Once, village idiots threw clods of earth to show their displeasure. Now they have Twitter – a medium that allows a level playing field for all. It is causing all manner of confusion. One village idiot tweeted a thoroughly crass comment about the British Olympic diver, Tom Daley.
The Dorset constabulary, with thousands of unsolved cases, and perpetrators of real serious crimes yet to face charge, found time to knock on the door of said village idiot in order to enforce The Malicious Communications Act 1988. Who knew such an Act existed, or its enforcement so inconsistent – in this case a sledgehammer against a very small nut.
The Malicious Communications Act 1988 makes it illegal to send an electronic communication that conveys a grossly offensive message designed to hurt or induce anxiety. Since this particular tweet thousands of far more vicious tweets have been directed against the immature youth from Dorset. Should police forces be knocking on doors up and down the country in the name of consistency and justice?
They won’t, but it does highlight the stupidity of the state trying to enforce ‘acceptable’ behaviour through legislation. It also highlights also a new and sinister force in the land - the techno-enhanced herd encouraged by media and state to enforce a collective outlook.
I didn’t enjoy every aspect of the Opening Ceremony, but I thought it a brilliant piece of theatre, and I was cheered that Danny Boyle stayed true to his vision. Well, one hapless Tory MP put his head over the parapet and said something different. He called it left-wing crap. You’d have thought he’d pissed on the Vatican altar, judging by the collective outrage this contrarian view aroused. Well why shouldn’t he say it? Is one man’s vision automatically right and another’s automatically wrong? Yes - but only in totalitarian states, theocracies or those cocooned in a ‘liberal consensus’.
Gore Vidal experienced consensus condemnation in the late 1950’s when his book The City and the Pillar depicted homosexuality in a non-judgemental way. A conservative ‘consensus’ sat on him. Vidal's next seven novels were studiously ignored by Time magazine, Newsweek and the New York Times. In Vidal’s words:
“I was carefully erased from the glittering history of American Literature. . . . Twenty years ago, there was an academic study of the five hundred — or was it five thousand? — truly great American novelists since the Second War. I was not of their company. I had slid down the page to a footnote.”
In such a climate, people learn without thinking to keep quiet. It is is a benign intolerance compared to a gulag culture, but intolerance it is. Storm-troopers, Red guards, or mobs brandishing pitchforks and BlackBerries - all righteous in ‘group think’ – they have no place in a grown-up culture.
In Gore Vidal’s words:
The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western World. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity — much less dissent. It is no less true in Britain today.