Election Sharing: Dos and Don’ts

681734-01So, it’s time to face another election. And you know what that means? The Social Media Armchair Electioneering has begun!

And as much as it amuses me that the acronym for this is SMAE – making those who do it SMAErs – this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Engagement in politics is vital, especially during an election. However, we all know how annoying it can get. Especially on social media. So, with that in mind, I implore you to pay heed to the points below and try not to contribute to the traditional flooding of pointless and/or damaging articles on social media.

DO: Read before you post;

Seriously. Read the article. The whole damn thing, not just the title. I’ve already seen one person share an article that meant exactly the opposite of what he believes because he didn’t realise the title was clickbait-y “sarcasm”. And then check the sources. Despite evidence to the contrary, Fake News is incredibly easy to spot if you use a modicum of critical thinking. Be sure you know what you’re posting. Otherwise, you’re just that irritating person spamming junk all over people’s Feeds. And no one likes that guy.

DON’T: Post anything that isn’t new;

If you’ve posted an opinion once, we don’t need to see it again. Let’s face it, in all likelihood your friends know your political leanings already, so if all you’re doing is hammering home that you agree with one side or the other you’re not contributing to the discussion. If you read something new – a piece of information or an interpretation of a point of view you’ve not seen before – then go ahead and share. But if you simply post the same thing over and over people will stop bothering to read because you’re making your opinions repetitive and uninteresting. Then when you do have something interesting to say, no one’s listening.

DO: Read posts from people you disagree with;

The internet is an echo chamber. You will almost certainly be connected to people who, more or less, share your opinions. That’s why it’s sometimes hard to understand why anyone would ever vote differently to you; because you haven’t taken the time to engage with their thinking. And I’m talking about more than simply reading newspaper headlines as you pass them in the supermarket. Find a reputable website, newspaper, or magazine and give it a read. If you want progressive discourse you need to know why people don’t share your beliefs because that’s the only way you’ll learn how to change their minds.

DON’T: Get angry at dissent;

People will disagree with you. Get used to it and stop overreacting. I know it’s frustrating that the other side just can’t see how wrong they are, or how much better the world would be if they just learned to agree with you on everything but telling them how stupid they are for not doing so won’t help. Yes, if you want to make a difference in the world you need passion, but passion doesn’t necessarily mean anger. Yelling for no reason simply makes the divide bigger. And if every political post becomes little more than people yelling at each other about how stupid their opinions are people aren’t going to bother reading them.

DO: Change your mind;

Changing your opinion isn’t weakness, it’s growth. When we learn something new, we need to change our ideas to reflect this. We can’t be afraid to admit when hard evidence proves us wrong. Never dismiss facts out of hand just because they don’t match your current beliefs. If you ever want to believe you can change someone else’s mind then you need to be prepared for it to happen to you as well. Admitting you were wrong about something isn’t going to change how you vote. Or maybe it will. Who knows? Don’t blindly insist you’re right and everyone who disagrees is wrong. And if it happens the other way around, don’t be a dick about it.

 

We all both have a duty to engage with politics, to investigate and then promote our political ideas and beliefs, especially around election time. But we also have a right to ignore it all completely as well. And, at least in my opinion, what the Left and Right both need to do is learn to engage with the disinterested. So many people don’t care about politics, either through apathy, disinterest, or pointless rebellion against “authority”. This is the silent majority. These are the ones we need to persuade.

A third of all people don’t bother to vote, because they’ve become disengaged with politics. If you want to get these people voting, and more importantly for your side, then you need to think about how you’re engaging them. Take a moment. Is that post you’re about to Share going to help your cause as much as you think it will?

Don’t be that person who puts people off politics.

 

2016: Looking back, then forward

So, that was 2016. It’s been a bit of a year all told, hasn’t it? Remember that old curse; “May you live in interesting times”? I think a lot of us have gained a new appreciation for that one over the last twelve months.

But anyway, the Christmas trees are up, the cards posted, and the final gifts are being wrapped, so as the year draws to a close let’s have a look back on everything that’s been happening here.

2016, and things that have been

The big news this year has been, of course, the publication of The Æther Collection, a themed collection of horror short stories. (If you’ve not picked up your copy yet, you can do so now in paperback or ebook now).

