As an institution: on injunctions

Last week we at the Realm addressed the issue of the so-called super injunctions pertaining to limitations made upon the media in the UK. I think within a day or two of the post, a Member of Parliament (John Hemming, Liberal Democrat) using a ceremonial priviledge of breaking the law without retribution had named offending individual, which meant by some legal digression (I’m not the law expert in the family), the media were allowed to mention that the MP had mentioned Ryan Giggs one of the offending individuals whose injunction became referred to as ‘Britain’s worst kept secret’.

Some discussion came to the pros and cons of this MP’s decision. The issue is whether this was an abuse or apt use of Parliamentary priviledge. On the con side, this is a most frivolous affair, to give such public attention in the Parliament to the activities of an entertainment figure is the definition of abusing a serious priviledge. A more nuanced position is to say that there is a case for media outlets to observe a discretionary removal of certain news stories and to break such a legal mandate on any issue is to undermine the institution and merits of such discretionary measures. I will go into this latter point in a moment.

The ‘pro’ position for Mr. Hemming’s decision is that this is an issue not only of public interest because it raises the old discussion of the freedom of the press, it is also an untenable injunction because so many people knew about it and social media cannot easily be controlled. There was the additional suggestion that the representative of the party who imposed the injunction would sue, essentially, the internet (or more specifically, some 70+ thousand people) for voiding the injunction. One might say that this would be a good enough reason to break this injunction, on the basis that it is untenable and it undermines the institution of the judicial and the legislative powers of the land.

[Lemma: It is a fair point to say that the role of social media must be included in a comprehensive legal system, considering the role it has had in the now-titled ‘Arab Spring’, as well as this injunction affair. As a semi-serious, semi-joke point, I suspect that religious leaders of varying faiths are soon going to have to decide whether it is permissable to engage in social media, or the extent and depth of activity within it. Some phenomena are so new and unique that it takes a while to really come to terms with its impact. ]

The ‘disapproval’ camp for Hemming’s flouting of the injunction would say that the institution of legitimate media enforces certain kinds of privacy. Imagine if there were a news story that was going to be issued about the mental health issue of a public figure, or a private medical dilemma that somehow press outlets wanted to make a story out of, for instance if it involved a very serious and personal decision. There is a legitimate case for the parties concerned to make a request to the Press Complaints body to ask for a discretionary media block. This not only is an option for many parties, it is in fact enforced on a daily basis. There are various grounds in which such a media block can be enforced, stories may not be of the public interest and of extreme personal concern, stories pertaining to personal tragedies (especially those not relating to people in the public eye) may bring undue attention to the parties and thus excascerbate their problems. There must be a space for interests such as these.

I am reminded of Kant’s notion of morality in this specific instance. When we enforce or legislate a rule, its value is only accorded as to how we may follow it. If no one follows a rule, it is untenable, and we may say that rule following as an institution may be undermined (if such a rule is serious). The suggestion that the party to the injunction may prosecute many of the people on social media sites, which would lead to a forcible outing of usernames, on such a level of thousands of people makes such a injunction ruling untenable. Denning’s decision as possibly an intended consequence by him, will accelerate the process of making a more comprehensive system in place to the status quo. Holding to a law, like the institution of promise-keeping, is worthwhile insofar as it can be upheld.

Sinistre

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A week of power(lessness)

I need to stop apologising about how I’m always busy and not posting, and actually post. As things are going on in my life lately, intellectual pursuits have gone further down the pecking order. One of my tasks of late has involved keeping my eye on world affairs through RSS feeds, and I thought I had a thematic observation about the news stories of the past couple of weeks.

‘Sluts’ (or it’s less offensive to say it as a mention and not a use)

Let’s summarise for posteriority’s sake what the main headlines are. After an ignorant police officer in Canada made a comment to the effect that a woman’s sexual assault was her responsibility instead of the perpetrator of the attack. This has led to an initially nationwide grassroots response by (predominantly) women to create the SlutWalk, a demonstration celebrating a woman’s right to wear what she wants without molestation. In the UK, a SlutWalk is going to occur in London which has affected many pundits to reply in a cliche way of answering “to whether they agree or disagree”, this kind of journalistic framing is so boring it is almost formulaic. On the upside, this issue has raised the awareness of women’s rights and feminism to the fore, and brough a more public discussion among the unusual suspects such as broadsheet and tabloid media as well as the non-feminist bloggosphere. It’s terribly cliche and hipster to say “I was there before it was popular” (I wasn’t), but the issue of women’s safety and grassroots feminist movements in the UK is no new issue, it is only new that it is getting more detailed and deserved public attention. For too long, grassroots demonstrations such as ‘Reclaim the Night’ have been ignored, but add the word Slut and you have the idiotic masses listening.

The issue of rape has come up a lot in public discussion of late, not just for the SlutWalk, but also in a gaffe by the British Justice Minister concerning sentencing. I recall an F-Word article (citation needed) earlier this week which stated that nothing has especially changed regarding the phenomena of sexual assault, except some public events going on, yet this issue has gained a lot of attention. I suppose the fear of many commentators is that the SlutWalk has succumbed to appealing to the ‘male gaze’, in a campaigning attempt.

My hero Arnold

Another story has emerged this week, concerning one of my absolute favourite living people in the world. Having said that, I now feel a conflict about how I percieve this individual, and to some extent myself. Last week it emerged that Bodybuilding and action hero politician, Arnold Schwarzenegger had separated from his wife, initially the reasons were undisclosed. Earlier this week it then emerged that the Schwarzenegger had an affair with a member of his house staff, which led to an illegitimate child. Why does this conflict me? Well considering the news of the previous week about the phenomenon concerning rape, a discussion emerged in various blogs and podcasts I have followed which emphasised how the cultural shift of responsibility of sexual assault and harassment should go to the perpetrators and not the victim. The sensitivity of being a victim, coupled with the intensely sensitive issue of being a sexual attack can make such harrassment or assault very shameful to the victim and causes a great deal of psychological damage, another factor is that many of these victims (men and women) may feel powerless to the justice system for various reasons, such as the legal and police process following such an attack, as well as potential power issues relating to the perpetrator, the victims indeed have a justified sense of being powerless.

