Bullies-R-Us

The Armed Forces always believed that subordination of the troops to the command was essential. If there were strictly enforced rules of behaviour it was maintained, then the soldier next to you would be able to rely on you performing according to drill during the times when the battle made everything else unpredictable.

At what stage does a strong command based culture change into a bully culture? Or does it change. Is the ‘ you will follow orders no matter what’ not inherently the characteristic of a bully culture. This question came up in an interesting article in the UK Independent.

Facebook and MySpace are again in the line of attack. This time the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) have their sights on the social networking sites. The problem for the MoD is the fact that members of these online communities have shared their experiences in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Those that have been sharing, have been military personnel.

What is concerning the MoD is the bad publicity the Department is getting through a series of negative stories which paint an unflattering picture of troops having to cope with faulty equipment, bad accommodation and lousy pay.

It was interesting to see how the MoD has decided to react. The MoD, according to the article, has warned that more discipline and greater enforcement of the military code of conduct will be required in order to tackle this insubordination of the troops. One need not be that surprised at this.

What the MoD is proposing is to court martial armed forces personnel who use the internet to publish unauthorised videos and photographs or to complain about the conditions they are experiencing. It could also mean dismissal from the army.

Once the strong arm tactics have put paid to the bad publicity, then the MoD thinks it should use the same internet facility to put a good spin on the activities it is involved in. With other words watch out for the MoD’s page on Facebook promoting their campaigns, right next to the ones where members are agitating against the wars.

Of course there is no reason why the MoD shouldn’t be able to promote their side of the story on these sites. But it seems that the Department thinks it can control the content that users post on the internet. This is absurd. The more the MoD will want to control the information published on the internet, the more the users will rally behind the private publishers of information.

I suppose an organisation whose reasons for existence is to beat the daylights out of its enemies will think that controlling a few naughty citizens will be a stroll in the park. Is there any doubt in the minds of people who know their way around the internet, what the outcome of this will be? Me neither.

Anja Merret lives in Brighton, UK, having moved across from South Africa just over a year ago.

She now looks after the business interests of her daughter who is a Flash Developer and Accessibility expert. She started a blog at the beginning of the year under the heading of chatting to my generation. Although she is chatting to the baby boomer generation, she sometimes feels that all generations have the same issues to face, they just don’t have hearing aids or walking sticks!

One of her pet peeves is the war in Iraq and in fact anything that causes innocent people to get hurt. But she also loves tech stuff, although only as an amateur. She considers herself a Silver Surfer Gadget Geek. She is even considering queuing for an iPhone in the UK later on in the year. But her daughter has offered, so she will only be taking hot food to the Brighton Geeks waiting in line.

Her musings may be found on http://www.anjamerret.com . Her observations on personal power and self-development may be found on http://www.pinkblocks.com

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