Tag Archives: twitter

Suzanne Moore and freedom of speech. So. Much. Nonsense.

lynn_1802176cTry as I might, I can’t stop getting annoyed by the whole debate surrounding Suzanne Moore and her continuing feud with the so-called “trans cabal” (this isn’t really an article by the way, just a series of random points – but at least it is mercifully shorter than my last effort).

Yesterday, Moore wrote a bizarre article in which we sought to argue that her persecution at the hands of transgender and queer activists is a freedom of speech issue.

What’s got her and, for example, Padraig Reidy at the Index on Censorship, jumping up and down is that the International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone tweeted on Sunday that she thought Julie Burchill should have been “sacked” for her Observer article attacking transgender people. Now, for the record, I don’t think Featherstone’s intervention was very sensible. As has been pointed out by others ad infinitum, Burchill is a freelancer and any intervention by a government minister was bound to end up a distraction – and so it has proven. Both Reidy and Moore have leapt on this as an example of state censorship and proof that Leveson report is dangerous nonsense that will lead to government interference of newspapers. The fact that this was a junior minister who is a member of a junior coalition partner just expressing her personal opinion (and the fact that Leveson wasn’t actually arguing for a government body to regulate the media but rather self-regulation underpinned by a statute to be overseen by the judiciary) gets ignored amidst all the shrieking.

The fact is, this is not a freedom of speech issue. The Observer did not take down the Burchill article (and I agree with Jane Fae that it was counterproductive for them to do so) because of Lynne Featherstone or any other government minister’s intervention – you can bet they’d be shouting about it right now if they had done so. It will be interesting to see what they say about it on Sunday but right now it appears that the editor John Mulholland took it down for the exact same reason he put it up in the first place: good old fashioned venality. They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind.

I’m highly suspicious of people who are quick to leap up and down about Featherstone’s intervention being somehow sinister and an attack on civil liberties, while being so blithe about the assymetric power dynamic between Moore and her critics. There are a lot of pissed off trans and queer people out there right now who feel that Moore has been using her considerably privileged media platform to utterly misrepresent them in this debate. Again, Stavvers sums it up better than I could. What I don’t understand is why Moore is sticking to her guns in terms of her right to express her “anger and pain” while at the same time is so utterly blind at the fact that the people who are furious with her are doing exactly the same thing. At the end of her article she writes:

So I regret not making it clearer that we need both love and anger to be free. And you may continue to hate me, put me on lists, cast me out of the left. Free-thinking is always problematic. But if you take away my freedom to love, be intemperate, silly, angry, human, ask yourself who really wins? Who?

Yet it has been clear from the get go, that the problem has been her capacity to love in the first place. She escalated this row, and she continues to do so on an hourly basis on Twitter. As Deborah Orr said in response to her latest (at the time of writing) explicit troll:

The most telling line in Moore’s article is when she compares Featherstone to being a “humourless, authoritarian moron” (my emphasis). She isn’t the first to imply, or even express out loud that the problem at the heart of this debate is people who just “can’t take a joke”. Usually claims of humourlessness are the preserve of people like Jeremy Clarkson in their unending defence of “banter“. I’ve seen an awful lot of people over the past week making pretty similar defences, only suggesting that it is only transgender people and their friends who need to “get over it”. For some reason we are supposed to feel great at the progress we’ve made in fighting cissexism, homophobia and racism – yet we are meant to accept that trans people are an exception it is fine to laugh at and casually dehumanise. The debate seems, at its heart, to be between people who see this as an intolerable contradiction and people who don’t.

Finally, if we are to believe that this is a freedom of speech issue, and that Lynne Featherstone represents an oppressive, authoritarian government determined to crack down on the freedom of expression, why is it that the same government has just this week agreed to scrap Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986? Both Padraig Reidy and Suzanne Moore chose to ignore this inconvenient little factoid. In the case of Reidy, and the Index on Censorship, they have failed to acknowledge this at all on either their blog or weekly email newsletter. Perhaps this is because it’s a little bit of state oppression that never really affected journalists? Throughout this week I haven’t been able to shake the feeling that the real anxieties at the heart of this debate are rooted in professional self-interest rather than any genuinely noble concerns about the state of democracy; I’ve seen very little to shift this notion.

What I learned at #barcampnfp

On Friday I went to my first barcamp and, as per the rules, I’m meant to blog about the experience. So here goes.

First of all, I should write about my expectations. In retrospect I think they were a little too high, like I had just got some kind of golden ticket into the inner sanctum of the social media world. Somehow I had it in my head that I was going to have some revelatory experience due to the format of the event itself. None of this is rational, but to hear some people talk about barcamps and unconferences, you’d think that people had come up with some sensational new form of organising which was quietly transforming the world. The reality was a little more prosaic.

