The idiot’s idea of a clever man

Stephen Fry has called for Facebook and other “aggregating news agencies” to be reclassified as publishers in order to stop fake news and online abuse spreading by making social media subject to the same legal responsibilities as traditional news websites.

Outlining his “reformation” for the internet, as part of the Hay literary festival’s programme to mark the quincentenary of Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses in 1517, Fry accused social media platforms of refusing to “take responsibility for those dangerous, defamatory, inflammatory and fake items whose effects will have legal consequences for traditional printed or broadcast media, but which they can escape”.

“One thesis I could immediately nail up to the tent flag is to call for aggregating news agencies like Facebook to be immediately classified as publishers. At the moment, they are evading responsibility for their content as they can claim to be platforms, rather than publishers. Given that they are now a major source of news for 80% of the population, that is clearly an absurd anomaly,” he said.

“If they, and Twitter and like platforms recognised their responsibilities as publishers, it would certainly help them better police their content for unacceptable libels, defamations, threats and other horrors, that a free belief in the value of the press would, as a matter of course, be expected to control.”

If they do that this means that they have to edit what is said.

And all that will happen is that people who want to say things which are edited out will move to another platform.

It’ll just be an endless game of whack a mole.

51 comments on “The idiot’s idea of a clever man

  1. So the twat is calling for censorship in service of cultural Marxism.

    If he still appears live anywhere I’d suggest a boycott. But as he is London Bubble middle-class leftist scum he is already talking to the vermin who are his audience.

  2. Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses in 1517, Fry accused social media platforms of refusing to “take responsibility for those dangerous, defamatory, inflammatory and fake items whose effects will have legal consequences for traditional printed or broadcast media, but which they can escape”.

    Look on the bright side. Think of all the great jobs it would create for Philippino sub-editors!

    I wonder if Fry is smart enough to realise that Luther’s Theses were precisely dangerous, defamatory, inflammatory and fake? Clearly they should not have been allowed.

  3. I guess the Roman Catholic church found Martin Luther’s ninety five theses “dangerous, defamatory, inflammatory and fake items “. They tried very hard to shut him and his supporters down. Does Fry think the Reformation was a bad thing?

  4. It is not just Luther. Jesus was nailed up for saying things the government said were dangerous, defamatory, inflammatory and fake.

    Still, a good case could be made both should have been banned.

  5. “the government said “: the High Priest said – don’t let religion off the hook on this one; Caiaphas was the local Pope of his day.

    Though how Mark and company knew what had happened isn’t clear. Maybe someone made it up.

  6. I can half understand what he is saying about FB because news articles do get published and shared on it (that is, not just a link to content elsewhere on the web, but you can view the article on FB) and news sources have a different type of account there to your mates.

    Might be impractical for FB to police news sources, highly illiberal for it to need to pre-approve before they can be shared, and then there is also the fine line between opinion pieces and news pieces… Overall I’m not sure what Fry thinks FB should do, but I can see why he thinks it should do something.

    But Twitter takes things to a whole new level. News sources aren’t publishing complete articles there, so the scope of what he is asking Twitter to edit and curate presumably/logically (haven’t read his full speech) extends to every message on the site – anything that links to another website, the link would have to be read in full to determine if it is acceptable, any tweet containing a factoid could be flagged to be fact-checked, and as for any tweet containing an opinion, suggestion or rumour….

    Aside from the issue of freedom of speech, how is this even a logistic possibility? I suppose China has thousands of employees seeing that its web is kept clean and tidy and dissent-free but that is hardly a progressive model to follow nor could Twitter afford that level of self-policing.

  7. MBE: Screw the logistics of tyranny.

    Fry is a cunt for even suggesting the idea. I’d say his career needs ending but he has already just about managed that himself.

  8. Fake news doesn’t include misinformation that serves the interests of the left such as global warming and Islam is a peaceful religion.

  9. To be fair to Mr Fry, his concern does seem to be around libels, defamations and threats.

    In theory at least this is legitimate and entirely compatible with support for offensive free speech.

  10. dearieme,

    Chutzpah: accusing a contemporary chronicler of invention, without evidence and 20 centuries after the events in question. And just because a government’s also religious doesn’t change the fact it’s the government – we even have a word for it. Or would you say Iran has no government?

    MBE,

    In the case of FB reproducing others’ news items, wouldn’t the original authors already be subject to the very strictures that Fry now wishes to extend to FB?

