Unsaying Things on the Internet

I think that one of the reasons that a certain type of politician is wary of the internet is that once you’ve said something on the internet, it becomes very hard to unsay it. If you’re used to dealing with the world of newpapers and broadcast media where everything is ephemeral then it must be quite a culture shock to deal with a medium where everything is archived and people can carefully compare what you said last week with what you are saying today. Of course, if something is published on your own web site you’d think that it was easy enough to alter what you wrote and claim that we’ve always been at war with Eurasia. But it’s not that simple.

Here’s a good case in point. Last week Nadine Dorries wrote a piece on her blog entitled “All’s Fair in War and Politics”, where she questioned the credentials of one of her opponents. It was an astonishing piece and not something that a careful politician would ever write. Here’s what she said:

My Labour opponent had a very strong letter in the Beds On Sunday this week.

In the letter he deployed his usual tactic of distorting the facts, something I’m becoming used to these days; however, he also said:

“I fought for as a soldier in Iraq in 2003”.

Anyone who reads my blog will know how pro-military I am.

I stand in awe and admiration of our soldiers, their professionalism and bravery.

Only last week, I wrote of how moved I was when I heard a Scots Dragoon Guard use his moment on TV to talk about the moment a soldier receives his pre-assignment message: ‘ contact with the enemy is certain’ – and what it is that fires that soldier on, one of our heroes, into battle.

So, you can imagine, when I read the words “I fought as a soldier in Iraq” I was quite impressed. Gosh, thought I, good job I’m the MP or I may be tempted to vote for him myself.

Only, did he fight in Iraq? Did he go out into the danger zones along with the a regiment on Op Telic 8, and risk his life and limb side by side with our soldiers, for the sake of freedom and democracy? The values for which he claims to have “fought in Iraq” .

I will be interested to find out the answer.

Claiming to be a hero when you write a political letter as the Labour candidate in a newspaper is a very big claim indeed. One that secures advantage and wins you votes.

Let’s hope it’s true.

I got that from Google’s cache of the site because it’s no longer on her web site. It seems that someone has had a quiet word in her ear and the piece has been somewhat toned down. Here’s what it currently says (I’m not just linking to it in case it changes again in the future):

The local press are picking this up now, I will leave it up to them.

Anyone who reads this blog will understand that I have the hugest regard for all serving military personnel, TA, Army, Navy and Air Force and consider myself very lucky indeed to have two bases in my constituency. RAF Henlow, Chicksands and a TA training base.

I talk to many soldiers, regular and TA before they leave to serve, and as detailed in my blog, ‘A Soldiers Tale’, when they arrive home. I know and understand well exactly the danger and the operations they engage in.

However, the one thing I have learnt over the last few weeks is that in the battlefield of politics, one needs to be absolutely honest AND precise. Nothing less will do.

Which is, I hope you’ll agree, completely different to the original piece. It’s so watered down that the original point has been completely lost (it’s like homeopathic blogging!)

I’m not sure what Dorries intended by editing this post. Or, more importantly, editing this post without saying what she had done. A more responsible blogger would have struck through the original text and left a note saying why it had been done. Or, if the text needed to be removed for legal reasons, replaced it with a note explaining what had happened.

Editing text without any explanation really looks like that you’re intending to fool people into thinking that the current version is what you had always believed. And that’s dishonest. And we don’t expect dishonesty from our MPs[1]. Luckily the internet has a longer memory than that.

We have always been at war with Oceania.

[1] Well, ok, yes. Of course we do expect dishonesty from our MPs. But we shouldn’t.

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