You – yes, YOU – are a tax avoider.
That baddie Tory donor (zomg! spit!1!!1) on your TV screen? The one whose evil tax-avoidance activities have single-handedly torn unicorn toys from the hands of nurses’ babies? YOU do the same thing. Ed Miliband’s avoidance of inheritance tax on his family home? YOU are of the same cloth. You EVIL FIEND.
Every time you buy [cold] food, you avoid tax. Because you take advantage of the loophole in Govt tax legislation which sets food as zero-rated for VAT. Your ISA? Another “loophole”. A shocking, underhand loophole which you exploit (like the monster you so clearly are) to avoid – yes, AVOID – paying income tax on the returns that you’ve chiselled on your personal wealth. And the duty-free gin you bought Granny on the way back from the USA? She’ll be getting a knock, soon. Midnight. Blanket over the head, into the back of the Black Maria. The tax avoidance mob are FEWMIN’.
But how? How, you blub, bedazzled under the high noon glare as you’re papped again outside Asda – how can this be?
I’m only following the rules, you venture. I did what I was allowed. It wasn’t “aggressive”. I looked at my personal circumstances, and at the public statutes, and I charted a course in my own favour. The Govt even offered it to me – it’s an incentive, they said, to use a pension scheme, because saving is GOOD. (weep, choke, gnash etc.).
But the other guy, you say, as you point wide-eyed at the front pages of the newspapers. His circumstances are different to mine. He looks like he’s got more money, too, so whatever calculation he may be doing must be somehow dishonest, and he can certainly afford to pay MOAR. And I DEFINITELY don’t like the sound of “schemes” and “deeds” and anything involving a lawyer – because tax law just enforces itself, right? There’s no need for professionals to measure and advise on the tax rules, because only the ones I personally understand (because I saw an ad on daytime telly) can be in any way valid.
So, you say, what must I do? How do I expunge this mortal stain on my own small private world? CLEARLY I’m the good guy here, yet it’s IMPOSSIBLE for me not to avoid tax in some way.
Really, you only have two choices. Firstly, you must compute, exhaustively, every single tax wheeze you’ve taken advantage of over all these years (you criminal bastard, yadda yadda), and then you must voluntarily grant the balance to the Govt. Ideally in public – local newspapers can help with this #TopTaxTip – so as to add to the SHAME of those others yet to do the same. You better bend right over, though, because paying the Govt e.g. the extra 20% on all food you’ve ever bought, is going to sting. Soz.
Secondly, you need to demand – nay, raise a veritable ARMY of outrage – that the Govt begins to arrest everyone doing 30mph in a 30 limit. It’s only fair, right? Because since you don’t understand the actual boundary of the rules, and since anyone who even inadvertently takes advantage of them (like you) is a flower-raping Satan hugger, then the only way to be SURE everything’s all lefty-pukka is to shame Granny – your poor, gin-addled Granny, in her dark police cell – into following some other, imaginary set of rules whereby everyone slows down to 15mph in the 30 limit.
And these imaginary rules – these “right” rules on tax that are “fair” simply because you personally think you understand them and also it looks like the evil Tory guy is sweating a bit – these imaginary rules ultimately will be enforced not by law, the Govt, but by you. YOU, personally, will decide what’s “fair”. Mainly, of course, this means that what YOU do is fine, but it’s the OTHER guy who’s going to be picking up the soap with his back to the wall.
Look. We all want out of the EU, right? Let’s just take that as read. Here are some thoughts on what that actually means.
On an EU exit referendum
I don’t know why this itself is such a point of fixation. Not only do you have to get one; you have to win it, and then see the result honoured. (Personally I think that if one were called today, Dave would “win” i.e. he would coerce a vote to remain in the EU. People are scareable idiots, and it’s easy to keep producing cash-based scare stories to trump the other scare stories about all the sketchy fellows living next door. Your wallet is nearer your heart than is your neighbour’s driveway).
