tweeting a modern lynching?

This piece has been on my mind all week (trigger warning: lots of things – you may not wish to read it all): “This is a modern hip hop lynching”.

It’s shocking beyond words, but in a week of extreme events, there are more banal examples (which we’ll use from here on).


The (banal) example is a tweet by a local councillor concerning a particular Cambridge Institution, and the old, popular meme of “Why Wasn’t I Consulted?” All this coinciding with yet another flurry of messages in my inbox from someone whose feelings were hurt because they felt insufficient attention had been paid on a topic they cared about, and on which they had an opinion.

“It doesn’t matter that someone thinks what you’re doing is stupid, evil, or has been done before” (Gaiman). Online only, maybe that’s true, but online criticism, and online approaches to criticism, are jumping offline.

Constructive criticism looks to build an alternate way forward to replace it. But much criticism online is not a potentially helpful “Stop, then…”, but the simpler “Just stop”. Such critique of anything has always been true.

Considering the abolitionists, and even if you have every person ever seeing that the idea, in abstract is good, there will be people who believe that individual shouldn’t have done it. That it wasn’t fair that they delivered; sometimes, with a silent addition, “and I didn’t”.

“The sentence that almost nothing will work, which is obviously true, is the same as “nothing will work”, which is false. Every success in human history has passed through the eye of that needle”.  Some things are sheer fluke, and some things that may seem not to deserve to work, get are executed so flawlessly that they do. Sometimes, just starting something is enough for it to snowball. but mostly, “while (1) {predict failure}. you’ll get it right most of the time.”

Why did something succeed, and an identical/superior thing fail? It may be pure chance, or a lot of work combined with what is seen as luck. It’s impossible to tell the difference.

It’s easy to see someone as an imposter because they make a decision different to yours, whoever “expert”. In a hashtag world, what was complaining in the pub has much broader reach for their theories.  Some theories are abusive. The pub conspiracy theorist now has a worldwide audience (or just a script of twitter sockpuppets), but our social norms haven’t worked that out yet.

In a world where there isn’t a fundamental respect for human rights, it’s easy to claim that decisions are flawed based on who made them. That’s the moral justification for lynching.

And when not everyone is seen as human, and someone feels they have a right to take credit for anything, mixed with the capacity for harm, you can end up with a modern hip hop lynching.

posted: 16 Feb 2015

A Cycling Election?

man-with-cat-on-bike-philidelphiaIf every person cycling was going to be asked by the cycling campaign(s) to rate the cycling facilities at their polling station in May, what would that do to transport debate during the election?

If the organisations also said that they would rerun that question at the next general election, what would that do for cycling infrastucture over the next 5 years?

Read more…

posted: 08 Feb 2015