Archive for September, 2014


Whenever a new form of media comes along the early adopters are often naive about what they can and can’t do and are trusting, some might say complacent, about the consequences of ‘putting themselves out there!’  Of course in the early days there is an element of security through obscurity but trends take off and as the money men come in so all profitable angles become important with advertising is one of the most paramount of all.  In the old days marketers had to position their wares based on a large demographic such as people watching a certain television program or reading a certain newspaper, which often encompassed a wide and diverse set of people.  This also cost a lot of money, both to employ people to come up with the campaign and then in order to put the campaign somewhere, the more prominent the more costly.  However the Internet has revolutionised advertising by making ads more readily available and at far lower cost, in fact you could argue it is the democratisation of advertising, after all you receive ads more targeted to things in which you have already actively or passively expressed an interest.  You can even make ads yourself, or show your approval of ads from others.

Facebook has long since been regarded as something of a corporate battleground, we complained about the ads long ago and then complained about the metadata being used to target or attribute to them we bewailed the obvious snooping angles through this data being kept somewhere who knows where and accessible to who knows whom.  Now the reluctant acceptance of the widespread of data and personal information is almost complete, ‘we may not like it but after all what are we going to do?’  Today if you are not careful not only can you be traced via backdoor means but by the very open actions of your own friends and often you yourself.  What is worse is that you may have put your date of birth, phone number, email address, where you work, where you used to work and where you went to school (often used as a security question).  You may even have befriended your family (Mother’s maiden name very often used as a security question) and/or told people about your pet (name often used as a security question).  In addition to this you may have linked your twitter account, your linkedn account and used your Facebook account to log into all sorts of services. Did you turn off friends tagging you in their pictures or status updates, did you stop people tagging you in pictures that reveal where you were and when or with whom, or worse still where you might be and when?  What is on your public profile, visible to the whole world?  But this entry is not directly about Facebook and your personal security, this is about what you actively do believing you are acting for the right reasons and the consequences that these actions may increasingly have as a result of a new culture in pernicious advertising.

The recent furore surrounding the Emma Watson and 4Chan affair is a high profile case in point.  Long before I knew anything of the matter in origin I had seen innumerable posts decrying the actions of one party, expressing outrage that Emma Watson’s views should have caused such a disgraceful backlash and soundly lambasting the supposed perpetrator who appeared to be acting in some form of both spite and blackmail.  The ‘one party’ attacked was in fact a bulletin board community, thus it is rather like attacking Facebook for a user threatening to do something that isn’t illegal, good luck with that.  Whatever one may think of online communities, bulletin boards, dark internet etc. the fact is that it has hirthto been largely under the radar of the corporates.  This is clearly all about to change.

In order to infiltrate the new potential user base such things offer new strategies must be adopted, new ways to get information out there quickly and build user profiles in order to do so quicker still.  The traditional media remains quite passive in that it requires people specifically going to it and therefore are likely to be stored in the system somewhere already.  The new generation are more savvy and obtain and share their information and pursuits in different ways however some of those more prominent have already started to become more mainstream, the success of sites such as 38 Degrees and Avaaz has already been replicated by many of the international charities in order to harness armchair people power to promote and support their causes, this has shown a method of campaign proliferation that is far more active like a sort of idea crowd-surfing.  What this has shown a great deal of the time is that nothing spreads more like wildfire than moral outrage.  Indeed the speed with which some information goes around it makes Chinese Whispers look like the best way to obtain your news.  The trouble with this is that as with Chinese Whispers it is very difficult to tell what has been conflated/misinterpreted/misheard/reworded where and by whom and even were you to be able to do so by the time you had got to the bottom of it the message would have gone several stages further and your attempts to correct it would no longer be valid because they would not in effect have any relevance to what the message at that point was.  It would be rather like saying that homo erectus would actually have been better off with a tail after all.

The Emma Watson affair has made what would otherwise be a low-level exposure bulletin board very prominent and in a negative light, it remains to be seen what reach this will have for all associated with it but certainly it will be being trawled for information about its users and what they might be up to as we speak.  It has brought forward what appears on the surface to be a fictitious marketing company, this will only further increase speculation and keep public focus that little bit longer than if people were to really find out what or who was behind it all no matter how big or small they might have been.  Finally the only exposure that has actually happened has been that Emma Watson’s speech on feminism and equality has come to greater attention than i otherwise might have done which is a consolation.  Whether this was in any way intended (has everyone assumed automatically it wasn’t?) but it is something upon which to feel all was not entirely negative and assuages some people as to their haste to condemn as they will be able to cast their opinions over the very cause and effect of the whole affair and what it says about us as a society – herewith Exhibit A!

