Trolling To Woolwich

I would like to start this blog by offering my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Drummer Lee Rigby and to also express my deep admiration for the bravery of Ingrid Loyau-Kennet who tried to talk down the men who allegedly murdered young Lee Rigby.

This action, while shocking and extreme is indicative of a wider problem in our society. The problem is Intolerance and Bullying. For too long now there has been a culture of bullying and “trolling” on social media and this has spread to society in “real life”. Friends of mine have been bullied on twitter, with tweeters ganging up to berate them and make nasty comments, simply because they disagree with another tweeter, or offer an alternative viewpoint on a matter of discussion.

I myself experienced this recently. I made a general statement to the effect that if I was following anyone who simply kept tweeting “inspirational quotes”, they should not be surprised if I unfollow them.  I made this statement as I know many twitter users often wonder why someone chose to unfollow them, and I wanted to offer them an explanation. I did not complain or ask them to stop tweeting “inspirational quotes”. If they wish to do so, that is their right, I just don’t want to waste my time reading the same hackneyed quotes time after time. Someone who doesn’t even follow me then attacked me for making this statement and when I tried to explain my reasoning, they subjected me to vitriolic abuse and resorted to foul language. Personally I don’t care. I blocked the individual involved and didn’t lose any sleep.

However this is a problem. There are those in society who hold ideas/ideologies/thoughts etc. in which they firmly believe and express. The problem begins when somebody expresses alternative/opposing viewpoints. Some individuals cannot share space with those who don’t agree with them and seem to have a, “If you are not for me, you are against me” mentality. They cannot comprehend that anyone may have different viewpoints to them and feel so threatened by others that they resort to bullying tactics such as name calling, verbal abuse and threats. This cannot and should not be tolerated. Twitter/Facebook or any other social media should be an enjoyable and safe space for everyone to feel free to air their thoughts and ideas, express their viewpoints and engage in meaningful and respectful discourse and healthy debate with others. As long as people abide by the laws against incitement to hatred/hate speech/defamation and libel and as long as people respect each other, then everyone has the right to speak freely and nobody has the right to tell them to “shut up” or “stop complaining”.

This applies in the “real world” also. There are many people who air views that I find distasteful and often baffling or sometimes ludicrous. I can choose to ignore them or challenge them. As long as I challenge them in a respectful and meaningful way. My views are not the only views. I don’t have the monopoly on what is right or “right thinking”. Nobody does. How can we grow as a society or individuals if we don’t listen to each other, debate and learn from each other. I am not afraid of change and none of my ideas or beliefs are so fixed in stone that they are not open to change, as long as I can be given compelling arguments with valid reasoning and rational logic/empirical evidence. I will not have my mind changed because someone threatens me into it or tells me to “shut up”.

The two men who set upon Drummer Lee Rigby are examples of where this kind of thinking has been taken to an extreme. They claimed to be protesting against the treatment of civilians in Afghanistan. Whether or not this is the case, there were many ways they could have raised these issues. They could have joined anti war protest marches, took part in debates online and on radio/television, they could have protested by writing to Parliament. Instead, they decided to allegedly physically attack and allegedly took the life of an individual, simply because he represented something they disagreed with. This is not respecting others. This is the mentality that, “I am right, you are against me, you are the enemy and you don’t deserve to be heard or to share my world”. They couldn’t and wouldn’t share space with Drummer Rigby and as a result his life was taken away.

Now I realise some readers will think I have taken this too far and that there is no connection between trolling and the murder of Lee Rigby. I disagree. Yes, what happened to me was mild and nothing more than an irritant. However others have not been so lucky and I enclose a link to a story about how one person suffered “real life” bullying which had started as online trolling. My point is that though they are on different ends of the spectrum, the troll who tells another user to “shut up” is still on the same wavelength as the people who murder another for representing something they disagree with. They are all various extremes of intolerance, which leads to prejudice and bigotry which leads to hatred which can end with tragic results. Todays trolling bully on twitter could be the person on the street murdering someone else next year.

I leave you with the link to this thought provoking article which although uplifting could easily have ended more tragically.

Please remember, we all get the respect we earn and we all have a place in this world. We must learn to share this space and grow together in a healthy and happy world.

Thank you for reading.

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America and Guns

At the time of writing this the news from Newtown in Connecticut is still filtering in. It is difficult for anyone with an ounce of humanity to absorb this latest tragedy. I believe people in Dunblane will particularly feel the pain that the community of Newtown feels today.

I’m not going to speculate on the motivations of the individual who perpetrated this horrendous act of mass murder against innocents. This is not the first time a school has been rocked to its foundations by the mass slaughter of students and teachers. This tragedy seems different somehow, mostly because of the innocence and young age of the victims. Most of the children who have been murdered were between the ages of 4 and 9 or 10. Many parents face the loss of a precious baby, many children will look at the empty chair at the dinner table in days to come, wondering how this could have happened?

It is not my intention to point fingers and play the blame game, however, I will say this. I firmly believe that the politicians, the arms industry and the gun lobbyists bear collective responsibility for this tragedy. Time and again they refuse to countenance any legislation on gun control, misusing the second amendment and claiming that any form of gun control is tantamount to big government encroaching on their rights and liberties. Well congratulations. You gave somebody the liberty to encroach on the most fundamental right of 27 citizens today, the right to life.  27 people, 18 of whom were children have been gunned down, with who knows how many more injured, in danger of losing their lives, traumatised, etc. The government, arms industry and guns lobby have failed the citizens of your country. Citizens who were going about on their lawful business, murdered because you will not address the issue of arms control.

