You say cancel culture, I hear “acts have consequences”

Humans. We have a nice way with words. We construct velvet cushioned, sugar-coated masterpieces of deception. People don’t die: they went to a better place,  they are meeting one’s maker. Stuff does not get terminated: It’s discontinued. People do not get fired: they went on to pursue other challenges. Babies are never ugly: they are interesting.  Kids are never stupid, they just did not develop to their full potential yet. We never reply to yet another stupid Facebook comment with “you f*ckwit brainless moron. I don’t want to talk to you no more, you empty-headed animal-food-trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster, and your father smelt of elderberries.” We just sigh, and agree to disagree.

Being wrong has nothing to do with opinion

Let’s agree to stop that. You can have an opinion. We can even agree you can believe (in) things. But having an opinion does not protect you (or me, or anyone) from being demonstrably, scientifically, obviously plain wrong. 2+2=4 . I do not care that you might believe it’s five, and yes, my truth is stronger than your belief.

Let’s not glide towards a snowflake world where everyone has to be right, and respected in his/her believes. Screw that. Right is right, wrong is wrong. The rest are speculations, beliefs, opinions. That’s fine, as long as we know that all of those zip into oblivion with facts backed truth, or hard wrought science.

Can we now talk about Justin Hill for a second?

Poor Rep. Justin Hill  tweeted : “I got news that cancel culture has struck our family. A health insurance client of mine, who I provided great service to for five years, has terminated me for being in DC supporting the president. I know I’ve lost clients in the past for my political views, but this one hurts. Cancel culture is real and no one is immune. “

Rep. Elise Stefanik deplores being “cancelled” by Harvard “As a conservative Republican, it is a rite of passage and a badge of honour to join the long line of leaders who have been boycotted, protested and cancelled by colleges and universities across America,” she stated.

Their fellow Trump Loyalist Sen. Josh Hawley was taken aback by the cancellation of his book deal following the Capitol riot, and suggested the publisher did not like his “exercise of free speech.” He threatened to sue: “I will fight this cancel culture with everything I have.”

Even Trump muttered  cancel culture when not enough people rallied to his final flight out of the White House.

Cancel culture and Ostracism

Many refer to “Ostracism” and “cancel culture” and deplore it takes away their freedom of expression. Ostracism was a procedure in ancient Athens where a citizen would be expelled from the city-state of Athens for ten years. It was used as a way of neutralizing someone thought to be a threat to the state and outweighs cancelled book-deals and revoked contracts by a mile.

Acts have consequences

But let’s stay real for a second, right? Acts have consequences. Peeing on the leg of a policeman, and asking if it’s comfortably warm will get you in trouble. Speeding in front of the trap camera will get you fined. Showing up naked at your flight will get you de-boarded.

So, Justin Hill, how about this: you loosing a client because you did a terrible thing, has nothing to do with cancel culture. It is the direct consequence of something you did. Stop whimpering, take it like a man. As Confucius tweeted a while ago: be prepared to reap what you sow.

Freedom of speech is also the right not to amplify an idiot

My social streams are burning glowing red with passionate debates on “freedom of speech”. These debates are often linked to a couple of powerful social networks (finally) kicking that bitter and angry man in the White House off their platforms. Mind: they gave it a lot of thought before suspending his accounts. Trump could permit himself way more than citizen lambda ever could. He got ample warning from both networks that he was over the line. By a mile.

But if you are  pro or contra Trump is not really the subject here. It’s the “freedom of speech” that gets used and abused like there is no tomorrow that triggered me. Honestly, for some of you: it does not mean what you think it means 😉.

It’s a  human right

Freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). It is recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice“.  (thank you Wikipedia).

ICCPR specifies that  the exercise of these rights carries “special duties and responsibilities and can therefore be subject to certain restrictions when necessary for respect of the rights or reputation of others or for the protection of national security, public order, public health or morals“.

Luckily, there are boundaries

Freedom of speech and expression is, as you might have understood by now, by no means absolute. Common limitations or boundaries to freedom of speech apply, and relate to libel, slander, obscenity, pornography, sedition, incitement, fighting words, classified information, copyright violation, trade secrets, food labeling, non-disclosure agreements, the right to privacy, dignity, the right to be forgotten, public security, protection of minors, negation-ism and perjury.

