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Thursday, 29 November 2012

The Leveson Inquiry, Internet Trolls, And Amazon's Review System!

Oh I do love the Internet...

This wonderful piece of ever-expanding technology, that lets us contact anyone in any country; lets us read about anything in practically any language, on any subject under the sun, no matter how intellectually-complex or how utterly, utterly frivolous, and yet it can cause so many problems, that - in the real world - we would all just safely ignore.

The internet is both perfection in a box, and the biggest, most repulsive, pus-filled wart, all at the same time. In this blog entry, I will discuss why I am currently holding this view...

Today, in the UK, the Leveson Inquiry (or at least the first part of it) came to a conclusion, and Lord Leveson published his report into the culture, practices and ethics of the British newspaper press. Leveson's report was extremely damning, and stopped just a hair-width's short of saying to all UK newspaper editors "You've crossed the line, you've gone too far, and now I'm going to punish you".

Those of you not in the UK, I've briefly mentioned the Leveson Inquiry before, but to re-cap, it was discovered in July 2011, that one of the British Tabloid newspapers - the News Of The World - (or NOTW as it was also known, and a disgusting and odious little wrag, not much better than the Daily Mail, whom regular readers will know only too well what my view of it is) has hacked into the mobile phone answer-machine service of a murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler, and listened-in to (and possibly deleted) answerphone messages.

The Inquiry was into whether such action actually took place, whether this was the "norm" for the British Press,and whether the Press Complaints Commission, (hereby listed as the PCC),were going to do anything about it. For the sake of simplicity, I've only covered the bare-basics of the Leveson Inquiry, so I know I may receive some flack from some of you saying that the Inquiry covered other issues also. You would be right, but please indulge me once more, in this instance.

Anyway, the Inquiry Report was published today - 29th November 2012 - at 13:30 hours, and the Report was damning. Very, very damning. Totalling some 2000-plus pages, plus a further 48-page Executive Summary, this mammoth four-volume Report has been a no-holds-barred indictment, heavily criticising the Press, their methods of obtaining private and personal information (in order to help publish a story), and the manner in which they have singularly failed to look after their profession - legally and morally.

The NOTW did in fact hack into Milly Dowler's phone, and the PCC was toothless, and self-serving. Hardly unsurprising. However, many newspaper editors have been concerned that Lord Leveson's report would be calling for Statutory Legislation to rectify the problems. In other words, he was going to stiffle Free Speech, and the Freedom of the Press. Thankfully he hasn't done either. However, what he has done, is come down on the British Press extremely hard. The Report essentially says that the Press have a short time in which to clean up their act, once and for all, get things straight, and if they don't, then they will see Statutory Legislation be imposed upon them by politicians.

The reason I mention this, is that in the better, more educational British Press, there have been editorials over the past few days, demanding Leveson does not demand Statutory Legislation to be brought in. They say, that such legislation would stiffle true journalism, would stiffle a Free Press, and would essentially force newspapers to cease proper, decent and public-interest investigations. The truth is, nothing in Leveson's Report will stiffle any such journalism. In fact, in my view, none of the sensible, decent British Press (The Times, The Guardian, The Independent, the "i") have anything to fear from Leveson's Report. In fact, it will pretty much be business as usual for all of them. These papers, will still bring us worthwhile stories; will continue to run big expose's about philanderings, shady back-hand deals and the immoral actions of senior government figures (or business people like those in the Financial industry), and will still be allowed to print stories that are in the public interest (such as the MP's Expenses Scandal).

These papers, have nothing to fear from Leveson at all.

No. The only papers that have everything to fear, all the tabloid wrags. The Red Tops. The papers that fill their grubby little publications with tales of tittle-tattle; salacious gossip; kiss-and-tell triviata; rumour, speculation, second-guessing, second-rate hatchet journalism, that would be an insult to the average eight-year-old let alone the average adult. They are the ones who should be worrying. They are the ones who should be fearful for the future of their publications, fearful of their jobs, and fearful of what Leveson's Report will do to them, if they screw up again. Ever.

