I was watching that Lennon/Yoko film at the weekend, and there were some scenes in which he participated in a protest march and they played “Power to the People” on the soundtrack. More on that subject below. More immediately, this weekend, there were also many news reports about the so-called Gilets Jaunes protests in France against increases in fuel tax.
I ought to be cheered that it is still possible, in these times, to mobilise people to a cause. Reports from our relatives in France confirm that even in the backwaters of the rural East, people have been out on the streets, blocking roads and causing disruption. Even my mother-in-law, who has to use a petrol station that will allow her to pay by cheque, had to adjust her ingrained habits.
But, of course, it’s the wrong fucking cause. Regardless of the rights and wrongs of Macron’s fiscal policies, fuel taxes should be higher, and people should be confronted with the reality of the need to change our patterns of consumption and get out of their cars. Just today at work, we were discussing attitudes to environmental causes, and I pointed out that the young people we teach are all too willing to make short and pointless car journeys in preference to walking. Faced with that kind of recalcitrance, the fact that people are politically moved by increased fuel prices and almost nothing else is just depressing.
I want to take those people by the scruffs of their gilets and give them a good shake. Maybe stick to the fucking 80kph speed limit occasionally and you’ll save fuel. Maybe stop driving home for lunch and back to work again. Maybe get a bank/credit card so you don’t have to drive 20km so you can pay by cheque, mentioning no names.
And as for Lennon: one gets the strong impression that, like everything else he ever did, his protest march served (at least) a dual purpose: he had a single to promote.
I felt a kind of weary recognition when I saw this story in the Guardian the other day. I don’t remember what the precise occasion was, but I remember vividly being told that I was on “the list” by a trade union acquaintance of mine. At the time, I greeted the information with the kind of youthful bravado you’d expect of someone in their mid-20s and in the thick of the kind of grassroots activism that feels like nothing but actually is the most effective means of creating change.
By matching staff records against MI5 files, the SPL came to the conclusion that there were 1,420 “subversives” in the civil service, including 52 in Customs and Excise, 169 at the Inland Revenue and 111 at the Ministry of Defence, many of them at the Royal Naval dockyards at Rosyth. The largest number, however, 360, were said to be at the Department of Health.
Privately, I figured that if MI5 were targeting me, then they were even more incompetent than their poor reputation suggested. This was the era of Peter Wright’s Spycatcher, the banned memoir that revealed that the British Intelligence services had beenfucking up operations for decades. I bought my copy, illegally imported from Australia, at one of those second hand book stalls under Waterloo Bridge on the South Bank, a half-hour walk from Gower Street, the then-headquarters of MI5.
But pause with me a moment to look at the picture the Guardian used to illustrate this news story (above). Did I resemble the floppy haired young man depicted? My hair was curly and frequently dyed blonde. I never once held a copy of Militant in my hands; and I would have fled in terror if someone offered me a loud hailer. On the other hand, I might well have considered a stripy jumper.
Apart from being told by a reliable source that I was on this list, I have other evidence to offer.
I worked in the tax office (Inland Revenue) in those days, which meant I had signed the Official Secrets Act. I was a very lowly clerical assistant (or the Revenue’s equivalent), a position for which I was overqualified. And yet, it took me fully six years to gain a promotion to the next grade above. If you knew me at all, you’d know this could not possibly be because of incompetency on my part. To illustrate this latter point, I will refer you to the time I went on the Tax Officer training course when I finally got that promotion, six years in. I was taking a cigarette break with the trainer that day when he said to me, “This must be very boring for you?” “Why do you say that?” “Because you obviously know this stuff already.” This wasn’t, in fact, the case. But, I’m very quick on the uptake. And so, yeah: it took six years to get promoted from my filing job.
Aha, you say. Why then, did you not just go and get another job? Good question. I applied for many: very many. I got many interviews. I took many intelligence tests and got the highest marks. But, you see, I was blacklisted.
One job I applied for, at the Abbey National building society (or was it already a bank by then?), I passed the tests with flying colours, passed the interview, and was told I’d be receiving a job offer “subject to references”. Well, one of my referees, Norman, who was my line manager, sat opposite me in the office. And he would have told me if he’d been asked for a reference. But he never did because he never was. And the nailed-on job disappeared into thin air.
Finally, I was arbitrarily moved, in my lowly clerical position, to another one in another tax office that was just around the corner. It separated me, on that day to day basis, from my immediate circle of radical trade union buddies. Apart from that, there was no reason to move me.
