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“It’s great when you’re straight, yeah” – How Straight Pride UK attempted to stifle free speech

Editor’s note: This post was originally written by Oliver Hotham on his blog, after he’d emailed a set of questions to a group calling themselves “Straight Pride UK“. After he’d posted his article, Straight Pride UK decided they didn’t like it, so – with no real legal grounds at all – submitted a DMCA report to WordPress, who promptly took it down. Faced with too much legal hassle, Oliver chose not to appeal the decision. You can read Oliver’s story here.

Thanks to the wonder of Google’s cache, I’ve take the original article and am reposting it. As a journalist and long-time blogger, I don’t believe that groups should abuse the DMCA process simply to stifle views they find objectionable. That “Straight Pride UK” did so after sending Oliver what it labelled as a press release is even more obnoxious.

This is Oliver’s original post.

There has never been a better time to be gay in this country. LGBTI people will soon enjoy full marriage equality, public acceptance of homosexuality is at an all time high, and generally a consensus has developed that it’s really not that big of a deal what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms. The debate on Gay Marriage in the House of Commons was marred by a few old reactionaries, true, but generally it’s become accepted that full rights for LGBTI people is inevitable and desirable. Thank God.

But some are deeply troubled by this unfaltering march toward common decency, and they call themselves the Straight Pride movement.

Determined to raise awareness of the “heterosexual part of our society”, Straight Pride believe that a militant gay lobby has hijacked the debate on sexuality in this country, and encourage their members, among other things, to “come out” as straight, posting on their Facebook page that:

“Coming out as Straight or heterosexual in todays politically correct world is an extremely challenging experience. It is often distressing and evokes emotions of fear, relief, pride and embarrassment.”

I asked them some questions.

First of all, what prompted you to set up Straight Pride UK? 

Straight Pride is a small group of heterosexual individuals who joined together after seeing the rights of people who have opposing views to homosexuality trampled over and, quite frankly, oppressed.

With the current political situation in the United Kingdom with Gay Marriage passing, everyone  is being forced to accept homosexuals, and other chosen lifestyles and behaviours, no matter their opposing views. Straight Pride has seen people sued, and businesses affected, all because the homosexual community do not like people having a view or opinion that differs from theirs.

Are your beliefs linked to religion? How many of you derive your views from scripture?

Straight Pride aims are neutral and we do not follow religion, but we do support people who are oppressed for being religious. Only today, Straight Pride see that two homosexual parents are planning to sue the Church because they ‘cannot get what they want’. This is aggressive behaviour and this is the reason why people have strong objections to homosexuals.

You say that one of your goals is “to raise awareness of the heterosexual part of society”. Why do you feel this is necessary? 

The Straight Pride mission is to make sure that the default setting for humanity is not forgotten and that heterosexuals are allowed to have a voice and speak out against being oppressed because of the politically correct Government.

Straight Pride feel need to raise awareness of heterosexuality, family values, morals, and traditional lifestyles and relationships.

Your website states that “Homosexuals have more rights than others”. What rights specifically do LGBTI people have that straight people are denied?

Homosexuals do currently have more rights than heterosexuals, their rights can trump those of others, religious or not. Heterosexuals cannot speak out against homosexuals, but homosexuals are free to call people bigots who don’t agree with homosexuality, heterosexuals, religious or not, cannot refuse to serve or accommodate homosexuals, if they do, they face being sued, this has already happened.

Straight Pride believe anyone should be able to refuse service and speak out against something they do not like or support.

There is a hotel in the south of England, called Hamilton Hall which only accepts homosexuals – if this is allowed, then hotels should have the choice and right to who they accommodate.

What has been the response to your campaign?

The response to Straight Pride’s formation has been as expected; hostile, threatening, and aggressive. Homosexuals do not like anyone challenging them or their behaviour.

We have had support from many people saying that if homosexuals can have a Pride March, and then equality should allow Heterosexuals to have one too. After all, the homosexual movement want everyone to have equality.

Why would you say that heterosexuality the “natural orientation”? 

Heterosexuality is the default setting for the human race, this is what creates life, if everyone made the decision to be homosexual, life would stop. People are radicalised to become homosexual, it is promoted to be ‘okay’ and right by the many groups that have sprung up.

Marriage is a man and a woman, homosexuals had Civil Partnerships, which was identical to Marriage with all the same rights, they wanted to destroy Marriage and have successfully done so.

If you could pick one historical figure to be the symbol of straight pride (just as figures like Alan Turing, Judith Butler or Peter Tatchell would be for Gay Pride) which would you choose?

Straight Pride would praise Margaret Thatcher for her stance on Section 28, which meant that children were not  taught about homosexuality, as this should not on the curriculum.

More recently, Straight Pride admire President Vladimir Putin of Russia for his stance and support of his country’s traditional values.

How do you react to anti-gay attacks and movements in Russia and parts of Africa? 