Mill’s Harm principle

Justifications and an ethical framework for these boundaries include the harm principle, proposed by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty, which suggests that “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”  Otherwise said: like most freedom, the freedom of speech stop where another freedom begins.  

It’s the law

In most countries freedom of speech is included in the constitution itself, or in one of the amendments or bylaws. The first amendment of the United States Constitution notoriously says: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In short, this gives every single US citizen five protected  freedoms: speech, religion, press, assembly, and the right to petition the government.

So the ones that plead for freedom of speech, but condemn the right to assemble and (peacefully) protest should really do some research 😊.

In most countries, this right to freedom of speech has boundaries that follow mostly the exceptions of the ICCPR.

It’s for the government, and its institutions

The freedom of speech refrains governments, governmental institutions, and governmental agents from interfering with expression, as long as it is within the legal boundaries (= the list of exceptions), and refrains them to retaliate in any way on the communicators. Ergo: a citizen has the (human) (constitutional) right to express himself, within certain well defined boundaries, without having to fear pressure or negative impact from the government for doing so.

China jailing people for talking about the events of the Tian’anmen Square is clearly a breach of the human right to free speech…

Private terms and conditions

All this is very well, but every social media platform has a binder of small lettered terms and conditions that set out the multiple rules linked with the use of the platforms. Often, (and in the case of as well Twitter as Facebook), these terms and conditions set limits to the freedom of expression on those platforms, that are directly taken from the ICCPR list of exceptions.

You do not have to like the platform, you may vehemently disagree with its purpose, its shareholders, its set-up. You may even question its grueling impact on today’s society. But nobody forces you to use it. And… if you do, you’ll have to accept the limits as set out in its terms and conditions (assuming that those are not against the law) .

Freedom of speech does not give you a right to be amplified

Within certain boundaries, you can say whatever you want, but this constitutional  and human right does not oblige third parties to amplify you. Press, platforms, etc are free to amplify what they want. You might not like that, but it is their right. In short: no private company can be forced to spread your gospel. Moreover, if you would force them, you would be jeopardizing their very own right to freedom of speech.

So yes, Twitter and Facebook have every right not to amplify an idiot. Maybe they should have exercised the right not to carry stupid, racist, misogynist, and violent messages way earlier.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold: This Petrolhead

Cars. I passionately love them since I was a little boy. Their seductive lines, the raw power, the hissing of the rubber as it kisses the highway, the happy roaring of a V8 as it thunders to the horizon. The smell of leather, fuel, and oil. The kick in the stomach as horses get unleashed, the precision of a steering wheel, the battle against G-forces that try to rip your face off. I like it when they take off like bad news and turn on a peseta.

My driveway harbours a Lotus 7, a couple of sturdy off-roaders and a collector’s dream: a vintage 911. I have read Top Gear for breakfast since I could walk, and I’ve seen every single episode. Twice.

And still. Choosing my last car was hell. I drive between 60.000 and 80.000 km a year. My last 3-year long experience with a Lexus hybrid was not it. Great car. In the city. Totally not fitted to my lifestyle.

It’s time

I’ve been preaching the values of intelligent electric cars for some time now. Automotive, mobility and environmental realities don’t lie.  The future is electric. Over time we even evolve to MAAS (mobility as a service) for most people that don’t require a ton and a half of steel 98% of their day. The (soon autonomous) intelligent electric car is one of the pillars of the trends presentations that I’ve been giving over the past year.

Yet, 18 months ago, as I took out a new car lease, I hesitated.  I hated the e-tron. Could not be seduced by plug-in hybrids. Choked on the French little electrics. And with all my admiration for Elon Musk, I knew it was not going to be a Tesla.

Too hectic to go electric

O, it takes off like there is no tomorrow. It beats even my completely over-the-top Lotus 7. By a mile. And it looked and felt too much like an application on wheels. My future-loving brain was seduced, the car lover in me was not.

I was also struggling with the practicalities. Details like charging. Range. The subtle art of getting there.

So, when some of my friends put their money where their heart and brain was, and are silently swooping away in their Model S, Model X or 3’s, I settled for a sturdy V6. The last one…

Polestar 2

But then Polestar called. Polestar is an automotive brand jointly owned by Volvo Car Group and Geely. An intriguing Chinese – Swedish mix. I saw their Polestar 2 EV at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and loved every inch of it: luxury, the dazzling silent power of a performance EV, in a real car. Not a driving app.

