Rod Liddle

Rod Liddle: Try my new year resolution - ignore the internet

It's a fugue of idiocy, spite and misinformation. Take no notice

4 January 2014

9:00 AM

4 January 2014

9:00 AM

At last, it has been scientifically proved that Jesus Christ is better than Muhammad. We’d always known that our lad with the beard and the holes in his hands was far superior to that arriviste Arabian chap who hung around in caves. But tell that to a Muslim and they become unaccountably frosty and defensive. Now, though, a couple of scientists have used algorithms and quantitative analysis to prove that Jesus Christ was the most significant and important human being ever to have lived, while poor old Muhammad managed to slink in at number four: Champions League spot, sure, but no cigar. The Prophet was beaten by both Napoleon Bonaparte — a surprise second place for the diminutive Corsican outsider — and our own doughty contender, legendary Midlands wordsmith William Shakespeare.

There are consolations for Muslims, mind — no Buddha in the top ten, nor room for any of those rather baleful emissaries the Hindus like: Shiva, for example, or that one with four arms, Vishnu. Also, Muhammad easily beat Hitler, who came only a lowly seventh, and Alexander the Great. Ninth place, my good Macedonian mate — not so Great after all. I am not absolutely certain how Professors Steven Skiena and Charles Ward compiled their table: it seems to have been an exhausting process of counting who gets mentioned most on the internet. It’s a miracle, then, that first place did not go to some improbably flexible Ukrainian pornobabe, or Simon Cowell, or George Monbiot.

But at the very least it will have helped the BBC Today programme presenter Evan Davies to answer his own question — possibly the most penetrating and intelligent question ever asked anywhere, by anyone — about whether or not the late Nelson Mandela ranked alongside Jesus Christ in the great pantheon of virtue. ‘No, you camp, Yoda-visaged half-wit,’ Evan’s interviewee, Jimmy Carter, sort of implied in his impressively dismissive response, which involved pointing out, patiently, that Jesus Christ was actually the Son of God. I don’t suppose Davies, or most of the rest of the BBC, were actually dissuaded from this viewpoint, mind. Let’s be honest, they wouldn’t have been half as reverential when coming live from Golgotha as they were with Nelson’s belated death announcement. They’d probably have just done a hurried half-hour obit with Gok Wan and Fearne Cotton, interviewing local punters and Susan Boyle singing ‘Love Lifts Us Up Where We Belong’.

Anyway, Nelson did not figure in that aforementioned top ten, so it is a good job the professors I mentioned are not English, or the police would probably be questioning them regarding this offensive sin of omission. Towards the end of last year a Staffordshire sandwich-shop owner was held in the cells for six hours for having posted a couple of supposedly bad-taste jokes about Mandela on a local forum — in much the same manner as in some sharia country, a Christian who was overheard to have doubted Allah’s wisdom and provenance might be arraigned by the authorities. The sandwich man was finally released without charge, mind, rather than being decapitated in public — so at least we have that to cling to.

Judging someone’s importance and significance to mankind by trawling through the internet — and especially Wikipedia — does not quite do it for me as a means of assessing the worth of an individual. Indeed, using the internet for any purpose other than to amuse oneself strikes me as misguided. I am grateful for the fact that I can now write about any subject under the sun from a position which is only 98 per cent rooted in ignorance, rather than the previous rock-solid 100 per cent, and I have been cheered to renew friendships which I feared had been long forgotten, plus of course there are the flexible Ukrainian pornobabes. But for the most part Tim Berners-Lee’s invention is a fugue of almost unrelieved idiocy, malice, spite, misinformation, banalities, lunacies, non-sequiturs and tedious vapidities. In other words, yes, it is the voice of humanity as heard after several stiffeners down the pub on a Saturday night.

I always suspected that it would be like this, rather than an Empowering Weapon for the Dispossessed Masses, as the liberal left and right-wing libertarians liked to believe (in the beginning). Ironically, you might think, it is the liberal left which is most strident in demanding prosecutions when those same dispossessed masses take to cyberspace and divest themselves of somewhat pungent views with which the liberal left do not entirely concur, or just make naughty jokes or what have you. That is the problem with us — we are frequently off-colour and off-piste.

So this lengthy and dyspeptic preamble brings me to the point at last — a resolution for 2014 for all those who sit in power over us: ignore the internet. Take no notice of it; the thing is a fantasy world, a make-believe place. If you are a politician and 50,000 people sign an online petition eviscerating some policy of yours, ignore them. Today, on the www, 50,000 are nowt, and 500,000 aren’t much to write home about. And in any case the signatories almost certainly know less than nothing about your policy. And the police — someone makes a joke online which someone else deems offensive: ignore it. Take no notice. Tell the complainant to shut up, get a life and stop wasting police time. When the moronic din gets too loud, wear ear muffs. Just don’t get involved.