And honouring the result, seeing an actual British exit in all due effect, is so completely impermissible by the EU that it simply can’t be allowed to happen. They have all sorts of options: such as the ol’ divide-and-conquer to characterise those who voted “exit” as violent fanatics; and also simply prevarication, when X Y and Z blocking practicalities are declared critical as points of international law, so inconveniently unchangable by the EU, isn’t that such an awful shame, etc. etc., “we will have to delay or even, *gasp*, re-vote!”.
So in practice, you’re only getting out of the EU in one or other of three ways:
1) If it implodes, and leaves you.
2) If you rise up against it with violence.
3) If you physically leave, by emigrating. (Note – exit visas ..)
On UKIP, the Tories, and Labour
Labour will win the next election – to some degree caused by UKIP taking seats off the Tories. This will obviously fuck up the UK economy, gaaaah, oh noes.
Well, it will fuck up the economy. Your wealth will be stolen and wasted; your private condition of citizenship will be diluted; the State will swell. Personally, however, I think that this is an unfortunate necessity, by which I just mean I think it’s unavoidable. Tories declaring the consequences of a split in their vote are correct, of course – but they fail to understand that merely being correct isn’t enough. UKIPpers want to split the Tory vote, and they want to piss the Tories off, and they think they can harrumph their way through 4 or 5 years of grotesque tax-and-spend. Ultimately this just ends up in a piss-fight as to who’s splitting whose vote, which is trivial for Labour to exploit. (By the way I do think UKIP will take some votes from Labour, but nowhere near as many as from the Tories).
So Labour will win. But because of the inevitable rank incompetence, all the more publicly visible in these days of @Odd_Miliband etc., their win won’t last long, and hopefully they’ll be utterly destroyed. After that, and after the pro/anti-EU split in the Tories, there’s some chance of a phoenix-like arising from the ashes of the political mainstream, with some sort of clear and consolidated anti-EU lead. In the meantime, frankly, you’re just going to have to stick it. Private, portable wealth etc.; if it can’t be seen it can’t be stolen.
On immigration & welfare
If you think immigration should be banned because migrant labour lowers the wages of the incumbent natives, then you’re basically demanding that I pay for someone else’s grossly uncompetitive lifestyle expectations. That’s just dumb protectionism, and welfarism; the EU writ small, in fact. Some other guy’s willingness to work for less than you isn’t the problem; your own wage expectation is the problem. Up-skill, lower your lifestyle expectations, or ship out. If you demand I pay you via State subsidies and taxation to make up the difference, then we have a major problem.
If you think immigration itself should be banned because the fellow next door is a funny colour, then you’re an idiot. He must live under the same laws, rules and customs as you. If he doesn’t, and especially if he digresses in a manner that affects others in a significant way, he must be brought to book. Do not, though, conflate the crimes of an individual, or even those associated with a whole ethnic group, against and to trump the idea of free movement of labour. You have laws; use them, and fight them being hamstrung by stupid PC fascism.
Anyway – immigration itself is critical, because it is the profound freedom of markets and the free movement of labour. Equally critical though is to stop your private wealth being used as a honey-pot for political ends. Open all borders, but kill all welfare also – see how quickly then does the situation stabilise with prosperity following for the citizens.
Freedom of speech has an interesting history in law – largely based on various Governments’ attempts to avoid getting lynched whilst simultaneously preventing as much sedition as they can possibly get away with. A good place to start is Blackstone’s “Commentaries on the Laws of England”:
The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity.
.. where we see the principle of freedom of speech being that of no prior restraint – no limitations on what may be said prior to it actually being said – and afterwards, take what consequences may come. Or, to deliberately misinterpret an unrelated quote, “publish and be damned”. [What?? It’s free speech. Fuck you, pedants. Ed.]
The history in Western law can be followed from British Common Law through to the development of the US Constitution i.e. the Bill of Rights. Common Law allowed prosecution for sedition itself, irrespective of inconveniences such as truth or public interest; the Americans took exception to this and developed the First Amendment (… although not without some spectacular attempts by Congress to subvert their own laws just passed; there’s a good summary here).
What the Americans actually developed from the British starting point was not only protection in law of speech from prior restraint, beyond that of speech against the Government, but also the principle that “.. speech was not deemed worthy of protection because self-expression was considered necessary for personal self-fulfillment; it was deemed worthy of protection because it served a necessary civic function”. It’s of fundamental importance that things should be said freely simply on the virtue of them being said freely. Throughout all this, though, remains the principle from Blackstone that one shall accept the consequences of one’s actions.