Fully knowing that I have a couple of petrol guzzling beasts grazing on my driveway, and that I thought it was one car too early for electric, they asked me if they could try to convince me that their Polestar 2 would fit even my hectic lifestyle…. fully electric.  Would I be interested in a partnership?

You know what, it’s not too early: it’s time. I’ll meet them tomorrow at the Brussels Motor Show.

Forget porn. Try a kiss. And go for it.

We live in a world of extremes. Bigger is better, faster is greater, more is needed and extremes pay off. Filmmaker Lars Von Trier pushed Charlotte Gainsbourg and some other actresses over the limits of porn-acting in his recent movie Aphrodisiac. Push red to add drama won international awards for over the top (inter) action.

Fashion models are starved, paint brushed, photo shopped and altered. Rap singers become gold chain swinging Lamborghini driving caricatures of themselves.

In an endless quest to please, lips are blown up with silicon, wrinkles ironed out with Botox, fat gets hovered out, breasts molded into gravity defying shapes. The poor youngsters that get confronted with internet porn (I’ve been told that can occasionally happen ;-)) get nervous seeing how double muscled supersized males with the stamina of a steam train go on for the better part of 120 minutes.  Not good for the self-image.

That’s why I was so taken aback by the instant internet hit of amateur filmmaker Tatia Pilieva. She captured, in crude black and white, a magic moment: the first kiss between two human beings.  It’s heartwarming to see how total strangers, adult and assertive people turn into hesitating youngsters in the blink of an eye. The nerve wrecking tension, the nervous laughter, and the I-do-not-know-what-to-do-with my hands: it’s all there.

The tension is so tender, so spontaneous, it’s almost erotic.

And then: the cold shower: all this is a set-up, a sophisticated lie. Most of the participants are actors or models in a clever try to boost the clothing sales for Wren Studio.

But the magic happened. Tons of students, housewives, journalists, bloggers, even the Playboy bunnies have posted their own versions of the first kiss. A multitude of first kisses are kept for eternity. Watching them will put countless tender smiles on lots of faces.

There might be hope, after all ;-).

London Olympic games: if you kill the Social in Games, all you’ve left is business

With still a couple of weeks to go until the Olympic Games in London, more and more people are getting really frustrated with how the organizers are effectively killing most social components of what could have been the first Social Games.

The days where a bunch of naked men would do some heroic, manly and very muscular things for the honor of winning are long, long gone. Sky Sports estimates the true cost of organizing the event on the upside of 30 billion Euro. A smack of money for a sport event that will turn the City of Big Ben into an armed fortress, guarded by surface-to-air missiles, long distance acoustic weaponry, a Royal Navy battleship, 13.000 soldiers patrolling the city, and small armies of foreign security service personnel (the FBI alone is sending over 500 agents).

As organizer LOCOG states on its website: “Organising the Games is a huge challenge. With 26 Olympic Sports and 20 Paralympic Sports, 14,700 athletes, 21,000 media and 10.8 million ticket-holders, it is the equivalent of staging 46 World Championships simultaneously.

The organization is also hammering home a very severe fist on what it perceives as its right to protect its assets. It lobbied, and passed the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act, that offers a draconian level of protection to the Games (and –more importantly- the sponsors) that goes well beyond any existing copyright law, and that positions all offenders as downright criminals.

Not only will brand police be taping all over all logos and signs in London that might be seen by the organizers as threatening to their commercial interests, (even announcing that people can watch The Games inside a restaurant, pub or hotel will be frowned upon) but athletes and visitors will be seriously limited to what they can do or say on the social networks, if they can use these networks at all.

Twitter already announced to put a ban on use of all games related hashtags (like #games2012) that remotely even smells commercial , and the rules on what can be uploaded or tweeted during the games beggars all believe.  All so called non-authorized association is banned. Technically, someone tweeting he saw a nice Dior outfit at the London Games, is up for a lawsuit.

Longtime it was believed that these rules would apply only on the (big) brands that could try to sneak in marketing guerrilla activities on the expense of the global event without paying. But it looks that no organization or person is safe.

A satiric organization called Space Hijackers that labeled themselves as the “official protesters of the London 2012 Olympic Games“, was (temporary) suspended by Twitter on the spot on Locog’s demand. The crime? Using the Olympic Logo.

Although I do believe in protecting everyone’s commercial and intellectual rights, it saddens me to see that too often the legislation that is put into place to enforce these rights is abused to limit other rights I fervently believe in: freedom of speech, freedom of satire, freedom of disagreeing, and freedom of sharing personal pictures on a social network.