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My original reason for deciding to do a collection of short stories rather than a single full-length novel was that it would allow me to post them up as and when they were completed. After finishing The Serpent’s Eye I didn’t want to have another two years pass by without having anything new to release, so I thought rather than intersperse a longer project with breaks for short stories I would just do a full collection I could just release as I went.

It was an interesting experiment, but I’m glad I did it. It’s taught me a lot about structure and theme, as well as giving me very useful experience working in a non-linear fashion. I’ve always been someone who revises their book in a linear order and finds it hard to jump about their manuscript while being able to keep the overall picture in my head. Hopefully, I’ll now be a little better at focusing on small sections in isolation, working on the weakest points in a narrative without having to work through parts that don’t need work as urgently.

With this being a short story collection, I honestly wasn’t expecting any attention from agents. I’ve been told directly that authors aren’t picked up based on short stories. So the fact that I had three personal, positive responses has really picked me up. While – as I predicted – none of them wanted to sign me up this time around, each of them said they really liked my writing and asked me to send them a working version of my next full novel as soon as I think it’s ready. So that’s one step closer.

The decision to focus my time on The Æther Collection has meant that I’ve not been able to get much in the way of stand-alone short stories done this year. I have been working on a couple, as and when I could but, unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get any placed. I do have a couple nearly ready to go out, and a few submissions I’ve not heard back from yet, so fingers crossed for better luck next year.

I have, however, had a couple of articles published on the Huffington Post. The first was a defence of the NHS on the anniversary of my wife’s transplant, and the second was a few thoughts on the state of the UK Labour Party. I enjoy doing these more serious works every so often, but they tend to only get written when Inspiration and Having Time coincide.

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The Festival of Writing in York was again one of the highlights of my year. Getting to visit York is always worth it, and getting to spend the weekend hanging out with other writers is even better. I got to catch up with a couple of friends from 2015 and make a couple of new ones. I’d really love to go to more events like this. There are plenty of conferences and lectures around the country each year. I know it’s partly laziness that keeps me from properly researching, but I know that time and money constraints will always be an issue. Maybe in 2017 I’ll be able to put a little more effort into this side of things and I’ll get to a few more.

And the other new thing I tried this year was my Halloween Countdown. I had a lot of fun putting this together, and I think I’d like to make it an annual thing. Next year I hope to try and make it from films released during the previous year, rather than from the last few years. Not only would this mean I was helping share the work of hard working, aspiring filmmakers, it means I have an excuse and reasons to spend my time watching horror shorts online.

So hopefully this October I’ll be able to do a countdown of my favourite shorts released in 2017. Maybe I’ll even get the countdown right this time.

Oh, and thanks to my sister – who is also my designer – I was able to attend the memorial for Sir Terry Pratchett. It doesn’t seem much in the grand scheme of things, but being able to attend such a celebration, surrounded by other fans, was a really wonderful experience and helped me say goodbye to the man who really got me into reading, and therefore writing.

 

2017, and things that are to come

So, what do I have coming up next year?

My big project for 2017 is a novel, provisionally titled New Perceptions. (This is a very provisional title, mainly picked so I had something to name the Scrivener file when I started and so almost certain to change.) I’m not going to say much about it, as I don’t even have the first draft completed yet and there are likely to be many changes. Right now, I’m wrestling to get the third act together. I’m currently hoping to have something ready to get out to alpha-readers in the summer. Then, in an ideal world, I’d have something ready for agents by the end of the year, but I know full well it always takes longer than I’m hoping.

However, I can say that it will be a coming-of-age haunted house story and a full-length, single story novel. After a novella and a short story collection, I feel that my new project needed to be a full-length novel, both for creative and commercial reasons. Creative, because it’s the next logical step in my growth as a writer to show I’m able to grow and develop character and plot across 70,000 words. And commercial, as I’ve been told multiple times that agents and publishers will only pick up new authors with a full-length novel to sell.

And as I mentioned earlier, I’ve already had agents ask to see a working draft so I’m telling myself I’m starting this one already a couple of steps ahead. Fingers crossed.

Hopefully I’ll have time for a couple of side projects – stories or articles, and of course blog posts – in between drafts, but we’ll see. I really want to focus on getting this complete over the next year, so may really need to focus.

