Thursday, 18 March 2010

John Gummer and libel reform

A while ago I wrote to my MP, John Gummer, about libel reform. I'm not the sort of person who normally bothers writing to my MP about things, mostly on account of him being a complete arse, but having heard Simon Singh talk about the subject at TAM London last October I felt it was worth a punt.

A lot of you will know Simon Singh's backstory so I won't recap at length (you can read about it here if you need to), but essentially he is putting his weight behind a campaign to get MPs to sign an Early Day Motion backing a reform of Britain's draconian libel laws. Currently they prohibit free speech by making it financially unviable for individuals to question the claims of large organisations, however spurious those claims might be.

I've never liked John Gummer. He is probably best known for a publicity stunt in 1990 in which he attempted to feed his young daughter a beefburger to 'prove' that British beef was safe after BSE scares. As it happened, she turned her nose up at it. To rescue the photo opportunity he then, apparently, got one of his staff to take a bite out of the burger before holding it in front of his daughter's mouth and flashing his pearly whites.

But that was a long time ago. People change. And the fact that he writes a column for The Catholic Herald shouldn't prejudice my opinion either. And those expenses claims for mole-catching, well, they might have been legitimate. I wasn't there.

So I read the reply with interest and was encouraged by what I saw. It appeared that he agreed with EDM 423 and would be joining its supporters. But then, predictably enough, his arse-like qualities came to the fore.

What bugs me is his reasoning. "[T]he burden of proof should remain on individuals who make defamatory claims". Well that's just daft. He's basically implying that you can say whatever you want as long as you get there first. If I start a business selling the crumbs from the bottom of my toaster and claiming that they have healing properties when sprinkled in coffee, why should the burden of proof be on my detractors? Surely the burden lies with the most extraordinary claim. No one should be scared, for fear of financial ruin, to publish evidence that contradicts a misleading practice.

If you haven't yet signed the petition for libel reform and would like to, you can do so here.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Teething problems for Google's latest venture

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Fifteen minutes of shame

The promised dating update will have to wait a bit longer, possibly forever, because it's proving harder than expected to write. Instead: TV!

Embarrassing Bodies is enjoying another run on Channel 4 at the moment. I've blogged about this programme before but I still find it remarkable that they have so many willing participants. Last Friday's show, for example, featured a man who was experiencing unpleasant odours emanating from his bottom. He bravely visited the clinic and said that he was worried about anal leakage. So far, so good. Boxes are being ticked here. The doctor duly prised open the man's buttocks and noted that he was 'quite dirty' before checking for possible causes. Some kind of infection? A loose sphincter? These were quickly ruled out. Soon, having found nothing wrong, he was forced to sheepishly announce to Mr Smelly Bum that his only problem was not wiping his arse properly.

Now: even allowing for the fact that he may have signed the release form prior to the examination, wouldn't you do everything in your power to stop that footage being used? Wouldn't you drop to your knees before the production team and offer to sacrifice your first born in exchange for the tape? I mean, if you're assisting the viewers by highlighting a genuine problem then I take my hat off to you, but this guy was essentially waving to the camera and saying "Hey, I’m a fifty year old man who can’t even wipe his arse! Why not stop me and say hi?" It would come as no surprise at all to me to hear that, following the broadcast, his entire family had gassed themselves out of shame in his (slightly whiffy) Ford Mondeo.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Having crabs is nothing to shout about

I have tinkered with the layout again because I didn't like the old one much. I think this font is easier to read and I was also less than fond of the tiny comments link, and its location, in the old layout. Plus I get bored of things easily. A change is as good as a holiday, even if this one roughly equates to ten minutes in Cromer.

A layout change usually signifies an effort on my part, albeit a short-lived one, to post more regularly. And so it is again. I need to sharpen my brain a bit so you can expect a few more non-visual posts in the coming weeks, starting soon with an update on my internet dating adventures that will hopefully make more sense than the preceding post.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Meeting people is easy

Nothing to do with my comic project, just a one off.