“Most “subversives” were found to be working in junior clerical positions. The SPL recommended in its initial report that they should, where possible, “be identified and distanced from such work”.
It added that mounting a purge of suspect individuals would not be possible, but “it might sometimes be possible covertly to move individuals to posts where they would have less potential for disruption.”
Anyway, that blacklisting blighted my career prospects, and held me back for years. Eventually I got out of the tax office only by getting a place at University. My life is divided into the before and after in that respect. Things went pretty well after that: although I still consider those nine years struggling against the machine to be lost.
It was all so unnecessary, really. All the “list” consisted of was names and organisations. In my case, it would have been the IRSF, the Inland Revenue Staff Federation: a trade union so radical that it wasn’t even affiliated with the Labour Party.
And I only really got involved in the union because I was pissed off with the way I was being treated (early on in my glittering tax office career, I was criticised for the way I walked, and the way I looked for files, and for not wearing a collar and tie, and, when I did wear a collar and tie, I was told by my manager that he didn’t like my collar and he didn’t like my tie). And I’d been a little radicalised by 18 months on the dole: to the point that I had values at odds with most of the management class. When they were throwing post away in confidential waste sacks in order to meet targets, I was kinda muttering that if they left their targets unmet, maybe some unemployed person could be given a job.
But I hadn’t read a word of Marx or Militant, hadn’t joined any organisation apart from my union, and (ironically) my first exposure to such reading would come at University, which only happened because of the blacklisting.
So what did I do to get on that list?
I did once sign a petition at a CND rally. With hindsight, I did come to believe that the stunningly pretty girls who were circulating with the petition were probably MI5, harvesting names from the many bus trips.
But my real activism was small and local. I went to Branch union meetings, first as office rep and later as Branch Organiser. I sold raffle tickets to help the striking miners in ’84 and ’85. I was the Organiser who organised a crucial vote on the union having a political fund.
Which brings us to the crux. The Tory project in the 80s was principally about crushing the unions, who had so effectively destroyed the Heath government of 1970-74. All forms of collectivism (public transport, public utilities) were out, to be replaced by privatised companies who would make life hard for unions. And all strikes had to be approved by an expensive postal ballot, thus ensuring forever more that no strike would be called on anything over a 25% turnout, which was all the media would need to call foul. And, the most evil step of all, members would have to vote as to whether their union could make political donations. This policy was designed to kill the Labour party at its roots.
As I said, the IRSF wasn’t even affiliated with the Labour party, but we did believe, us union chaps, that we ought to be able to fund research and so on, or support candidates. So we organised the vote, and we got it approved.
Which, one suspects, wasn’t supposed to happen.
Possibly the most damning thing I did was organise the publication and distribution of a branch newsletter. This was my idea because it was clear then that the government, through their managers, were trying to bypass the unions by offering, for example, newsletters of their own. Going direct to the workers with new initiatives and spinning information without considering their elected representatives. So, I said, if they’re going to be “communicating” with our members, shouldn’t we offer an alternative?
Thus the Conscientious Op was born, a newsletter title that punned on a collection of Dashiel Hammett short stories (Continental Op). It was reproduced by typewriter, letraset, cut ups and photocopier. It was, probably, pure punk.
I don’t remember a single thing I wrote in it.
But one suspects that something upset somebody. (It was a similar story when I left school at 18.)
So, blacklisted I was. And what have we learned? First of all, those small-time local activities you can get involved in do have an impact, and do scare the bejesus out of those in power, who know full well that they only get away with stuff because we let them. To give you an across-the-Atlantic example, it has been local politicians working at District and State level who have been gerrymandering election boundaries in the USA, and bringing in voter registration laws to make it harder for people of colour to vote, and harder for opposition candidates to win seats. So, yes, grassroots politics really matters.
Finally, I think we’ve learned something I think I’ve always known: that the real “enemies within” in this country are those who create and share such lists, who treat legitimate political opposition and perfectly legal trade union activity as criminal, and who maintain unfair power structures unfairly and undemocratically. The construction industry blacklists during the Olympic Park construction led to legal action and big payouts. The trade union movement began with people being transported to Australia. It ended with a postal ballot that you chucked in the recycling.
