Why I unsubscribed from 38 Degrees over Laura Kuenssberg
It’s nothing to do with Kuenssberg herself. I have no informed opinion on her. I don’t watch the BBC news often enough to develop one. On the odd time I do, when it sneaks on after Pointless and I can’t find the remote, or if I can’t be bothered with the hassle of flicking through 500 other channels to find something remotely stimulating, then I am always shocked by how dumbed down it is. The news I do watch, the one presented by Jon Snow, is just normal well researched journalism, but it seems so much more adult orientated in comparison.
While I don’t know much about her quite a lot of people have signed a petition designed to get her fired due to her perceived bias. Although, everyone thinks the BBC is biased. The Daily Mail is always moaning about it favouring the left. The Corbynites say it favours the right. And here in Scotland both camps of the Independence debate complained about it favouring the other. And it probably is biased because practically everything is. However, the few times I have watched it recently, I just find that its biggest problem is incompetence.
The last thing I saw on BBC news is a case in point. The recent outing of Craig White as the elusive Bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, only to be debunked within 5 minutes by people who actually understand crypto-currency. It’s just poorly investigated, disposable entertainment for the masses.
Anyway, that aside, the reason I am dumping 38 Degrees is mainly because I have been meaning to do it for ages and the Laura Kuenssberg saga was the final straw. It has more to do with the death of petitions themselves. I have come to hate them. They have become so ubiquitous that they no longer have any power. And the success of sites like 38 Degrees have furnished their demise.
The Kuenssberg petition is a case in point. How petty is it to sign something demanding to have someone sacked? And every day on my Facebook feed I see people sharing equally daft petitions. And every day in my email inbox I get emails from 38 Degrees telling me to care about things I have no interest in.
And the things that do matter to me are worth more than the few seconds it takes to click on an online petition. In many ways they suffer from the same thing that BBC news suffers from: they give the user an illusion of substance. However, the BBC is news-lite and petitions are protest-lite. BBC news gives the watcher a sense that it is informed about the world and 38 Degrees gives the user the feeling that they doing something to change it. However, if these are your only mediums of news and protest then you are not doing either.
I guess I kept subscribed to 38 Degrees because occasionally a petition does make a difference. Occasionally it will play an important role in making a government backtrack on a dodgy policy. I must have signed a petition of theirs in the past in order to have subscribed in the first place. That said, the actions of 38 degrees Director, David Babbs, this week was the decisive factor. By removing the Kuenssberg petition due to it generating sexist remarks elsewhere, Babbs has signalled to everyone how to make any petition vanish. All you need to do is share a petition with an offensive comment and then report yourself to 38 Degrees. If Babbs is going to be consistent then he will have to delete every petition it happens to.
Quite why Babbs feels the need to police people’s opinions on platforms he doesn’t control is beyond me. I don’t agree with a bunch of people trying to get someone sacked but I agree that they have a right to express that opinion. His actions have weakened an already diluted form of protest. Petitions have little power because becoming a petitioner requires little effort or understanding. The important ones are drowned out by a river of petty vindictive, or just plain silly ones; and the company that is one of the biggest facilitators of them has shown everyone the blueprint for getting any petition removed.
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