16 August 2011

Attacking causes which are neither necessary nor sufficient

Reason: Hit & Run | Jesse Walker | There's a Hashtag Goin' On

When social disorder rears its head, the political class usually offers two responses: more policing and more welfare. (These tend to be presented as radically opposed social visions, though you can easily read "more policing" as "the sort of welfare administered by a prison" and "more welfare" as "the sort of policing performed by a social worker.") In his statement to the House of Commons on the riots that have swept his country, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed a policy from the police-state side of the spectrum:
[...] Free flow of information can be used for good. But it can also be used for ill.

And when people are using social media for violence we need to stop them. [...]
And how exactly would the authorities "stop" the people they "know" are using social media "for ill" without restricting or surveilling the users acting "for good"? Answer: They can't. This would be an attack on the speech and privacy of everyone in the United Kingdom, not just the people who burn buildings and rob shops. [...]

If social media made it easier to riot, they also made it easier to survive the riots, and they did so at a time when the institutions that were supposed to ensure survival were in disarray. It's no surprise that people like Cameron would respond to the failure of centralized authority by calling for yet more centralization of authority.
Cameron's proposal is beyond asinine. Just once I want some high politician to say "Yes, this new thing makes the police's job more difficult. And they're just going to have to deal with that and do a good job anyway."

I could get all ranty about how stupid this proposal is, but Tam has that covered:
View from the Porch | Tam | It's a poor craftsman that blames the tools.

Looking at limits on Twitter and Facebook? That's your answer? Buddy, I hate to break it to you, but they almost burned Los Angeles down in the '90s back when cell phones were the size of bricks and didn't even have custom ring-tones, let alone 3G internet connections. Hell, the Watts Riots of the '60s happened half a decade before you could play Space War over ARPANET, let alone Farmville on FaceBook.

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