Sometimes the medium is the message and the backstory is the story. Here is one.
At the beginning of December, 10 Downing Street ran a campaign of media pushes for its Brexit deal, with one major sector targeted per day. December 1 was designated as the day for the tech and digital sector, when we would be told why losing our legal foundation, client markets, and employees would be in our interest.
Naturally, it didn’t go to plan, as Politics interfered with politics.
Today was due to be day UKgov sells Theresa May's Brexit deal to digital sector – digital secretary Jeremy Wright was lined up to give broadcasters the pitch. Then science minister San Gyimah resigns and it's all he's asked about. Pat on the back for Sam https://t.co/NChemp9zqi
— Bryan Glick (@bryanglick) December 1, 2018
From that false start, DCMS was free to unleash a media push consisting of the usual half-hearted, tubthumping platitudes completely devoid of substance or detail.
🎥 How the Brexit deal will support our digital and tech sectors, from facilitating the safe, free-flow of data to new partnerships for economic growth. Now is the time to come together to build a brighter future. #BacktheBrexitDeal pic.twitter.com/l3j5RQofcB
— DCMS (@DCMS) December 1, 2018
It fell to the momentary Secretary of State for Digital, Jeremy Wright QC, a man who was proud to reject the internet and all its works until it became his job, to put his name to the push. He didn’t use DCMS’s own real estate on gov.uk to sell the deal, or any of the open source publishing platforms available to him at any time. Instead, he chose to make his push from behind a premium paywall in the Telegraph, a broadsheet which has lurched so far to the hard right that someone best described it as having cut a line of Thatcher’s ashes and snorted it, and which precisely no-one in the tech industry reads as a source of news.
You may think I’m being flippant here, but I am not. Because here’s the thing.
Government ministers should not be making official policy statements on any subject from behind premium newspaper paywalls.
Not on any subject.
Not when the future of an industry is at stake.
And not, absolutely not, when the person making the announcement is under a moral obligation to show leadership of the industry he claims to lead by using the tools they create to speak to them on their level.
So what did the paywalled announcement have to say? Well, unless you hand your personal data over to the Telegraph to be exploited through their shiteous interpretation of “legitimate interests”, or pay for a subscription, the official policy statement on your future is not available to you.
Unless, of course, you’re a geek, and you view source on mobile, cut and paste the code into your notetaking app of choice, and strip away a few dozen formatting tags to read it.
I don’t know what sort of professors you had, but I would have failed any course where I tried to pass that off as the sum total of what I had to offer.
Those PR-ified announcements carried endorsement quotes from three bodies – you know the ones, the usual suspects – which are either funded by government, or are so materially and structurally close to government, that they do not qualify as legitimate independent groups, no matter how badly they try to pretend otherwise. One of them was mentioned in the Telegraph statement, leading Sky’s Rowland Manthorpe to correctly pick up on the real story of the media push – ably assisted by Mike Butcher – which was DCMS choosing what it wants to hear, choosing who it wants to hear from, and choosing where it wants to hold that conversation.
As for DCMS tagging organisations which are vehemently against its Brexit plan in its promotional tweets, as if to imply that those organisations were thumping the tub in an approved manner? It would have been headline news in a more innocent era, like 2016. Not now.
It's extraordinary that the government would attempt to position @NCLTechTrust as supporting their Brexit deal. As clarified by us last week, we do NOT support it. We were not even consulted. This deal is bad for the North East, and bad for NE tech.https://t.co/6nPzQPZJki
— Jonny Grubin (@groob) December 3, 2018
That, then, is your Christmas card from Brexit Britain. And you’re tired, and drained, and worn out, and resigned to defeat. But you need to open up a can of I Ain’t Having This and keep going, because your industry is being driven towards a cliff by Jeremy Wright and his sycophants, and if what you’ve read above doesn’t make you angry for your sector’s future, you’re as unqualified to work in tech as they are.
Where politicians who know nothing about tech talk to capitalist gatekeepers who know nothing about tech about how tech people should do tech https://t.co/1Ush2GWZti
— Adam Banks (@adambanksdotcom) December 1, 2018
We are people of enormous power and influence over the web. I empower digital professionals to use that power wisely. As a tech policy and regulation specialist, I educate the makers of the web on the policy issues which impact their work, inspire them to participate constructively in the regulatory sphere, and represent them to governments.