Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week in Parliament. However the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, have attelpted to put a gagging order on the Guardian, preventing them from reporting on the debate. It is one of the most shocking media related story and the first of it’s kind to be seen in Britain for some time. However the tweeting nation and networking outlets have taken on the gauntlet. In a single day the story had been uncovered and spread around the world and became an instant twitter ‘trendsetter.’ The solicitors Carter-Ruck have just backed down from this gagging and means a great victory for twitter and freedom of speech.
The concerned question relates to the Trafigura Corporation who have been revealed to be dumping toxic waste into the sea near the Ivory Coast. An action that has caused death and illness in the surrounding areas as well as an undisclosed amount of environmental pollution.
There is no such thing as bad publicity; if the gagging order hadn’t been put on the Guardian newspaper the story would have been swepped under the carpet like the numerous articles each day relating to atrocities around the world. As it happens the Trafigura story was largely ignored by the mainstream when it was reported in the media a few weeks ago. People would see the article in the newspaper or online, skim over it and move on to the latest shocking Jordan revelation.
Instead, because of an attempt to hide the story, it’s hit the big time and has aforementioned become an instant trendsetter on Twitter and other social networking sites. When the freedom of the media is threatened it seems everyone jumps on the bandwagon.
What it yet to be seen is if the bloggosphere will get onto the streets and do something other than sitting at their computers trying to get a few more hits. With the recent Speech DeBelle fiasco, where the huge following on the internet failed to reciprocate to the live gigs as well as twitter celebrities realizing they are just that. It makes me a little concerned with this growing trend of online activism, is it the modern day equivalent of the armchair complaint? Will the real action that we need to see become something of the past?
The flashmob planned for this Thursday at 1pm out side the offices of Carter-Ruck will be an interesting event to watch, will it be comprised of the usual suspects; the people protesting tirelessly each week against the global crisis that threatens us from corporations just like Trafigura? People labeled by the blogosphere as the ‘liberal types and unwashed hippy do-gooders’ or will we see this unseen population, the thousands if not millions who seem concerned with this issue? Smittenkitten for example tweets – ‘RT @stephenfry Public disgust at barbaric assault on free speech is being collected under #trafigura who are accused of dumping toxic waste,’ check her previous tweets and they are about what she has been watching on TV every night this week or how much she loves her new tabby kitten. Will we see you on the streets smittenkitten? I think not.
Saying this, I can see there is some integrity in social networks sites creating change and hopefully this backlash against the gagging order will uncover some truths. I appreciate there are many who are clearly concerned with the issue, and are helping to make get the truth out, like the intrepid new-gatherers who hunted down the Order Book for Parliament which meant that anyone could see what the story was really about. The solicitors Carter-Ruck have backed down from this gagging order but the real Trafigura problem is still there and lets hope the blogging world does not forget that.
Lets just hope people see it as a chance to become involved with real action on the streets, that we need to see to achieve change, something I hope to see as a mainstream ‘trend’ in the not so distant future.
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