So free speech means (1) the right to speak against your Government; and anyway (2) the right to say as you wish without prior restraint, combined with the responsibility to accept the consequences. So far so good. So where’s the beef?
Leaving aside for now formal sedition itself; subversion of Government; as that game, the struggle of State against the individual, is age-old; then the modern problem appears to be what, and who, defines these “consequences” of saying what you wish.
Consequences are, and always have been, defined in law. If you act illegally you’re liable for it, with a variety of consequences depending on what you did. Don’t like it? Tough shit. Either change country, change the law, or change your behaviour.
Consequences are also defined in practical terms. If you cuss out the fat slapper barmaid in a biker pub “because she smells like the packets of scampi fries in the dog’s bed” then you’re liable to get a pool cue upside the head. Is that a bad thing? Well, that’s up to you, really – it usually depends on the level of lolz gained.
Consequences are not, though, defined by anyone’s personal views. By words like “unacceptable”, “offensive”, “upsetting”. These are all words which just suggest some individual has chosen to take personal dislike to something said, and appears to think something should be done about it. Because offence.
What used to happen, pre-Interweb, was that said offendomatic person would write a tight-lipped letter to the local Parish magazine, and Mrs Miggins down the road would tut a bit, but nothing really happened and noone gave a fuck. Now, however, there appears to be a new problem – the problem of collective offence. The idea that because (e.g.) your group of Twitter followers happen to find something offensive or unacceptable etc. then some magic power is accrued granting the right to prevent the thing from being said. “It’s not acceptable; I find it grossly offensive; and everyone I know thinks the same way, so you have to stop doing it.”
Why does this matter? Well there are at least some hollowly-amusing ironies; such as “anti-Fascists” trying to coerce State force to prevent free expression, and also those who have been the victim of actual online abuse then choosing to preemptively bully anyone they see as a threat or dissent. (I know the last one is a bit of a non-sequitur, but I’ll leave the details of all that for some other conversation).
The main point, though, goes back to the original concept of free speech. Free speech isn’t about some offendotron going off on one on Twitter; there is no real power there, just amusement and the Hamster Wheel Of Rage. Governments, though, do have power; and are increasingly discomfited by exposure of their ill-use of it.
But every time you cry “Offence!”, or “That’s unacceptable and something MUST be done!”, you weaken the power of us the citizens against that which we actually should fear – the State. When you demand that your own personal views on speech be enforced, beyond the existing legal framework, you demand that those who would actually oppress you be granted greater power. And furthermore, you imply that you yourself, unaccountable as you are, should have some private arbitrary magic power over others. And you also assume some moral rightness, some absolute right to detemine what is civil and what is not – and that’s merely childish.
You have the right to be offended, but you don’t have the right to stop me being offensive, and you don’t have the right to make anyone do anything about it. Your expectations simply aren’t relevant in the world of free speech, as you have no authority no matter how much of a Twitter storm you might muster. It’s we, the individuals, ultimately against the Government and anyway simply acting under the laws of the land – and the rest of you can fuck right off. All 7Bn of you.
The recent MtGox hilarity has kicked off all sorts of commentary about the concept of wealth and credibility. Whose pogs are more valuable; the Govt’s, or a cryptographer’s? The Govt will let you use theirs for “legal tender”, yet the zealots declare this not to matter – who’s correct? And how will you know?
Anyway, for me, the argument goes as follows.
Bitcoin is a method for secure anonymous trading and payments. It isn’t a store of wealth, except just insofar as anything is a store of wealth if you can convince someone of its non-transitory value – e.g. piglets, magic beans, or some random drawing on a sheet of A4, or a piece of paper – a dollar. So you wouldn’t “invest” in Bitcoin in the same sense that you wouldn’t “invest” in PayPal.