And rightly so, in my view. For too long now, has the British Tabloid Press (The Sun, The Daily Mail, The Daily Express, The NOTW, et al) has decided that anyone, and any story, is fair game. It doesn't matter who you are, what you are, or where you are, if they want to spill their guts about you, they will use any method to do so, and damn the consequences.

Publish a front-page headline that says you like to play Nazi-themed S&M sex games with hookers? Hey, there goes your private life for the whole world to read, in 3-inch-high lettering! Include a couple of secretly-taken photos, which you have demanded get taken by one of the dominatrixes involved, and then threatened to expose her and her private life to her family, just so you can make a quick buck? Yes, that was all allowed in the world of the Tabloid Press. Anything went, and nobody stopped them. Publish and be damned!

Oh, and don't worry if none of the story is remotely truthful. You'll just get a slap on the wrist, and told to publish an apology - which you will invariably do, but in tiny, bible-print-sized lettering, at the foot of page 37, one random day of the week, weeks after you've committed slander or libel, and long after the public has forgotten who you slandered or libelled in the first place.

The point is, that now, Tabloid Editors are going to have to sleep with one eye open. Every tabloid hack and papparazzo, (and to be fair, most of them are hacks and papparazzo's, not true journalists), will have to double or triple-check everything they write and publish. If they screw up, then Leveson's Inquiry may see some of them closed down... And I, for one, will not lose any sleep if they do.

Which brings me onto Internet Trolls and Amazon's Review System. I discussed this in my previous post. Well, there's been a further development. And no, I don't come out of this very well, so this is not exactly a chest-beating blog entry by any means.

After 12 long-winded pages, of name-calling, bitching, slagging-off, vitiriol, accusations - from me and from several of the other postees - I finally removed my 1-Star Amazon Review of Arrow's ZOMBIE FLESH-EATERS Blu-Ray release - which is out on Monday 3rd December, if anyone's interested. Why did I delete it?

Did I give-in to the Internet Trolls who kept having a go at me, and calling me a liar, a treacherous deviant, etc?


Did I do it, because my 1-Star Review was not an actual review?


Did I do it, because my 1-Star Review was for an unreleased product, and therefore invalidated itself?

Again, no.

So why did I delete it?!

Simply because, I could. I got to have the last say. I got to say "you know what, screw you" to the majority of people in those threads who thought they could point-score by simply trying to pick me up on every, single trivial detail. I was the one, who had the last laugh - and, at their expense. Because now, there's no 1-Star Review for them to bitch about slanderous. Now, there's no option for them to go: (insert your own make-believe Internet Troll voice here) "Oh, you said blah, blah, blah, and you know nothing".

I got to delete all of them, and whilst they can try and claim some kind of smug, self-satisfaction that They won the argument. I can say to myself: "You know what, let it go. Most of them are morons. None of them actually knew you. You'll never meant any of them. The majority of them are probably just pre-teen, trolls desperately trying to make something of themselves behind the anonymity of a PC screen, trying to be big and clever at your expense".

And you know what? Deleting that review, and all 140-odd comments that followed-on from that review, are now gone. Au revoir. Arrivederci. Sayonara. Good Riddance. There were one or two, who wrote decent, intelligent posts. Some of those people, I may well come across on Amazon's Reviews again. But the vast majority of contributors were outright idiots.

In fact, I'm starting to think that the Internet is no longer quite the grand place it once was. The trolls are beginning to take over, and ruin the Internet. For everyone. Like the Tabloid Hacks, the Trolls like to make petty arguments, taking a counter-stance to everything you say, and simply regurgitating the opposite, in order to make themselves feel bigger, better, more adult. The Trolls think they know everything. I don't just mean in the general sense. I mean, they really, truly and utterly believe that they really do know every single fucking thing. About every single fucking topic under the sun. Of topics past, of topics present, and of topics to come in the future.

These fuckwits seem to think, they are Stephen Fry-intelligent. Not even close, bud (to coin a totally non-topical phrase from John Hughes' excellent 1985 pre-slacker flick THE BREAKFAST CLUB)!

To the Trolls, I say this: "Start acting less like your shoe-size, and more like your supposed I.Q."