  11. Mr Ecks,
    There is a very clever story, the name and author of which I’ve forgotten, where a character calling himself Mr Ecks pressures the protagonist into carrying out acts of espionage by convincing him that he, Ecks, represents a powerful covert government agency. In the end it turns out Ecks is just a very good conman acting alone. Any relation?

  12. @Nemo

    As I understand it, there are some “new media” news sources (perhaps “news” should be in quotes too, since many seem quite fringe content) that have a facebook-only or facebook-first existence. FB has developed quite the ecosystem.

  13. DocBud – “Fake news doesn’t include misinformation that serves the interests of the left such as global warming and Islam is a peaceful religion.”

    Hands up, don’t shoot is another outstanding example. In fact the Left pretty much runs on fake news these days. The tax evasion myth. The pay gap myth. The IQ myth. The list goes on and on.

    The facts of life are conservative. Being left wing is largely a rebellion against reality.

  14. I suppose China has thousands of employees seeing that its web is kept clean and tidy and dissent-free but that is hardly a progressive model to follow

    No? Most “progressives” on the internet think it is a fucking blueprint.

  15. dearieme – “the High Priest said – don’t let religion off the hook on this one; Caiaphas was the local Pope of his day.”

    Wot? The Jews are what done it? Anyone asked Dave?

    MyBurningEars – “I suppose China has thousands of employees seeing that its web is kept clean and tidy and dissent-free but that is hardly a progressive model to follow nor could Twitter afford that level of self-policing.”

    Thousands? The Chinese government has admitted to employing TWO million people to police the internet.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-24396957

    I am not sure how big the People’s Liberation Army is these days I suspect it isn’t that big.

    https://foreignpolicy.com/2016/05/19/meet-the-chinese-internet-trolls-pumping-488-million-posts-harvard-stanford-ucsd-research/

  16. “a contemporary chronicler”: oh balls. Whoever wrote Mark’s gospel wrote it, current scholarly opinion suggests, about forty years after the events it describes. That is not “contemporary”.

  17. Murray Rothbard made some good arguments against strict libel laws. In particular this one that you’d think would appeal to equality obsessives.

    in the current situation, when false libels are outlawed, the average person tends to believe that all derogatory reports spread about people are true, ‘otherwise they’d sue for libel.’ This situation discriminates against the poor, since poorer people are less likely to file suits against libelers. Hence, the reputations of poorer or less wealthy persons are liable to suffer more now, when libel is outlawed, than they would if libel were legitimate. For in that libertarian society since everyone would know that false stories are legal, there would be far more skepticism on the part of the reading or listening public, who would insist on far more proof and believe fewer derogatory stories than they do now. Furthermore, the current system discriminates against poorer people in another way; for their own speech is restricted, since they are less likely to disseminate true but derogatory knowledge about the wealthy for fear of having costly libel suits filed against them. Hence, the outlawing of libel harms people of limited means in two ways: by making them easier prey for libels and by hampering their own dissemination of accurate knowledge about the wealthy.

  18. Dearie, dearieme,

    So your rationalisation is a repetition of the original action -“current scholarly opinion suggests” – and under a blog post titled “The idiot’s idea of a clever man”! It’s chutzpah cubed!

    Presumably, as the currency of the scholarly opinion’s worth mentioning, then the opinion of scholars chronologically closer to their subject matter is now deemed incorrect? But let’s assume the current scholarly opinion isn’t just an instance of newmania: 40 years is still a lot closer to contemporary than 2,000 – no?

  19. Oh, and while we’re hanging on ‘contemporary chronicler’, how old do you imagine the author of ‘Mark’ to be?

  20. ‘making social media subject to the same legal responsibilities as traditional news websites’

    Traditional news has been giving us fake news for decades. They don’t like competition from FB.

  21. ‘then the opinion of scholars chronologically closer to their subject matter is now deemed incorrect?’

    You are in la la land. There is no such thing. Indeed the first scholarly mention of the alleged Jesus was by Josephus around 100 AD.

  22. “In the current situation, when false libels are outlawed, the average person tends to believe that all derogatory reports spread about people are true, ‘otherwise they’d sue for libel.’”

    This is the moral hazard of fascism. People expect government to take care of things. They don’t need to think critically anymore, coz government has taken care of it.

  23. “making social media subject to the same legal responsibilities as traditional news websites”

    What’s he on about? Newspapers have been able to lie for decades. They can’t libel someone, and you can’t libel people on Twitter (see that recent Price case).

    The irony of his reference to Luther is that Luther was about challenging the elite with new technology.