However, it is also, currently, rather valuable. I’m using “valuable” here in the deliberately naive sense that if you Google “bitcoin value” you will see numbers like, say, $500/BTC, rather than ones like $0.0003. Why is this significant? Well, look at it from Grandma’s point of view. Grandma likes the idea of secure anonymous transactions in an “oooh, that sounds nice, dear” sort of sense, but she doesn’t actually understand what it means. She doesn’t understand, for example, that the PayPal window she sees with numbers in is not the same as the Bitcoin-Qt client window that also has “transactions” and stuff. Nonetheless, because she senses something is different and she’s not an idiot, Grandma Googles “bitcoin value” to try and understand what her new numbers mean; and she thus, inadvertently, makes the error of confusing a transaction method with the nominal and temporary value of its particular tokens. (As an aside, the sub-error here is confusing the concept of cryptocurrencies themselves as a trading mechanism with the particular random value of just one or other of their member’s tokens).
Compounding this error, though, and making it into a problem for Bitcoin itself, is the (say) $500/BTC number that Grandma is going to see. This, looks significant to her. It’s not pennies; and furthermore, a link or two down the Google page are stories from (say) the New York Times like “Wild variations in Bitcoin again due to arrest of exchange proprietor”. This, and the $500 number, make Grandma think “feck! me Christmas will be ruined!” (she’s Irish). So Grandma holds off; she doesn’t understand what the gains might be, she’s nervous because of the numbers that appear to be involved, so she just holds off. She’s not right, obviously, but she’s also not unreasonable; she’s simply ignorant. But, critically, at this stage in the whole cryptocurrency concept, ignorant or otherwise she – the people, as it were – holds the power and the wealth. Wild speculations in the Bitcoin value are a problem not despite the nominal high $ involved but because of it. If something is pumped to an obviously absurd and arbitrary price it’s simply a credibility problem.
Because the problem for Bitcoin, especially its zealots, is that it’s not enough merely to be technically correct. Technical correctness will not entice Grandma to pass actual wealth through a new system. I follow a number of people on Twitter whose view on all this is simply “well it doesn’t matter if Gox went tits-up because the technology is sound!”. And whilst being an entirely correct view, technically, it’s simply not relevant. The real world doesn’t work on SHA-256; the real world depends on people who don’t understand things, who have worked hard for their wealth, and believe, rightly or wrongly, that the Govt is more likely to honour its paper than a Latvian script kiddie is to honour a trading contract on some strings of numbers. Even if “the technology” is indeed adequate to keep security against the kids.
I’ve also had various conversations with people on mining pools whose objective, it appears, is simply to see numbers increment on a screen. The argument is essentially “My numbers [$ per guffcoin or something] are going up! w00t! If the coins can’t be transferred easily into goods or services then it doesn’t matter at all because TECHNOLOGY!!”. I believe, and it took me a while to grasp, that the cryptocurrency community in general genuinely doesn’t understand the difference between nominal $/coin values on an online exchange and actual $ (wealth) in your pocket. There’s a good ongoing story http://buttcoin.org/easy here from Buttcoin; see also my last blog post about the ridiculous un-anonymity required to get your trading cards anywhere near any actual wealth. And this leads into the obvious piss-fight about unregulatable Bitcoin only becoming truly interoperable with the world of actual wealth via regulation. Until Bitcoin rules the world. Which it can’t until it means wealth in its own right. Which it can’t until it rules the world.
So the actual value of Bitcoin will depend on either (a) it becoming a genuine form of transaction up to and including the point of actual wealth in your pocket, not merely numbers on a screen on an online exchange, or (b) it becoming intrinsically valuable in the sense that gold is intrinsically valuable, i.e. a store of wealth in its own right. These are linked to a degree; but in any case, they’re the only things that matter. All else is merely speculation and hubris.
So. We all know about Bitcoin, right? The new magic currency-beans that enable you to make seamless and anonymous transactions across borders, integrating smoothly with real-world commerce. And which has an exchange value of about $1000/BTC*, being entirely accurately & rationally matched across all different exchanges to the same rate without wild +/-25% variations for arbitrage. *Actual dollar value can, and will, randomly vary +/-50%
Anyway, let’s assume that Johnny Fiat-Currency wants in to this brave new world, and wants to buy some BTC. To, say, make an anonymised payment to a VPN provider. Because that’s what BTC should be for, right? Let’s also assume Johnny is a UK resident, doesn’t know about mining, doesn’t know what SHA-256 is, doesn’t really want to randomly lose £50, and has been well taught by teh kidz that you don’t post personal info on-line.
