Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Close Down Twitter? Not In A Democratic Society

I've just read a comment on Conservative Home by Tory MP Nadine Dorries. It supports suggestions that twitter etc should be closed down during any repeat of the rioting which took place last week.

Before I type my next paragraph, let me be quite clear (though to most people who know me it will come as no surprise): I belong to the same party as Mrs Dorries. I was a Tory Councillor. I was a Tory Association officer. I worked for the Party.

So with that context given.... her idea is one of the most awful I've heard a Tory MP suggest for many years.

Twitter et al helped rioters. Well, it also helped the Police and the other emergency services respond to the rioting. It also helped 'civilians' both during and after the rioting. It's also now helping the Courts and the other relevant authorities in the aftermath.

Her reaction is a terrible example of blaming the medium, not the individual. Doubtless newspapers have given publicity to ideas of which she disapproves -and indeed of ideas and movements which are themselves against the law. Doubtless the same is true also of books. But you don't close down either, because that is not just a ridiculously unfair over-reaction, it's also patently self-defeating.

To quote Kissinger -a man whose career I am sure we have both always regarded with a large degree of admiration- "Leaders are responsible not for running public opinion polls but for the consequences of their actions". The proposal to close down twitter might well get a favourable headline in a couple of newspapers, but the consequence of doing so would be so out of keeping with a democratic society as to be unthinkable.