So, here’s wishing you a great Christmas and an amazing 2017! Here’s hoping this one’s a little less “interesting”. Or at least only exciting in good ways.

Out Now

And remember, both The Serpent’s Eye and The Æther Collection are available now on Amazon, iBooks and other online stores. If you’re looking for a present for the reader or book fan in your life, or just want to pick up a good horror story as a gift for yourself, click the links to grab your copy now.

 

 

 

One year on

Exactly one year ago today I went through possibly the most emotional day of my life. I had to watch as my wife and sister were wheeled, one after the other, into an operating theatre at Hammersmith Hospital, so my sister could give my wife one of her kidneys.

The night beforeFrankie had gone in the night before. We left her in a bed next to a women who had been speaking on the phone for about two hours when we left, and apparently continued until another two hours until Frankie had to ask her to stop so she could get some sleep. And then she went outside rather than hang up. Whatever that phone call was, it was clearly important.

My family and I were staying at my in-laws. We sat up watching old cartoons from the 1940s on YouTube. 

And then in the morning we all headed over the hospital. Emily got prepped and then taken off to the theatre, while I waited with Frankie. At nine o’clock they came to prep her, and we left them to it. We made out way to the High Dependancy Ward, where they would both be brought once they were done, and settled in to wait.

Freshly harvested

At two in the afternoon Emily was brought in, awake enough to state for the record that she felt like she’d been hit by a bus. A little while later it had reduced to a car. Later still, a bike. I am told that at times like this, drugs are your best friends.

The surgeon came up around four to tell us everything had gone fine, and Frankie was in recovery. Well, fine apart from her having an allergic reaction to the antibiotic they gave her just before surgery, which literally could have ruined the whole thing if it had been worse. But it had died down, the operation had gone perfectly, and she finally came up to us at six thirty.

It’s a hard thing trying to describe how it feels seeing the person you love being brought in after a major operation. Small, helpless, only half aware of their surroundings and clearing in a lot of pain. About a dozen different tubes snaking out of her arm, hand and throat. Yet you’re also aware than everything is technically better than it (a) was, or (b) could have been. We had already been told it had been a textbook operation, and the kidney started working straight away. Almost too well, in fact. They had two bags of saline literally pouring into her, with the kidney producing two litres of urine an hour. Fast enough, in fact, that it flushed all the glucose out of her system and gave her temporary diabetes.

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I can’t describe how useless I felt. As her stomach started waking up she started retching, which forced her to have to sit up and strain the massive, fresh wound in her side. And then, when I stood too quickly to grab a bowl to try and help her, all the blood drained from my head and I nearly passed out myself.

Helpful!

It’s been a year now, but this experience is not something you forget. Emily remained in the hospital for a few days before getting released. Frankie stayed a few more, of course. Once she did get out she had to go back in almost daily for check ups. Then weekly. Now monthly. It’s not all been plain sailing, of course. She’d had to deal with BK viral nephropathy, and the two day migraines that followed the treatment for that. Then we learned that she cannot just “power through” a mild discomfort anymore, as that can leads to a three day hospital stay with a bladder infection.

But this has been a part of our lives for far longer than a year. Off the top of my head it’s involved: 3 kidney biopsies; 12 months of testing to determine the level of her kidney damage; 24 hour urine tests for 6 potential donors; MRI, ultrasound and X-Ray examinations on two of those donors (including a follow up MRI and ultrasounds for one of those to check a potential, non-related issue); pre-op appointments; a frickin’ Kidney Transplant; approximately a month of overnight hospital stays altogether, a week of which were in the high dependancy ward; follow up appointments, emergency clinic visits, and enough blood vials taken to keep Dracula satisfied for a year.

And how much were we charged for all this? What was the total on the bill were given at the end? Nothing.

How much did we need to sacrifice in order to go through this necessary operation? Nothing.

How many times did our doctors outline the different levels of service we could get, pushing us towards something that wasn’t what we needed but would earn the hospital the maximum profit? Never.

When have we ever gone into a hospital, whatever day of the week or weekend, to find there were no doctors or nurses working their hardest to help us? Never.

It’s not hyperbole that the NHS is one of the greatest organisations in the world. It is, and has been, a literal lifesaver for countless people. Yes, it’s expensive. Yes, there are quite possibly more efficient ways parts of it could be run, but anyone who honestly believes it should be replaced with any other programme is either a terminal idiot or unbelievably selfish. Or likely both.