Basically, Johnny’s my Grandma (what? fuck the system, man) – because BTC needs to be accessible to these people, else the current “exchange values” really are just so much obscurantist hubris.
So Johnny goes to Google, and she finds the (current) most obvious way to try and buy some of these BTC with actual money in the UK. And she decides it’s this site. It kinda looks legit, because “SSL-secured” logo JPGs aren’t especially easy to just arbitrarily paste into a dumb HTML2 site, and anyway Johnny’s girl-pals down the old folks’ home tea-room just nod and say “oooh, that’s nice” when asked for an opinion.
After a bit, our heroine twigs that she’s going to have to make some sort of account on this site. Else these BTC sellers, who appear to exist, won’t be able to build up any trust. “Fine”, she says. “Anonymous web accounts are just standard practice. Obviously I’m not going to have a high trust rating first-off because I’m a n00b, but how else can I get started”.
And on we trundle.
– “I wonder what sort of payment mechanisms I can use to actually submit my hard-earned pension”
Well, Johnny, you’re kinda limited. Credit cards are an outright no-no, apparently; PayPal too; there are a few Russian “e-currency” methods; or, a regular UK bank transfer.
– “Ooooh, bank transfer. That’s probably safe, right? I mean, I’m just putting pounds into this thing, to give to these sellers, rather than giving them permission to take money out *sips tea, has a bit of a nap*”
Not quite. The seller has to receive your bank transfer into a regular account of their own. (Remember – banks are evil). And banks really don’t like fraud. And because most things with the word “Bitcoin” in might be fraud, then the act of labelling your bank transfer with “BTC” or the word “BITCOIN” or anything else will, apparently, “get the seller’s bank account closed” [sic.]. And this, then, just labelling your money transfer with a rational and correct label for your (and your bank’s) records, is an insta-ban crime which will get your ID permanently kicked off the site.
– “…. oh. And, um, wait, what? You said ‘ID’. This is all anonymous, right?”
No. No, it isn’t. Because, once you expose the imagino-value of BTC to actual currency, then all sorts of sketchy characters pop up. And this trading site, this BTC-point-man of the UK at the vanguard of free anonymous global finance, requires an awful lot of ID:
- Photo ID
- Photograph of additional ID with address verification
- Photograph of you, personally, physically holding up your photo ID
- .. with your elbows showing, else no-go-potato
.. see the image below. Basically, about as much ID as, and possibly more than, is required to get, say, a valid passport – or a bank account. And bank accounts don’t go +/-50% value in a day. (Except in the EU, but that’s another story, and Grandma’s fallen asleep again.)
So we all know about the recent Twitter authorogimptardery issues. You Will Conform Or Else You Will Be Randomly Banned – and the screeching, and the blocking, and so on. I won’t go into all that here, you can just read this.
Anyway, I for one had enough of all that guff, and wandered off Twitter onto to app.net. Others did too. As I see it, App.net is basically the same as Twitter, but without having (yet) encountered all the problems of Twitter :
- You follow / are followed, you post stuff, there are DMs, hashtags, news feeds, cat videos and so on.
- There is no automated “Report Abuse”; there is no “auto-suspend”; there is mute, and block, and a human support team. That’s it.
- There is no central interface or “product” as with Twitter. The idea is, the API is deliberately open; devs are encouraged to write apps for it, rather than in Twitter where they’re actively crippled (e.g. by the barely-operable API refresh rate).
- So there’s a default web page interface, but you’ll want to play with some apps also. There are loads; I won’t list here, there’s a big section on the app.net front page (top-right when you’re logged in). I use the web interface in Windows, because I’m odd like that, and “Dash” in Android. “Robin” is good also, but a bit crashy.
- If you want to follow more than 40 people, you (currently) have to pay $36/year. I paid; personally I think that a paying customer is an entirely different proposition from blue-tick-following Twitter cattle supporting ad revenue. And the response/tone of app.net to their customers would seem to support that view. Remember to use an anonymous credit card though (that’s another story…).