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Show comments
  • zanzamander

    OTOH, internet delivers one from the shackles of social bondage. One behaves with gay abandon and as long as they don’t say anything untoward about Islam/Muhammad, the US government (Obama), CIA, FBI, MI5 and the plod (all the same), one’s ok.

    • pedestrianblogger

      I am not sure but I think your use of the word “gay” constitutes homophobic hate-speech and, therefore, have reported you to the authorities.

      • Nohourwastedinthesaddle

        How did you manage this incredible feat? The E. U. is a velvet curtain approached by 99 steps and the curtain when pulled just shows you the road to Mordor!

    • rtj1211

      But are all the innocent victims of Operation Shock N Awe OK if you bow down at the cock of the US President, Head Honcho of the CIA, Eliza Bullying Manner and the biddable and corrupt senior officers of the Met??

      Or don’t you care about human beings if they don’t Iive in your own house??

  • Terry Field

    The interweb is garbage. I totally ignore it, read nothing in it, write nothing on it, and eat raw beetroot.

    • And believe that Prince Charles is right about climate. I take it you’ve seen the news about the ice-trapped sanctimonious ‘scientific’ expedition?

      • Terry Field

        I do not ‘believe’ stuff – but I presently consider the body of evidence points to severe climate change, as supported by the latest robust information on cloud cover as warming gets under way across the globe. As for the Antarctic,, that mechanical explanation is not of significance as compared, for example , to the data supporting the contention that the southern ocean is not in some way sealed off from the rest of the warming world.
        And yes, Charles is a great prince. I admire him.

        • You’re easily impressed.

          • Terry Field

            You are as arrogant as you are inadequate. But smile, there are many millions of other mediocrities just like you.

          • Right back atcha.

        • BritishSauce

          Well said…esp about HRH

    • rtj1211

      There’s some third generation robot that divined your thoughts and shared them all with us without you knowing, is there??

      • Terry Field

        Yes, a kind of digital doppelgaenger. He is less well mannered than I am, and tends to use naughty words.

  • Nohourwastedinthesaddle

    Never mind that J. C. was probably not an actual human being — and I don’t mean that he was divine, I mean that there is simply no convincing historical, i.e. factual evidence that he existed. He wasn’t mentioned by anybody until a good 70 years after his supposed death. What J. C. most likely is, in my view, is a fictive character or composite of actual rabbis, to serve as figurehead and center of worship for the radical new religion called ‘Christianity’.

    • Pootles

      On your second point, a lot of people do see it ‘as a form of slavery’ etc. But ‘porn’ isn’t really just one thing, and the internetwebtron thingy has enabled an extension of the exhibitionism that characterises a remarkable number of people. Think ‘gonzo porn’ (if that’s what it is still called), where people video themselves up to tricks and happily upload it onto the net. Or, for that matter, think of the ‘sexting’ craze among the yoof. The reality is that there are plenty of people more than happy to provide porn for the undiscerning, and the discerning.

      • Nohourwastedinthesaddle

        Excellent answer. I was overstating things somewhat to show that I don’t think exhibitionism, wherever it is on the scale of ‘fun’/’volition’, is not good for people. It’s not good either for the virtue of the people doing it or for those leering on the sides. ‘Virtue’ is seen in our time as a religious idea and therefore as not valid, but civilization requires notions of virtue in order to thrive.

        • Pootles

          Indeed, but this is the age of the ‘selfie’! Unfortunately, I’m too ugly to take part in that craze, but, fortunately, I agree enough on the virtue front to not want to take part. The moving picture has done something odd to us as humans, or, more likely, exacerbated something that was already there.

          • Nohourwastedinthesaddle

            Mm, interesting. I’m not sure that your claimed ugliness ought to be a bar, though. Was Anthony Wiener a handsome man? I don’t think so!

            I’ve made videos, myself. Mainly of nature, but in a few cases, I was performing a dance. The reason I recorded them was the distance that modern telecommunications both overcomes and exacerbates. In all cases, making a video was the only way that parts of my life could be known by distant others.

          • Pootles

            I have the perfect face for Radio. Also, to return to Liddle’s piece, there must be some good in all this interwebby stuff – how else could one enjoy the high levels of debate (cough) that characterise the Speccie’s web page?

          • Nohourwastedinthesaddle

            The Internet is a great way to people-watch. And it’s like radio in being always fresh but better than radio because you can filter the content and choose what you like. If your face is not fit for the Spectator, why not show us your dog or cat? ‘Pootles’ is the perfect name for one.

  • Gareth Milner

    Whilst widely used, I still believe that the internet remains the undiscovered country for politics; in terms of utilising it properly and effectively.

    • rtj1211

      You are right, but it suits the traditional powers that be that it isn’t. The thought of getting ‘democratic socialism’ through direct online opinion-polling/voting must give them the heebie-jeebies.