We are currently stuck with a government determined to use the NHS to score political points. Rather than quietly working with doctors to improve the service, they are at best fighting to make arbitrary changes for idealogical reasons, and at worse seeking nothing more than to forward their own financial interests. And as people fight back, the current Health Secretary does little more than go to the media to wildly blame doctors, using every political trick in the book to try and con people into blaming the people who actually know how the NHS works.

Doctors and nurses are life savers. They do a harder and more important job than I will ever do. And they are also far more over worked and – in many cases – underpaid. I’m not going to say that over the last few years Frankie and I never had to deal with grumpy, unfriendly nurses. Or terse doctors with almost no bedside manor. Because they’re people, just like us. Everyone had bad days at work. Busy people aren’t always the friendliest. And the people they are working to help are not in the best mood themselves. That’s life.

It boils down to the fact that doctors and nurses do are the point of the NHS. Everything else is just a structure to allow them to do it in the most efficient way. And two of the things that makes it efficient is making it free at point of service, and making the people at the point of service happy, awake, and willing to make the necessary sacrifices their job requires.

Don’t let the government fool you into mistaking how important the NHS is, or hide how little they know how to handle it. Or how badly they are handling it. Like any organisation, the NHS needs to continuously develop and grow. Today’s NHS isn’t the same and it was fifty years ago, and it will be different again in another fifty. I’m not going to pretend I know what the next steps for it our, but I’m not in government. The Tories don’t have a plan either, and they are.

But they are politicians, and so believe that have to be doing something. And without any idea or plan they have fallen back on tired, political ideology instead. And once they’ve claimed that they believe something – no matter how vapid or damaging it is demonstrated to be – they can’t go back on it for fear of being branded with the dreaded “U-Turn”. Rather than admit they might have been wrong, they try to force people into believing that their failures in policy, planning, and ability are actually the NHS’s own fault for not agreeing with them.

So let’s ignore the political hyperbole, or the media grandstanding. The NHS doesn’t need saving. It needs running, and it needs to be run by people who know what they’re doing.

And when you need it, you’re going to be so glad the doctors fought back.

Art Over the Artist (Update)

Back in March I posted a few comments about Orson Scott Card and the reaction to his proposed contribution to a Superman anthology. Due to Card’s strong opinions on and public campaigning against gay marriage. (His opinions on the matter are made clear here in this piece he wrote for the Mormon Times). There followed a very public backlash against these views being associated with Superman, and now an online campaign is building up steam to boycott the upcoming release of the movie adaptation of Card’s 1984 novel Ender’s Game.

This week Card released a statement through Entertainment Weekly about the situation. Here it is in full:

Ender’s Game is set more than a century in the future and has nothing to do with political issues that did not exist when the book was written in 1984.

With the recent Supreme Court ruling, the gay marriage issue becomes moot. The Full Faith and Credit clause of the Constitution will, sooner or later, give legal force in every state to any marriage contract recognized by any other state.

Now it will be interesting to see whether the victorious proponents of gay marriage will show tolerance toward those who disagreed with them when the issue was still in dispute.

Orson Scott Card

I’m torn by this, as there is a part of me wants to agree with him. As he says the book, and film, are not pieces promoting his opinions. His written work and his political and religious views are separate. Shouldn’t we be able to enjoy them? And I also feel I should be happy with his comment that essentially says “You won, I accept this, let’s move on.”

But if you read the whole article he wrote for the Mormon Times back in 2008 you see that this opinion cannot be his. Here is a direct quote from that article regarding any government that passes laws that equalise gay marriage:

I will act to destroy that government and bring it down, so it can be replaced with a government that will respect and support marriage, and help me raise my children in a society where they will expect to marry in their turn.

Does that sound like the opinion of someone who considers the matter “moot”? Have a read of that article. It is the perfect summation of how an intelligent person can look at facts through personal opinions and filter out a desired answer. It’s an exacting example of how homophobia, or any prejudice, can exists in an intelligent society.

I’m especially impressed by the last paragraph. You’ve always got to enjoy the old ‘If you’re so tolerant why are you judging me’ argument. It shows up the misguided viewpoint of people who can’t tell the difference between judging someone for promoting an unfounded and archaic opinion rather than something they are born as.