However it is not by any means an isolated example, nor is it the only method of publicising that which might otherwise be seen less favourably or be more obscure.  There are more forces than corporate money men involved.  The Emma Watson affair is my first conscious view of the use of people’s opposition to something to distribute widely but the use of people’s wish to affirm has been around for a while.

There has been a spate of seemingly uncontentious posts by a far-right group in England called Britain First (the clue is somewhat in the name really isn’t it?!) which advocates a number of singularly unpleasant policies and generally seeks to propagate them in an inflammatory manner such as turning up at mosques and holding hostile protests against Islam about which they appear to know very little and declaiming Christianity about which they appear to know only marginally more.  This is not anything especially new for the far-right and were that merely the extent of their action they would be marginalised severely by the fact that much of Britain’s mainstream political parties espouse the sort of nationalism that in the 1970s would have represented that of derided extremists the National Front, then seen as a group of fascist skinheads and thugs.  Fascists no longer wear the same uniform as one another and have blended far more into the mainstream political landscape across Europe as a whole and their appeal is broadening.  What Britain First have either cleverly or inadvertently done is to promulgate their existence with what look like innocuous positive affirmations such as supporting troops abroad, using the poppy symbol synonymous with the Royal British Legion and World War veterans (sad irony to have a fascist, nationalist party use a symbol for those who fought to oppose fascism and nationalism), even down to opposing animal rights abuses.  All the sorts of things that people might say “Who could possibly be against that…?”  Precisely, so why is there the need to share it?  Is it perhaps because to not do so implies you might be or be a supporter of “them [insert demon of the week here].”  Because really the implied suffix of the “Who could be against that...” question is “…unless you are one of them [insert aforementioned demon].”  And it is this that makes people share it in an effort to ensure no-one thinks that they might be one of “them.” (not that I’ve anything against “them” you understand, some of my friends are “them…!”)

One of Britain First’s particularly loathsome but widely-publicised efforts was to commandeer the death of soldier Lee Rigby who was murdered in the street in South East London by religious extremists.  Britain First used this event to their own islamophobic ends until Lee Rigby’s mother, Lyn complained publicly saying that the party did not represent her son’s views in the slightest and that he would and she was appalled by the way his cause had been hijacked.

“Well yet again can anymore heartbreak be thrown at me and my family, so heartbroken tonight. Electoral commission phoned saying that a party in Wales has stood for election in the European parliament named Britain First using Lee’s name to promote their party and some fucker from the commission allowed it to go through but [they] cannot take any action till after the election which is held on my sons anniversary of his murder. Their views are not what Lee believed in and has no support from the family. Their will be a family apology from the electoral commission but cannot be made public till after 22nd of May. Lee’s legacy will live on through Team Lee United Forces and all the good I hope to achieve xxxx”

By this time though the damage had been largely done as the phrase “Remember Lee Rigby” had already been used by Britain First as part of their entry on the Election ballot paper and the party was associated with what would be seen as positive enforcement of British values and memory of a soldier murdered.  No-one remembers the Electoral Commission’s apology, no-one remembers the investigation carried out by the Speaker of the Houses Of Parliament who presides over the Commission, nor whether such an investigation even took place.  They don’t even necessarily remember all the details of the situation but it started the creeping process of ‘normalising’ Britain First so they could claim to be ‘patriots’ which is a common name extreme nationalists use for themselves.

I have heard all too often the defence of “I would never have shared it if I had known who it was really from...” or “I know ‘person x’ and they would never have knowingly passed on something from ‘nasty group y.’” It is worth looking closer at the Britain First posts where very often there remains an undercurrent of racism and bigotry, the troops abroad, the animal rights abuses often being linked to the practice of halal butchery the Lee Rigby campaign and it’s demonising certain parts of the population.