It’s been a week of meltdowns in the news, sure enough. Meltdown was the name of one of the CPU bugs that were revealed in the New Year. While people were still shitting their pants over the Great Apple Battery Scam (not a scam), Intel revealed something they’d been sitting on for a while, which was that the way their CPU chips works (by speculatively anticipating what they’re going to be asked to do next) leaves them vulnerable to exploits. This was trumpeted widely as a precursor to the End of All Things, Millennium Bug style, since just about anything with an Intel or ARM processor was affected, but (as of Saturday) we’re still alive. Still, you can smell the lawsuits from here, can’t you?
It was last May that all British Airways flights from two airports were cancelled because of an IT problem, and this is the kind of meltdown that pundits fear might ensue when a system vulnerability like this is revealed. More seriously, that same month saw “cyber chaos” in the NHS, as computer systems that hadn’t been updated from Windows XP were attacked over a weekend.
This is what I think of whenever people express concerns about Trump and his obsession with weapons and nuclear buttons. This past week of Whitehouse Meltdowns following the “revelations” in Michael Wolff’s book have been entertaining, and you can’t help but hope it takes us one step closer to the Hollywood Ending of this Presidency, which is when the American people collectively point their fingers in Trump’s direction and pause dramatically before saying, “You’re fired.”
While it’s clear that millions of people are going to suffer as a result of Trump’s “welfare for the rich” tax legislation and his “welfare for the rich” healthcare changes, I have less fear that he’s ever going to launch a nuclear strike. This seems like a cartoon fear of a cartoon president, a childlike clown who has no real power, and is simply going to end up being managed when the grownups take over. Trump is not Putin: he has no real power. Like the rest of the Republican Party, he’ll do the bidding of his corporate and media masters, the Ronald McDonald birthday clown of politics.
As well as being good for lawyers in class action or cease and desist lawsuits, these various meltdowns are good for the news business, as people addictively click on stories to read about how Apple or Intel are ruining their lives or how Trump’s hair is combed and lacquered. And I’ve noticed as an adjunct to all this that the papers are full of chin-stroking columns about the perils of social networking and screens. It’s all New Year New Me and Think Of The Children and, very helpfully, Black Mirror season 4. Same as it ever was, if you ask me. Ten years ago, I would chortle with my students about all the Facebook negging that the Daily Mail went in for, but like lawyers smelling Class Action, the newspapers are all smelling New Year’s Resolutions, as people try to detox from Trump and Bannon and Trolls and whatever that episode of Black Mirror was about.
Should we be worried about tech meltdowns? Probably. As rail commuters weep about paying nearly £8000 a year just to get to work, and our cars hit pot holes and have their own personal meltdowns, and the NHS suffers through yet another Winter Crisis, it’s clear that our infrastructure is fucked. And when it comes to IT, which is increasingly getting involved in every part of our lives, the infrastructure is all in the hands of corporations. So whether it’s your light bulbs, your front door, your fridge, or your TV, these CPU vulnerabilities are likely to strike anywhere. And the only way to hold these corporations to account is via the blunt instrument of the class action lawsuit. Because the politicians do not have their minds on infrastructure, do they?
In the UK, we’re distracted, permanently, by Brexit meltdown. In the US, they’re distracted by Trump meltdown. And even if they weren’t, absolutely no politician ever is interested in building infrastructure projects that won’t come to fruition until long after they’ve left office in disgrace after putting their hand up someone’s skirt. So, in a sense, we can blame toxic masculinity for all of these meltdowns. Men are really too emotional for high office.
Today presenter, former political correspondent of the BBC, and obvious Tory Nick Robinson last week wrote an article in which he set out the challenges and attacks faced by the BBC and the mainstream media from the alternative media: the likes of The Canary and Westmonster.
Worth pulling apart.
Robinson raises the stakes to near hysteria when he describes all this with the language of warfare:
Attacks on the media are no longer a lazy clap line delivered to a party conference to raise morale. They are part of a guerrilla war being fought on social media day after day and hour after hour.
They don’t like it up ‘em, do they?
I’m no fan of sites like the Canary. I’ve always regretted following links to them from Twitter. I don’t like the style or tone of their journalism, and I don’t like their obvious bias, even if I might share it. But they exist because of a well-founded perception that the BBC in particular has been letting us down, not just lately, but for year after year and month after month.
