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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A big step back

Originally posted 6th June 2011

Things are getting scary. The Christian Right are getting their claws into social politics and social conservatism is rearing its head in a big way. Abstinence based education is being endorsed and anti - abortion groups are going into the business of main stream government.

But this is not the Tea Party's vision for America, it is the reality facing Britain in 2011 under the appalling ConDem coalition. Conservative MP, Nadine Dorries found herself in hot water a few weeks back, when, whilst endorsing her ideas on abstinence based sex education in schools, she insinuated (either purposefully or as a result of very poor skill of articulation - I'll let you be the judge of that) that if more teenagers said 'no' that sexual abuse would be drastically curtailed. At best a foolishly poorly worded statement, at worst a frightening insight into this woman's views of those most vulnerable in our society. And now it appears that the Conservatives (and by virtue their coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats) have decided to take this further. Several weeks ago it was reported that the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) have been 'disinvited' from the governments new Sexual Health Advisory Board and replaced by the pro life group, Life. Life are against abortion in all circumstances lean heavily towards an abstinence based approach to sex education. I addition to this a new amendment to abortion legislation is being pushed through by Dorries and her pals. This addition to existing abortion legislation will mean that women seeking terminations, for whatever reason, will be required, by law to undergo a 'counselling session' with an organisation that does not carry out abortions. And its part of a bigger organisation known as Right to Know. In the interests of fairness I will point out that Dorries partner in crime in the former Labour minister Frank Field.

Currently the backlash to these, what can only be described as legalised incursions into our civil rights and personal lives, are causing much consternation and a big Pro Choice rally has been organised and is due to take place on July 7th. Foremost amongst those who see the threat of Dorries and her ilk and their attempts to push through antiquated and morally judgmental legislation is Labour MP Dianne Abbott and she had this to say;
    "We cannot allow Nadine Dorries and some of the anti-abortion groups currently advising the government to turn the clock back for millions of women," said Abbott. "Mainstream medical opinion is united in its agreement that, when carried out in a legal setting where sterile facilities are available, abortion is a safe procedure carrying a low risk of complications. "And we must not underestimate the chilling news that the government has appointed anti-abortion group Life to their expert advisory group on sexual health. This appointment, coupled with the retraction of an invite to the British Pregnancy Advisory Service, one of the UK's leading abortion providers, signals a dangerous move." She added: "Increasingly, people up and down the country are looking to take a stand against what they see as an attempt to chip away at abortion access for women in England, Scotland and Wales. "There is a rising tide of opposition and concern about the agenda being pushed by figures in this Tory-led government, and David Cameron must come clean on where the Tories now stand on a woman's right to choose." (The Guardian, Sunday 5th June 2011)
    Depending on your own personal stance on the abortion question you may applaud or deride the actions on either side. Personally, as some one who is passionately Pro Choice (which is not the same as being Pro Abortion any more that being Anti Abortion automatically makes you Pro Life), I fail to see the good in it. Of course the argument that the new amendment would promote a greater understanding of the choice being made and allow women to make a more informed decision will be put forward in defence of this. In theory, yes. However, the truth of the matter is quite the opposite. Women should be educated and they should be informed.  The decision to terminate a pregnancy should not be one that is made lightly. But that is not what the Right to Know campaign is offering. Instead it is taking women, many of whom will never again feel more frightened, alone or vulnerable and it is bullying them. By subjecting them to counselling by a biased and subjective body they will not be given the necessary information and support to make the 'right' decision (something which is highly dependent on the individual circumstances, not the agenda of an anti abortion organisation), if anything women, already facing, for many of them the hardest decision they will ever have to make, will be left feeling guilty, confused and utterly, utterly alone. What is needed is objective, non judgmental, open and honest advice and that will not be found within the frame work being laid out by Dorries and approved by the government. Women will be stripped of their power, their rights and in the case of the younger generation of women who may also fall foul of Nadine Dorries shortsighted and possibly dangerous push for abstinence based sex education, their chance to make an informed decision about their own lives and bodies based on a free exchange of views and information rather than the outdated convictions of others.

Super Injunction? Not so super, actually

Originally posted 23rd May 2011

You can't possibly have not heard about it (I live 10,000 miles away and I know about it). The latest must have accessory for the rich, the powerful and the unfaithful. That's right. The super injunction. Essentially an uber gag order it legally obliges the media to not disclose certain secrets about certain misbehaving celebs and public figures for fear of being sued into the next world. Works in theory. The rich can keep their dirty little secrets and we, the public, continue on in blissful ignorance.

