my lovers, they’ve kept my babies alive and thriving, they continue to please the eye. They aren’t twenty anymore, but I’m told they still have a bit of phwoar factor. Be that as it may, the kind of exposure I’m talking about doesn’t require phwoar: I wasn’t planning a page three spread. I just wanted to do what Damon did.

Well, as you know, I didn’t. I feel like an abject coward. I still can’t even think about doing what Damon did without hot horrible squirmy feelings. If I did what Damon did I fear I would be doubly condemned, on the one hand for revealing my breasts at all, and on the other for revealing them in a non-sexy way, and with complete lack of concern for how they and I look.

It’s taken me weeks to even write this piece, not least because I understand that in the personal and universal hierarchy of women’s needs, the fact that I don’t feel free to do what Damon did isn’t in the top layer. Nevertheless, it does speak to the more urgent problem of how women are gazed upon, and how that gaze affects our way of being in the world.

Neither do I want to extrapolate my personal squeamishness to “women,” but there is no denying you hardly ever come across similar representations of a casually comfortable topless woman leaning in her doorway in her knickers.

Whining is unattractive, I know. But I don’t care. I want what he’s got. I want it really, really badly.

With thanks to Damon Young, whose latest highly acclaimed book is:philosophy in the garden - cover200x312

Government control of social media: take away Murdoch’s phones!

12 Aug

As predicted, British PM David Cameron is now flagging the possibility of controlling social media access to those the authorities perceive as responsible for inciting and participating in anti-social behaviour such as rioting and looting.

Just how this would work in practice is not yet clear, if indeed it is possible at all. The police confiscate the social media tools of anybody found wearing a hoodie? Males of particular ethnic appearance between the ages of x and x are obliged to relinquish their phones in times of unrest? Females with black nail polish and piercings likewise?

Who will judge that the usual suspects are in the throes of planning a campaign of violent civil disobedience? What criteria will they use?  Will Britain become one of those authoritarian regimes that shuts down the Internet when there’s trouble?

The idea is ludicrous. It’s another of those impotent threats trotted out by politicians who have no control over events, and are desperately casting about to find some punishment that will dissuade the mob from ever doing it again.

The threat of taking away their toys if they don’t behave is likely to incite further explosive protest. This is a cohort that already believes it’s over surveilled and singled out for police persecution.

Has anybody thought to threaten the Murdoch empire with the restriction or removal of their phones if they don’t stop hacking? Didn’t think so.

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