Thursday, August 11, 2011

UK Prime Minister Cameron proposes banning Twitter and Facebook

"This is not about poverty, this is about culture." UK Prime Minister David Cameron speech to Parliament, August 11, 2011.

The connection between uprisings in the UK this week and those across North Africa and the Middle East is social media. As I have noted in earlier blogs, emancipation now seems so close for so many - members of the Tea Party and kids on the street, tribalists in the African desert, and religious fundamentalists everywhere. Social media makes it seem like everything is possible.

David Cameron's suggestion that users of social media who organize riots will be banned, is a major development. His phrase was, "if they are thought to be planning criminal activity" (italics added). What people are thinking when they use social media is another thing altogether.

This will get interesting, especially given that Cameron seemed to detest the idea of "rights" in favor of responsibility. This is the old trope, is it not?

There's nothing quite as perverse as a middle aged white male politician telling people to take responsibility for themselves... in response to riots. Pull yourself together man!

Cameron and UK conservatives, including the Labor Party it seems, have some way to go before they get a full handle on how to manage the relationship between social media and emancipation. Actually, everybody has a long way to go!

Threats to stop Facebook and Twitter use pushes a wedge between digital natives and those making the threats to ban them.

When the question is asked, as I have seen it asked, when will the UK riots happen in the US? The answer is that they are unlikely because of two "solutions:"

1. massive surveillance of networks at every level, amounting to the domestication of Cyber War against the US citizenry;
2. the massive incarceration of young people, the unemployed and the abject. The US has the highest per capita prison population in the world.

As a conservative, Cameron can pursue similar "solutions" in the UK. That is what his suggestions of banning Facebook and Twitter and social media suggests, together with the threatening tone of his speech. A regime of total surveillance will become commonplace in the UK, and following US models, private prisons may well spring up like mushrooms.

By the way, his statement that "This is not about poverty it is about culture,"  is a statement worthy of Cultural Studies. Can someone please tweet him and tel him that poverty is culture... or is that irresponsible?