How many times have we had this situation, Columbine, Virginia Tech, Colorado earlier this summer? Every time this happens the politicians hide behind weasel words and state, “Now is not the right time to discuss gun control”, they claim they don’t want to politicise a tragedy, they want to give the grieving community privacy and dignity. Yet here we are, today is the culmination of their inaction and political cowardice. There is no reason for any citizen to feel their liberties encroached by reasonable controls over their ability to purchase fire arms and ammunition. Nobody blinks when they aren’t allowed to purchase a tank or missile battery for their back garden. Aren’t these arms? If you can control purchase of these arms then how does this not extend to weaponry which is clearly manufactured for one purpose and one purpose only, to kill and maim.

Enough is enough. For the sake of the citizens who have entrusted you with their welfare it is time to face up to your responsibilities. The best memorial to these children, the most fitting respect you can afford to their families and loved ones is to start legislating and enforcing tighter controls over what weapons and ammunition can be purchased by citizens of your country.

Finally I would just like to say that my heart goes out to everybody affected by this tragedy today. The survivors, the families who are grieving, the anxious families of the injured, the law enforcement and medical staff who have had to try to protect and save the children and staff of the Sandy Hook elementary school. My thoughts are with them all and I can only hope that they receive the support and care they need to collectively get through the pain of this tragedy.

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Boredwalk Empty

In 1997 HBO, hitherto mostly a movie cable channel, launched its first original drama series Oz. This started its upward climb into being associated with quality, if not the best TV drama available. The Sopranos clinched this. Because of HBO, many other smaller channels started to invest in quality drama, and as a result we have never had so much great choice in wonderful entertainment on our television screens, with actors traditionally associated with cinematic productions queuing to audition for roles on television series.

This brings me to the show Boardwalk Empire. For any of my readers unfamiliar with this show, it is a fictionalised account of Prohibition Era America, concentrating on the character Enoch “Nucky” Thompson, his bootlegging enterprises in Atlantic City and New Jersey, and how this ties in with other well known characters of the period such as Al Rothstein, “Lucky” Luciano and a young, rising star of the Chicago bootlegging scene, Alphonse “Al” Capone. Much praise was garnered for the production quality, the attention to detail of the period and the costumes, design and general authentic feel of the sets. Also, the fact it has the production backing of Martin Scorcese, who directed the pilot episode, hasn’t hurt it, along with some wonderful writing and top notch actors, including Steve Buscemi and Kelly Macdonald, along with Michael Shannon. So, overall, a recipe for success, right? Well, actually, not really. Although it is in its third season and has been renewed for a fourth, the critics are starting to grow disenchanted and quite a few viewers are also. This viewer is one of those. So where has it all gone wrong?

I believe the problem is one of scope and ambition, which has led to a lack of focus. I appreciate that the story is complex and it is ambitious. Trying to tell the story of Prohibition, how it led to the bootlegging enterprise, which really saw the emergence of organised crime and drug smuggling and other criminal enterprises in a truly organised and nationwide manner, well that takes some effort. The problem is that as a result, we the viewers have been left confused and to some extent cheated. Nucky Thompson is allegedly the central character. Yet this season in particular he has been, at times, so sidelined, you might wonder is there any central pivot to this story. it tends to be a sprawling mess. Every minor historical character is brought into play, so I have lost track of who is important and how person A relates to person Y and what are they contributing to the story?

Therein lies the next problem. While The Sopranos always concentrated on Tony Soprano, you knew his story had an arc. We may have been frustrated by the pay off, but there was always a story. The story of Tony was a metaphor for many other things, but it didin’t try to tell the entire story of everything to do with The Mafia. Boardwalk Empire has so many threads, some tying in, some on a parallel course, I have no idea where, if anywhere, the story is heading. Yes, we can deduce some ideas from the history, but that is unsatisfactory. There should be a sense of progress along the episodes. I should feel by the end of a few episodes, “Ah, I can see where this is going”. While I enjoy being wrong-footed and surprised, at least tell a story. I don’t need the complete biography of every minor character, every politician, every corrupt federal agent of the period. Focus on one element and use that as the pivot.

While nobody expects to see an old style “shoot em up” series anymore, it is about prohibition, it is about gangsters and corruption, there was a lot of violence. The hint in the background of a major massacre is unsatisfactory, when you’ve spent about three episodes building the viewers’ expectations, then cheat them by showing one man on a dark road, listening to gun shots in the distance. I think we have earned the right to see some action. Constant character development and exposition without much action begins to wear thin. Especially when the genre calls for some action.

Character development has been the last main problem. Some characters have appeared to be central or at least very important to the overall story, only to be so sidelined as to practically disappear without a trace. Too many minor characters, who seem to have little to do, take up centre stage in too many episodes. Then the writers seem to be thoroughly confused about the central character of Nucky Thompson. One episode he is ruthless and dangerous. The next three episodes he seems to be completely ineffectual, constantly disappearing and leaving his business in the hands of subordinates, while he is detained by circumstances. Hardly the consistency or development one would expect of a crime boss. Other characters seem to be travelling in circles, development wise, either back where they started, or just wandering aimlessly. Frustrating for the viewers.

I have to admit, I have grown fatigued. When Sky Atlantic premiered Boardwalk Empire, it was appointment television, something I kept that time for. Now, I record it on the box, but watch it whenever I’m not doing something better. This is rather disappointing. I feel that watching it is almost a duty now, not something I’m looking forward to. I will finish the third season, just to see if there is any sign of improvement. However, I am no longer invested in this show, and if it hemorrhages viewers, I won’t be surprised. They need to scale back on their ambition and concentrate on a small but pivotal part of the story and move the characters and general story arc along, otherwise, people will lose all interest.




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