There is the inevitable more blatant fascist post such as the one claiming asylum seekers and illegal immigrants were being given £29,000 in benefits and cutting snippets from the Daily Mail (always a sure sign of bigotry).  Many people will express shock and outrage, especially when it is put in the context of a paragraph stating that a pensioner gets around £6000 a year (a figure which lamentably is near enough correct).  If one stops to question at all then you can pick this argument apart quite easily.  Illegal immigrants get no benefit at all, they are illegal!  The Conservative government benefit cap is £26,000, this is the very maximum amount of money any household can have and that is subject to some fairly draconian methods of assessment so I am yet to come across anyone getting anywhere near that amount.  I have come across a fair few getting £4ooo ps though.  Anyway you get the picture.  Certainly some of the people sharing such posts are bigoted racists, but Britain First has 300,000 likes on its Facebook page are these all racist bigots or are many misguided and duped?

In the past it was just sometimes a question of memes, chain messages, spam that you may be inadvertently passing on, now it is more insidious and perhaps only viral marketing at best.  The other argument commonly used, indeed sometimes with the best intentions and even on occasions with results is the “I didn’t want to take the chance...” gambit.  This in its common form applies to something of abhorrence to people that has some degree of urgency in action required and people think it is better to ensure it is widespread in order to avoid the chance being lost and action (not) occurring.  However if taken to its lowest point it can be that which leads to the point of forwarding those chain emails that say bad luck will befall you if you do not or that some multinational company will pay you in the form of goods/services or hard cash if you tell all your friends about the scheme by sending this email to everyone in your address book.

Caveat Poster, if something seems far-fetched it probably is, if something is asking you to sign up to something think whether or not you would do so in the street.  If someone is asking you to share an opinion they have ask yourself if you’d let them stand up in court on your behalf, check the provenance of sources and one easy way to validate things is to run it through the hoaxkill type sites first, very often you will find that the tortured dog or 82 year old lady or homeless child is either something that never happened, or did so 10 years ago.

The trouble is that the advertisers already have you, because where do you draw the line, do you risk what you see as something bad happening by not reposting, retweeting, sharing, liking, tagging even if you haven’t had the chance to check its validity?  Or do you think that it shouldn’t do any great harm really and if it’s advertisers then they’re all bastards and something should be done about them, scum of the Earth etc. etc…?  Granted whilst it may not be as malign as the supposed inheritance you have from a fictitious relative in Africa but you are passing on something as if you had sneezed and then shaken hands with someone without even wiping.  Think of that next time you open a toilet door as well!

All that Twitter’s Is Not Necessarily Gold!

Song Of The Day ~ The Winners – Freedom

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I think it hard to imagine there is anyone with access to global media who does not know of, or probably have a view on, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.  Many have expressed their opinions whilst the silence from others has spoken volumes in itself.  Interestingly though when certain high profile people have spoken out in favour of the Palestinians they have been leapt upon and had the publicists in apoplexy whilst those of the pro-Zionist lobby seem able to express with relatively minor dissent.  This is very common practice, the Zionist lobby has long since held the power and not been afraid to wield, it it is not that long ago since my union were threatened with legal action by a powerful conglomerate in the US if they were to decide boycott Israeli universities in protest at the conflict.  If they were to decide to mind, not do it, no the censure came at the point where a policy would have been discussed and was to be agreed on. The debate had then to be that in theory were we able to find a method by which we could do so without punitive court costs would we do so, the vote was overwhelmingly in favour.  I suspect in no small part down to the moral outrage people felt at being told what they were or were not allowed to decide on before they’d had a chance to decide it.  Later pro-Zionist blogs came out naming and seeking to shame many of the people speaking in favour of the boycott, common practice has been to cite anti-semitism whenever someone expresses a view that is at odds with the extremely conservative Israeli state.  Anti-semitism has been a brush used for much tarring, often unfairly, in instances such as these but it is a useful way of not listening to any of the arguments propagated, it is the slightly more erudite version of “la la la, I can’t hear you,” I stress the word slightly!

Israel and its Zionist sympathisers principle weapon used with profligacy against the protesters and detractors alike has a chillingly macabre irony  as if somehow the reason for protesting against war crimes and butchery is somehow only related to the fact that it is jews who are carrying them out in this instance.  This is a crassness of such magnitude that perhaps its ability to exist and continue is merely based on a collective consciousness that finds it too incredulous to see on the radar.  In actual fact this method of dismissal causes far more harm to the Jewish community because it makes the actions of the Israeli government synonymous with a much wider and more diversely opinionated people whose link is faith and not political stance.  A way of radicalising that has been used many times before is to use the actions of a distant minority to justify outrages against others more locally, sweeping generalisations etc. The Jews themselves have been the victims of this before and not just once, now however it is a state that is claiming to stand in their name that is doing the very same thing and more of them must, for the sake of their wider community, disassociate from it or risk the continued sweep of outrage pervading countries across the globe and widening the violence as has already been happening.

