On Wednesday, alongside thousands of other sites across the internet, Another Kind Of Mind went dark in support of the anti-SOPA/PIPA campaign. Despite the fact that said campaign still has some way to go, the blackout appears to have had quite an impact already. In advance of next Tuesday’s Senate vote, here are a few eye-opening stats about what has been called “the largest online protest in the history of the internet”:
10,000,000 – The total number of signatories to all anti-SOPA petitions
4,500,000 – The number of people who signed Google’s anti-SOPA petition alone
3,000,000+ – The approximate number of emails sent in support of the anti-SOPA campaign on Wednesday
2,583,000+ – The approximate number of tweets referring to SOPA/PIPA and the protest on Wednesday alone
511,111 – The number of people who ‘liked’ Mark Zuckerberg’s SOPA statement on Facebook (as of today)
115,000+ – The number of (recorded) sites taking part in the protest
45,000 – The number of WordPress sites involved in the protest (including Another Kind Of Mind!)
Most people, when they hear the name Mae West, think of old Hollywood movies and a brassy bottle blonde delivering comic double entendres in a studied drawl. In fact, there was a lot more to Mae than innocently smutty remarks (although she made those into a cinematic art form – most famously replying to the comment “Goodness, what beautiful diamonds!” with a knowing “Goodness had nothing to do with it” in the 1932 movie Night After Night).
A woman way ahead of her time, she was a multi-talented performer and a very successful and highly controversial playwright – her first play (entitled, with admirable brevity and decades before Madonna, simply Sex) led to her arrest and brief imprisonment during the highly moralistic 1920s. Beginning her career in vaudeville, she became a smash hit on Broadway for both her acting and her plays before moving to Hollywood in the early 1930s, where she became a huge success, again for her acting and writing.
Her distinctive and naughty style attracted the attention of the censors, and her early Hollywood performances were apparently partly responsible for the creation of the so-called Hays Code, which tied the American film industry into a narrowly defined moral outlook for more than thirty years. It was in order to circumvent this new code that Mae developed her now-famous facility with double entendres, a facility that turned her into an icon and one of Hollywood’s highest paid stars.
I can understand the many people who are up in arms about the possibility of the British National Party appearing on the BBC’s Question Time programme. I have gone on record many times with my personal view that the BNP are a deeply unpleasant gang of ignorant, racist, homophobic, fascist bully-boys who disgust and disturb me, and that this country would be a much better place if they (and others of their ilk) were to shut the fuck up and crawl back into the hole they came out of.
However, I also believe in freedom of speech (something the BNP don’t appear to acknowledge even exists for anyone other than themselves). But believing in freedom of speech means believing in that freedom for everyone, whether you agree with them or not. Censoring a group like the BNP because you disagree with their ideology just plays into their hands, reinforcing their already deeply-felt view that they are being victimised for holding views they perceive as ‘correct’ – no matter how vile and factually incorrect those views may actually be in reality. Such censorship also runs the dangerous risk of driving these groups underground, where they may become even more of an extremist threat to the groups they oppose within our society, and, as a result, harder to campaign against and police. Do we really want to run that risk?
To me, that possibility is even more harmful, sinister and dangerous in the long run than allowing them to say their piece on Question Time. Unfortunately, since Nick Griffin and Andrew Brons were elected to the European Parliament earlier this summer, they have become a part (albeit a marginalised one) of the mainstream political structure of this country, which – scary and unpleasant though it is – does give them certain rights as elected politicians. So why not get these elected idiots on the telly, get them to spout their ill-informed rubbish – and watch how they shoot themselves in the foot. Because they will. They will make themselves look ridiculous. Why? Well, mainly because their policies are so vague and badly structured (apart from the ones that discriminate against such targets as ethnic groups and the LGBT community, of course), and they lack any sense of the political savvy needed to actually get anything done in the world of politics. For a start, I’d really like to hear how Griffin and co plan to deal with the complexities of the current economic crisis, a situation that I think even (the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer) Gordon Brown doesn’t fully understand….
And to the politicians from other parties who have stuck their noses in the air and loftily stated that they refuse to share a platform with the BNP – why not take this as a much-needed opportunity to counter the lies these fascists tell and publicly prove their stupidity and ignorance? I’d love to see the likes of Respect’s George Galloway or the prospective Green Party candidate and gay rights activist Peter Tatchell go up against Nick Griffin in a televised debate. Whatever you think of Galloway and Tatchell, they would easily wipe the floor with Griffin and his cronies in a most entertaining and educational fashion. Or get someone like the comedian and activist Mark Thomas on Question Time. I’d pay good money to see him confronting the BNP; being far, far more well-informed and aware than them, he’d rip them apart.
It is vital that Britain continues to stand up to the BNP and their supporters, particularly as the far right continues its sinister and threatening regrowth across Europe. It must be made clear time and time again that Nick Griffin’s party do not and will never represent the vast majority of this country. And if we can start the process by showing them up as the ignorant fascist bully-boys that they are on national TV, then so much the better.