Except the super injunction, and to some extent privacy laws in general, do not allow for the nature of modern media, and certainly do not allow for the rise in social media. People no longer necessarily get their news from the mainstream media. The fact that Dwayne "the Rock" Johnson reportedly tweeted the news of Bin Laden's death before it hit any of the major news networks is testament to that. Many people I know use the likes of Twitter as a newsfeed, preferring the 'here and now'ness of the microblogging site to sitting down and watching the news on TV or reading about it via the newspapers.

One particularly high profile use of the super injunction has been the case of a 'well known premiership footballer' and poor former Big Brother starlet, Imogen Thomas. Ms Thomas was foolhardy enough to become embroiled in a seven month affair with this married 'well known premiership footballer' and by all accounts it ended badly. She has claimed that she never had any intention of making the relationship public, he's accused her of attempting to blackmail him. Either way, the truth is open to some debate as she, despite been thrown to the wolf pack of the press and the very interested public is subject to a gag order and can't really defend herself and he, despite being named (and in the case of a certain Scottish newspaper, pictured) is still, technically at least, under the protective shield of his expensively sought super injunction. However, Mr CTB (as he is known in the legal paperwork) has found that in many respects his super injunction has backfired upon him. Despite the fact that he cannot be legally nor officially named, he has in fact been named and most definitely shamed. A Twitter account set up with the sole aim of 'outing' celebs who have sought super injunctions to prevent the public uncovering of their indiscretions has seen to that. Whilst it also claimed a slew of innocent victims (poor Jemima Khan being notable for the accusation that she had been photographed in comprimising positions with Jeremy Clarkson - and out of interest did anyone even find that remotely plausible or believable?), it also outed the now notorious CTB.

Clearly, however, Mr CTB takes his privacy seriously and has now gone to the High Court in an attempt to force Twitter to hand over the details of the person responsible. Presumably, so he can can sue them into next week. However, this could well have been CTB's downfall. Whilst there was much chat on the identity of this mysterious, BB starlet shagging, high profile premiership footballer, it had, to a large extent started to die down. Other things were starting to fill the space taken up by this particular piece of celebrity non-news news. But now the Twittershphere is riled. The threat against Twitter (who in any likley event don't care, can't be compelled to comply and are loving the free publicity) has been seen as an attack on free speech. Over the last few days CTB's alleged real identity as been tweeted over and over. He is pictured in a thousand avatars. He is the butt of endless jokes and has been more effectively humiliated and poked fun at than he probably could possibly imagine when he first panicked about his infidelity coming out and went barrelling off to the solicitors office.

But why are people so angry about this? Is it really that they feel their free speech is being attacked? In part, yes. The internet and the rise in social networking has provided a voice to millions the world over and many do not see the distiniction over whether you use this voice to bring down an entrenched and corrupt leader somewhere in the Middle East or whether you use it to announce to the world who that bloke from that football team is slipping it to. The principle remains the same. People feel they have the right to say it like it is.

 However, I would contend there is more to it than that. I know there is from my point of view, at least. Philandering and faithless footballers are, as most of us know, ten a penny. Wayne Rooney, John Terry, Ashley Cole, Peter Couch... the list is as long as your arm. When the stories of these indescretions appear we invariably express, surprise, distain, indifference and a couple of days later its all but forgotten. These men are to many heroes and by and large their less palatable traits are soon overlooked as long as they're performing where it counts. This case seems to have unleashed a storm of anger that in some ways seems quite disproportionate to the crime. The issue of free speech, as I've touched on, plays its role, but there is something more than that. For me at least, the fact that this high profile philandering fuckwit, feels that he is so important that he somehow deserves the protection of the law against the savage barbarian hordes of the internet riles me more than his actual wrong doings. The sense of entitlement that this man must have that he feels that he deserves this special treatment, whilst the sad figure of Imogen Thomas is hung out for the moral high ground gang comment on her every action and pin the blame squarely at her door (something I find deplorable in itself, he was the married on not her, at worst she is gulity of criminal stupidity that she ever thought this would end well), whilst he hid behind his money. There is the argument that the whole thing was brought about by the desire to protect the family of the footballer in question, I would counter that by saying that really, he should have thought of that before he dropped his pants for someone other than his wife.

By all accounts the issue of super injunctions and internet privacy will be discussed in Parliament after the summer recess and I will be interested to see what conclusions they come up with and whether they conclude they can effectively police what people say via the likes of Twitter, at the same time another (slightly less high profile) premiership football star has also been outed has having obtained a super injunction, so it will be interesting to see what happens next in this particular story

Something old, Something new

This blog has taken over from an old blog that I used to keep (erratically and sparsely might I add) and I have transferred a couple of posts over from there. In addition to posts that are exclusive to this site there will also be the occasional post written for other sites featured here also.