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London New York Times the Observer

Twitter’s triumph as WikiLeaks boss and Google come under fire

By Colin Grant

June 24, 2012 | 5 min read

FOR THE past week I have been attempting, unsuccessfully, to convince one of my oldest friends to join the 500 million or so worldwide who have created a Twitter account.

He put up a spirited defence but I’m hoping, after reading the thought-provoking interview with Tony Nicklinson in today’s Observer, he might change his mind about the value of social media.

The title of the cover story in The New Review is: “TonyNicklinson@TonyNicklinson Hello world. I am Tony Nicklinson, I have locked-in symdrome and this is my first ever tweet.”

Elizabeth Day describes how Tony (58) suffered a “catastrophic stroke” in 2005 which left him suffering from locked-in syndrome. He is paralysed from the neck down and unable to speak.

His only means of communication are a board displaying the alphabet which is held up by his wife—Tony stares at each letter to spell a word—and a computer which tracks his eyeball movements and converts them into sentences.

Last week he went to the High Court in London to ask for the right to die.

While three judges deliberate, The Observer set up a unique four-day interview with Tony via Twitter and they opened it to the world. Anyone could ask a question, even those who disagreed with him.

What followed was a remarkable exchange.

Among the highlights for me were:

“Have you considered going to another country where assisted suicide is legal? Yes but I can’t afford it and I don’t see why I should have to.”

“Did you believe in assisted dying before you had your stroke? Probably like you I never gave it even a passing thought.”

“What about assertion most locked-in ppl don’t want to die? If others want to live all they hv to do is nothing. Anyone who goes to court must be serious about wanting to die.”

“If you were to die, would you regret leaving your family behind? Yes, I wld but there wld be regret whenever I died, the difference being that I don’t suffer for 30-odd years.”

“Do you have any fear about dying? No but I have a fear of living like this when I am old and frail. I shall be sad, though.”

The High Court decision is expected in the autumn.

THE INCREASINGLY weird world of Juian Assange is captured in a profile entitled “The Caped Crusader Turns to the Dark Side” by William Langley in The Sunday Telegraph.

The WikiLeaks founder has sought sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy in London as he tries to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces sexual assault charges.

He’s been battling extradition because he believes the Swedes will hand him over to the Americans who will dump him in a dark place and throw away the keys.

While few would disagree with Assange’s lack of faith in American justice, William Langley questions the choice of bolthole.

“Irony doesn’t quite capture the mordant weirdness of Assange seeking sanctuary in a country where the suppression of information is a flagship government policy.”

Apparently Ecuador’s democratically-elected ruler Rafael Correa regularly abuses his powers by commandeering the country’s airwaves and denouncing journalists as ignorant and liars.

In a recent interview El Presidente said: Let us stop promoting this image of poor, courageous journalists, a saintly media trying to tell the truth, and tyrants and autocrats trying to stop them.”

So how does Assange, who famously once said: “I have tried to invent a system that solves the problems of censorship across the whole world” react to this?

“I completely agree with your view of the media,” he beamed, no doubt much to the disgust of his supporters who include Jemima Khan, Bianca Jagger, John Pilger and Ken Loach.

FINALLY TO sports. You won’t find bodybuilding at the London Olympics, but it’s big on Venice Beach.

And the bodybuilders are up in arms because a group of social media types are moving in.

“Schwarzenegger takes on Google in the battle of Venice Beach” screams the headline in The Observer.

Paul Harris reports from the front and describes how the Internet giant has been buying property in the area which it aims to turn into offices.

This has caused a furore in a part of California normally inhabited by hippies, hobos, artists, skateboarders and muscle-bound weightlifters pumping iron on the boardwalk; where Beat writers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouack hung out.

Harris writes: “The movement of Google and other tech firms into the neighbourhood is likely to push up house prices and rentals and see its genuinely seedy vibe replaced by something a little more sanitised.”

Schwarzenegger arrived in Venice Beach from Austria in 1977 and virtually lived in Gold’s Gym. He has voiced concerns that Google, who now own the property, will close it down.

Another bodybuilder, Nathaniel Moon, told the New York Times: “This is the ultimate revenge of the nerds. The greatest way of getting back at all the guys that stuffed people from Google into lockers in high school and stole all their prom dates.”

I don’t know about you, but I reckon the musclemen have had it coming to them!

COLIN GRANT is a former journalist who now runs Spectrum PR, a Glasgow-based public relations and media consultancy.


Twitter: @spectrum_PR

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