The argument that Israel has a perfect right to defend itself in the face of the barrage of Hamas attacks is the equivalent of saying that a tank has the right to fire its shell at a child who is pelting it with a pea shooter.  This may sound at first flippant but this is the gulf between the hardware available to the Palestinians as opposed to that available to Israel.  Indeed would anyone dispute the prudence of guerrilla warfare when in the face of a superior armoured force, it would be ironic for the Americans to do so given the nature of their independence as won from Britain by just such a tactic.  Plucky freedom fighters and resistance heroes or insidious terrorists?  Israel has the ability to bombard an entire state the way the Palestinians have the ability to bombard a building, the difference therefore is to count the dead and from which areas they come.  We are not seeing children constantly being pulled out of Israeli buildings, the civilian death toll is almost exclusively on the one side as planes used for carpet bombing are a great deal less discriminatory than RPGs.  We have seen the tunnels used to get into Israeli areas by Palestinian fighters, we have seen, though with less expressed outrage the tanks and fighter jets used to get into Palestinian areas.

Israel claims that more than 2,800 rockets have been fired by Hamas from Gaza into Israel but that most have been intercepted by their “Iron Dome” defence – the Palestinian civilians have no such defence against the Israeli rockets and their air strikes and Gaza is being systematically razed to the ground.  World focus however has turned to the threat of ISIS, another nasty set of Islamic baddies almost conveniently thrust under our noses as if to show us who the real enemy are.  I will not go into the Syria conflict right now, I have given some of my opinions before in 2005, 2012 and there will be another post in due course.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library the death toll on both sides since 2000 numbers 1,327 Israeli dead (11,135 wounded) and 9,515 Palestinian dead (19,011 wounded).  According to NGOs and the UN over 80% of the 1,400 Palestinian casualties in Gaza in 2014 are civilians whilst 56 soldiers and 3 civilians have been killed on the Israeli side this year.  Whenever Israel starts any major offensive it is the Palestinian civilians who bear the brunt of it.

To subject Gaza to such systematic atrocity is also enormously stupid, if indeed one is looking at any form of lasting peace being the endgame.  The demolition of the structure necessary for forming a civilised state means the people in that state have nothing left to lose, they might just as well fight against the oppressor because it is a cause and they have little else left to believe in, or live in.  This is a very easy situation for Hamas to thrive in.  If Israel were to assist the Palestinians in building schools, nurseries, universities, utility distribution it would in turn fuel the moderates and their cause, it would create a new generation who would not have the reason to hate the Israeli state and would see them far more as a country with whom they cooperate even if they do not always agree.  Would it happen overnight, no of course not but then armed conflict isn’t exactly going to come to an end any time soon.  So the question is really one of what are people going to be dying for really isn’t it?

Perhaps a glance at the Irish situation may yield some comparison of how a diplomatic solution, whilst less than perfect, can be managed in a way where people are not dying in huge numbers and the extremists have been driven out of the mainstream and marginalised to the point of almost universal condemnation.  During the 1980s in Britain a ruthless Conservative government who had no intention of listening to its own people met the Irish republican dissidents with soldiers, water cannon, plastic bullets and guard posts everywhere, they also assisted loyalist paramilitaries to carry out sporadic attacks on Republican areas and civilians.  The IRA responded with bombs and guerrilla tactics, many of which were targeted at causing civilians damage but a large majority were phoned in with warnings to the police to avoid casualties.  Irrespective of who you may feel was right in the Irish troubles what is not open to question is that children lost parents and parents lost children on both sides of the sea and political divide.  The violence fuelled those who said you could not negotiate, the British government flatly refused to sit with Sinn Féin and attempt to reach any form of compromise, so people continued to die, including their own.  When governments did seek to meet and negotiate it began to give weight to the arguments of those who said that there was a way that did not involve killing and that it should be investigated.  When it was finally investigated a cautious truce was established, which turned into the wholesale decommissioning of weapons once the Good Friday Agreement had been signed up to by both parties, principally steered by the more moderate parities the SDLP on the Republican side and the UUP on the loyalist.  The dissident republicans and loyalists that remain armed are now marginalised to near extinction, their actions can promote violence and cause harm but they will not have the support of communities any more, they will not be sheltered and protected by communities who feel wrong, aggrieved and let down by the state supposed to look after them.  Do Irish republicans everywhere suddenly feel the matter is solved and that part of Ulster should still be ruled by the British, no, but people are no longer dying for that cause, just arguing vehemently over it in Parliaments, Councils, pubs and clubs.

