Yesterday, I had a charming lunch during the Bank Holiday with Andy White, his scrummy wife, Angela, and my own treasure, Sally, who is on yet another deranged diet called something like The Durkan Diet. Is this something to do with Atkins?
Sally could have added a little more to the gaiety of the occasion, but chose to nibble on a lettuce leaf (Webb’s Wonder, I think) dipped in skimmed lama’s milk, instead. We ate at The Wells Tavern in Hampstead. They reacted to Sally as if this was entirely normal, which in Hampstead it might well be.
Andy asked me why I hadn’t been active on LinkedIn recently.
Well, my Flickr site has been a fecund source of both new chums and people I thought were dead but still have a pulse and have made contact because of a photo or two of ancient aircraft and pilots. This has distracted me.
The other reason is that I have been lying low.
In 1981, I was working in Chicago for Leo Burnett on Memorex. Back in the UK, huge riots were happening in London and Liverpool. My American colleagues kept asking for explanations. I hadn’t the foggiest idea. Sally was faxing me news cuttings, but they were about Ian Botham putting Australia to the sword in the Ashes Series. Toxteth was a long way away.
I’m no better briefed on the most recent riots. Had there been torrential rain, the riots, arson, stabbings, theft and killings wouldn’t have happened. Beyond that, I’m as clueless as everyone else. I’m a research panel member for You Gov, but haven’t been much use to them either, nor to my Residents Association for which I’ve just become Chairman. (If any of you are reading this, please stop calling me, “Chair.”) I’ve also told American friends that I still don’t know what’s going on, forty years on.
But, maybe I was involved in some way. My conscience is not entirely easy.
Fairly recently, I ran a half day course in Turkey for the EACA.
It was a glorious morning in Istanbul. Thirty or so advertising and marketing executives turned up, munching on croissants, and got stuck into the course. They were terrific, the age range being from 23 to 32. I met my first Turkish goth, who was a serious grown up, as was everyone else. We trawled You Tube and Facebook, and looked at the videos and posts which had helped to over-turn the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. Google’s people in Egypt, especially, had made a huge contribution to the overthrow of Mubarak. We wondered if Google and social networking were more powerful than the ruling clans, T72 tanks and torture.
And we talked about how we would use Facebook, You Tube and Twitter to overthrow a repressive regime.
Later that day, I had a major row with a taxi driver who attempted to charge me 150 Turkish lira to Ataturk Airport when 35 TL is the regulated fee. The Airport Police sorted this out for me, courteously and firmly.
Some weeks later, on 9th August 2011, I learnt that the Police in the UK were hunting down rioters by tracking people on Facebook. It turned out that the social networking techniques the rioters were using were exactly the same as those we had earlier discussed in Istanbul.
It’s probably a matter of time, but if I never blog again, you’ll know that I’m a guest of Her Majesty in HM Wormwood Scrubs for five years. There is some debate in the UK concerning how to censor Facebook to stop this sort of rioting happening again. Isn’t censoring Facebook what Middle Eastern dictators think is a good idea, too?
Social Networking represents freedom of speech no matter how little we like what is being said.
One other thing, I haven’t looked at the use of Facebook in Syria, but am going to do so. I very much doubt that the protests following a session at the mosque are spontaneous. I’ll bet the members of the congregation have all arrived with their mobile phones fully charged.
And I’ll also bet that I won’t get an invitation to teach in Syria for a while, if ever.