Card’s statement reeks of the studio and publishers PR Departments. While I understand and believe that a man can change his opinions, I’m going to need to see a lot more evidence than this. Especially as it’s in response to something that could lose the studios a lot of money. Any other time I might have been swayed, but this is all about lost ticket sales.

In my previous article I did not attempt to make a final decision whether we can enjoy Art despite the views or personality of the Artist. I said that it was always going to be something we must judge on a case by case basis. I was personally just not going to bother seeing the film adaptation of Ender’s Game. I might have, but I was leaning against it. But now having read this studio written, slightly bitter plea to forget about it, I find it’s actually pushed me towards a more hardline stance again Card’s work.

Where before I was mildly interested, now I find I do want there to be a successful boycott of this film. It’s not going to affect Card’s talent or success, and I doubt it will change his misguided and 50 years out of date views on homosexuality and marriage. But it will be a wonderfully grand statement that society as a whole does not condone the views that Card seeks to promote.

This our summary of Jeremy Hunt’s contempt

While some people might argue that we already have all of the evidence that we need to make a judgement, recently Jeremy Hunt, through the use of Twitter, has summarised in 140 characters or less exactly why he is utterly ill-suited to the posts of MP and Minister that he holds.

Last month, the website www.conservativepolicyforum.com released a survey that listed a number of questions to its members about the future of the health service. At the end of this was a list of self admitted ‘controversial’ topics which members were asked to rate. Among these was the idea that there should be a cap on the number of times you should be allowed to visit your GP in any given year. (Go here to find the original report. The section in question is right at the end).

In their own word, the ideas this was included with were “controversial food for thought”. It is clearly a way of measuring the Conservative Party membership’s level of interest. However, when this news got out many people were understandably worried. I’m sure that at various points in the past this whole thing would have quickly been dismissed by both the media and public, but under our current Health Secretary it rang all too true as something that he might well attempt.

I was first made aware of this by a 38 Degree online petition. This was set up to make a firm and rapid statement to Mr. Hunt that the general public would not support such a direction in his policy. In 48 hours it reached nearly 200,000 signatures, and was sent off to the Ministry.

This was where Hunt displayed to the world what sort of man he is. Soon after receiving the petition, he posted the following on his Twitter feed.

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This highlights the utter contempt that Jeremy Hunt holds all those who wish to engage with him. This ideas was when out by an official, public Conservative Party think tank, and those of us who were concerned made a statement of their displeasure, as was our right. All the Minister had to do was make a brief statement reassuring people that this was not being considered as policy.

The public raises a concern, the government listens and replies. Democracy in action.

Or not. Because of course Jeremy Hunt does not consider the concerns of the People to be of importance. Why was there the need to make a dig at a group of people who expressed concern? A basic tenant of democracy is that the elected representatives are answerable to the people, and yet Mr. Hunt decided to make a passive aggressive attack on those people who seek to promote that accountability.

A cannot imagine that this situation took any significant time out of his day. He would have been shown the petition by his office, seen that the idea highlighted was not planned to be policy, and told one of his staff to clearly refute it on Twitter. End of story. What’s that? About two minutes of his day at most? It would have been a wonderful example of him engaging with the electorate and done nothing but help his reputation as a politician. But instead he feels compelled to make his snide remark about 38 Degrees. I mean, how dare the public place him under scrutiny? Don’t they know who he is? He’s Jeremy Hunt!

Online petitions are a new phenomenon, and one a lot of the political establishment is still trying coming to terms with. The internet has made it so simple for the public to come together an express opinions on matters of national interest. In the past Ministers might have been able to do the majority of their work with little or no response until policies were enacted, but those days are over. Mr. Hunt, with his involvement in the Ministry’s of both Media and Heath, has been the focus of a number of these petitions since coming to office, and I can understand why he might be frustrated by them, but there is no sympathy.

What this is an example of is a man who is getting fed up with the public outcry at all of his policies. Jeremy Hunt is an example of a certain type of politician; those who feel that the authority they are given is their god given right, rather than something granted to him by the choices of others. This Tweet has encapsulated all of this. He doesn’t see the public as an entity that should be paying attention to what he does, with the right to know his plans and express their opinion. To him the public should settle down and leave him to it, allowing him to do what he want without having to worry about what the common folk want.

