Was Douglas Right?

[T]he poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.

Douglas Adams, The Hitch Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

The above passage disturbed me when I first read it back in secondary school. I've never been able to work out if it's true that in the event of all barriers to communication finally dissolving we'd have more or less conflict. I'm starting to think we might be the first generation to find that out, once and for all.

True communication is only possible between equals. To even enter into a correspondance with someone you are, like it or not, either elevating that person or lowering yourself. If the end result of this is that overall our society's consciousness is going to be elevated by this process then I'm all for it. There is however the possibility that ultimately the thick majority will pull us all down.

Back in January there was a TV show called The Persuasionists which aired its first episode on BBC2. It featured a bloke called, Iain Lee, who posted the following updates on his twitter account on the day of broadcast:

12:50 in the afternoon to one of the writers: "I'm scared".
2:58PM to everyone: "The Persuasionists starts tonight at 10 on BBC2. My mums got button 2 so that counts as proper telly"

Then the show was broadcast.

His next update, at 7:14AM, was: "There are only so many times I can be called a cunt on Twitter in one day. just doing my job. With that, I delete twitterific from my phone."

He spent 10 days away from the site.

The story was picked up by the website Chortle under Iain Lee's Twitter abuse. This was how I found his updates and realised there was a tiny chance I'd been part of the torrent of criticism he might have encountered that night/morning.

I'd sat down to watch the show with my laptop and Twitter on the go. I'm a fan of one of the blokes in it, Adam Buxton, so my hopes were high. Sadly I thought the show was very poor and I went online to have a look at what others thought, one poster pointed out that of all the opinions being shared there were only two positive tweets by the time the show finished. Mine ended up being:

11:06PM: "Ooo - bit of a stinker: #persuasionists. A TV show with the (usually) very funny Adam Buxton in it."

However, rather stupidly, it didn't occur to me that anyone connected with the show might look at this huge mass of comments, to which I'd added. I didn't call anyone a rude name but I hadn't helped either. The resulting fall out just made me feel sorry for everyone involved*. The final barrier to communication is slipping away; intent. Like it or not I was part of the avalanch of criticism. Any person involved in that, admittedly rather poor, sitcom will have found my words when they googled themselves.

Schools are currently struggling to deal with nasty comments both intended and otherwise posted by children about each other and even teachers. In November the Government started a campaign to stop 'cyber-bullying' with the help of pop band N-Dubz. The strange case of Costas Dinos Contostavlos, or “Dappy” from the band N-Dubz has been reported elsewhere but the facts are that he took down the phone number of someone who texted a radio show he was on to say that his music was lame and he was a "numpty in a shit hat". This was after the radio presenter** had asked people to review N-Dubz's latest tune (or is it choon?). Despite the message not actually getting any air time the "numpty in a shit hat" wanted his revenge, so he sent abusive comments to the phone, which belonged to a young woman, including the threat "your gonna die". During the phone conversation which followed, “numpty in a shit hat” dished out expletives and more bile to this 22 year old lady.

Once this story hit the news stands Government minister Ed Balls had to retract his previously glowing comments regarding Dappy, who went from him being one of the "great ambassadors" in the fight against bullying to a man whose behaviour was "completely unacceptable". Just to put this in context here's a quote from the days when Dappy was a 'great ambassador': "if we see the bullies you know what we're going to do is bully the bullies back, you get me?".

The above examples make me think Douglas was right and the internet is going to cause us to get more angry with each other than we did previously. On the other hand I wrote a review of a book on this blog recently only to have the author contact me and say thanks. It's not all bad news.

I think perhaps the internet will ultimately act as a sort of giant mirror which humanity will collectively look into and see its own ugly face staring back. Perhaps this will be the first step towards our collective consciousness becoming self aware. Ancient mythological protocols have God looking in the mirror until another self incarnates where once was his reflection. This is preserved in the idea that God makes man in his own image. The conflicts to come will perhaps represent humanity preening itself in the mirror, cutting it's hair and learning to live with some of it's uglier unfixable features.

If that's true then this entry forms part of that process and clicking the "boring" box is your way of wiping a bit of dirt off mankind's metaphorical face of consciousness. Or not.


*Adam Buxton posted an amusing video about the critical fall out: ADAM-BUXTON.

**Can't remember his name, the radio presenter. I know he listens to my show, perhaps he reads this blog. Err, nope, can't remember who he is...


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