The BBC has a duty, baked into its charter, to be impartial. But, weasel-like, the BBC always manages to be a tacit supporter of the government of the day. Knowing full well that angry ministers can do a lot of damage to the institution via their friends in the right-wing media, the BBC is notoriously brown-nosed, no matter who is in power. They brown-nosed the neoliberal “New Labour” government too. Robinson tries to argue the opposite, citing times when government ministers complained about the BBC, but he’s being selective with the facts. He mentions Churchill complaining about the BBC during the General Strike of 1926, knowing full well that Lord Reith was ensuring that the broadcaster was quietly supportive of the government:
since the BBC was a national institution, and since the government in this crisis was acting for the people… the BBC was for the government in the crisis too.
Our critics now see their attacks as a key part of their political strategy. In order to succeed they need to convince people not to believe “the news”.
This seems to imply that the BBC is spending much time reporting facts. Sure, it might tell us about a hurricane or two, feeding the usual oh dearism, but the real beef these alt. news sources have with the BBC is with political coverage, and in particular its apparent inability to be impartial to the truth.
This is what they do: debate. Perhaps it’s a hangover from their days at Oxford or Cambridge, but notwithstanding BBC editors’ love for them, debates can be rigged. For example, a debate between a completely unqualified and paid-for climate change denier (e.g. Nigel Lawson) and an actual climate scientist is not unbiased. Robinson justifies the airing of Lawson’s lies on behalf of the oil industry secretive charitable foundation he ‘founded’ with the idea that people with ‘alternative views’ should not be silenced:
They should be challenged and if, as Lawson did on Today recently, they get their facts wrong we should say so.
But Lawson didn’t “get his facts wrong”. He’s paid to tell lies on behalf of a powerful lobby, which hides the sources of its funding behind charitable status. By all means, get him on and challenge the “views” he’s paid to have. But make it fucking clear to the listeners that he’s there representing not ‘alternative views’ but the tiny and wealthy membership of a ‘charitable’ foundation that seems to be swimming in mysterious money.
Claim and counterclaim: that’s most often what the BBC reports when it comes to political issues. And they structure reports so that the most ‘important’ person goes first, and any responses to the claim being made are buried further down in the story. And in-studio debates, notoriously, are stage managed and constantly interrupted by hectoring presenters (or other guests who won’t shut up), hurried along, and cut short by artificially generated arbitrary deadlines dictated by weather bulletins and news summaries.
What the BBC could do, but never does, is demonstrate an impartiality to the truth. Rather than allowing, say, Boris Johnson to make a completely false claim about the amount of money that would go to the NHS following Brexit, the presenter could stop him — in his tracks — and point out that he’s lying. Could quote the Office of National Statistics at him, and therefore let him know in no uncertain terms that he would never be allowed to get away with telling such a lie on a BBC news programme. The popularity of a recent clip of NBC journalists challenging a lying contributor shows how hungry the public are for this kind of thing.
But they don’t do that. Instead, they demonstrate ‘impartiality’ by having someone else in the studio to make another claim that Johnson is lying, which just makes it all seem like a game, with the ‘winner’ being the person who repeats themselves the most, shouts the loudest, or speaks last, before the arbitrarily imposed cut-off point. This suits Johnson and his ilk down to the ground, insulated as he is by his family money from the consequences of anything he says.
Unfortunately, the alt. media that have come along are mainly just offering a different kind of bias. For Robinson to talk about these news sources as waging a war against the BBC/MSM is disingenuous in the extreme, because the real and present threat to the BBC has always been from the Murdoch-owned right-wing press, the Dailies Mail, Express, and Telegraph who have no interest in reporting the truth and every interest in destroying a national institution they see as a barrier to their profits.
The BBC follows their news agenda, focuses on their obsessions, giving disproportionate time to the bugbears of the political right: immigrants and the “undeserving poor”, and continually failing to reveal when contributors are representatives of right-wing thinktanks, or corporations, or simply nutty minority pressure groups. They give airtime to the likes of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, offer blanket coverage of everything UKIP does, but more or less ignore, say, the Green Party, which probably has more members and more widespread support. And they repeated the attacks on Corbyn from the press as if they were news, lending credence to the idea that they are all Tories.
I’ve been thinking, over the past few days, about the governments of the 60s and 70s, and the parallels between Ted Heath’s snap election in 1974 and the recent debacle created by Theresa May.
The February 1974 election, which ended in a hung parliament, was the first held after Britain joined the EU in January 1973. This latest election was the first held after the vote to leave.