As someone with a background in politics, and in particular youth and student activism – typically disparaged by the social media world for its lack of inclusiveness – the format itself wasn’t that different to what I’m used to. Indeed, the lack of structure was in many ways inversely related to the level of participation. I could have really done with a bit of hand holding to begin with.

I’ve already been told off by colleagues for making so-called grumpy tweets about the lack of an icebreaker. I didn’t mean them to come across that way; they were meant to be constructive. But my fundamental concern about the day is that I left without a clear idea of who else was attending, when I feel I really needed to know that at the start in order to make the most out of the day. And, while many people are blessed with the ability to go up to complete strangers and start engaging with them, I’m not. In the end, I got the most out of the more salesy sessions than the discursive ones for the simple reason that the organisers of the former had more of an interest in being engaging.

Let’s just get a few other housekeeping things out of the way. Again, this isn’t meant to criticise, just for future reference:

1) Organiser Sylwia Presley acknowledged on the day that the structure of a main plenary room and breakouts wasn’t ideal for the format. In my experience, a large room like that can be made to work but you need to break it up into several small groups and discourage the conference format wherever possible. Arrange the chairs into 3-4 circles around the room at the start. If a full plenary is absolutely necessary, then get people to move their chairs to form one. But should a full plenary, at least on conventional conference lines really necessary?

2) Instead of leaping in with some rather specialised topics, start the day with some deliberately general topics (“introducing barcamp” or “what are the challenges we face?”) and get people breaking into groups to begin with. Encourage people to spend those first sessions talking about what sessions might be needed for the day. Give them post-it notes to write the ideas down. By all means have pre-prepared topics, but don’t put them up straight away as that will automatically dictate the agenda to everyone else; instead have them as a fallback. Attempt to gain some consensus on them first before putting them up, so that everyone is on a more level playing field; you may even find it makes more sense to merge two sessions or hold multiple slots or another topic that way.

3) For a building which houses the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment, 19-22 Charlotte street did have some remarkably poor signage. Personally, I never got my head around where two of the breakout areas where and missed some interesting sounding sessions as a result. Always come to a venue armed with makeshift signs and blu-tack.

With all that out of the way, what did I actually learn from the day itself?

1) Google Hangouts are interesting, and there might be something in it, but I’m yet to be convinced of its value for non-profits. I can see their potential as an organising tool, for getting groups from around the country to interact. But with a maximum of 10 users at any one time, it has the potential to become a victim of its own success with willing participants unable to jump in. Admittedly, getting to the stage where that becomes common would be a good problem to have for a small network.

I was wholly unsold on the claims that they are powerful because “TV news anchors might pop by” (one of the speaker’s anecdotes about George Takei being a keen exponent lead to me having an extremely vivid dream that night about George Takei turning up to support a campaign I was organising; he was a lovely bloke. But I digress). While I can totally see what is in it for celebrities to use such tools to engage with fans in a manageable way, I can’t see how the same applies to NGOs, aside from some weird bragging rights.

2) I was rather more sold on using AudioBoo; indeed, this was one of my take-aways. I can see definite merit in my organisation making much greater use of this app in the way that I attempted, and failed, to make use of video in the past. The problem with video is that even a short three minute video winds up being a couple of hours in terms of editing and faffing about. Uploading short interviews on a regular basis and have the website sort out feeds, iPod channels and embed codes? Given that I’ve had an AudioBoo account since its early days, I can’t understand why I didn’t think of it before.

3) I think I can see the potential of Storify as a curating tool for campaigns, but the website itself is hopeless at explaining its potential and I didn’t actually attend the session at which this was discussed. So, I’ve had a little play myself to get my head around it. I can see how this could be quite useful in terms of creating an accessible space for people to follow a specific campaign or issue that an organisation is focusing on.

4) The challenges facing large nonprofits and small ones are wildly divergent. This was brought home to me when I found myself sitting in on a session entitled “who owns social media?” In my organisation the answer is, broadly, whoever wants to. The problems people described in that session, in which tech teams would be responsible for designing sign up tools but not necessarily have a clue about making the best use of language, or of struggling within an unmanageable command structure, were quite alien to me. I think it would have been useful to unpick whether such structures are genuinely beneficial to an organisation but without much of a common frame of reference, I struggled to really find a hook as a means to contribute.

