The Slippery Slope of Mind Control

September 12, 2016

For most of our history, control by the ruling elites was hardly subtle: state-sponsored or privately financed violence was always a threat, in the background or foreground depending on the context. That still exists, of course, as both the North Korean gulags and the hundreds of unarmed dead black men in the US can attest.  However, with the rise of truly global and essentially immediate networks, modern methods of control have developed a number of more insinuating forms. As recent examples, we have been witness to three separate and dangerous acts of control by Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube within the last week or so.

  • Over the last week or so, media has been full of Facebook’s decision to censor the famous Vietnam photograph that includes, inter alia, a naked and terrified young girl running along the road. There was no way to distinguish, they said, between this naked child and images of child pornography. This follows earlier decisions to ban breastfeeding images and Facebook censorship of great works of art.
  • On September 12th, Wired printed a story about how Instagram had begun “a wonderfully simple ways of dealing with the harassment” that plagues many social media sites. Their solution?  Instagram has developed a list of “abusive words to block comments by default.”  The Wired writer wonders why other networks, Twitter in particular, can’t just copy Instragram’s “wonderfully simple” solution.
  • On the same day it was reported that YouTube has decided to demonetize videos it deems inappropriate and not “advertiser friendly”.  In other words, video creators will not be able to earn money for their work unless YouTube decides they are suitable.

Sounds reasonable, you might say. There is no argument (from me at least) that abusive behaviour happens on social networks, that pornography is both damaging and ubiquitous, and that genuinely dangerous people can use these networks for their own evil.  So why are these three actions so problematic?

In each of these cases, it is the company that decides what is “suitable” and “acceptable”. They are limiting your options and those of everyone else who wants to make their own decisions about what they will or won’t see. This is censorship of the most patronising and elitist kind. The moguls know best and will protect the little people from their own “weaknesses”. And if you don’t agree, they will use their power like terrorists to eliminate you.

The problem of abuse needs to be dealt with in a way that does not diminish all the rest of us. I don’t have the answer, but I do know these new intrusions are not it.

Night Music: You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice

September 12, 2016

Poem: Call In the Middle of the Night

September 12, 2016



“You what?”

“You what?”

my voice echoed down the line

like a bedlamite

bouncing off

cushioned walls.



the silence,

the quiet electronic crackles,

hung in the dark night

as if my question had gone,

disappeared down a deep and endless well.


Minutes passed, maybe hours.


In the end, I whispered “I love you”

and put down the receiver

as the bitter sting of nausea overwhelmed my throat.


Saving Britannia — Next Step

September 12, 2016

For those of you who have been following the campaign to make sure that Britannia Secondary School is not closed during this latest phase of BC Liberal nihilism (see here and here), the next step (if you have already written letters of protest) is the Vancouver School Board meeting this week.

At 5:00pm on Thursday, the VSB will meet in the large gym at Tupper Secondary, 419 E. 24th.

The only item on the agenda is a report on “Schools Considered for Potential Closure” and they are obviously expecting quite a crowd. However, I wonder why they start the meeting when most working parents will not be available?

The final decision will be announced on 26th September.