In recent days Britain has started to resemble an earlier era of intolerance. People are using social networks like Twitter and Facebook to be themselves, but the Police, the judiciary and the Establishment are showing worrying signs of not understanding this shift in society. Two recent cases, the “Twitter Joke Trial” and the “#welovebaskers” case currently exploding on Twitter serve to highlight this. And there is a direct comparison to an earlier era.
In 1968 William Rees-Mogg, as editor of The Times newspaper, quoted Poet Alexander Pope, for an editorial about the “Redlands” court case brought against the Rolling Stones. The Stones had been partying at a house, whereupon they’d been busted by the Police for possessing a small amount of drugs. The case resulted in prison sentences for Rolling Stones members Keith Richards and Mick Jagger.
But Rees-Mogg’s Times editorial came to the Stones defence, concluding “If we are going to make any case a symbol of the conflict between the sound traditional values of Britain and the new hedonism, then we must be sure that the sound traditional values include those of tolerance and equity. It should be the particular quality of British justice to ensure that Mr. Jagger is treated exactly the same as anyone else, no better and no worse. There must remain a suspicion in this case that Mr. Jagger received a more severe sentence than would have been thought proper for any purely anonymous young man.”
Swap out “new hedonism” for “the new social networking” and you find that the public nature of social networks is causing a disconnect in British society which has implications for our freedom of speech.