Straight Pride support what Russia and Africa is doing, these country have morals and are listening to their majorities. These countries are not ‘anti-gay’ – that is a term always used by the Homosexual Agenda to play the victim and suppress opinions and views of those against it.

These countries have passed laws, these laws are to be respected and no other country should interfere with another country’s laws or legislation.

We have country wide events which our members attend, and ask people their opinions and views, on such event at Glastonbury this year was very positive with the majority of people we asked, replied they were happily heterosexual.

For the record, Straight Pride did not respond to these questions: “Pride” movements such as Gay Pride and Black Pride were making the argument that the stigma against them meant that proclaiming their “pride” was an act of liberation from oppression. Can being heterosexually really compare? A problem that Gay rights activists cite is the issue of bullying, and the effect this can have on young LGBT people. Do you think a similar problem exists with straight children being bullied by gay children? 

I will obviously add to this if they do respond.

You can follow Straight Pride on Twitter here and see their Facebook page here.

Leaving Redwood

It’s been a fun ride, but I’m leaving the sunny climbs of Redwood. This Friday will be my last day in the rather glorious St Martin’s Place offices.

I came to Redwood to do a single print project for six weeks, and somehow conspired to stay for nearly eight years. It’s a measure of what a lovely company it is to work for that leaving was a really tough decision. I’ll miss everyone I’ve worked with, which, as I’ve spent a chunk of time helping run training courses, is actually most of the company!

I’ve also learned a huge amount while I’ve been here. Client management, presentation skills, how to leave my iPhone in a bar and then wander back just in time – all these we’re alien to me before I started. Some of them are alien still, but I’ve learned how to pretend they’re not.

The list of clients that I’ve worked with over the years has been pretty amazing too. From Apple to BT, Volvo, Barclays, The Co-Operative, Virgin Media, British Gas… It’s been like a who’s who of world-leading brands. And it’s been a pretty amazing experience working with them, and occasionally ending up in Soho karaoke bars at 1am with them (I name no names).

Next stop, Cleveland Street

So what next? Well, in a sense I’m moving home… because I’m heading to Dennis Publishing, to work as senior content strategist at Dennis Interactive.

I’ll be joining the team there with a remit to look in particular at social media, along with lots of other fun challenges too. It’s going to be weird going back to the same building I left ten years ago, but I’m really looking forward to the challenge. I’m also looking forward to meeting all the new Dennis-folk that have joined since I left, and renewing some old acquiantances too.

So, Onward!

Emotion and technology

We are an opinionated age. We obsess over it. Who’s opinions you follow define who you are and – that perilous belonging – what tribe you are a part of. We defend our own, and attack those who disagree.

You might think that the world of technology was somewhere resistant to this cult of opinion. Technology, after all, is the product of reason. This iPad that I’m typing on is the joyous result of decades of refinement, polish, understanding, experiment, measurement, definition, enhancement and precision. It is science personified.

And yet all technology, like all products of the human mind, is also a product of choice. Reason forged the plough that opened the furrow which nurtured the crop and fed us; but it was someone’s choice to get up on a cold morning and push that plough to make that particular furrow. No choice, no ploughing – and similarly, no choice, no iPad.

Choice depends on rationality. But it also depends on emotion, on determination, on the will that is required to push an idea from the first concept into the light of existence. And those emotions, that determination, that will, all depend on an opinion: the opinion that the world is right for this, now. That another path, another product, would be wrong, now.

Opinion intrudes into the cold world of technology from the first moment that every product is conceived. Is it such a surprise that so much of what we write about it is also "mere" opinion?

Microsoft-Intel Push to Rival Apple in Tablets Sputtering

Microsoft-Intel Push to Rival Apple in Tablets Sputtering – Bloomberg:

“Early demand for Microsoft’s first computer, the Surface tablet, seems ‘disappointing,’ said Craig Berger, an analyst at FBR Capital Markets. And computer makers have been hampered in introducing tablets by limits Microsoft imposed on which manufacturers got a crack at prototypes, and by delays in Intel power-management software.”

The big problem for Microsoft is that it has to get tablets right. With tablet sales beginning to eclipse PCs (Apple alone sold more iPads than Dell sold computers last quarter) if Microsoft can’t get a foot in the door, the entire eco-system of Windows/Office/Exchange could fall apart. It won’t happy next year, or the following one, but it will happen if Surface fails. 

I too will be Tabletized

Tabletized:

Then I went into the Apple store and tried out the iPad mini, just for yuks. I don’t know what kind of gas they were pumping into the store, but whatever it is has the same effect on my brain chemistry as a nightclub singer has on a Tex Avery wolf. This is the perfect size. How was I ever able to imagine reading in bed with such a freakishly enormous iPad? I would totally read more with a tablet this size. And the display is so sharp and the text so clear that it doesn’t even need a higher-resolution display. We have always been at war with the 10-inch diagonal. Go away, old woman, I don’t care that you’ve been waiting in line; I just want to keep holding this and never stop.