That it is Israel carrying out these war crimes, for that is surely what they are – no less than Nixon and Kissinger in the Far East, is a hideous irony and not one lost on many people, in fact Israel is perhaps one of the only Western-allied nations where such oppression and perpetrations would be tolerated.  (aside from the oil-producing nations of course, no Arab Spring in Bahrain, no that is not the uprising you are looking for!)  Look at some of the Zionist press and see the rhetoric, the like of which was very evident in certain European countries in the 1930s.  Yes I used that analogy and having seen the justification of violence I use it very specifically because the parallels are extremely similar and therefore a valid comparison, I do not do so purely for effect for it should not need it.

Let us not forget that although the military conflict is taking place between Israel and the Gaza area of the Palestinian territories the Israeli machine acts illegally in the West Bank with settlements, Benjamin Netayahu continues to sanction and sign off more settlements to add to the existing ones, the Gollan Heights is particularly fashionable at the moment.  Whilst Israel bewails the Palestinian’s failure to live up to parts of any agreement so Neyanyahu in June authorised 1,500 new Israeli settlements in the occupied land.  This is nothing less than a creeping putsch designed to so entrench Israeli settlers as to make them more and more difficult to remove and thus the land less likely to be returned.  Under Section of the Geneva Convention “the occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own population into the territory it occupies.” the international community almost in its entirety has condemned Israeli settlements as illegal occupation.  Israel contends that the territories it has occupied since the Six Day War do not constitute part of the Geneva Convention.

Votes in the UN have resulted in on one occasion condemnation by 158 nations out of 166 and then 160 out of 171 the countries voting against either directly or by abstentions are the usual suspects, the Western colonial powers such as the US, unsurprisingly along with their acolytes such as the Marshall Islands and Palau and the odd other country that seeks to curry favour with the giant and, more recently, by stealth the conservative Australian government.  It is difficult to see another situation where the views of the United Nations Security Council, United Nations General Assembly, International Court Of Justice, International Red Cross and the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention could be so flagrantly disregarded.  Given that the United States and its allies have used the non-compliance or flouting of a single UN Resolution, such as 1441, as a pretext for war it is interesting (though not surprising) that the international bodies should be cast aside in the case of Israel.

In fact there is evidence that the Israeli people do not agree wholeheartedly with their government’s actions. In 2003 76% of Israelis polled by Dahaf, a leading Israeli public opinion research firm, supported a two state solution and the return of sovereignty of Palestinian areas such as East Jerusalem.  Rather like the Irish situation most of the actual citizens of the country do not sanction slaughter and want to be able to live in peace and without fear, for either side to claim that by bombing it is trying to achieve that is nonsense but this is not a chicken and egg situation this is a position where an imperialist state is capitalising on the last guilt generation to which it has access to exploit in order to expand its borders and maintain its disproportionate influence.  Palestine is simply not large, enough, not equipped enough, not molised enough to constitute anything more than a pretext for Israeli military action.  Were you truly worried about you borders and all the actions why would you continue to be building more and more houses further and further out into “enemy” territory?  Would that not be a singular failure to look after your citizens?

Israel is at present a malignant conquering power, this is not because the people running it are Jews it is because they are arseholes and that trait runs throughout any section of humankind without exception.  It does not have to be so, a peace can be found if all parties truly want it, the Palestinian people have everything to gain by peace and nothing to lose so why would they be the ones truly standing in the way?  When the US wanted to broker peace in Ireland they did not go in merely slagging off one side because there was a desire for peace from the Irish community in the US and all sections of the Irish lobby.  So go do your research and make up your own mind who stands to gain more from the conflict continuing…

Song Of The Day ~ The The – Armageddon Days Are Here Again (the lyrics just as apposite as they were 20 years ago)