The all-new, singing, dancing Wild, Wild West

Like Second Life, the blogosphere (the world of bloggers) is not real life. It has similarities but is almost like some sort of game to many people. The trouble is that many of the Real-Life people don’t actually know about this Blog-Life. But, it can be compared to the old Wild, Wild West. Laws (and by that I mean the ‘rules of living together’) have yet to be fully defined.

The advantage of Blog-Life is that many create themselves as they wish to be seen, just like those in the Wild West, who went out to make new lives and could escape from the preconceptions of the East. Me too! My blog does not contain all my innermost thoughts. To do that, I too would have to be anonymous. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I don’t want them to take umbrage against something I have said. At least that’s true of the people I know in Real-Life.

Within Blog-Life, well, I don’t really care. I don’t know the people and, in many cases, perhaps most, don’t want to.

I gave my opinion here about two women that had a spat on their blogs, which later developed into a criminal case with one of them being put behind bars. As far as I can tell, even though she has been let out after serving half her sentence, the whole sorry saga continues.

But that is not the point of this post at all. People say things on their blogs that, in my mind, are not what one would say in Real-Life, to each other, face-to-face.

Cecilieaux makes a good post here and in particular when he says

But I sense that some of the nonsense posted here by the commenters goes way beyond what they are accustomed to saying to someone on the street. For example, how many commenters would really go around referring to women as “tits” in the presence of women capable of beating them up oar, at a minimum, shaming them?

Now, these people are ordinary people. Not royalty or big business or someone else who cannot ‘fight back’ by posting equally obnoxious or insulting comments or blog posts. They’re ordinary – but not quite. Like the Wild West, it takes a certain type of person to make the ‘New World’. They were ‘pioneers’ and these are bloggers. The old ‘pioneers’ felt that they had the right to take the land they found and the gold that was found and do what they wanted, fighting off those who disagreed with them; these new pioneers feel they have the right to say whatever they like about whomever they like, fighting back if those that disagree with them try to do something about it.

Fair enough. But then it goes too far. And by that I mean, my post has brought more traffic to my site than any other post. If you type in the woman’s (the one who went to prison) name in Google Blog Search, sorted by relevance, the post comes about 4th or 5th down the page! Why? I’ve no idea. But these are not necessarily the readers I want, particularly. However, most of them move on, which is fine by me. And surely it isn’t quite right that my post should be so high when all it shows is my opinion. So now, my post, which is entirely my opinion, says something about both women that they may, or may not, agree with. And what can they do? Well they can ask me to take it down or they can sue me for libel. I think that’s unlikely.

But, what if I were to post something about say, some big businessman or other notable person, who doesn’t have his own blog and can’t be seen to be commenting in the way that the people from Blog-Land do? And what if the something-I-say is picked up and run-with by other bloggers so that when you type his name in you get a list of posts that all say the same thing? He can hardly have a shoot-out in the main street, can he?

Of course, if what I have said is true, then he deserves it, right? But what if it is based on something that may not be true? What can he do?

Well if he has the money and the backing, he can hire expensive lawyers to get the site taken down. In the UK this is an easy thing to do. Write to the hosting company with a letter detailing the instances of the libel or detailing defamatory remarks (it doesn’t matter whether they be true or not) and they will act immediately. I’ve seen this happen with a guy I know.

He (my friend) is not a high-profile blogger. Just an ordinary guy who believes he has been screwed and wants to point out the ‘facts’. Of course they’re his ‘facts’. It’s his side of the story. And no-one in Blog-Life knows about this. It’s not high-profile enough and he hasn’t any Blog-Mates who can post the stuff on their blogs.

But if he were a high-profile blogger then, maybe the story would be different. Maybe the whole blogosphere would be shouting and crying about the lack of freedom of speech, about how they were not going to be bullied by someone just because they gave their opinion. They would be up-in-arms about the right to say what they want, no matter if the other person cannot fight back within Blog-Life. I didn’t agree with the people who put up the buttons to catch the woman who was eventually caught. After all, the police could have done that without the need for those buttons. It wasn’t going to be difficult. And the outrage that was expressed and the manner in which the outrage was expressed was (and still is, now that she’s out), in my opinion, completely unwarranted. She made a comment on my post, which I moderated because then, as now, I refuse to link to either of the women.

And now, a supposedly drunken, womanising, ex-ambassador has written a book and made a post that says some things about a big businessman from Uzbekistan (he who is trying to take-over a well known UK football club) and referring to his book as a means of proving it is true. This post was picked up by other bloggers and now, with not much else he can do (short of writing his own blog or commenting on others’ posts) except try to have them taken down, the big businessman has used a legal firm to have the hosters remove the site.