5) Too many people see a dividing line between campaigning and fundraising that isn’t really there. This is a small organisation problem as much as it is a big organisation one, and something I struggle with myself (having recently taken on direct responsibility over fundraising at UD). The web in general, and social media in particular, blurs the edges between the two to the point where distinguishing them as anything other than two sides of the same coin is no longer helpful. It was my perception however that there were a lot of people at the event who were only really thinking of social media as a way of making money rather than as a way of fulfilling their organisation’s goals more generally. I suspect that if you only look at it as a way of feeding the cash cow, you won’t ever get it to be a profitable exercise for you.

6) Last week was Social Media Week. Now, I’m a pretty web-savvy person and I’m a total Twitterholic. Yet I had no idea about this. I’d be amazed if anyone other than a self-identified “social media professional” had a clue that this was going on. That ought to send chills down people’s spines because spending a week talking to yourself and not even expanding your audience is an utter waste of time.

The day itself gave me plenty to think about both in terms of social media and event management and I’m glad I went. With the whole barcamp thing now demystified, next time I will hopefully be a little less backward in coming forward!

My thanks to all the organisers who made the day happen.

James Graham is the Campaigns and Communications Manager of Unlock Democracy but writes here in a purely personal capacity.

Quaequam Blog! Liveblog (Listen on LBC 97.3)

7:16:15 PM: I’ll be one of the bloggers on LBC’s election coverage tonight: http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2010/05/join-me-for-lbcs-election-night.html

7:19:25 PM: Hard to tell from @glinner’s tweets if his Tory tellers were breaking the rules or not.

7:21:38 PM: If they insisted on having his poll number, an offence was made. If they politely asked it’s a fine practice we should support (@glinner)

7:28:36 PM: 251 people now attending the Demo for Democracy (Sat, Traf Sq, 2pm). Another 361 maybes: http://bit.ly/9eBApD

7:29:42 PM: Other rallies taking place in Glasgow, Manchester, Bristol, Oxford and, MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL, Middlesbrough: http://bit.ly/9eBApD

7:30:34 PM: (not gonna retweet the seperate links again – just follow the ones found on the Trafalgar Square event page)

7:32:01 PM: RT: @alexfoster: Cor, there’s a queue outside the polling station. Longer queue in chippy thobut.

7:33:14 PM: Seeing reports of queues everywhere outside polling stations. Brits usually queue in Post Offices, not to vote. Most un-British.

7:33:52 PM: I mean, seriously, queuing to vote? That’s what foreigners do. Usually outside mudhuts in Africa. Tsk.

7:34:18 PM: We’ll be putting purple ink on our index fingers next.

7:35:32 PM: RT: @paulwaugh: Lord Ashcroft’s ominous question. http://bit.ly/aRnsLK

9:39:12 PM: Just noticed my blog is still set on UTC (Azabaijan to be precise). Have hopefully solved it now.

9:39:53 PM: If it looks like I’ve been tweeting exit polls an hour before close of poll, it’s because of the time code. Don’t arrest me please.

9:41:27 PM: Must. Eat.

9:43:55 PM: Hmmm… blog now seems to think I am an hour into the future. #fail.

10:03:52 PM: RT @AIannucci: #ge2010. Labs, Lib Dems, Others: Charge! There’s 1 more hour to stop Pudge-Face and his Moon-eyed Loons.

10:04:48 PM: RT @Gilesyb: Dow cratering. FTSE due to open v down. On the + side, cheaper all the time to holiday in Europe. Hold off on the Greek villa

10:05:39 PM: RT @guardiantech: General election turnouts since 1945 http://bit.ly/9VGodA

10:10:10 PM: WTF is @icmresearch doing tweeting ‘rumours’ about its own exit poll? Pollsters have misbehaved a lot in this election.

10:11:10 PM: RT @Glinner: RT @mat: I just bought Greece » you woz robbed.

10:13:07 PM: RT @alexwilcock: Jimmy Carr on #alternativeelection just recommended porn, but he’s already the biggest wanker on TV (Farage being injured).

10:18:50 PM: RT @paulwaugh: Hearing lots of queues to vote. My gut says that’s a Lib surge that cd do for Labr. But hey, what do I know?

10:40:31 PM: RT: @caitlinmoran: #C4altelection Rod LIddle is the God Particle of cuntdom. His twottery fills the universe.

11:06:40 PM: RT @chickyog: BBC Exit Poll: CON 307, LAB 255, LD 59, OTH 29 << would mean Hung Parliament, Lib Dems boned.

11:08:25 PM: RT @qwghlm: If the Lib Dems lose total MPs despite the rise in the popular vote, oh my word… #ge2010

11:14:27 PM: WHERE ARE THE PERCENTAGES?! What is this? Amateur hour? Why are they sitting on them?