- There are some neat additional functions like “DM rooms” that can have more than 2 people.
- You can’t ‘protect your account’.
- Posts can be 256 characters. Soon, for the equivalent of DMs, it will be 2048 char.
- You can, astonishingly, contribute collaboratively to the actual site terms and conditions. Obviously you can’t just edit them, but it appears to be an entirely rational peer-and-lawyer-reviewed process.
- etc. Try it, for free.
So there we are. I’m there now, and separately Twitter continues to screech itself into the ground.
But that’s a shame, innit. I kept a dummy Twitter a/c open to read news feeds not (yet) on app.net; and there’s no reason, I guess, not to want to spout my foul reprehensible bile onto Twitter also until I get perma-banned *tin-foil hat face*. I just don’t want the screeching there in my face; I want a separate and calm independent uncensored forum to look at. Like Twitter used to be.
Consequently, I figured out how to post from app.net to Twitter in some sort of automated fashion. (BTW you can’t do that backwards; you used to be able to, but Twitter explicitly killed that. I do this by hand.)
Here’s how. This is not the only way, I expect, but it appears to work.
1) Use IFTTT. “If This Then That”. This is a free cross-platform message-post function; which essentially just joins up an “If This” being something like “If I Post On App.Net”, to a “Then That” e.g. “Copy The Post That I Made Onto Twitter Also”. It does all sorts of other crap too that I myself don’t care about, e.g. Facebook and LinkedIn.
It really is that simple; you click a big button with the word “If” on it and then the big “App.net” button, etc.. And there are lots of example “recipes”.
This, then, can do things like IF I make an app.net post with hashtag #ifttt THEN post it on my Twitter but without the #ifttt tag.
However – there are some limitations.
i) The syntax of cross-posts is a bit limited. You can’t do “@”s, e.g. replies or user IDs; that character just gets stripped out, and so the Twitter post in that case is a bit odd.
ii) If your app.net post is more that 140 char, which it may well be, it just gets truncated.
iii) Unless you crank the handle manually, the cross-posts are flushed every 15 minutes (so it’s a bit hard to hold a one-on-one conversation).
All of these, I assume, are due to IFTTT having some formal agreement with Twitter whereby Twitter don’t randomly dick up the posting (see below…) in exchange for IFTTT derogating some of the obvious post functionality.
2) Use http://twapp.phuu.net/. This is an “app” in the basic app.net sense; and it is one whose function simply posts onto Twitter. You have to select things like do you cross-post replies, what to do with 140+ posts, and so on, but the options are quite simple.
It’s a one-off $5 payment; then you get taken through a simple series of one or two pages to link up your Twitter and to select your choices.
There are a number of plus points to the nominal service this provides, compared to IFTTT.
i) The cross-posting, is straightaway.
ii) There are no syntax limitations (e.g. @ replies).
iii) Long posts are handled.
However – the reliability is a bit hit-and-miss. About 1/3 of posts just randomly don’t cross over. This is somewhat improved if you don’t post “often” – exact statistics tbd. My guess is that this is due to Twitter deliberately hobbling 3rd-party functions like this; Twapp is just a random 3rd-party flinging randon guff at Twitter, whereas I estimate that IFTTT isn’t.
So what do I actually do? I use both of these concurrently. Because the combination of both, works nicely. So far. Subject to any better apps turning up. (BTW there was a really nice one called Ost https://www.useost.com that would display app.net and Twitter at the same time in a browser, but it’s not maintained any more and the core posting function is borked.)
I have set them up; they simply exist, silently, doing their thang.
- I have an IFTTT function like this. .
Basically, IF app.net post with “#i” in it THEN put it on Twitter. I use this for most cross-posting; and if I can be arsed I refresh it live, but mostly I can’t be arsed so the posts just go off en-masse every 10-15 min or so. I also remember not to use this for posts with “@” and/or ones that are especially long.
- I also have a Twapp going like this.
