This weekend: observations

Social media hasn’t been a pleasant place to be this weekend. That’s why I’ve pretty much avoided it, dipping in only occasionally to get the latest updates and to see what other people have been saying; sitting on my hands, merely observing. I don’t have the answers to the sort of thing we saw happen in Paris on Friday evening: I’m actually pretty sure that no-one else does either. But social media, with its instant, apparently consequence-free soundbites is hardly the best place for sensible discussion on big matters like these. It has, however, proven to be an interesting social experiment and a wonderful indication of people’s humanity, or lack of it. Some of the stuff I’ve seen has been fairly repugnant – it’s made me reconsider some people’s previous statements on many other things, and it has given me some insight on how I should view their future viewpoints as well.

Specifically, I’ve seen that France, as an example of “The West”, “deserved it”.
I’ve watched as people have suggested that it would be right to use nuclear weapons against IS.
I’ve seen, countless times, that the media only concentrate on violence in “The West” – ignoring the events that occurred in Baghdad and Beirut. On that, perhaps stop watching Western media, in much the same way that I stopped watching Look North when I got fed up just hearing what was happening in Leeds. I’m quite sure that Iraqi, Lebanese and Middle Eastern media generally have disproportionate reporting as well. Go watch them for some of the time. But honestly, don’t watch Western TV news and use Western-based social media the day after the biggest attack on France since World War 2 and expect to hear about much else.
I noted, with some dark amusement, the suggestion that Britain should “ban the burqa”, citing examples of the Netherlands and France as leaders in this policy. Yes, and that’s worked really well in at least 50% of those nations.
I’ve been told, over and over again, from every side, how I should react, what I must and must not say, what’s acceptable to think and what is not. No, thank you.
I’ve seen incredulity that a passport could have apparently survived a suicide bomb. People seem to think that everything nearby simply ceases to exist. Science says otherwise.
I’ve watched as the traditional conspiracy theorists theorise conspiratorially: it was a false flag, it was Israel, it was merely a government plot to push for more control in their homelands, more bombing abroad, more restrictions on immigration.
I’ve seen people say “don’t blame religion”. No. Of course, don’t blame every individual from one one specific religion, but please don’t insult me by telling me that I must pretend that religion has nothing to do with this.

As I have said, I don’t have the answers. But, importantly, neither do any of those other people who have been sharing their differing opinions. That’s not to say that they can’t do so. I’m lucky enough to come from and to live in countries which allow their citizens to speak freely. But after watching the hateful exchanges on Facebook and (more so) Twitter this weekend, I’m reminded of the old adage: Speak Only if You Can Improve Upon the Silence.

I didn’t believe I could, and so I chose to keep quiet. I wish a lot of others had done so too.

Why Top Gear willl get into trouble, kumquat may

To quote this story, please use the hashtag #kumquatgate. 

I believe in freedom of speech, I just wish that those who have that luxury would use it sensibly. I fully recognise that they don’t have to – that’s what freedom of speech is all about – but that’s what I’d like.
Jeremy Clarkson is a good example. Sometimes Jeremy Clarkson gets in trouble for saying naughty things. Things he’s allowed to say, legally. Just things that you’d think he would have the sense to choose not to say.
But then again, sometimes I think Jeremy Clarkson’s previous actions in this regard have made Jeremy Clarkson into an easy target for people who don’t like Jeremy Clarkson. And it’s that sort of person who has complained about Jeremy Clarkson nicknaming the Nissan Qashqai (I’ve driven one, by the way: terrible), the Nissan Kumquat.

…one Top Gear fan complained to the BBC in February about Clarkson’s choice of words. According to an appeal made to the BBC Trust, the complainant, “said that Jeremy Clarkson was ‘pronouncing Nissan Qashqai as Nissan Kumquat and [he] would like to know why”. He said he had a car of this type himself and no one on the programme had explained why they were not saying the name correctly.

Fantastic. Not only does this waste time, effort and money, it also trivialises any legitimate complaints made about Clarkson, Top Gear, or indeed any other show on the BBC or any other media outlet.

But of course, things didn’t end there:

 BBC Audience Services responded a few days later, “explaining that ‘Kumquat’ was a nickname Jeremy had given the car, and had referred to the Nissan Kumquat for quite a few seasons”. The viewer was unhappy with the response saying, “his question as to why the car was given the nickname ‘Kumquat’ had not been answered.”

This guy is obviously a bit of a twat. And I thought long and hard (not really) about whether he might read this and find that offensive and I actually decided that I really don’t care either way. I suspect that the people at the BBC who had to deal with Mr Twat also share my feelings.

The BBC explained in a letter that: “It’s simply a nickname for the vehicle, a play on words. Obviously the two words share a phonetic syllable similarity thus like Jeremy does with literally countless car names, he jokingly substituted one with the other, the kumquat of course being an exotic fruit.”

Eish. Why does this need explaining to him? How is it that difficult? Well, at least that’s the matter sorted now, finall… wait… he’s not given up yet, has he?

No. No, he hasn’t:

In April, after two months of what the BBC described politely as a “high number and length of calls” made to the corporation, the viewer appealed to the BBC Trust. In its September appeals roundup the trust went into five pages of detail about the case, concluding that it had decided not to put it to appeal as: “Decisions relating to the use of a wordplay in how to describe a car, or which presenter should work on a programme were editorial and creative matters that rested with the BBC.”

[my emphasis]

This is the downside of free society. Yes, there’s Clarkson’s previous foolishness as I mentioned above, but then there’s this here Mr Twat who chooses to get offended at anything and everything (as is his right) and then write, phone and generally badger the BBC about it (as is also, unfortunately, his right).

Just as Jeremy Clarkson’s disappointing decisions regarding what should come out of his mouth regarding bridges, nursery rhymes and so on, does no favours for those fighting for free speech in these trying times (nor for the BBC), Mr Twat’s desperation to find offence in the mention of a small, orange, Asian fruit belittles those decrying genuine harassment, racism, this-ism and that-ism or whatever other stuff happens when people don’t understand the sometimes paper-thin divide between free speech and hate speech. And long sentences. They’re also bad.

I strongly dislike Mr Twat.