I’m in revolt.
I’m in revolt against top-down government control.
Specifically, I’m in revolt against smoking bans – which are almost invariably imposed by governments on their peoples.
In fact, I’m in revolt against all sorts of other similar, government-generated rules and regulations. I’m sick of it all.
But how does one revolt? What can one do?
I’ve come to the opinion that smokers should get together. There are a lot of them in the world. Something like 1.5 billion, in fact. Maybe a lot more. So I dream about a global smokers’ movement in which the world’s smokers are united, and highly vocal. At least as vocal as any gay rights organisation or Black Lives Matter or women’s liberation movement.
I’m much less interested in complaining to the government than I am about getting smokers to first complain to each other.
Haven’t all political movements started with people complaining to each other? Didn’t Bolshevism start with Lenin and Trotsky and co complaining to each other in Zurich coffee bars? Didn’t the Nazi party start with Hitler and Goering and co complaining to each other in bierkellers in Munich? In fact didn’t the Reformation begin with Luther and his chums complaining to each other about the Catholic church over dinner in Worms?
When people complain to each other, and other people agree with them, their complaints gather strength. If one person complains, who cares? If ten people complain, who cares? But if one hundred or one thousand or one million people complain, other people will take notice. They might not agree with them, but they will notice them.
And as people complain to each other, they learn to state more clearly what they’re complaining about, and what should be done about it. And that lends more force to their complaints.
And the internet seems to be the best way – perhaps the only way – for smokers to complain to each other.
The internet is a whole new medium. It’s a sort of new Gutenberg revolution. Gutenberg’s printing press allowed people to complain to each other, and have their words read and agreed with (or disagreed with). But you still needed to have paper and printing presses and books. It was quite slow and expensive. The new internet or World Wide Web revolution has just made it far easier to complain. And to complain to more or less anyone, anywhere in the world, instantly and with no further cost than the time it takes to write one’s complaint.
Gutenberg’s printing press gave people a voice that could be heard all over the world. The internet gives them a much quicker and cheaper way to be heard all over the world.
And politicians have been gradually latching onto its possibilities. Donald Trump used Twitter to send short messages to anyone who want to hear him, cheaply and instantly, without having to go through the mainstream Gutenberg print media, who were doing their level best to ignore him and deride him.
The internet is also highly conversational. The Gutenberg printing press was a one-way communication medium: from author to his readers. There wasn’t really any easy way for readers to reply to authors. And all the mainstream media shared this same one-way broadcasting characteristic: books, newspapers, pamphlets, radio, TV. The information all goes in one direction. Which is why governments always want to control these broadcast media (e.g. the BBC), and media moguls (e.g. Rupert Murdoch) always want to own them: that way they can control what their readers hear.
But the internet is two-way conversational. Newspaper letters pages never used to occupy much more than a single page (if that). But under this blog the comments (the equivalent to the letters page) frequently occupy more space than the blog posts I publish. The opinions of bloggers like me in effect occupy only one page of their blogs, and the comments occupy all the rest. It’s an inversion.
The Smoky Drinky Bar, in which I was present last night, is also highly conversational. And it has people from all over the world meeting up (rather intermittently) in it, and talking almost as naturally to each other as if they were sitting in each other’s own homes. I still find it rather amazing that you can do that. I’m as amazed as I’m sure people used to be amazed when they first used telephones to speak to people in nearby towns. And of all the new media that have appeared in recent times, telephones are the most conversational. Which may explain why there has been such a huge upsurge in the use of mobile phones. People always want to talk to each other. Everyone has a mobile phone.
And with all these new voices, the mainstream one-way Gutenberg media are losing their grip on public opinion, They can no longer shape it the way they used to do. They can no longer decide what’s news and what isn’t. Or who gets heard and who doesn’t.
In the USA, it almost seems as though the current political struggle is between the one-way mainstream media – which seems to be almost exclusively left wing – and the new internet media – much of which is right wing (Rush Limbaugh, Alex Jones, Michael Savage, Mark Levin, etc.) In fact, the political struggle may simply be between Gutenberg and the Internet. And Political Correctness is a one-way, top-down controlling attempt to prevent anyone from saying anything other than what the controllers want anyone hearing.
We’re moving away from one-way, top-down, state-controlled mass media to something much more two-way and pluralistic. And one in which one person’s news isn’t somebody else’s news, and each calls the other’s “fake news”.
In this new world, I expect that it will be much easier to form new political groupings (such as the smokers’ groups I’m interested in). And it seems likely that old, established political organisations (like the Labour or Conservative parties) are likely to lose support in much the same way (and for the same reasons) as the mainstream media. Is it really necessary to hold party political conventions in halls and stadiums, when people can meet online and speak and be heard? Is it really necessary to have political headquarters in which pamphlets are printed? It seems more likely that there will be lots more political parties, perhaps fixed upon one single issue or other. So while I might be a member of a smokers’ party, I’d also be a member of a drinkers’ party, and a meat-eaters’ party, and a car owners’ party, and a Herefordshire party, and maybe an England party (those being places where I live). The internet is changing politics as well as the media. And it’s always eroding monolithic top-down controlling edifices like the EU or WHO or ASH or the BMA.
We’ll probably vote via the internet one day. I have strong reservations about this, but I’m sure it will happen, if it isn’t happening already. And then, if we can all vote instantly about everything, then why wait for a General Election every 5 years? Why not have continuous daily voting. Why not have a Standing Vote (a bit like a standing order in a bank) in which everyone votes the same way until they change their Standing Vote.? At present if a government does something unpopular, it’ll be 5 years before the voters get a chance to kick them out of office. But in a continuous voting system, if enough people changed their Standing Vote, a government which did something unpopular might well find itself out of office the very next day. Wouldn’t that be fun! It might make for a little political instability, of course.
And the internet is changing international relations as well. Do we need diplomats and ambassadors with embassies in every country, when it’s just become just as easy for Britons and Americans and Russians and Germans to meet up and talk online instead? Aren’t we all diplomats now? When I met up with a bunch of Germans online a few weeks or months back, wasn’t I present as an English diplomat? And weren’t they German diplomats?
Yesterday I was watching Alex Jones’ host David Knight (a genial new favourite of mine) talking (via Skype or something) from Austin, Texas to English MEP Janice Atkinson, and saying nice things to each other. They were both being diplomats as well, in their way. I’d never heard of her before. She probably never gets invited on BBC radio or TV.
The internet erodes top-down control. And it’ll be the internet that erodes top-down controlling social experiments like smoking bans. And it allows revolting people like me to articulate their revolt. And get heard a little bit. And thereby encourage other people to speak up as well.