I am not trying to make a party political. While I do not support the Tory party or many of their policies, I accept that they were voted in and the current government was fairly elected under our current political system. What I’m criticising here is the man himself. This is a entitled member of the Oxford Old Boys Club. He holds a great deal of power and yet holds nothing but scorn for an open, informed electorate that doesn’t treat him with the deference he feels he deserves. He does not care about what any of us want or need. He has his own views, and as soon as anyone disagrees with him they are a target for his scorn and derision.

This situation offered Mr. Hunt a chance to engage with the electorate. What he gave back was a precisely summarised display of what a privileged, entitled bully he really is. In 140 characters or less.

Remembering An ‘-ism’

Well, it seems that everyone and their mother has thrown in their tuppence on this topic, so much so that there is very little really left to say. Those on the Right has extolled her graces. Those on the Left have trampled her name in the mud. Some have called for people to leave a poor old lady’s grieving family alone. Others have claimed that such a public figure has no claim to such anonymity. Some have held death parties, while others lined the streets for the funeral.

There have been many times since Margaret Thatcher’s death that I’ve wanted to wade in to the many arguments, but I pride myself that I have more sense than that. Everyone had already made up their minds and so I kept out of it, lest I further encourage more vitriol or pointless rehashing of well worn arguments.

But having read through so many articles, I’ve found there is one little thing that I keep wanting to be mentioned that so far people keep missing. So, despite the already vast amount of words about her death already filling the internet, I’ll add just a few more.

One of the arguments throughout this whole situation has been the possible lack of taste, or not, that has been shown by people celebrating Thatcher’s death. Many have counter-argued, quite fairly, that they hated her in life for what she did to them and so pretending otherwise now would be hypocritical. But then maybe, as many on the Right have argued, the old adage of not speaking ill of the dead raises its head, and those who disagreed with her should remain silent for the duration.

They also argue that these celebrations do not seem exclusively populated by those who lived through the 1980s. Many involved are too young to even remember Thatcher, or even to have been alive when she was in power. They are just jumping on a bandwagon, upsetting a grieving family and looking to cause trouble.

And this is where my thought comes in. After so long, 34 years since she came to power and 23 since her own party threw her out of it, Margaret Thatcher cease long ago to be a mere person. Love her or loathe her, she has transpired mere humanity (if you believe she ever had any) and became an “-ism”.

‘Thatcherism’ is more than just one woman; it is something that represents an entire era. An era of the haves and have nots, that for many people represents a time where their way of life was dismantled, for better or for worse, in the name of a political ideology. In exactly the same way that Marxism isn’t the study of what Karl Marx did as an individual, neither is Thatcherism simply down to the actions of one politician.

What these people are celebrating it the symbolic death, through the woman, of the -ism. While Thatcher did many things, and was the leading light of the ideology that took her name, she was not the whole thing. She was a symbol of what it stood for, and it is the death of that symbol that is being celebrated. While the world is by no means free of it, we can believe that our society has moved on where the violent social upheavals are a thing of the past.

And its the same for the other side. The current Tory government can argue that they are mourning a mere woman all they like, what they are doing to worshiping the idol of Thatcherism, and the power it gave them, one last time.

So before anyone starts to turn on those supposedly using death of a weak old lady in the name of political capital, Margaret Thatcher long ago surpassed being such a basic concept as ‘one person’.

Thatcher, was an ‘-ism’. Nothing less.

Paris Brown is just the first…

The recent controversy regarding the dubious comment found of the Twitter feed of Paris Brown, the 17 year old newly appointed Youth Police and Crime Commissioner, has brought us to the cusp of a new point in our technological society. While we’ve all slowly begun to recognise the affects social media has on our professional lives, only now are there people who have grown up with access to online social media joining the workforce. And while she may be one of the first, Ms. Brown will not be the last we hear about.

Paris Brown made the news when she was appointed to the new post of Youth Police and Crime Commissioner in Kent. The post was controversial to many, and under such media scrutiny it was soon revealed that between the ages of 14 and 16 she had posted various homophobic and racist slurs on her Twitter account, along with various references to drug and alcohol use. None of these posts were made since Ms. Brown was appointed, and since then she publicly apologised, deleted the account in question and stood down from the post.