Oh my God! How dare they do that! This is our ‘New World’ where we can do what we like. Well, it’s what’s happened to my friend too. With my help he has now moved the site several times. It seems the latest one is OK (in that their (the solicitors) attempts to have it removed have not yet succeeded). If it is removed, then we’ll find somewhere else to host it. And the difference between a high-profile case and his – well, none really. The sites that have been taken down can be hosted somewhere else. It’s inconvenient and may be costly (but there are plenty of free hosting companies around) but not really difficult.

Like I’ve said, if someone is harassing you (for your opinion) don’t answer their emails, ignore their comments, don’t react to them. They WILL tire of it eventually.

The same is true of being harassed by lawyers. Unless they are going for you directly (it is noticeable that, even though they have the contact details of my friend, they chose only to go for the hosting company each time, which says something, I think), then just move the site to somewhere else. Eventually the person behind the lawyers will give up or they’ll come after you personally, which is a whole different game.

I am grateful to Alex Fear’s post (Blog no longer live) but I don’t entirely agree with the point of his post in that I think that criminal activity is not really the same as (anti-)civil activity which is the point that Tim makes in the comments. But, really, this latest Uzbeck problem is entirely overblown. MOVE the site.

I completely disagree with the comment Tim makes when he says:

There is an understanding in the political blogosphere that you do not sue your enemies for libel, you give them a damn good fisking instead. The craig murray case has united bloggers from the Right, Left, Liberals, Conservatives, etc. as one, in disgust at the actio of the webhosts under pressure from Schillings’

This is true if he were talking about a politician. But he is not. He’s talking about a businessman, whether he be a criminal thug or not. This man is not in the game of politics (well, not obviously although undoubtedly is, behind the scenes) and cannot answer back in the way that politicians can. Instead he is using all means at his disposal to remove the thing that offends him from the internet. And although he pointed out that the one person has hired lawyers to have the site taken down and the other was prosecuted by the Crown Prosecution Service, the reaction of the blogosphere was, unfortunately, exactly the same. In both cases, they screamed of the injustice of it all without knowing the facts – merely what they had read on the internet.

And, I don’t know about you, but I have serious doubts in the UK (or, for that matter, any) justice system. As I have said before, the court can only act on the information it has on the day. It doesn’t make it right or justice as the many, many cases of injustice have shown. Once upon a time, black people were almost certainly ‘guilty’ (and, some would say, still are) and long ago, starving people were deported to Australia for stealing a loaf of bread.

In the old Wild West as in this new Wild West, ‘presented facts’ are not necessarily ‘actual fact’. The mob ruled and in the new Wild West, the same is true. The Sheriff asks for volunteers for his posse so that they can go after the culprit and the justice is rough justice and, some would argue, not really justice at all.

Unlike the old Wild West, the new one is not entirely separate from Real-Life, so unlike the old one, the new one still has to work within the rules of Real-Life society. But the war is not over between Real-Life and the new Wild West. Battles will be won and lost but the war will be long; the rules of engagement difficult and different for each new type of battle. Having said all that, there is something disturbing about the things I read about the new USSR’s top people but then, I live in Italy (it’s an interesting thought that the old movies about the Wild West were called Spaghetti Westerns) with its Mafia; and the difference is…????

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6 thoughts on “The all-new, singing, dancing Wild, Wild West

  1. Fair Comment Andy,

    Though I have yet to formulate my response to Tim, I would simply offer defense that I was pointing out the irony of some who have been accusing others of libel for quite some time, and others who have demanded that blogs be taken down in the past.

    I like your analogy of the Wild West, the interwebs could certainly act as a frontier in that whilst the real world has boundaries and states (saying something in one state is illegal whereas it’s free in another)- and yet the interwebs allows a resident of one state to publish what they like in another state and be free from legal repercussions.

    Look at the Pirate Bay, which is as yet, untouchable by Holywood and the RIAA- There seems to be 2 different worlds fighting a battle here-

    1. The old territories, ruled by governments and regimes and locked into geopolitical boundaries, and
    2. The new territories, free from boundaries, mostly (not always) out of reach of governments and creating a new global value system

    It’s messy but big business has been doing this for years by off-setting tax in low-tax countries and influencing governments, it’s a rebellion of sorts, not just an uprising in the geopolitical sense, but a rebellion against big business.

    Thoughts?

  2. Well, I think it’s even more complicated than that. But you are right, in principle, in your evealuation of there being two different worlds. The problem is that within both worlds, there are subsets that are both fighting with each other and the other world for dominance.

