Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 7 June 2012


Every major invention has a downside. The motor car is an amazing testament to mankind's ingenuity, but 3500 people die on our roads every year. Complex computer technology save countless lives every day but also guides weapons of mass destruction.

So to with the internet and its offshoots. What a fabulous way to connect to each other, skyping family living abroad, researching every known fact, tapping into leisure activities of all kinds and enabling and equipping businesses and homes up across the globe. It is an amazing world changing invention. It will in the end bring freedom to the people of Iran and North Korea and elsewhere as the truth about their own regimes filters through the web.

But with all this advantage comes ready access to pornography and inappropriate material even for young children. The statistics about this are now alarming. Online bullying is also becoming a real problem for the coming generation.

Social networking and twitter are becoming essential tools of twenty-first century life, especially for people under 50. But beware. I have followed with interest the complaints of celebrities in recent weeks about the sheer brutality of attacks on twitter. Alan Davies (Jonathan Creek) relates how he was bullied and besieged by negative comments after something he had said online.

One aspect of this concerns me: namely the power people now have to sit in their front room and anonymously send their venom out through the airwaves with complete impunity.  You only have to look at the comments on a national or local newspaper website to see vivid examples of this in action. Triggered by almost anything, the nameless mob takes off in full flight, lashing, whipping and beating their subjects with inane and cruel comments. These interactive pages are allegedly monitored and the worst comments removed, but what remains is bad enough.

We have given a voice to people who may not deserve it. If you organised a public meeting and an unknown person stood up and raged incoherently you would ask them to leave. But on the web and twitter all voices have equal weight.

Throughout history the mob has been feared by leaders. Roman leaders kept the mob happy with beer and circuses. It was the mob in France that stormed the Bastille and drove the post revolution blood bath.

Now we have a new mob: a faceless, nameless, shameless Internet and twitter mob. We would be wise to ignore them.

posted by Gary @ 10:22