…and then comes a story about Arnold. Arnold has a reputation of being inappropriate with women. There is a phrase attributed to him to the effect of “eating [oral sex with a woman] isn’t cheating”, and a number of allegations concerning sexual harassment from women, some of these cases were settled out of court. I suspect (although time will be the judge) that Arnold’s reputation would be protected by what one might call the ‘Mike Tyson’ factor. A figure like Arnold, or ‘Iron Mike’ has such a monumental cultural influence among the media, and among many men, largely and crudely on the basis of their characters and physical pursuits alone. If I am to ask myself if this story would affect my enjoyment of a film such as ‘Total Recall’, where his treatment of women isn’t exactly civilised (but it is to ‘comic effect’). The cultural myth of the powerful man can get away with anything is utterly pervasive, and even though many will judge him from the perspective of his matrimony with Maria Schriver, I suspect his reptuation is not harmed. I find this potentially troubling because I suspect a famous woman could not get away with an equivalent media revelation.

Superinjunctions, the reserve of rich men

This story of court injunctions has gone on for a while now (and long enough too). The notion that a judge can order through his/her mandate a block on the media to report a piece of news is very dangerous. As dangerous as the AHRC integrating contemporary political ideology (but that’s another story). Now, it doesn’t really matter if a famous footballer who was in a Premiership team which won a certain cup, or if a famous comedian-actor who appeared in Revenge of the Sith is into BDSM, or a cast member of a recent early 20thC period drama called *ownto* Ab*ey likes having a prostitute (whose previous client was a famous England footballer) putting dildoes into his anus, or how when a star of a famous Channel 4 drama based in the north of England has an affair with a co-star, and gets found out, the latter female co-star is kicked out of the show.

Superinjunctions are the reserve of the rich, and for men too. There is at least one injunction concerning a woman, but most of these cocnerning. There are many victims of this horrible injunction power of the judges. The media for one, the public for another, considering the case of  a certain oil company last year, and on a personal note, these women are used as means to an end and not an end in themselves. The most popular media gagging order concerns an affair between a obscure member of a former reality television show. The woman of the affair (the reality show participant) is allowed to be named, but she personally is not allowed to name her other party. In the most personal way possible, a man, under the mandate of the law, and under his decision to commit and infidelity, is given the upper hand and a position of great power to humiliate this woman and limit her right to expression. In the allegation concerning the SHAMELESS actor of a famous Channel 4 series, the woman in the affair is the victim, losing her job as a result of the revelation. This injunction must be addressed, not just for its obvious hindrance to freedom of expression, but a tacit legal justification of the ‘default’ of normative male privilege, not just in his sexuality, but his power to silence.

Suddenly, there’s more to worry than a glass ceiling.

Michael

Too much information in the information age

I feel a bit of writer’s block today, I did write a post for today, but it ended up going on one of my other blogs due to its lack of relevance to Noumenal Realm affairs (sorry!). I’ve only observations this week:

  • Twitter is everywhere. Yes I do have a twitter account, and I use it because I don’t watch TV regularly and don’t often find out when new seasons of Peep Show or other things I like, such as bands or orchestral performances will be on. It is such an easy way to find out about something.
  • Social media integration. Last weekend I was at the Camden Crawl, a weekend festival full of music and other things. In a sense, many of the acts were promoting themselves as a taster of what they have to offer. Like some bizarre sample server in a supermarket, if you want more, they will tell you where to go: twitter feeds, websites and so forth. They didn’t even bother to sell merchandise, perhaps because they know that everyone can’t carry a lot of things at an event like that, or that they know having a presence on social media is far more influential
  • Talking of social media, there are lots of oppurtunities to troll following news about Osama’s death. Lots of stories have come about for instance about how the announcement of Osama’s death has been muddled by calling him ‘Obama Bin Laden’ (p.s. hello internet search engine people who searched this term, *I’m really trying to get 50k hits you know*), or accidental freudian slips/spoonerisms of mentioning incorrectly that the current US President is dead. There is also a backlash of replies on twitter which quotes something allegedly attributed to Martin Luther King about how it is wrong to celebrate a death but right to mourn it. Apparently, because of the spread of twitter, this inaccurately attributed quote spread like wildfire. There is also a report from Slashdot that Osama trolling is an oppurtunity to spread malware and viruses (for people who want to ‘see’ a link of the corpse).
  • I can of course mention how the Royal Wedding and its footage was insanely integrated with social media. I bet that behind closed doors, the Royal Family were watching the tv footage themselves during the event, not only because that’s good PR sense, but also because it is such a big event even they would be watching it. The use of social media for capitalist promotion and spread of untruth and trolls is a nightmare of the information age that even Orwell would not have anticipated.

 

I find these news stories a very unfortunate distraction to the very important issue of ELECTORAL REFORM IN THE UK. The discussion about the ‘Alternative’ condorcet system of voting has been flooded by other stories about the Olympics next year, the Royal Wedding, and Bin Laden’s death. It’s very bad for both sides of the campaign. It is essentially too much information. You need to remember also that I, and many other people (that means you) have their own lives to live as well. It’s all so overwhelming, I have enough to work through. I haven’t even written my intended posts on Aristotle and Social Science yet!

Michael