In February 1974, Ted Heath, Conservative Prime Minister, addressed the nation:
Do you want a strong Government which has clear authority for the future to take decisions which will be needed? […] This time of strife has got to stop. Only you can stop it. […] It’s time for you to say to the extremists, the militants, and the plain and simply misguided: we’ve had enough. There’s a lot to be done. For heaven’s sake, let’s get on with it. (wikipedia)
The nation answered with a shrug. Heath’s tactic had backfired and when he unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a coalition with the Liberals (assuming also support from the Unionist MPs), Harold Wilson became the leader of a minority government.
Wilson called another election in October and won a narrow majority of 3 seats. This was the government that eventually creaked to an end under the leadership of Jim Callaghan in 1974, with sick MPs being wheeled in from hospital for Commons votes.
Regardless of whether you believe the various conspiracy theories surrounding the Wilson government, it’s fair to say that his governments of the 60s and 70s both faced strenuous opposition from the right wing press and were undermined by those ‘enemies within’ in the financial sector. Wilson himself claimed that he was undermined by elements within MI5, and there is a longstanding rumour about a possible military coup, with Lord Mountbatten touted as PM. Was the army takeover of Heathrow Airport in 1974 a dry run? Was the cabinet office and waiting area bugged (almost certainly yes, since the Profumo affair of 1963)?
Whatever happened, the right wing press have painted the 1970s in dark colours ever since as a way of promoting neoliberal ideology and destroying faith and participation in the trade union movement.
When people wax nostalgic about Labour governments passed, they usually turn to the post-1945 government and the creation of the NHS and the welfare state. But look at the social reforms Wilson achieved in the 60s:
abolished capital punishment
liberalised censorship laws
liberalised divorce laws
liberalised abortion laws
liberalised law on homosexuality
created the Open University
introduced comprehensive education
took steps towards gender and racial equality
“1974-76, saw further reforms in education, health, housing, gender equality, pensions, provisions for disabled people and child poverty.” (source)
Finally, and most importantly, under Wilson’s government, the property speculators were squeezed until the pips squeaked and taxes were high, high, high, which kind of explains why landlords, British industrialists, and bankers had an interest in creating as much economic conflict as possible. The 60s and 70s were characterised by lots of industrial action, but as hard as those workers fought, the result was a more equal society and better pay and conditions for everyone. So of course the billionaires behind the right wing press like to paint the 70s as the ‘bad old days’.
The current situation has so many parallels with 1974, you can’t help but wonder if this will play out the same way. At the very least, an October election might be on the cards. But another left wing Labour government being undermined by the bankers, the oligarchs and the security services? Corbyn has “MI5 Plot” written all over his face.
Thinking about the assassination of Kim Jong-nam, which involved at least one person who thought she was participating in a TV prank show, it struck me that our civilisation has been in the process of being laid low by our consumption of trashy media.
For sure, we live in the platinum age of TV drama, which is a surprise to me. A few years ago, when ITV shares were a few pence each (9th March 2009: 17.5 pence per share), it felt as if scripted TV drama was going to be a thing of the past, as advertising revenues collapsed and the BBC was chipped away by the neolibs and their tame newspapers.
But enter Netflix, and enter Amazon, and enter HBO, and it turns out that scripted drama has never been better. Left to the likes of Fox/Sky, the US networks, and even the BBC, it would not be so healthy. We’d have wall-to-wall procedurals, and the stuff the BBC makes these days, which seems calculated not to frighten the Daily Mail horses and attract as little attention as possible.
No, when I talk about trashy media, I mean three things, in the main:
24 hour news
So-called Reality TV
Unlike a lot of my fellow Media Studies professionals, I could never bear to even watch a single minute of reality TV, so I kind of pretended the topic didn’t exist. But I know for a certainty that if I was looking at so-called Western civilisation from the outside, I would see reality TV and talent shows as a sign of the degradation and decadence of liberal democracies, and the wealth and fame heaped upon individuals with little or no talent as emblematic of our debased values.
That Donald Trump, a stupid man who fell into a heap of inherited wealth, who doesn’t know what a tie clip is, could become a household name is something you’d point to as evidence of a degenerate culture. Add to that the fame and wealth of Simon Cowell, a person who wears v-necked t-shirts, and yet was still given a job as an arbiter of taste in music, and you’ve got enough evidence to damn a whole civilisation.
And then there’s the 24-hour news cycle, which, turns out, didn’t mean more news or more depth of coverage or more analysis, but less and less and less, until journalists are churning out a dozen ore more clickbait stories a day and political coverage is reduced to whether someone can eat a bacon sandwich or bow his head at the correct angle when showing respect to the war dead.
