Sunday, 12 January 2014

Don't Be A Blockhead!

As internet social media draw more and more people into their reach, so the odds of them being put in touch with others, whom they would try to avoid in offline life, rise. Therefore, the major players very sensibly provide a Block function, so that their users can hide themselves from anyone who they suspect may attempt to harass them on line, or, worse still, track them down for committing physical violence in the real world. Risks identified, remedy provided, job done.

Nobody has to justify their use of a Block against a potential menace, and any procedure requiring them to do so would be a counter-productive deterrent that I could not support. However, with the right to use Blocks freely comes the moral responsibility to use them fairly and ethically. I fear there are so-called libertarians, libertines really, out there, who feel their rights to behave unfairly and immorally take precedence over any obligations to the rest of humanity, and there always have been, but they have to be written off as a lost cause, while I offer food for thought to the more conventionally decent of my readers.

If your social media involvement goes no further than using Facebook to swap gossip with your immediate friends and family, then you can control matters well enough by setting everything to Friends Only and taking care who those Friends are. However, once you start going to Facebook's Groups and Pages, or using Twitter, or Youtube comment threads , or that dying dinosaur of Noughties internet, MySpace, then you have gone public, and even if you have the technical facility to be a control freak to those internet users that immediately surrounds you, you have ventured out of your private zone and should behave appropriately to the virtual public place you have chosen to put yourself in.

And what does all that have to do with blocking, you may ask. Simply this: Internet forums and discussions run on the assumption that each and every participant in the thread can follow the development of a discussion entry by entry. This linearity is why we call them threads and not scatters! They are virtual representations of public meetings. However, it would soon reduce a discussion to chaos, if substantial numbers of its members could not see each others contributions. How is a participant supposed to make sense of a discussion, if, for a hypothetical example, the second and third commenters can't see each other, unknown to them, they do know the fifth commenter and seventh commenter can't see each other and they have been blocked by the fourth commenter and don't even know that they are there? The dynamics just become unworkable. Even so, there is a deplorable fad for capricious blocking spreading through Jersey's online political community amongst both left and right wingers.

Slamming the cyber-door in the face of a cyber-bully is fair enough, although such retreat cannot be credibly spun as victory. What is inexcusably rude to an entire group, though, is to refuse to interact with all in that group on an equal footing, save those one has already fallen out with outside of the group. And yet, we are starting to see a tactic emerging where certain people, unfortunately including a couple of my own friends, wilfully disrupt the functioning of discussion groups by blocking people who have made no attempt to be malicious. Blocking someone for expressing an opinion you do not share, but are too lazy to articulate your disagreement with, or because they do not feel safe enough themselves in the online environment to expose their offline identity or lifestyle, is both boorish behaviour and ineffectual politics.

Political discussion is all about the exchange and comparison of ideas. If you will only read what you already think, you will never learn anything new. Progress depends on considering one another's views and having the integrity to change minds when faced with better ways. Thus, the most important people to address and be addressed by are not your own comrades, but those on the other side to whichever your own may be. If, instead, you refuse to engage with them, whether from rudeness or spinelessness, then you are marginalising yourself as a participant in the political process, a mistake for an activist and a catastrophe for a candidate, and may as well get out of the game altogether.

Free and open public discussion of political issues is the foundation of democracy. Attempting to exclude others from engaging is a threat to this foundation. Unless you genuinely believe that somebody will ruin your life, if you dare to let them communicate with you, and I fully realise that sometimes there really are such cases, then do not block fellow members of forums and discussion groups. It does far more harm than good to both the cause of politics in general and your reputation in the eyes of anyone who realises what you are doing.


click HERE for pv-TV report on Jersey Child Abuse cover up said...

I also read the linked story on Darius Pearce's blog.

These are both Interesting write ups on apparently the same story.

Real people can overstep the threshold of common decency and humanity due to their dislike or disagreement with someone's opinions, especially online, where distance reduces the self moderation, sometimes beyond common decency.

We are all tempted to be unkind on occasion, the more so if we perceive the opinions to be sufficiently obnoxious.
It seems that some people find mere criticism of the conduct of Jersey's government obnoxious. We all have pet hates; one of mine is a light touch (or worse) in dealing with child abuse. This certainly prompts me to unkindness that I would not otherwise like to display.
Morals form a complex landscape.

I think that jersey has a particular problem with people using false names in order to do this. Do you think that this is a relevant concern in the alleged attacks on Darius ?

The use of pretence (as opposed to anonymity) seems to be particularly prevalent amongst some defenders of Jersey's status quo, across various sites.

Totally agree with your observations on debate being disrupted if some comments not being visible to all. Darius maintains a high profile online which might motivate some to be persistent in trying to "take him down".
It is sad that he has (rightly or wrongly) felt he needs to block a couple of people. Even with a couple of blocks Darius will remain a higher profile communicator than most of his detractors. Mr. Pearce seems a reasonable enough person and perhaps feels that he had reached a limit which was threatening his health and well-being; I don't know, his call I guess.

We are all averse to changing our opinions The more so if we are heavily 'invested' in them or even dependent upon them. Jersey culture appears to have an undertone of "opinion fascism" where there is a perception that a person's material success on the island is dependent on them having the "right" opinions and buying into the ultra conservative mindset with it's unquestioning deference to authority and all that authority does, right or wrong.
Some people who are 'dependent' on their opinions will not change them, no matter what the evidence.

No Paxman, the shyster said SHAFT Jersey said...

"Some people who are 'dependent' on their opinions will not change them, no matter what the evidence."

I wonder if this capacity and need for denial is being touched on in this extract from today's edition of Newsweek Magazine, discussing Jersey:

"Robert Whitley, a professor of psychiatry at McGill University and Dartmouth College who grew up in Jersey, told Newsweek he believes the island's fierce protectiveness of its financial industry may be part of the reason why there are concerns......... a hierarchy on the island that wants to maintain the status quo. Our global reputation and financial stability seems to offset the search for justice and need for proper checks and balances that are crucial to any civil society."

People who are 'dependent' on their opinions will argue, and convince themselves that black is white.

The brain serves the needs of the thinker, not the truth.

Jersey is featured on the front cover of the global Magazine Newsweek and the JEP doesn't give it a mention. One of the functions of the JEP is to insulate it's readers from the real world.

Cloudburst said...

We regret to inform you that Ex. Health Minister Syvret is currently far too busy having his rights violated to even think of getting his blog re-hosted outside of the reach of your immaculate government.
It is now time to move on and accept that you [in Jersey] are well and wisely governed and that there was NO CHILD ABUSE in Jersey, and no cover up.

It is critically important to your government that you do NOT read these posts in particular:

"I am a researcher for the Technical University in Eindhoven, currently completing my PHD in informatics at the University of Nottingham. My main interests are Internet tunnelling, freedom of expression in cyberspace, and the suppression of freedom of expression by governments all around the world."

I think that you will all agree that your government has been very wise and prudent with your money having the original blog removed in order that it can be replicated across the world.

There are multiple copies in existence and more being assembled.

Comments are NOT being accepted for the time being
so please be patient ..........

Commenting facilities are available at:


Ugh, It's Him! said...

No guarantee or endorsement of the content to be found through Cloudburst's links is offered. Only follow them if you are willing to accept the risk of being led to false information, offensive material or malware.
That said, so far as I know, they are good faith links to stories that should be in the public domain, and at least some of which are probably true.