      I mean: what percentage of people would vote for:
      1. Council housing stock built continuously and a subset sold off to aspiring owners as and when they can afford to become home owners.
      2. Immigration controlled to sensible limits.
      3. Affordable energy being a higher priority than dividends to foreign owners.
      4. National energy resources controlled in a manner to build an intergenerational sovereign-wealth fund to fund small central government in perpetuity rather than being squandered on unemployment benefit for 25 years.
      5. Measures of societal health being more important than narrow measures of ‘wealth’ (which usually mean the wealth of the top 25%).
      6. The NHS being owned by the people, run for the people and by the people.

      Dreadful threat to national security all that, isn’t it??

      That’s why the ‘loyal’ ‘leaders’ could never allow it.

  • How I’m not ignoring the Internet:

  • Eddie

    Great article.
    The internet is not liberating, but created and feeds mobs; it is indeed the mob in full cry – uncontrollable, capricious and riddled with rumour and lies.
    It seems however that the police adore the internet – it allows them to boost their arrest rates to show how well they are fighting ‘crime’, by arresting anyone who posts rude words and thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, and charging anyone who sends 2 emails to anyone who then complains they were ‘alarmed and distressed’ of harassment. Two acts that should be repealed: The Harassment Act 1997 and the Malicious Communications Act – these allow the plods to tootle around in their vans collaring kids for bickering and squabbling online instead of tackling REAL crime – mugging, street violence generally, theft etc.
    Moreover, as Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine show revealed last week, the police spend public time and money posting tweets, some of them silly, a few of them abusive and libellous, against named individuals (councillors, politicians) they do not like. Of course, the police never arrest and question those weaned in their own porcine litter though… Maybe the plods are a leeeetle bit Muslims in their utter cronyism and defence of those of the same creed?

  • Eddie

    My rule is this: use the internet for work and play, but turn off at 6pm every day, and don’t ever buy one of those smart phones or access the internet or Twitter when out of the house. That is down time – I am always offline when out and do not look at screens.

    Yes, I get sick of the internet – but that’s because I sometimes get sick of work – I run my own small website business! It does horrible things to my eyes though, looking at screens for so much of the day.

    I think I shall post the quote anonymously to the local plods (but I shall wear gloves because otherwise they’ll probably do a DNA test to find out who is daring to criticise them by sending them such offensive and abusive advice which alarms and distresses them (oh booo boomin hooooo!):

    “And the police — someone makes a joke online which someone else deems offensive: ignore it. Take no notice. Tell the complainant to shut up, get a life and stop wasting police time. When the moronic din gets too loud, wear ear muffs. Just don’t get involved.”

    (But you forgot Rod about how all those internet arrests boost Plod’s crime clear-up stats eh? You are asking them to lose maybe 20% of their arrests every year!)

  • lozerama

    Nah, the improbably flexible Ukrainian pornobabes swing it, I’m afraid.

  • rtj1211

    I think you mean that the political ‘discussions’ on the internet are an unremitting round of primary school playground screaming matches??

    There’s a lot of good on the internet. I can buy rare books which my local bookstore wouldn’t stock and it’ll get to me within a week. I can buy railway tickets without having to go out in the pissing rain and can pick the tickets up at the station on the day. Great stuff. I can plan my own holidays to suit me, online, and buy everything online too. Inestimable increase in the freedom of choice.

    It’s great for minority communities who may need national, regional or global reach just to feel they have a community of like-minded human beings. You don’t have a church for the socially insecure in every village, do you?? It’s a church for the conformist golf club bores in reality, isn’t it??

    It’s a terrible menace to traditional autocratic powers though, in which I include egotistical journalists of all hues. You just can’t get over losing your ability to hector without reply. You’re all aghast at so many people seeing through your revisionist, distorted sports reports and telling you so.

    What my 15 year experience of the internet says is that, when it was in its infancy, it was a step-change improvement, because few people saw it as a tool of mass manipulation, coercion and distortion. With capitalism, that’s what you get. No money in the truth, you see. Only money in coming high up on google searches.

    The test of the internet is whether Google Searches are any good any more. My experience is that they’ve got inestimably worse in the past 5 years and I would welcome a challenger that ground Google into the ground by supplying what the customer wants. We don’t want Google’s malign searches any more, we want the information we asked for.

    So come on capitalism: prove you can wipe out Google as a search engine, because it’s time has long passed.

  • rtj1211

    Is this Rod Liddle announcing who will win the football trophies in 2014??


    Rod, you are confused. That is not a picture of Napoleon at the top of the article. It is quite clearly the snooker player Jimmy White, and I claim my five pounds.

  • Noa

    Wikipaedia defines a fugue as “…a contrapuntal compositional technique in two or more voices, built on a subject (theme) that is introduced at the beginning in imitation (repetition at different pitches) and recurs frequently in the course of the composition…”
    Which provides an obvious analogy with, for example, this blog and the posters behind it, but it does led to the view that if we are posting idiocies then you must take some small credit for instigating them.