Amazon's Review System isn't perfect. It has many flaws. But one of the great things, is that - for the most part, at least - anyone can review any product, and have their little say in the world. It won't bring you fame. It won't make you rich, and you won't gain any special rewards. But you can have your say. You get to tell others what you think, and let that thought, be dwelled-upon by others. No one's opinion is worth more than anyone elses. And that's the beauty of the Internet. We all become equal.

Look, the Internet gives everyone a level playing-field. No matter who you are. No matter what you do in life. No matter what age, or sex, or race, or creed, or flag you live under, you are all one-and-the-same. You are all equal. No one is better than the rest, and no one need be more stupid. But the Trolls... Oh, god, the Trolls!

If it's not Facebook, or Twitter, or FourSquare, or Bebo, or LinkedIn, or any one of the other hundreds of social-networking sites that exist out there in Internet-Land, the Trolls seem to keep'on coming! Their age, their sex, their race, their creed, all bear no relation to some of the truly dumb-assed things that these Keyboard Warriors are willing to post, to gain their 15-seconds of infamy; to prove to the world, that they are the Number One Dumbass of all Internet Dumbasses.

There is no level they will not stoop too, to try to win an argument, or to better their personal opinion of something, over yours. Nothing, but nothing is too dumb for them to post, to try to come Top Troll.

Thankfully, in the UK at least, we sometimes prosecute the dumbest Internet Trolls. As a Brit, part of that statement makes me feel quite proud. I'm not against Free Speech - hey, look, I run a Blog, so I'm hardly in a position to criticise others - but at least I try not to say extremely dumb-ass things. My blog, is just my opinion. No one has to agree with it. Nobody has to even like it. My readership is small. I have had less than 5000 hits in 2 years. I don't mind. Numbers don't mean that much to me, to warrant giving a flying-fuck. So what, if some Internet Dumbass Troll, has a video on YouTube of him tipping a glass of milk all over his head, and has received 1.5 million hits. That's not something to be proud of. That just means there's 1.5 million other dumb-assses out there in Internet-Land, who think you're a bigger dumbass than they are.

So what if 2,800 other imbeciles "like" your latest Facebook post, in which you equate your President to a member of the ape species. Yeah, aren't you a clever one! I'm sure your parents are really proud of having brought-up a knuckle-dragging, neo-Nazi, racist thug into the world. God, the world really needs yet more knuckle-dragging, neo-Nazi, racist thugs, doesn't it?! I mean, it's not as if there aren't already millions, upon millions of other knuckle-dragging, neo-Nazi, racist thugs who don't already spout outdated bollocks, to any poor bastard that will listen to their knuckle-dragging chanting.

Have we as a species, really become so immune to Trolls, that we are happy to let them get away with anything (or should that be, everything) dumb? Have we reached a stage, where in 2012, it is considered okay to "like" or "re-Tweet" that "Mr X, a Member Of Parliament's a big, fat paedo?!"

What does that say about us? The Internet lets you access anything at any time. All you need, is some basic computer skills, the ability to think for yourself just a little, and then to let ride on the Information Superhighway. Out there, in Internet Land, the World really is your eternal oyster: an unlimitless land of knowledge. You will never got bored. You will never grow tired. You can access information, from the day you are born to the day you day, and not once do you need to stop, for fear of learning too much.

But the Trolls. They don't want an oyster. They want everything to be shit! They want to wallow in it, swim in it, and fling it at anyone who they dislike.What a shame, that Trolls always need to have the last say... on everything! Rather than raising people up, to be better, they want to drag us down. Rather than learn something, they want you to drown in an eternal cesspit of sludge. Not unlike our Tabloid newspapers...

... And isn't this where our story first started?

Just before I end, the BBFC has uploaded its latest Podcast - Number 8 - which covers the 50th Anniversary of Bond. Examining the films, the icon, and the censorship clashes within this long-running film franchise, this is another worthy listen. Alas, it seems the BBFC no longer lets you download these as MP3 files, and you now have to listen to them via  this  website instead. (Boo, hiss!!) Still, the other seven previous files are also there, and are worth your time too.

See you again, soon....

ADDENDUM: The BBFC Podcasts are also available for free download via iTunes, in their Podcasts Section. Just search for "BBFC Podcasts", and you should find them. All in MP3 format, all free, and all legally downloadable.

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