    What Fry is really about here is defending the media elite. They’ve promoted the values that Fry wants, and he sees them being shattered by these protestants. It’s a conservative perspective. “Fake news” is little more than “heresy” or “blasphemy”. Priests trying to destroy anyone who will usurp their power.

    We’ve got a few more years of this before it all gets forgotten and we get a new normal.

  24. PJF,

    Amazing. Female officer takes offence and hits panic button. One for smfs, methinks.

  25. Gamecock,

    No such thing as what? How is 100AD not “chronologically closer” to the events question than people living today? I may well be in “la la land”, but you’ve singularly failed to give a reason.

    Also, for the sake of clarity, you’re talking about the history whereas the comment you quote was specifically regarding the writing of the history.

    And, candidly, your attempt to differentiate Josephus as “scholarly” is a clear indication of your own perverse prejudice. I wonder how that came about.

  26. “Wot? The Jews are what done it?” Nah, they didn’t run a referendum. Can’t blame the populist masses on this one.

  27. Why isn’t critical thinking taught in schools as a life skill, wouldn’t be bad for any vested interests would it?

  28. “40 years is still a lot closer to contemporary than 2,000 – no?”

    Depends what you mean. It’s closer in time but not necessarily in accuracy. For instance, “Mark” makes mistakes with the geography of Palestine which you and I wouldn’t, because maps.

    Anyway, the claim wasn’t that “Mark” wrote closer to Jesus’ time, it was that his writing was contemporary, whereas as far as anyone can tell it wasn’t. As for what his sources of information were, nobody knows. He’s silent on the subject, just as he’s silent on the subject of when he wrote it and, indeed, who he is.

    Be that as it may, I recommend “Mark” who I think is a gifted writer. You’d want to eliminate the couple of bits that are forgeries i.e. not written by the original writer, whoever he was.

  29. Dearieme: it was that his writing was contemporary, whereas as far as anyone can tell it wasn’t.

    I was taught that the Synoptic Gospels all referenced a lost source dubbed “Q” ( for Quelle – German for “source” and not to be confused with the mail-order outfit of the same name) and that while “Q” was of unknown date, the subsequent interpretations of Matthew, Mark and Luke were all aimed at different audiences and were written at different times after “Q”.

  30. “And, candidly, your attempt to differentiate Josephus as “scholarly” is a clear indication of your own perverse prejudice.”

    Josephus is widely recognized as “scholarly.” Unlike the campfire tales in the Bible.

    ‘Flavius Josephus, original name Joseph Ben Matthias (born ad 37/38, Jerusalem—died ad 100, Rome), Jewish priest, scholar, and historian who wrote valuable works on the Jewish revolt of 66–70 and on earlier Jewish history. His major books are History of the Jewish War (75–79), The Antiquities of the Jews (93), and Against Apion.’
    – Wiki

  31. Fun fact. My Great Uncle did the penguin (really, Pelican) translation of the Jewish War.

  32. dearieme,

    You’re waffling: “40 years is still a lot closer to contemporary than 2,000 – no?” seems pretty clear to me – no “depends”. That was, way back in the mists of time (about 4.5 hours) my original point: that you accuse a contemporary chronicler of invention from a distance of two millennia! I did not claim that his writing was contemporary, but that the author was contemporary – hence my question about the possible age of the author, bearing in mind your 40-year post-event assertion. He may or may not have made mistakes – and it would’ve been much better if you’d provided an example – but even so it’s far from enough to dismiss the whole account as fiction.

    Let’s try a more contemporary (!) scenario: Churchill’s been dead over 50 years – who do you think would be more reliable – a chronicler today, or someone in 4,000AD who’s been raised in a society at best ambivalent to liberal democracy and is basing their work on minimal data and the assumptions of their time?

  33. Rue de Jour:

    “There is a very clever story, the name and author of which I’ve forgotten, where a character calling himself Mr Ecks pressures the protagonist into carrying out acts of espionage by convincing him that he, Ecks, represents a powerful covert government agency. In the end it turns out Ecks is just a very good conman acting alone. Any relation?”

    No.

    The name is used in Harry Harrison’s “Bill the Galactic Hero” novel. Harrison was a good SF writer. An American leftist bastard but not strident about it in print so it doesn’t spoil his books.

    Also there is a crap movie called “Ballistic: Ecks vs Sever” based on a successful video game. It starred Antonio Banderas as Ecks and Lucy Liu as Sever. They start out as enemies but it turns out it was the gubmint what done it and they end as allies.

    It received the lowest ever rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

  34. WKPD: “Q is part of the common material found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke but not in the Gospel of Mark.”