11:16:21 PM: RT @iaindale: Blogpost: Iain Dale’s Diary Readers’ Exit Poll http://tinyurl.com/3x476o4

11:17:12 PM: RT @qwghlm: Worth keeping in mind 2005’s exit poll predicted the Lib Dems to gain just 2 seats, they gained 11 http://bit.ly/cz0HOe #ge2010

11:18:48 PM: @BBCElection Fuck your uniform national swing bullshit and give me the percentages. Now.

11:19:49 PM: RT @alixmortimer: RT @rob_knight Is this the BBC exit poll? #ge2010 http://twitpic.com/1llhsr

11:27:43 PM: RT @lordbonkers: This exit poll is wrong. I know because all my tenants show me their votes before they go in the box

11:29:49 PM: RT @TiggerTherese: Blimey! What is this crazy sudden turn towards PR from Harman, Mandy, et al?

11:34:39 PM: RT @BBCElection: Scots voters going to polls http://bit.ly/aM64FE » er, still? Are you quite sure?

11:50:15 PM: RT @politicshomeuk: Channel 4 exit poll split: Con 38, Lab 28, Lib Dems 23 http://polurl.com/61756

11:52:28 PM: RT @lewis_baston: Mandelson and Harman both all-out for electoral reform.

11:53:02 PM: Can’t believe the Sheffield RO blaming students for not bringing their polling cards with them. Does he not know the law?

12:27:42 AM: Don’t go to bed mad at #ge2010 results – go to bed knowing you’re taking back parliament. http://bit.ly/Takeitback #ukelections #takeitback

12:50:15 AM: RT @politicshomeuk: Channel 4 exit poll split: Con 38, Lab 28, Lib Dems 23 http://polurl.com/61756

12:53:02 AM: Can’t believe the Sheffield RO blaming students for not bringing their polling cards with them. Does he not know the law?

12:55:06 AM: Surely they could have predicted high turnouts from the opinion polls?

1:01:14 AM: Has Bob Marshall-Andrews predicted he will lose yet? A fine election night tradition. 🙂

1:01:48 AM: I’m on LBC from 1am-1.30am apparently.

1:12:23 AM: @AngryFromMCR @apptme2theboard I know. I was joking.

1:15:38 AM: My old school chum Chris Philp is on LBC at the moment. Nothing personal Chris, but I hope you lose.

1:16:36 AM: Philp doesn’t sound too optimistic about his chances. If he thought he had a chance, I wouldn’t expect him to be giving interviews.

1:17:32 AM: Hope @joswinson’s team remember to tell her her own result this year (we, um, sort of forgot in 2005).

1:18:54 AM: .@markpack has predicted a LD gain in Hampstead and Kilburn on LBC.

1:27:13 AM: 699 signatories now on http://bit.ly/bbjvrH #takeitback

1:50:20 AM: The Alliance?! FTW! Well done in Belfast East!

1:51:17 AM: Well done @stevewebb!

1:54:51 AM: Sorry but not surprised to see Martin Linton lose Battersea. One of the better Labour MPs.

2:29:01 AM: Have been informed by an insider that Glasgow North is ‘kess i’. This is either some clever code or a mistype.

2:50:50 AM: It has to be said, we aren’t seeing any evidence of #cleggmania in the Lab-Con marginals.

2:55:04 AM: 1,243 now calling to #takeitback: http://www.takebackparliament.com/

2:55:52 AM: Bloke on LBC calling from Chippenham. Sounds close.

2:57:57 AM: Sad to hear about the Tories holding Newbury.

3:00:08 AM: Kirsty Allsop is completely shitfaced on the BBC at the moment.

3:01:26 AM: Shappi Khorsandi has been at the ales as well.

3:18:30 AM: Unconfirmed rumour that Lembit has lost Montgomeryshire.

3:20:11 AM: This really is the weirdest election night ever.

3:22:04 AM: Montgomeryshire count coming now

3:22:43 AM: Lembit rumour was true. The LDs have lost Lloyd George’s seat!!!

3:25:13 AM: @lewis_baston Wasn’t Montgomeryshire so safe in 2001 that it was the only LD const you didn’t profile in your guide? What a waste!

3:37:35 AM: There is one very clear loser from this election: the pollsters. Utter, utter fail.

3:38:58 AM: I’m still hopeful of a slight increase in the LD vote share and some net gains. But talking 1s and 2s not 10s now.

3:42:13 AM: David Heath did phenomenally well. Just goes to show what you can do with a platoon of Hawkmen at your disposal.