    The thing the group has in common in the new territories is very fluid, of course, and this means you can change group easily and quickly depending on your point of view on a particular subject.

    Hence the sudden rush by a group of people who would, in other circumstances, be at other ends of the spectrum, to condemn that terrible Uzbech for daring to impose an outside law/rule onto their private ‘land’.

    This is, actually, all as frightening as the War against Terrorism. OK, so it doesn’t actualy kill people, as far as we know, but it leads to the same uncertainty, the same flux.

    However, this is inevitable now that the ‘Long War’ (see Philip Bobbitt – The Shield of Achilles) is over and capitalism won.

    Considering he wrote his book in the year 2000 (I think), it is very inciteful in predicting this, as he called it, Market State. And as he said, there are different Market States, each group thinking that theirs is the way. And, as in any war, there will be casualties and victims – with the victims on the internet seemingly to protest the loudest.

    The new rules of both engagement during the war and for what is acceptable within the society that each is trying to create, are still to be defined and these things we see are merely the way that they will be defined. The war between the Market States will be every bit as violent and vicious as anything we have seen before.

    It’s not really a rebellion against Big Business (although that is how it is portrayed). It would be difficult to say otherwise as that would inform the people that the old Nation State (or is it State Nation – I’m afraid I forget right now) is dead. Even the governments don’t know what to do. Do they follow the Market state formula proposed by Big Business (who give them the cash to continue to be in government) or that being formulated by other groups (who give them the authority to govern)? It is a difficult tightrope to walk as a mistake at any point could have overwhelming effects on both them, as a government and society as a whole.

    And given that the groups are so fluid an almost impossible task. Whether the results of it will be good or bad will depend on where you sit at the time of the end to the war. But, as always, the victors will write the history. If this misguided ‘Freedom of Speech’ group aren’t the winners, will all their stuff be on Pirate Bay for people to muse over in future generations?

  3. I think I was wrong to state it as a “rebellion against big business”, it’s not exactly a rebellion, it’s more a cold war.

    No-one hates Hollywood, in fact, the problem with P2P is because of the opposite- everyone loves Hollywood but just don’t want to pay the prices.

    So there is a duality there- I like your product, hell, I even like you but I refuse to pay the price you demand (or pay for it at all).

    For the record I am pro-sharing but against piracy. Piracy is selling a copy, file-sharing is free (like if I bought a DVD then let you borrow it to watch it).

    Yes the fluidity perhaps presents a problem in co-ordinating online campaigns and perhaps damages the overall effectiveness of the interwebs overall.

    It’s all very interesting to watch and sometimes a bit messy to get involved in.

  4. Cold war, certainly, And, I think, it will be equally as long since this is ideology that we’re talking about.

    But for a film from the P2P it’s the same as the priates selling you a copy. You’re still paying for it – in terms of sharing your stuff with others – like bartering. (I am pro-sharing myself, I hasten to add). And it’s not true that we all love Hollywood. What about the people who have been caught file-sharing? I dare say they don’t love Hollywood. We only love it because, at the moment, they haven’t caught up with everyone.

    But that, again, is Big Business v the other Market State. The Big Business try to get it stopped and the pro-sharers find a way around it (Pirate Bay being one example). Remember the first one they got shut down. Predictions were that this was the end or at least the beginning of the end. And, of course, it’s not. In fact, I would say, and certainly here, file-sharing is almost becoming a respected leisure activity!

    Fluidity does cause a problem with co-ordination and may possibly make the campaigns weaker as a result. But, I think, it goes deeper than that. The fluidity is a problem because your friend today may not be your friend tomorrow (or even in the next few days/hours/seconds) depending on the group that they attach temselves to at the time. This has long-term repercussions for society and the way that society gels. In fact, it may well be the end of society as we know it.

    The New World, whichever it is, may not be so great. See, now you’ve got me started………… :-)

  5. LOL.

    I think your point about friends is true. I wonder if there is a name for it yet? 24 hour alliances?

    The problem I think, seems to stem from the fact that

    1) Bloggers are mostly the extremely opinionated sort ( I don’t think you are one), which are sometimes difficult to form relationships in the real world (not that extreme bloggers wouldn’t be moderate in real life)

    2) People, especially Brits, are very quick to get offended, and in the interwebs it is very easy to misconstrue what someone is saying (if they are not using smileys).

    Thus uneasy alliances are formed on single issues, at the same time enemies are formed on single issues too, oddly!

  6. Absolutely!

    Mind you, when I had a computer company I was always warning people about emails, etc. Unfortunately, people tend to write as they speak but there’s a really important bit that’s different/missing – no tone and no facial expression. Shows you how much we use both during communication though, doesn’t it?

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