    If Q existed, when was it written and by whom? Dunno. Does anyone claim to? Was it written or word-of-mouth? Both?

    But on the other hand:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four-document_hypothesis

    It’s all a mystery. Not surprising really: Jesus was a pretty obscure figure in his lifetime.

  35. Never got the hype over him being so clever. Great actor, I loved Jeeves and Wooster, Fry and Laurie, Black Adder. But all he does it parrot right-on views or present a show about being clever where he has all the answers given to him by a researcher.

    Has he ever come up with an original idea? Douglas Adams was much more impressive in my opinion.

  36. “that you accuse a contemporary chronicler of invention from a distance of two millennia!”: no I didn’t. You’re having reading comprehension problems.

    “your 40-year post-event assertion”: not mine, quoting a common view of people who work in the field.

    “my question about the possible age of the author”: how in hell could anyone know? It’s not even known who the author was, never mind when he was born.

    “it’s far from enough to dismiss the whole account as fiction”: I didn’t. Do you always invent charges against people you disagree with?

    Your Churchill example is lame: Churchill is a well-known historical figure about whom much was written at the time. Jesus was an obscure back-country preacher and magician, only just worth a couple of mentions in Josephus, one of which has probably been mucked about with so much that nobody can know what was originally said.

    The main source for information about Jesus is therefore the synoptic gospels, though the obvious fairy-stories about the nativity does detract from the trustworthiness of Matthew and Luke.

  37. ‘Stephen Fry has called for Facebook and other “aggregating news agencies” to be reclassified as publishers in order to stop fake news and online abuse spreading by making social media subject to the same legal responsibilities as traditional news websites.’

    Coz traditional news had this deal with the fascist government – “we’ll support you if you support us.”

    Fascism always tends toward government/business alliances, as business gets tired of fighting stupid regulation and realizes a partnership with government will kill their competition.

    The traditional news is calling for government to keep up their end of the bargain, and crush their competition.

    The cure is for government to have no such authority.

  38. Yes, and I want the Royal Mail to stop refusing to take responsibility for the crap that they push through my letterbox, and I want British Telecome to stop refusing to take responsibility for the crap that they shove down my telephone from telemarketeers and politicitians.

  39. dearieme
    May 29, 2017 at 8:52 am

    “Though how Mark and company knew what had happened isn’t clear. Maybe someone made it up.”

    I realise that ‘maybe’ is inherently uncertain – when used sincerely – but that looks to me like Sally Bercow levels of sincerity. Perhaps you should’ve put (innocent face) afterwards – for clarity? As it reads, I think that stands as “accus[ing] a contemporary chronicler of invention”.

    As to the 40 years, you weren’t quoting anyone, you were repeating an opinion in support of your own and as such it is your assertion – or do you not hold to the basis for your own opinion?

    Age of the author: i didn’t ask for a birthday, but what you imagined the age to be; I think we can be confident that the author of such a piece would be out of nappies and I imagine them to be relatively mature. It’s not proof of anything, but I only mentioned it to try and get you to see that your 40-year assertion isn’t necessarily contradictory to the chronicler being contemporary to the events they record.

    ““it’s far from enough to dismiss the whole account as fiction”: I didn’t. Do you always invent charges against people you disagree with?” Actually, that was a general statement and not an accusation aimed at you; do you always invent charges about inventing charges against people with whom you disagree?

    As to the Churchill analogy, you seem awesomely determined to avoid addressing the actual principle: that decades rather than millenia from events is a far more reliable position from which to pronounce on those events. That Churchill was more written about in a time with more writing I don’t dispute, but you have no idea how much Jesus was written about during his own time – a time with a stronger oral tradition anyway – nor any idea how much that’s written about Churchill will still be around in 4,000AD*. I have documents on disc from 20 years ago that I can’t open now.

    As we’ve already sunk to Wikipedia levels: “The New Testament has been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work, having over 5,800 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic and Armenian. The dates of these manuscripts range from c. 125 to the introduction of printing in Germany in the 15th century.”
    The Bible is by far the most authenticated ancient history in the world – regardless of how trustworthy you deem it to be.

    * The answer’s nil: it’ll all be over waaaay before then; the software’s accumulated too many copying errors.

  40. Gamecock,

    “The traditional news is calling for government to keep up their end of the bargain, and crush their competition.”

    The media laughed at the internet, blogs, etc for far too long, then assumed they could diversify or that it would all just go away. “Fake news” is the shock, too late, of their own irrelevance. It should have been Jeb vs Hilary, with Hilary winning. In a previous era, Trump would never have had the oxygen to be a front runner.

