"The climate's unhealthy, flies and rats thrive
And sooner or later the end will arrive"
35 years ago, if we wanted to learn what was happening in the middle of the desert in Syria, we'd have to wait for the man from Reuters to file his report. How times change. Now it seems any old Tom, Dick or Harry can simply behead an aid worker and post the video up of it on Youtube and and become an internet sensation. I do wonder if Tim Berners-Lee quite realised what a monster he was creating when he invented the World Wide Web?
As a blogger, I suppose I'm part of the whole thing. When I started writing blogs back in 2008, in Barnet we had little coverage or debate of issues. I've no idea whether this blog created the Barnet blogsphere or whether it would have happened anyway, but we certainly have a vibrante informal media scene in this Borough. Last night, I was at the Chandos Arms in Colindale. I'd organised a benefit gig to raise money for MacMillan Cancer relief. The place was packed. We had a stonking set by Lee Thompson and the Silencerz. What was amazing was just how many people came down as a result of this blog. The pub was packed and a tidy sum raised. This wasn't the first time this blog has organised a well received event. We've made two films about the political scene in Barnet, A Tale of Two Barnets and Barnet - The Billion Pound Gamble. Both films played to a packed cinema. Both were made on a shoestring. I believe both made a significant contribution to raising awareness in Barnet of important issues. I believe both films played a significant part in changing the Councils mind on some very important issues.
As a result of the campiagns the films supported, we've reopened Friern Barnet Library, we've seen a reduction in parking charges, we've seen the huge hike in CPZ permits reversed, we've seen a return of pay and display machines. The architect of the disasterous parking policies of Barnet Council, Brian Coleman, was turfed out of both the GLA and the council. I believe all of these things have been for the good. It does however disturb me that an organisation such as ISIS can use the same power for such unremitting evil. I find it beyond comprehension that anyone could behead a man who was delivering aid and relief for children and post it on the Internet. I truly hope and believe that this is the moment when the Islamic community has to take a long hard look in the mirror and say "not in our name". Of course Mr Henning is not the first innocent person to die for no reason. As a Roman Catholic, one has to face up to the fact that the Church was responsible for many atrocities as bad, if not worse, during the Spanish Inquisition. One has to wonder how that would have played out in the Internet age. It is not just religions that go bad. Take Pol Pot in Cambodia, where millions were killed for a perverted political ideology.
The grounds for hope I have is that I believe that 99% of people of all or no religion are decent people. It is a sick minority who have the evil to carry out such callous acts. Sadly it seems that the rest of us can sometimes be easily influenced and let these things happen. Take NAZI Germany. The regime concealed the worst of their crimes from their own population, and used a huge propaganda machine to justify their sick actions. When the war was lost, the Allies forced local people to visit concentration camps on their doorstep. The news agencies shot millions of pictures and films of the scene, so there could be no denial. When the local Germans came face to face with what they'd allowed happen, many were traumatised. Most denied knowledge of what was going on. At the end of the day, when faced with what they were part of, stripped from the support of Goebbels lie machine, they had to face up to a very harsh truth. I believe that for many decent muslims, the killing of Henning is just such a moment. This is the moment where they have to stand up and be counted. This is the moment where the whole community has to reject the barbarism of ISIS.
The days when we relied on the man from Reuters for the news is gone forever. We have a new world where any of us, with a mobile phone camera and a twitter account can be the story, if we are in the right place at the right time. I believe we have a responsibility to use that power wisely.