Any post with “#tw” in it (note, different tag from the IFTTT one), goes straight to Twitter; long, and/or @’d, or otherwise. I don’t use this so often, because this appears to help the random-fail-rate, but I do use it for certain cross-posts that require the particular syntax to be complete.
I sit in app.net because it doesn’t drive me mental; I post across quite often to Twitter; sometimes I look in to Twitter to read some news feeds.
You can see what happens in practice by comparing my Twitter feed – all of these posts are from this cross-post method – and by getting into my feed on app.net (actually it’s an RSS of my feed, you need to register (for free) to see it in the regular app.net interface).
.. that’s it.
Try it, see what you think. Any better ideas, let me (or the hive-mind in general) know.
UPDATE (thanks @TabithaBrowne) : Key thing is automated. From any client, feed, OS etc., seamlessly. You can, in some iPhone app.net clients (presumably other iOS ones also), post/RT manually from app.net into Twitter. Don’t know about any limitations on syntax, or reliability. TweetLanes in Android permits app.net and Twitter accounts at the same time.
So we all know about last week’s thrashing around of Liverpool vs. Old Holborn. I won’t repeat the whole history, there’s a decent summary here by the Fat Councillor.
For me, the argument goes like this.
Say what you want, to anyone, at any time. Want to walk up to the mad bloke in the pub and declare that his wife sucked worse last night than his dog? Fine. You have the absolute right to do this.
You also have the absolute responsibility to account for your own actions. If you go out of your way to behave like an absolute cunt, then sooner or later someone will, as Father Woland put it, take you out with a snooker ball in a sock. Or alternatively, if you go around wanking out bees, then you best be ready for cock stings.
Anyway, though, this particular initial point is rather obvious. If we can’t agree that there is a simple balance of absolute right and absolute responsibility, then you may as well stop reading now; the point is basic enough that it simply takes us round in circles. (“I don’t like what he said”/ “Well he’s taking responsibility for it”/ “Yes but I still don’t like it”/ “etc.”)
The real point is this. Who, ultimately, enforces the responsibility.
Old Holborn evidently goes out of his way to be a complete cunt in a variety of fashions. This, itself, is not against the law. Critically though, he does not force anyone to listen. Blogs may be left unread, Twitter has unfollow, and it also has blocks. If you choose not to listen, you would not know of his existence. Be offended if you wish, knock yourself out, but don’t expect anyone to care that you are – I’ll come to the legal boundaries in a bit. (In general though, if you would have someone, presumably the State on your behalf, prevent outright some speech simply because you personally happen to find it completely beyond the pale, then you need to take a long hard look at yourself.)
His attackers, though, apparently behaved differently. Having taken offence (as is their right), it seems they additionally chose to :
- take responsibility to act themselves;
- act with actual physical threats and violence (see Fat Councillor’s blog in the rubric above);
- take those threats to a variety of random bystanders (family, workplace, and so on);
Or put another way, those who took offence would choose, by apparent threat of violence, to force others to hold to their individual view. This is the key difference between what Old Holborn did and what appears to have been done at him.
The evidence for all this is well in the public domain; I won’t repeat here, to avoid queering the pitch for ongoing legal actions. (I qualify with “apparently” simply because it’s all sub-judice &c.). I will, though, highlight the rank idiocy of some of those involved via a minor threat I myself received, as a bystander – where the threat helpfully CC’d Essex Police into the same tweet. *insert slow hand-clap here*
(As an aside, there’s the case of Sir Olly C. Here, the end-game was (simply speaking) that the law, not the populace or Olly, decided that “cunt” was not grossly offensive. Whether or not there should be any laws at all determining anything “grossly offensive”, is a separate question. And BTW, the question of offence itself is not the same as that of, say, racial abuse or incitement to hatred.)
So the real problem here, is not any offence itself. Instead, the problem is a presumption of an absolute right not to be offended, and also that of impugnity of vigilante action in response to any perceived offence. The real position is, simply, the absolute right to speak vs the absolute responsibility to account for it under the law.
Free speech is, and must be, an absolute. Chew out the scouse? Fine, expect them to throw darts at you. Send a death threat dart? Fine also, but expect to get nicked for it. And the latter is simply and quantifiably a more serious matter in the eyes of the law.