Looking at all this from the outside, of course you’d hatch an assassination plot in which you’d dupe somebody into thinking they’re participating in a TV prank show. It’s Art of War 101, right? You’re using the enemy’s own decadence as a weapon.
What North Korea does on a small scale to deal with its own domestic issues, Russia (very much not a liberal democracy) is doing on a much larger scale, having apparently exploited the stupidity and venality of a range of assets in a very long game in order to undermine the ability of the US to oppose it. The game is Smileyesque in its complexity, but it appears to have involved Wikileaks, various online hate groups, and a reality TV star who was able to exploit the inability of news organisations to do their job* and win an election. What Smiley did to snare Karla, Putin has done to snare a whole nation.
Back when Twitter was new, when Facebook was new, some of us naively thought that these new platforms would be for us, that we’d be able to organise and resist using these agile new tools. Cynical voices pointed out that these platforms were owned by corporations, but we thought we knew better. Of course, it turns out that these platforms were far more effectively exploited from the right than they ever were from the left. Because the one thing the left can never stop doing is squabbling amongst its various selves.
And then this week, just when you think that something is up, when the new President is denouncing the media like a newly minted North Korean dictator; just when you think the Western media might start doing their job*, even if it’s too little too late; just then, there’s an explosion of news (and social network coverage) of an event so fucking trivial and unimportant that you can’t believe anyone would be taken in by it for even a single second.
Yes, I’m talking about the Oscars, an awards ceremony in which a small, self-selecting coterie of previous winners votes for a new set of winners in their own image, usually in order to promote a few films that hardly anybody saw. And yet, when someone cocked up and handed the wrong envelope to a presenter so facelifted he probably couldn’t open his eyes wide enough to read the small print on the card, we not only got the immediate reaction, but ongoing coverage of the incident, including Zapruder-like frame-by-frame analysis, as if this was 1972, and this was a break-in at the Watergate hotel.
It was almost as if the media were waiting for something they could switch their attention to, so that they didn’t have to keep reminding people that they’d elected a tie-sellotaping Russian stooge to high office.
A while ago now, I reactivated the Facebook account (total of friends = 1), just so there would be one place on the internet where you could find me by my actual name. My timeline consisted almost entirely of my Instagram feed. But I hate Facebook, always have, and as Zuck appears to be preparing to run for office (as a Republican, according to one thing I read), it’s time to kill it. So that’s gone.
I still use Instagram. Although owned by Facebook, it’s fairly harmless, and since I stopped using Flickr (destroyed by Yahoo), it’s the only place I upload photos. But my finger does hover over the button sometimes.
I was attempting to put together a Photos book for 2016 the other day, and I had an enormous number of those red warning triangles, because the “original image could not be found”. Massive database corruption in my Photos library – perhaps caused by my use of CleanMyMac. The photos are there – I can export them and re-import them and fix the triangle issue – but the application doesn’t know they’re there. So that is a massive pain in the arse, and brings to stark relief the eternal problem of what is going to become of all our digital photos in 5–10 years. Apart from low-resolution uploads on early Flickr, I’ve got whole clusters of photos missing.
This came up again when I was rewatching my kids’ childhood DVDs a while ago. A couple of years have gone missing, and one of the DVDs wouldn’t play (though I managed to rip the file off it). I noticed an old MiniDV camcorder at work the other day, which nobody (probably) is ever going to use, and it reminded me that I have a case full of MiniDV tapes with my kids’ (unedited) childhoods on, and I have nothing to play them on.
Digital ephemera. We live in a streaming world. Timelines flick by, news churns 24 hours a day, people are up in arms about one thing after another, ricocheting between issues of import and issues of no import as if it were all the same.
I spent half an hour this morning unfollowing a bunch more people on Twitter. People I like and respect, even admire, but I cannot bear to read their political and news tweets, because they make me feel impotent with outrage, powerless, depressed. Muting keywords doesn’t work because things always leak through, and in the end I came to the conclusion that, for the foreseeable future and for my own sanity, I’ll probably end up unfollowing most of the Americans on my feed, and many more besides.
I’ve said it before: complaining on Twitter achieves nothing; the people you need to reach are not on there; it’s not a substitute for activism. Twitter is for jokes, for people-watching, for aphorisms, art, wit, photos, videos, all of that digital ephemera. But it’s not for politics or climate change, or bringing down capitalism or fighting nazis. People get mad about stuff, sure, but never so mad that they put down their phones and do anything.