(August 6 – August 12)
This week I have mostly been sick. Not quite bedridden sick, but definitely incompatible-with-work sick. Meanwhile, the other big story of the week—well, in social media land at least—is Twitter’s Jack Dorsey deciding not to boot Alex Jones (curator of horrible lies about Sandy Hook and, well, almost everything else) off his platform. This is after Facebook, and YouTube, and I’m sure some others, have all already shown him the door. Naturally this has attracted the ire of many Twitter users. And, oddly enough, there’s a connecting theme to me being sick.
You see, when I’m sick I avoid going into the office in order to avoid passing my sickness to other people and making them sick. Because that’s how sickness works. Me not being in the office prevents the office from becoming an infectious—or toxic, if you will—environment.
Twitter has famously been overrun with manbabies, toxic fanbois, racists, literal Nazis and all manner of other abusers in the last few years. It’s transformed the platform from being a place where random people from different corners of the world could talk about breakfast foods, into a place where celebrities routinely quit due to abuse, and women have to maintain and share block lists to protect themselves from the abuse they receive from simply sharing an opinion.
This is not unlike a sickness. One or two unpleasant characters can’t usually do much on their own, but they empower and embolden other unpleasant characters. One person freely and shamelessly giving voice to their racist views encourages the impressionable person, or the one who hides their racism, to speak out about their own noxious opinions. If left uncontrolled, this spreads across the platform. It’s the equivalent of going into an office while sick: that virus is going to spread, the office environment is going to become toxic, and sooner or later all the otherwise healthy people are going to be affected by it.
The obvious answer is to remove those peoples’ access to the platform, and thus make it safer for those who are not actually using the platform to abuse others. While some may say there’s a [highly tangential] free speech argument that makes banning people from twitter a [not really] uncomfortable prospect, there’s ultimately no argument at all. For one, free speech basically means that you won’t get arrested for airing your views. Twitter is a business, and has the right to ban anyone who doesn’t conform to their terms of service (which should damn well include not abusing or causing harm to other users). They don’t have the right to throw you in prison.
On that note, free speech is not design to protect you if your intent is to cause harm to others. If you cause harm to people by abusing your free speech, then other laws come into play—laws against hate speech, for example.
Finally, because it needs to be said before some squawking bigots asks: “but isn’t banning people like Alex Jones from twitter just like refusing to bake a cake for a gay couple?” No, it’s not. Because it’s not discrimination. It’s not a case of banning someone because they’re a conservative, or because they’re a white man, or because of any one of the reasons that outraged right-whingers would have you believe. It’s banning a specific person because their specific actions have caused harm to other people.
And twitter should just fucking get over itself and ban him.
My viewing choices in the early part of this week were determined by my need to either lie on the sofa or in my bed, and watch relatively undemanding fare. On the plus side I was able to enjoy some classic Doctor Who, but also made the mistake of watching the remake of The Day The Earth Stood Still. Now, I’ve been interested in watching this for a long time, but was naturally put off by the scathing reviews.
Now that I’ve watched the movie I understand those reviews. On the surface, this film is relatively inoffensive—in fact, it starts off as quite an intriguing reimagining of the classic movie. Then it ends, and you realise that not only has the story gone nowhere, but it’s also managed to subvert the intended message. In the original film, humanity is left with a choice: become better, or be destroyed. In this remake, humanity (represented, of course, by the US military) ignores Klaatu’s warnings and is in the process of being destroyed, but he decides to save them anyway. Wha…?
Anyway, for Fridate Horror we watched Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula—a much delayed follow up to us watching the Hammer version several months ago. It’s a vibrant and dynamic retelling that takes delight in throwing all sorts of classic cinema trickery at the screen. However, I can never decide if it’s a good film or not. On the one hand you have the extreme hamming of Gary Oldman and Anthony Hopkins, but then you have the starched woodiness of Keanu Reeves and Winona Ryder (neither of whom are truly terrible, but neither are playing to their strengths here). Part of the film wants to be a fun romp, but part of it wants to be an epic love story. Despite this, I came away with the same impression that I did the first time I saw the movie: the love story, the one major (possibly sacrilegious) element that was added to the story, was one of the most successful parts—it gives the film a much needed emotional backbone, without which it would probably just be two hours of sound and fury signifying nothing.
I started a new book this week, but because I’m the World’s Worst Reader I almost immediately abandoned it. In my defence, I was sick and wasn’t reading much of anything once I got to bed each day: opting, instead, for the far more tempting option of instant sleep.
During my convalescence, I did browse through the comic library on my iPad and decided to revisit Paper Girls. I picked up the first volume after reading an article (“things you might enjoy if you enjoyed Stranger Things”) and loved it. A month or two ago I was able to get the next two volumes cheap and have been looking for an excuse to read it again.
It’s got everything I love about comic books: simple art, but not so stylised that it takes you out of the story; rounded characters that I enjoy spending time with; and a story that I still can’t quite figure out where it’s going.
Let’s see if I make it through more than the first volume this time.