I blame teh skoolz

On the Radio 1 news today there was a snippet (I am not going to look it up but it will be on the BBC website) about some truly stupid youngsters. Apparently, Police in Scotland have become the first in the UK to target people who admit to crimes on social networking sites such as Bebo and Facebook. (*)

Now, for me, I think this is a good idea. If people (mostly “yoofs” according to the news) are stupid enough to commit a crime and then boast about it online they need to be taken out of the gene pool urgently. One of the young lads interviewed had apparently put up pictures of himself in a balaclava carrying a knife. Why he went to these lengths to remain anonymous, then outed himself online is beyond me.

The most frustrating part, and a good example of how taking away the “classical” education has failed children was a young retard complaining about the police scouring social networking sites to find offenders. He actually had the gall to say it was an invasion of his privacy for the police to look over his Bebo page to find out what crimes he has committed. Flabbergasting.

For me, it weakens the real destruction of our privacy when people think things like this are an invasion of privacy. It is like putting a full page advert in a newspaper and then complaining that people reading it are invading your privacy. Idiocy reigns.

* Oddly I cant find this on the real BBC news so I may have dreamed it – but I hope not as I was driving at the time…

Media induced fear

Sometimes I have to (albeit briefly) question the value of having a free press. It seems that the freedoms enjoyed by the press are far from beneficial for the public good. (However, I am aware of the alternatives so I suppose we have to live with it.)

Today, one of the headlines on the radio news was about impending strike action which may close down a fairly crucial power plant. Basically, workers at the Grangemouth refinery are planning a 2-day strike, the closure of the refinery has the knock on effect of cutting power to one of the main Scottish pipelines reducing the flow of oil into the UK by about 1/3. Yes. That is it. Flow will be reduced by 1/3 for two days.

There have been loads of statements from the Scottish executive and various government bodies explaining that there is at least 10 days worth of stock (10 days of no oil coming in) and as long as nobody panics, everything will be fine.

Did you spot the important bit. As long as nobody panics. Sadly, not panicking does not make good news.

Cut to the afternoon news bulletin on the radio. First off, this is not presented in a calm, matter of fact manner. It is read out by an excitable and breathless woman with a lot of emphasis on how prices are going to rise and people may face shortages (less emphasis on the may, than the shortages). One of the radio stations had people call in to “share their experiences of panic on the forecourts.” Nothing like a bit of pre-empting there…

Anyway, there were four callers talking about how it had “gone crazy” today and people were buying fuel much more than normal. Weirdly, one of the callers claimed to be at the same petrol station (gas station for colonials) as I was at, getting fuel for my car. The caller claimed the place was full and had been all day. I sat and listened to her, while I looked around and was the only car there. Hmm.

As I drive about a lot in my job, I have passed a lot of petrol stations today and for most of the day none have been busy. Cut to about 1900hrs onwards and things changed. Lots of people getting lots of fuel. Now the radio stations are exuberantly talking about how the “stay calm” advice has been ignored and “everyone is panic buying fuel” and how “stocks cant be expected to last long at this rate.”

Call me a cynic, but from my take on today the whole un-necessary panic (if it actually exists) is something generated by media reporting. Like all herd problems, once a few people start to run every one else does. In this case, when a few people start to “panic buy” fuel, everyone has to join in and it becomes a bit of an arms race because now stocks will really begin to struggle (especially on a local level). The oil companies must love this – the strikers are actually doing the wrong thing! – because now, as you would imagine crude oil prices are going up even more. The news stations love this because it gives them all the things they like to report on and it hits home to everyone. However, the general public have been somewhat shepherded into buying loads of fuel as the prices rise.

Is this all the fault of the media – no, not at all. That is most certainly not the point I am seeking to make. However, I do think that public “panics” (not just in this case, about everything from MMR to crime) are largely the result of irresponsible and sensationalist reporting.

The media has a unique power to influence the public to a greater extent than any other facet of our society. Is it using this power responsibly?

New Party?

Surprisingly-wealthy parent and school governor sues UK government about whether Al Gore’s video can be shown in schools. Partly wins. (Abstract of previous post. Continued here)

This story might sound familiar to you in Kentucky but it must be a first in a British court. The suing “parent” is “school governor Stewart Dimmock, from Dover, a father of two, who is a member of the New Party” (quoting the BBC) I couldn’t cast aside all thought of the cost. Over £200,000, (ca. $400,000 at the current rate of exchange) according to the BBC.

Odd that a man who apparently sends his offspring to a state school can afford to blow the cost of a bloody expensive education on a court case about a video. Hmm.

(Rich English people don’t send their kids to state schools. If they are in a job where it would be politically inadvisable for their kids to attend private school, they send them to a top “faith school.”)

Hmm. “The New Party?” A New one on me, anyway. Sounds Orwellian. (No, stupid. That’s everything, now. ) Who are in this amazingly rich party?

They have a website. With a manifesto and everything. It appears to be a “real” party in Scotland. At least one of its members is a member of the Scottish parliament.

I look at the pictures and biogs of the National and the Scottish committee. They offer two “celeb” supporters: an ex-businessman tv “expert” and a woman who was a golf coach. (There’s a bit of a golf theme in the resumes) Its committee seems to be made up of small businessmen. Their pictures and mini-cvs cover a range of backgrounds. Most have worked and then taken up self-employment. Others own small/medium-firms. There is an Indian businessman. A young mother. A sportswoman. There is a representative from every broad industrial grouping.

How surprisingly unrandom a distribution of backgrounds. It begins to seem so much like a tokenised marketing exercise that I am getting confused.

There are people with interests in haulage, oil and so on. These don’t look like businesses that are going to be overkeen on any action to impede the rate of climate change. But we aren’t talking Exxon here. These are not multinationals. I doubt that many people have heard of them, even in Scotland, let alone in the UK as a whole.

If I was a cartoon character, several light bulbs would be popping into life above my head by now. But then, if I was a sci-fi computer, I’d be the one that was saying “Does not compute” when faced with two confusing instructions.

Because, the bit of my brain that’s saying “Hang on, these are visibly not billionaires. They must have access to the untold wealth of an anti-Al Gore slush fund.” is crashing up against the bit of my brain that’s saying “No. I suspect they have no more money than a few small businessmen could drum up for a risky gamble. They can’t afford to spend loads on adverts and publicity. They could gamble their £200K on a high profile court case. It won’t even count against election expenses. And, in any case, the state had to pay a good part of their costs, following the court ruling.“.)

Well, they’ve got their money’s worth. Some obscure party is now in the political public domain. Their manifesto and policies are such a disturbing mixture of crowd-pleasing, repellent and vacuous that, even with my overly-free linking capacity, I can’t bring myself to put a link.

Is this going to set a precedent for what will happen when any interest group has a problem with something in the media? In which case, I think I’ll become a “school governor” and sue the government for not banning the Daily Mail, say, from being discussed in schools.