  41. “The Bible is by far the most authenticated ancient history in the world – regardless of how trustworthy you deem it to be.” What balls; a yarn isn’t authenticated by endlessly repeating it. Hell, if you took that line you’d have to believe in the myths of the Greek and Roman gods, the tales of Homer, the religious writings of the Hindus and even, God help us, the hadith of the Moslems.

    The important parts of the OT are false, as far as archaeology and ancient history can tell. Repeating them uncritically does not magically make them true. The fact that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are based on them also doesn’t make them true. The fact that many of my ancestors presumably believed this rubbish doesn’t make it true.

    Whether anything in Mark is a lie, as distinct from an error, I don’t know. Much of it strikes me as valid, in the sense that even the magic stories are the sort of thing that the peasantry of Galilee might have believed at the time. Not true, of course – magic stories aren’t true – but valid.

    On the other hand the Matthew and Luke nativity stories strike me as not only invalid – stories that make no sense in that Jewish milieu – but obvious codswallop. They also contain a lovely refutation of your daft thesis that a writer nearer the event will automatically be more accurate than one long after. Luke recounts his notion of a Roman census run on the uniquely unlikely principle of a couple going back to a place associated with the male’s ancestors of some forty generations earlier. Ancient historians, two thousand years after the event, know better than that. But you’re welcome to invite derision by trying to explain away that obvious invention.

  42. Outlining his “reformation” for the internet, as part of the Hay literary festival’s programme to mark the quincentenary of Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses in 1517,

    Lol. Someone wind his neck in.

    The funny bit is Progressives lauding Luther and those who followed. They were Christian fundamentalists, they really, really believed. Perhaps it was his attitude to Jews they liked. Who knows?

  43. fry is such a pompous windbag i am surprised that he hasn’t floated away like an untethered barrage balloon – destination brugge per chance ?

  44. Dearieme,

    You really are unable to grasp even the most basic principles and concepts, aren’t you? Feel free to deride me all you want; if I had any respect for your intellect it might bother me, but I don’t so it won’t. I think it would be amusing though – like being threatened by a yappy little Chihuahua. An old, arthritic Chihuahua that’s long since lost its teeth. Just as you’ve long since lost this argument, and so have resorted to making straw men arguments to attack instead. Insubstantial straw men so you can sink your gummy little Chihuahua jaws into them and tell yourself you’re a wolf.

    Starting with the historicity of the Bible, I explicitly stated its veracity was irrelevant; the point is that the Bible has existed as a history for nearly two millennia, with far more manuscripts than any other and dating from much closer to the events they purport to describe than any other, yet many people today reject it outright whilst treating the likes of Josephus as gospel (!) despite his work having a tiny fraction of the manuscript evidence of the Bible – and call him a ‘scholar’ as though that actually means something.

    Touching upon the veracity of the Bible, it’s obviously escaped your notice that I’ve said precisely nothing in that regard; you however dismiss from a position of ignorance: “The important parts of the OT are false, as far as archaeology and ancient history can tell.” This is nonsense: are you really saying there’s some ancient document that explicitly refutes descriptions in the Old Testament – or do you mean modern historians? For the archaeology you do the same as you did with Mark’s supposed errors of geography: baldly state they exist, while providing not a single example. Put up or shut up.

    Your next straw man: that I have a “daft thesis that a writer nearer the event will automatically be more accurate than one long after”. I’ve said no such thing and you’re either dishonest or plain stupid to claim that I have. I’ve said that proximity to an event is a better starting point than distance – your self-aggrandising condescension of the minds of Galilee peasantry from 2,000 years ago being a good illustration, your faith in “ancient historians” (are you sure you don’t mean ‘modern’?) who “know better” being another.

    As to the specific point of “Luke recount[ing] his notion of a Roman census run on the uniquely unlikely principle of a couple going back to a place associated with the male’s ancestors of some forty generations earlier”, I’ve just read Luke 2:1-5 in the KJV and it says nothing of the sort; it says they went up from Nazareth to Bethlehem because Joseph was of the house of David, but I can’t see how you get from that to the gibberish of a “uniquely unlikely principle” of how a Roman census was run. There could be any number of reasons why Joseph would wish to be on the tax rolls in Bethlehem – are you aware of a more explicit text than the KJV?

    Anyway, that’s all rather beside the point; I never claimed any Biblical knowledge and its veracity was never my point. It was “Chutzpah: accusing a contemporary chronicler of invention, without evidence and 20 centuries after the events in question.”

    And nothing you’ve wibbled changes that.

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