If Charter 88 weren’t so holier-than-thou I’m sure I would not have been quite so irritated to discover that their Web page (www.gn.apc.org/charter88) is: (a) provided by GreenNet and (b) very hard to get into. I gave up on each of my first three attempts and in the end found that only a very big, fast system could cope tolerably with its slow responses. Okay, there might have been a lot of traffic on the first or second attempts, but three-out-of-three sounds more like techno-incompetence. I now have this disturbing image of cyberactive citizens staring at their screens, waiting for half an hour to register their digital horror at the iniquities of the first-past-the-post electoral system-and then having to wait for another half an hour before they can electronically agree with everyone else out there about just how terribly important it is for the UK to adopt the European Convention on Human Rights (which I’m sure it is).
Cyber-correctness aside, the site is an interesting reference point for much that civil libertarians hold dear-and a goldmine for anti-government facts and figures. Did you know that between 1945 and 1970 the guillotine, a procedural motion to curtail debate in the House of Commons, was used on only 22 occasions, but between 1979 and 1990 it was used 79 times? Or that in 1992 it required only 41,930 votes to elect a Tory MP, 42,657 to elect a Labour one, 209,855 for a Liberal Democrat, and 170,047 votes still got you no Green MPs? Try to remember that this is supposed to be an argument in favour of electoral reform, not against it.
OJ has been big news on the Net. Netscape’s search engine registers a hundred separate entries: you could watch the trial on the Net, join discussions about OJ, read critical analyses or eulogies, discover what OJ likes for breakfast and so on. Whatever you think about all this, the Net’s response does demonstrate one of its more valuable attributes: its flexibility and the speed with which it can provide a forum for the expression of instant opinion. Punch “OJ Simpson” into your search engine and follow the links.
No sooner does Prospect establish a column called the Net Position than a film opens in the UK called simply The Net. I can imagine the conversation somewhere in Hollywood: “Hey Calvin, this Internet thing seems like it’s really…