When the social component around an event that will have an impact on over a billion people for close to a month is killed, all that’s left is a sad, expensive, commercial circus.

I hope I am wrong…

(I would have loved using the Ol*mp*c Rings here, but opted for a 150 year old drawing of Olympos. Just to be on the safe side :-))

SxSW –Music is even more social, stupid!

#SxSW. The social media community is making the last preparations for the yearly high noon in Austin, Texas. For a couple of days social media will and shall be noticed in every single corner of this buzzing town.

The old cabdriver that calmly cruised me to my meeting today does not like it a bit, all that social. “It was better before” he said: “before it was all about music. About doing gigs for people. Real encounters, ya know…”

A couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Will.i.am: front man, performer and producer of the Black Eyed Peas. A monument, podium beast, multi entertainer and style icon. When Porter Novelli sent me to Cannes to meet the guy that sold 30 million albums and won 7 Grammy’s… I was excited!

The Intel Corporation appointed Will.i.am as Director of Creative Innovation. The young guy talking about technology, life, style and innovation has nothing in common with what you would expect from an Intel executive. Will.i.am is different. Way different. He is a trendsetting visionary.

“I help people understand that we’re passed the Nineties now”, Will.i.am said: “the technologies are here, but people do not embrace them yet. I tweet on my mobile phone (@iamwill), but just before I go on stage, I need to swap it for a microphone, an ugly thing from way back when. There is no reason that I could not perform with what is the centerpiece of my life: my mobile phone. That kind of insight is what I help Intel with. “

“People are still separating technology and lifestyle. But that is just so wrong. Technology is part of what you do, how you appear, what you are. Connectivity and the tools that help you connect help define the you in your social space. The Beatles made songs in a studio, to be broadcasted on the radio. I am different. I make my music on the internet, sampling ,interacting, producing my text on the internet… marketing and selling it on the web. And people buy and listen using the same medium that I used to create. “

“You see, I am not a brand, I am a part of community. What I do, what I use, defines who and what I am.” Will.i.am comes on strong when he describes how style, personality and technology are one, in defining personality and perception. As an avid musician, a skilled communicator, a creative producer, a crowdsourcing director, a top selling fashion designer and an enthusiast ambassador for good causes, he proves how a smart use of technology made him one of the trendsetting successful males of the moment.

I hope my weathered cabdriver gets it: the link between music and social media goes way beyond what Napster did. The internet is by all definitions the medium on which music is created, bought, distributed and consumed. Music gets crowd sourced,  albums get crowd funded,  and the old groupie motorcycling gangs are swapped for highly busy buzzing Facebook fan pages.  Online marketing, peer to peer distribution and interactive viewing platform have made musicians all over the world, from the Black Eyed Peas, to Gregoire in France, Sonic Angels in Belgium and countless others, thriving millionaires.

Social media became de facto not only the Long Play of 2012, but also the record studio, and the record label. The internet is the new Stratocaster.

Music. These days, there is an app for that….

Bond… here is your invisible Mercedes…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIGzpi9lCck

James Bond does not need to worry anymore. The Q’s from Mercedes Stuttgart made him an invisible car. Beyond cool. Looking forward to cover my Audi in LED’s so traffic police cannot spot me ;-).

 

#SxSW “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas…”

You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas…” Famous last words of Davy Crockett, king of the Texan Wild Frontier before he set off for the fatal shoot-out at the Alamo on March 7th 1836. “You may all go to hell, and I will go to Texas…” are also the well-meant thoughts of about 90 percent of the digital and social media industry regarding SxSW in Texas this week. More than 20.000 social media enthusiasts would rather give up their right arm (or worse), than miss the Texan Mecca of Social and Digital Media.

That is also why I packed my devices, my chargers, adaptors, enough Red Bull to caffeinate a small continent and a stack of silly T-shirts, and  why I took off this morning for the expedition to Austin, a fashionable 16 hours away from Brussels. This week I’ll be knee deep in presentations, cheeseburgers,  keynotes and happy hours, I’ll be meeting tons of people, collecting stacks of books, and I’ll come back with exciting know-how, and useful wisdom.

So expect a ton of posts on the hottest of the newest. I’ll be in Texas, have a nice week you all…. And as Crockett said: “Be always sure you are right – then go ahead.”

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