Reasons I am proud to be British - this suprised the life out of me
Posted Apr 23, 2003
1) Lord Archer is in jail
2) Jonathan Aitken went to jail
3) The word "wanker" - so expressive, rhymes with banker and spanker
4) The Stevens Report
5) Strong black tea with milk and sugar
6) The tories got rid of Margaret Thatcher when she finally went barking mad
There are any number of reasons I am NOT proud of being British, which is why I was surprised any reasons why I am.
I guess it is time I came out of the woodwork
Posted Mar 19, 2003
I am very saddened by the storms on the site about the policy regarding Iraq and the war. One of the reasons I have not been posting commentary in the threads on the subject is that I wanted to work out what my reactions are to the policy before posting anything, and it seems pointless to post in the threads themselves.
Expectations are funny things. It is never people who let us down, it is our expectations that let us down. We let ourselves down in fact. We choose to believe certain things about people, and base our emotions on those beliefs.
If you believe that the BBC is independent, and noble, and an advocate of free speech, then you may feel they have let us down. If you believe that they are a government lacky, then you will feel vindicated in that belief. If you feel that you have a right to free speech, (which is a constitutional right in the US, but which is not a constitional right in the UK), then you will feel that your rights have been violated.
My current beliefs about h2g2 are very different from what they have been in the past. They have been drilled into me by the experiences I have had of the BBC before they took over the site, by the changes to the site when they took over, by my experiences with the Zaphodistas, by the long history of the Short Guide to Short Words, by the disruptions and bans which were caused by LeKZ and the reactions to her of various researchers, by being a member of what was called the Small But Vocal Minority, and by the bans on specific subject matter during the 2001 General Election. I have been numbed into submission, or browbeaten into apathy. I don't know which.
In my view the BBC own the site and they have to take the consequences for material published here. They are fully within their rights to do what they are doing, there is nothing legally wrong.
The question is whether or not there is something morally wrong about it. And here we come to the slippery issue of rights, and the even more slippery issue of duties. At a trivial level, my right to freedom of expression conflicts with my neighbours right to be able to sleep at night if I choose to exercise my freedom of expression with a drum kit at 3.00 in the morning. In a civilised society laws and moral codes are ways of balancing the rights and duties of an individual.
The BBC has limited resources, and they have an odd mix of moral duties.
One is a duty of care for those resources, they should not squander money defending avoidable law-suits, and as a web-publisher they have overall responsibility for the content of the site.
Another is a duty of care for the brand. The press in the UK would attack the BBC if it was seen to be publishing material which was racist, or which incited violence, for instance. Such material would damage the BBC brand. (Personally I don't give a tinkers' cuss for the BBC brand, but it is understandable that those who are employed by the BBC should take steps to protect its brand).
Another is the duty to present a balanced view. Personally I think there is no such thing as a balanced view. In classical Athens the balanced view was that slavery was acceptable and only property owning citizens should vote. Similar views were normal less than two centuries ago both in the UK and in the US. However if you posted such things here now they would be moderated away as iciting racial hatred. Balance is entirely contextual, and in fact does not exist.
Finally there is their duty, and indeed our duty, to the nation which is in a state of war. Rights are subsumed to duty at a time like this, and whatever ones personal opinions, this view is enforced and enforcable, both here on h2g2 and in the world at large.
Maybe in some other parallel universe there is a world without war, a world where the right to freedom of speech does not clash with the illegality of child pornography, where all animals are vegetarian, where no-one hunts foxes, where food is organic, and where no-one poisons planets.
But this is the real world we live in, and we must cut our coats to suit the cloth.
So... the BBC is within its legal rights to do what it is doing, and my personal opinion is that the moral case is arguable, though not by any means proven.
Moving on to the Italics' position. I have had many public spats with the Italics, and I still have some issues with some aspects of what they do and how they do it.
However I respect anyone who learns and grows and I have seen the Italics grow into their jobs both as individuals and as a team. I have absolutely no doubt at all that within their office there is a similar spread of concerns and reactions to the rules which they have been told to enforce, however unlike the rest of us the Italics have no right to express those concerns and reactions.
I feel a great deal of respect for the Italics, and a very great deal of sympathy. They are doing difficult jobs defltly and with grace. One of the many reasons I could not work for an organisation like the BBC, or for the Government for that matter, is that I could not reign in my own anarchist tendencies, and I have total respect for people who can.
Moving on to my fellow researchers.
I have observed a variety of reactions here, and I am going to generalise unacceptably.
I observe, and observed in the past, that the people who tend to get most het up about freedom of speech on the site are Americans. Americans are used to the right to the freedom of speech, and find it difficult to come to terms with a website where there is not in fact that right. Unfortunately the BBC is an immovable object, and while it has been possible to make small shifts, such as the move back to peer moderation, no-one will ever change the nature of the beast.