Yeah, that’s pretty much how I feel too. I just haven’t caved in yet. I know I will… but I’m going to wait till the ones with mobile data are built in.

Maybe. 

(Via Spectre Collie)

Why Don Norman is right about Google. And it’s no big deal

In Don Norman’s talk at dConstruct, he said something that I’ve been saying for a long time:

“They have lots of people, lots of servers, they have Android, they have Google Docs, they just bought Motorola. Most people would say ‘we’re the users, and the product is advertising’,” he said. “But in fact the advertisers are the users and you are the product.”

Norman is almost right, although he’s phrasing it wrong. Google’s customers (not users – there is a difference) are advertisers: they are the people who pay. What Google is selling is you, or rather your attention. The more it can make its ads relevant to you, by placing them in the right context at the right time, the more likely you are to click on them – and the click is the only measure of your attention that matters.

John Gruber, and many others, seem to see this as either a revelation or something shockingly bad – hence John’s snarky retort that “the truth has an anti-Google bias”. But “the truth” is that John does exactly the same thing. Like virtually every online publisher, it’s advertisers who pay his bills – so, in truth, his “customers” too are advertisers.

The idea that Google’s customers are advertisers, and what it’s selling is you (or rather: your attention) is no big deal. Every site, every publication, which carries ads is “guilty” of exactly the same thing.

What John sells isn’t content, but us, the readers, our eyeballs, our attention. Advertisers on Daring Fireball know that you, the reader, are a Mac nut, which in turn means they can pin down a lot of broad demographics because “Mac nuts” fall into quite a distinct pot. To his advertisers, John may (or may not) also disclose other aggregated information – breakdown of geographic location, any survey data he’s collected on more precise demographics, and so on.

Google is just more precise about it (at least in theory) because it knows more about us as individuals than any single site or publication can ever manage. That “individual” data isn’t usually tied to us as unique individuals, because Google doesn’t (yet) have that level of granularity. But the different is one of precision, not who and what is being sold. For Daring Fireball – and for Technovia, and Macworld, and every other site which carries ads – the customer is the advertiser, and what’s being sold is the reader’s attention.

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What’s wrong with RSS readers?

Dave Winer should know:

If you miss five days of reading the news because you were on vacation (good for you!) the newspaper you read the first day back isn’t five times as thick as the normal day’s paper. And it doesn’t have your name on the cover saying “Joe you haven’t read 1,942,279 articles since this paper started.” It doesn’t put you on the hook for not reading everything anyone has ever written. The paper doesn’t care, so why does your RSS reader?

Dave’s totally right. It’s one of the reason why I probably read more of my RSS feeds via Flipbook (which doesn’t punish you for not reading in this way) than Google Reader.

On anonymity

The launch of Google+ has started a huge debate over the role of anonymity on the Internet. But what I see again and again in the debate about this is two massive straw men:

  1. “Anonymity is essential so that the marginalised/endangered can speak”
  2. “Real names are essential to stop bad behaviour”

Neither of these are, of course, in any way true. There’s a whole host of stuff from smarter people than me pointing out that the voices of the marginalised only have impact when attached to a consistent meatspace identity. The old concept of “you own your own words” from The WELL has a deep and resonant meaning here: words which a real identity visibly stands behind will always carry more impact than those of a completely unknown person.

But, more importantly, not every forum is likely to be one where those cases where anonymity is clearly required are likely to speak. For example: A comment stream on a post about a sports result is unlikely to attract comments from a rape victim which require that person to be anonymous.

And this is where the construction of these straw men is really stifling meaningful debate. The implicit assumption is that “the Internet” is a singular thing which must carry only a single correct policy on anonymity. To me, that’s a bit like saying “everywhere on the Internet must use English, because it was created by English-speakers”. It denies the fundamental fact that the web is not “a place” with a singular set of rules, but a confederacy of places, all of which have different needs, opinions, rules and so on.

For some sites, anonymity is essential – I doubt there is anyone who would disagree, for example, that a site which counseled child abuse victims shouldn’t require a “real names” policy. But for others, insisting on real names can be part of the arsenal of methods to encourage civil discourse – and let’s not forget, “civil discourse” is not always the aim of a community.

What’s required here, as is often the case, is a granular methodology. Again, I’d refer back to The WELL. On The WELL, your real name was always visible, as part of your profile. This was non-negotiable, as part of the “owning your own words” ethos. And it worked. The exception was for topics which could be seen as sensitive (usually around sexuality, but others too) where you only saw someone’s real name if they explicitly put it in.

I’d argue that for a general social network without pre-established forums, that control should rest with the original poster (in this case, me – but if you have a blog, you). OP’s should have the ability to make comments “Real names only” or “anonymity allowed”.

In other words, devolve the power.

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