But disregarding all the debate about the validity of the role or her personal suitability for it, what this media storm has highlighted is a new facet that modern social media has added to our lives. One we are soon going to have to face up to in a big way.

The fact is there is an entire generation about to enter the workforce who have grown up on social media, and until now they have never had to worry about what they have said on it.

My generation was the first to have access to modern social media in their youth. Facebook came in around the time I was at university. My peers and I were quick to take up this new tool, but while at first most of us only saw the fun side of it people soon began to recognise all the professional uses and implications of such site. Despite how much fun it was to post ridiculous photos of ourselves and our friends for all to see, we then realised the implications of doing so on a public forum. Family and, more importantly, potential employers had full access to this portrait we painted of ourselves. Stories began to spread of bosses monitoring their employees Facebook pages, and of internet searches becoming a standard part of the vetting process for new jobs. We all quickly learned to ensure that we took control of our digital footprint, and how it represented us.

But now sites like Facebook and Twitter, which have become an integrated part of mainstream life in a way previous incarnations such as MySpace never managed, have been about for long enough that a new generation has had access to them since childhood. Like the rest of us they post what’s on their minds; random thoughts and stupid opinions that mean nothing to anyone five minutes later. And just like the rest of us, they have a following of a couple of dozen people to whom such comments will, in most cases, make very little impact. The occasional social drama or hurt feeling was quickly passed by and forgotten.

But as the case of poor Paris Brown has shown, that generation has now come to the point where people will start to take notice. All those stupid, ridiculous things that they have posted on the internet for all to find are still there. While you can delete them, the very nature of the internet means you can never be sure it hasn’t been saved somewhere. How many guilty secrets and forgotten offenses are hidden in the darker recesses of the ‘net?

And while my generation simply had a year or so to filter through and fix, this new generation has possibly ten years worth. In some cases their entire childhood is documented for everyone to see, with every poor decision and half understood comment.

While you can say that to a certain degree when you’re applying for most jobs your potential employers are not going to search your social media feeds in such fine detail, there are many are out there that will.

It is the media’s job to scrutinise those who reach positions of power and they will go that extra mile. When David Cameron became leader of the Conservative Party, the media was awash with photos of his university days with the Bullingdon Club. You can laugh away a few ridiculous photos, but does anyone imagine that boys in the same positions now aren’t making jokes to each other playing up being the snob and looking down on other people. They may well not mean any of it and be simply joking around with friends, or they might even mean it but realise in a year or to how stupid those opinions are and completely change, but those comments are there potentially forever, waiting for somebody to use out of context.

We are now reaching the stage where the people who will be running for Prime Minister in thirty or forty years are currently pasting comments like “Lol, Karen is such a homo!!1 Gonna beat her good!” and “Driving back from the club. Music dere was for fagz”. Because teenagers write things like that. Because they are stupid. They could mean it, or it could just be attempts at witty irony. In this hypothetical situation the media will not care about the original context, as they will happily create their own. And down goes another political career.

And when this happens it is going to be a hell of a shock for those who have to deal with it. Ann Barnes, the Kent Police and Crime Commissioner who appointed Ms. Brown, highlighted this when she was interviewed by the BBC.

“We went through a perfectly normal recruitment process and we had her vetted by the force. Nobody normally looks through anybody’s Twitter feed – perhaps that’s a lesson for the future. We are living in a different world now.”

In a way, despite various calls from opponents that this scandal shows that the appointment of a Youth Commissioner is a terrible idea, this whole situation actually highlights how including young people in the ‘establishment’ would be beneficial for it. The social media culture is something that folk like Anne Barnes do not understand as it was not something they lived through. Childhood has changed. The police vetting service missed this aspect of Ms. Brown’s past because they did not foresee this sort of thing happening. Political parties are going to be the same.

And while every sensible person knows that you can’t take the comments someone made when they were a teenager seriously when judging their ability as an adult, that won’t stop the media.

I feel sorry for Ms. Brown. She seems to have been first through the breach of this new field of media scrutiny. Unfortunately for her, but unsurprisingly for a 17 year of girl against the might of the media, it has forced her to give up an amazing opportunity. Hopefully she will still be able to make something of all this, but maybe she will simply end up as a example to others as yet one more danger of the irresponsible use of social media.

