A week or so ago, I celebrated my fifty-fifth birthday, so by mere virtue of the fact that I’ve publicly announced this, it follows that I’m not afraid of showing my age. However, if there were any lingering doubt that I’m a part of a generation with views that are embarrassingly out-of-date, I’m sure what I have to say here will lay those doubts to rest.
When I was in my teens, a traitor was someone like the Duke of Monmouth, who invaded England in 1685 with the aim of overthrowing his uncle King James II. He was defeated at the Battle of Sedgemoor, captured, then beheaded at Tower Hill, but regardless of whether or not you sympathise with his cause, I would say that invading your home country with an army for the purpose of deposing the king, then engaging in a battle, were actions that could reasonably be described as treacherous.
There were plenty of others like Monmouth, but in more recent times, we’ve seen the likes of Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Anthony Blunt and Kim Philby, who betrayed British secrets on an industrial scale for the best part of their careers. These are the kind of people that come to mind when I hear the word ‘traitor’, but without presenting an exhaustive study, I’ll simply confine myself to saying that in recent times, I’ve seen the representatives and followers of every political party in Britain, from far left to far right, described as traitors at some point online. It seems to me that for a worryingly high proportion of those with access to the internet, a traitor is now someone who holds a different point of view.
When I was in my teens, a terrorist was someone who blew up an aeroplane, planted a bomb in a public place or who committed some other broadly comparable act intended to cause fear and mass casualties. While some of the causes whose members carried out these atrocities had supporters in their millions, I feel it was still nonetheless accurate to describe these rampages as terrorism, not least because I personally experienced the utmost fear as a result of being in close proximity to some of them over the years.
I don’t see violence as the answer, so I would have thought that the efforts of those undercover investigators seeking to expose the unspeakable cruelty we routinely inflict on animals in our factory farms, slaughterhouses, circuses and elsewhere, were not only reasonable but praiseworthy in every sense. However, I understand that there are moves afoot from ‘interested parties’ to classify such investigations as domestic terrorism, but as such people are demonstrably not inflicting terror on anyone or anything else, I fail to see how the description applies without some running extreme risk of terminological inexactitude.
All this is surely bad enough, but for around a decade, it’s been clear to me that for a worryingly high proportion of those with access to the internet, a terrorist is now someone who holds a different point of view.
As for trolls, I’ve been on the receiving end of such pond life myself over the years; as such, I think of an internet troll as someone who deliberately tried to conceal their identity for the purpose of causing extreme distress to others through the words and perhaps images they post online. I would personally welcome seeing such people imprisoned for a good length of time, as is indeed happening to more and more of their inadequate kind, but even with trolls, there is a “change in the climate of the mind”, because to judge from what I’ve seen this year, for a worryingly high proportion of those with access to the internet, a troll is now someone who holds a different point of view.
I write this in the closing minutes of Guy Fawkes Night, November 5th, which is a country-wide, officially recognised celebration of a terrorist act that’s become increasingly popular as the centuries have rolled by, so as our American cousins might say “Go figure”.