3:42:27 AM: (yes I know that was obscure)

3:43:44 AM: Well done Chris Huhne. Given the results tonight, I’m very relieved.

3:58:09 AM: RT @jenyockney: i think the portillo equivalent line this time is — were you up for “what the fuck is going on!?”

4:01:30 AM: A 17% swing in Merthyr but not a gain. Don’t know whether to celebrate the swing or commisserate the loss.

4:03:07 AM: The boargamer’s MP Nick Palmer has apparently lost.

4:08:06 AM: RT @bigdaddymerk: Dorries is back. another 5 years of comedy gold.

4:08:53 AM: RT @markpack: Sky News auto-subtitles screaming: “Tories have taken dope. Tories have taken dope.” Err… Dover?

4:10:41 AM: Nice to see the LD national share is slowly creeping up now.

4:25:09 AM: RT @libdemvoice: Jo Swinson HOLDS East Dunbartonshire >> congrats Jo!

4:48:24 AM: @drevanharris Good luck – and hang in there!

4:49:04 AM: Sad to see the LDs lose Rochdale but on a personal note like Simon Danczuk.

4:52:32 AM: Fundamentally, this result is so random. Not only does this look hung, it is hard to see how another GE will unhang it.

4:53:24 AM: We need a voting system in which the nation can make an actual decision. #takeitback http://www.takebackparliament.com/

4:55:49 AM: How can we be doing so badly while getting such humungous swings like in Merthyr and Redcar?!

4:56:55 AM: Remember folks: Canada went NOC in 2004. After three GEs it is still NOC. FPTP eventually breaks with multi-party politics.

5:04:55 AM: Richard Taylor has lost. So much for the independents vote then.

5:09:21 AM: Not surprised about losing Hereford South to be honest.

5:10:03 AM: RT @MrsBYork: this is why we need #electoralreform – libdems have 22% of vote but only 23 out of 330 seats #ge2010 #electionpowerzone2010

5:20:26 AM: RT @nickjbarlow: Colchester – Lib Dem hold, Bob Russell majority 6982 >> so much for the rumours

5:21:03 AM: RT @guidofawkes: Morley + Outwood recount! >> pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease

5:24:11 AM: Anybody with a belief in rationality and science will be chilled by @drevanharris’ defeat. Big gain for the woowoo right.

5:25:07 AM: @drevanharris Really sorry. We needed you!

5:36:52 AM: RT @mudlarklives: #philippastroud loses in Sutton & Cheam – take that, God-bothering bigots. #ge2010

5:42:02 AM: Chippenham hold (gain)? Yes? Please?

5:45:57 AM: Well done @duncanhames – friend and ally for 15 years.

5:52:45 AM: Delighted to hear about Simon Wright winning Norwich South. Is this night about to get more interesting?

5:53:21 AM: (Interesting wrong word. It’s been interesting all morning. Horribly so.)

5:54:21 AM: Really like Simon Wright. He always looks like an earnest Sunday school teacher. In a good way, not a Philippa Stroud way.

5:55:19 AM: Zac Goldsmith’s mate (brother?) standing next to him looks a right twat.

6:21:08 AM: RT @dalekcat: RT @GPforhire: RT @SmallCasserole: Labour – 1.2 times the votes of LibDems, 4.7 times the seats – Democracy my arse.

6:28:52 AM: RT @lordbonkers: Conservatives gain Winchester >> NOOOO!

6:30:17 AM: Will there be ANY BME MPs left this afternoon?

6:40:58 AM: @bridgetfox Really sorry.

6:41:15 AM: @mpntod Really sorry.

8:49:30 AM: //ELB

9:49:30 AM: //ELB

10:31:15 AM: Ah, the CiF trolls are enjoying their moment. One of the clear winners of this election: http://bit.ly/aSEDVR

11:21:28 AM: Important poll: How are you feeling about the election result? http://twtpoll.com/g3ypmz #twtpoll #ge2010

11:22:16 AM: Please can you vote in my poll: http://twtpoll.com/g3ypmz – desperately trying to gauge the mood at the moment. #ge2010

11:23:49 AM: You might also want to have your say here: http://labs.38degrees.org.uk/content/election-what-next #ge2010

11:28:12 AM: Thanks for your feedback. Working on something and this is really valuable: http://twtpoll.com/r/g3ypmz Please RT!

12:15:42 PM: Teather is teh campaign geenius.

12:16:53 PM: The question is: can anyone beat Sarah Teather? Does anyone else notice a resemblance between her and Hit Girl from Kick-Ass?

12:22:07 PM: Seriously. This should have been Teather’s election posters. http://twitpic.com/1lqa0k