Hands Off My Money, You Banker

Now, I’m no economist. I can’t claim to have studied either the science of money or the economic machines of the world. But I am, I like to think, blessed with common sense and a basic understanding of how free market capitalism is supposed to work.

As the EU works towards creating laws to limit bankers bonuses and ring-fence the banks, once again we hear the cry of how unthinkable it is to regulate the this industry. How that without constant and guaranteed bonuses for those at the top, regardless of merit or success, those who run our banks will flee to other countries without these rules, and leave us helpless. Bigwigs from the City, and those politicians who rely on them, seem certain that any change to the current system will lead to the destruction of our already broken economy.

But that’s just it, isn’t it? Our economy is already broken. The fact that the global economy went into the worst crash since the Great Depression, causing our country to go into a double-dip recession, and the banks that caused it had to be saved with public money to save the whole thing from getting evening worse, must surely be a fact that those people making all the noise about regulation are people who have demonstrated that they cannot run an economy. Why would we listen to these people when discussing how to fix one?

And frankly, if these people are truly willing to move another continent because of a law that limits how much money they can personally skim off the top, then I don’t want them to be handling my money. The so called “Top Talent” that politicians seem terrified will leave us are the people who oversaw the biggest market crash and economic downturn in living history. To put it bluntly; they failed.

If the new regulations that come into force are too much for them, let them run to New York or Hong Kong. Let other countries gloat that their financial capitals surpass London for a short while. In ten or fifteen years time, when the next economic bubble bursts and millions in those countries are thrown straight back into the poverty they were so precariously floating over, we can gaze smugly at them from our secure, regulated economy and ask them how their laissez-faire policies have worked for them.

And if they all leave, running to the promised lands of lower tax and fewer regulations, are there not people really and willing to step up and take over? Doesn’t the financial industry have a lower rung of people eager for promotion, and likely more than willing to accept new regulations in exchange for the chance to step over the fallen careers of those who came before? When you picture people who go into banking, it does not conjure up images of sentimentalists willing to sacrifice their own prospects to stay loyal to a former boss.

Part of the problem is a tendency towards hidebound opinions. Boris Johnson’s wonderfully antique attack on attempts at regulation being “the worst since Diocletian” is the perfect example of the sort of people who are so stuck in the classical mindset and unable to accept new ways of thinking. He epitomises what it wrong with the top echelons of an industry and culture that refuses to accept a necessary change, as they are personally doing so well out of the old way..

Sometimes, when you are so deeply immersed in a subject it can be almost impossible to see a wider picture. Change is hard, but sometimes you just have to face up to it and what we need now is a change in the political mindset.

I am not, in principle, against free market capitalism. Unfortunately the very nature of capitalism is to beat the free market, otherwise we wouldn’t have a need for such things as monopoly laws. In any system where the absolute mark of success is measured in profits, the making of said profits trumps all other concerns.

When a company is so badly run that it collapses, as our banks have been, then it should be allowed to collapse. This simply makes sense, as it will be a demonstration for future generation on how not to run a business. However some industries are vital for the running of society, and therefore should not be allowed to be left to the whims of those who have an interest in risking all in the name of profit. This is what government regulation should be aimed at doing; identifying which services cannot be allowed to fail, and removing them from the free market completely.

There are certain things in life that are not optional; basic utilities and services such as water, power, transport and banking are a necessity in modern life, and if we lost these then society would in affect collapse. Often, there is little choice about where we get these amenities from. I have no choice where my water comes from; I can’t judge by water supplier by switching to a different set of pipes. If I want to take a train I can’t choose from several that all travel the same journey. I don’t have the choice to boycott a back water or rail company, I cannot use my money to express my opinion, and therefore they are immune to the free market. In cases like this, there must be government regulation to protect me. I am not saying that those companies should not be allowed to make profits, but there should be a legal mandatory level of service they have to provide before they can, and I should be safe from having my services cut below that standard just so the company can increase their profit level.

The banks need to be run this way. They can make their huge profit, which of course was the original intent when modern banking was invented back in the sixteenth century, but only once the economic safety of the country is ensured to a level set by the government to protect the people they were elected to serve.

Basically, if your company is “Too Big To Fail” then it is too big for the free market.