Update 15/05/14: It seems time has truly been called on Mo Ansar’s ‘career’. Numerous sources have now compiled articles exposing his deception. Please see the appendix at the bottom of this post for a collection & the #MoCV Hashtag I created.
“Picture all experts as if they were mammals” – Christopher Hitchens
I’ve always liked these words of wisdom from Hitch, but I’ve found them particularly resonant over the last few years. Social media has, for better or worse, afforded everyone a soap box of sorts. A digital arena where ideas can be propagated or challenged. It’s also equipped us common-folk with a direct line of access to so-called ‘Public Figures’.
Don’t like their opinions? Well, now we can let them know without so much as a postage stamp.
The ‘Public figures’ I’m referring to in this instance are those frequently wheeled out onto our telly screens for topical news segments. They confidently share their ‘valuable’ insight into “escalating tensions…” concerning some such thing or other, or press the “importance of tolerance…” etc etc. Sometimes they inform us with authority that “Men are raised to hate women”. You know the sort.
They know what they are talking about. Of course they do. They’re on our telly screen after all.
This brings me to my fascination with Mo Ansar. And it is truly a fascination. The mystery surrounding the existence of his UK media profile brings me such joyous puzzlement I want to embrace and squeeze him.
Twitter has been big news of late, with reports that they plan to implement an abuse reporting function. I’ve been asked a few times what my thoughts are on the matter, and I’m all for it.
Threatening and unlawful behaviour is completely unacceptable and those who engage in such a manner should be held accountable. I displayed my willingness to side with this sentiment recently by reporting a clearly threatening tweet (not to me) to the police.
My only concern is: how will this be regulated? Will Twitter have the manpower (or women!!!!!) to efficiently distinguish abusers and trollers from genuine disagreement or attempts to engage in meaningful discourse? Given the vast numbers of Twitter users and the seemingly unrealistic task of policing it, is it likely to be an unmanned, automated process? An algorithm simply reacting to multiple ‘abuse reports’? Only time will tell.
‘Troll’ seems the buzzword of late. The problem is, that “troll” in the context of the internet has no unified definition. I personally take trolling to mean the act of intentionally making insincere statements to an individual, or individuals in order to provoke a response, or as they would call it, a “victory”. Others use it simply to describe an individual who seeks out arguments online.
I’m trolled daily in the former sense. People will tweet me en masse with clearly disingenuous statements in the hope that I may respond. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. It often depends on how dull my commute to work is that morning.
Free speech has been a huge topic of contention in recent weeks, the same weeks which saw the deaths of 75 people and violent rage across several countries in reaction to a horrendously made YouTube video entitled “Innocence of Muslims”.
Debate has been rampant ever since regarding what constitutes the limits of free speech, and what rights we have, if any to offend “sacred” ideas and beliefs. New calls have been made to the UN for a Blasphemy Law and the ever-present cries of “Islamophobia!” are as tediously frequent as baby photos on a Facebook news feed.
Amid all this apologist rhetoric, one point seems frustratingly absent, or marginalised:
It is wrong to murder/react violently simply for being offended.
A failure to stand up for this point, and this point alone, is a failure to respond as a responsible human adult.
It is true that bigoted far right groups capitalise on Islamic unrest in order to advance their racist agenda and we should afford them no more than our dissent. This, however should not distract us from the genuine concerns we have with the unique and reactionary nature of Islam.