My message to those Americans, and indeed all researchers, who are stuck on the issue of freedom of speech, is to use this as an opportunity to gain an understanding of the reality of how this works, and how it is tempered and balanced by duty in other countries.
Become anthropologists, and seek to understand *why* what is happening is happening. When you understand the reasons you can bring about change far more effectively, or else you may come to accept the reasons.
I observe that a lot of the people who have the clearest moral stance on this are very young. It is easy to see the world in moral absolutes when you are young. Things are either black or white. With age one comes to ask the question 'if that is so, where does that leave the sound of birdsong?' It may be patronsising to say that 'the world is infinitely more complex, more sophisticated, more interesting, and bleaker than that, as you will discover when you are older'. But patronising or not, it is true.
My message to the very young here is to think about what they are seeing, and to start from the assumption that there are good reasons. Question the reasons, and question your own reasoning, but don't leap onto a monochrome high horse. Use this as a chance to gain a little more sophistication, and a greateer understanding of the world.
I also observe that some people whose moral sophistication I respect are deeply troubled. Some have resigned as ACEs or Gurus, others are leaving the site entirely.
My message to you is to ask you to keep posting the complex, contradictory and passionate posts which you are posting. My greatest problem with myself at this moment is the numbness of my own emotional response. Please be passionate, we need your passion.
This is a time of great change in the world at large. In the words of Richard O'Brien on another subject entirely: 'Nothing will ever be the same'. In fact, nothing has been the same for a very very long time, though the first time most of us noticed it was on the morning of September 11th 2001.
My personal fear is that the schism between Christendom and Islam will tear the world apart, but, disempowered and disenfranchised as I am, there is nothing I can do about it.
Change is frightening, and fear makes tyrants of us all. Fear forces us into the unpleasant and dangerous parts of our personalities. Fear makes us kill, it makes us hate, and it makes us hateful. Peace protesters were reported as chanting 'Kill Blair'. A perfect example of fxxking for virginity if ever I saw one.
Fear also numbs and opresses and silences us. It is a dangerous thing.
Fear can bring out the noblest and best in us too. Holding fast to what is good and what is right, and doing it even though it is almost impossible to know what is good and right, and almost impossible to think through the fear, is one of the noblest things that any human can aspire to.
Ours is one of the few generations on the planet which has been largely free from fear, and one of the greatest tests of us as a generation is how we handle it now that we feel it so deeply and so suddenly.
I apologise for the length of this. I have not posted on these subjects, or the subject of this war before, because I have so few opinions. I feel a lot but conclude very little. So I am sorry that I have used so many words to say almost nothing. On the other hand, it has been therapeutic for me to get it all off my chest. If you are still reading this, I probably owe you a drink.
And to bring us all back to the subject, the BBC and the current restrictions, I am going to quote Mark Moxon, who said what has become a mantra for me when things here get too heated:
"It's only a website"
Kittens, dates and war
Posted Mar 17, 2003
A bizzare mix of a day.
I have finally got my two kittens: a couple of British Blues called Archer and Aitken. Archer is attacking the cusions on one of the sofas, (quite clearly they are full of dangerous mice and even more dangerous small birds). Aitken is watching him. I think they are about to spend the next two hours tearhing the place to pieces.
GTB and I have finally got dates for the Rolling Meet - so if you are in the US, please check out the page U217918 and let us know if we can meet you too!
And finally - who the hell am I kidding, talking about kittens and holidays? Tomorrow is the start of the Second Gulf War, and what could quite possibly be the Third World War. Let us hope it does not in fact prove to be what the 1914/1918 war was described as being: "The War to End All Wars".
Marching for Peace...
Posted Feb 16, 2003
I have written about the London march for Peace yesterday. Here is the entry, A969032 which I have put into AWW.
I really cannot contain my delight...!
Posted Feb 13, 2003
This has been a good day for a variety of reasons, but the most exciting one of all is that the Italics have given us some qualified encouragement and some very positive feedback about the Underguide.
Now I appreciate that not everyone is aware of this, but a number of us are trying to build on the foundations laid by Whoami, but AGG/GAG and CAC, and by Fiction Central and by the Poetry Page and create an official edited status for Alternative entries.
The advantages of this for readers are that the entries become searchable as Edited entries, and that it is easy to distinguish ones which have been through the process from all the other pages which we create here with such joyous abandon.
The advantages for the writers is that Alternative entries are discussed and read in the AWW in the same way that 'normal' entries are in PR; and that they will get time in the sun on the Front Page!
This is something which I have been hoping would happen for a couple of years, and now we have got to the point where the real work starts making the scheme as solid as the existing volunteer schemes and processes, and making the whole thing work!
But isn't it EXCITING?
If anyone wants to find out more the links on this page take you straight back to h2g2: http://groups.msn.com/theH2G2Underguide
Asheley's comments are here: F51226?thread=247412&post=2984244#p2983262
*rolling up her sleeves because the real work starts here*