Co-op VS Christian Voice, Good: Visa VS Wikileaks, Bad - keeping cognitive dissonance in check

An important disclaimer: If I had to wrap my positive feelings about Christian Voice to place under the Christmas tree then I would end up being visited by three ghosts, who would proclaim me a scrooge. They would take me to the past, present and future of Christian Voice before apologising for wasting my time, shaking my hand and heading off to pick on its director, Stephen Green.

Christian Voice (CV) are a diminutive, pointless, homophobic group given a ridiculous amount of undue exposure in the media, due to an honourable but badly applied understanding of what balance requires.

I do not believe they represent the views of the average Christian – but at the same time I wish moderate Christians were a lot more vocal in distancing themselves from them.

So hopefully no one can mistake this article to be in anyway supportive of CV. They’re dicks.

I say this because I’ve noticed something interesting on twitter this evening. My timeline (a typically skeptical and rational group) has become inundated with people congratulating Co-op on their treatment of CV. In short, Co-op refused CV banking and asked them to leave due to CV’s homophobia.

The CV’s version of events can be read here

If I ran a bank, the last people I would want opening an account are the CV. Obviously. But the support for the actions of the Co-op that I saw on twitter seems easily given and without due consideration.

Especially considering the story is from 2005 and is currently bubbling up again as old stories are want to do.

It was only the other side of xmas that the same feed was outraged that VISA, Mastercard, Amazon and Paypal decided to cancel Wikileaks ability to bank and receive donations.

It would be easy to become distracted now about the reasons behind the cancellation of services provided to Wikileaks and crucially to anyone who wanted to donate to them. Whether it was due to Government pressure; and/or the fear of cables related to banks*; or even claimed ToS violations**

The cognitive dissonance between these two view points should be apparent. As rational thinkers it should be obvious that we can not simultaneously support and condone banks for restricting financial operations to organisations based purely on whether we like that organisation.

Should British Gas also request Christian Voice get another energy provider?

No matter the reason for the retraction of service it doesn’t justify the actions that were taken. In either case.

There is currently a battle to preserve and promote Net Neutrality and deal with the idiocies of the Digital Economy Bill. In which people were, rightly, horrified about the idea that people might lose their internet access on accusations of copy right infringement.

This is an important issue because it is nearly impossible to function without an internet connection. You lose your voice, your access to knowledge and the ability to function in society.

The same is true with banking facilities. Without access to money your ability to function becomes impossible. An issue which becomes ever more significant with the move away from physical to digital money.

The counter argument is that as an ethical bank, Co-op was merely sticking to it’s principles.

However, ethical banking means that the banks commits to investing your money in organisations and actions which are consider ethical.

To ensure that it does not use your money to profit from actions you consider unethical.

It does not, and should not, mean that you have to pass a morality test to join; because that places the bank (and not consumer) as the arbiter of what is ethical.

If we find it acceptable for the Co-op to refuse to allow homophobes the right to bank then it is only fair that we consider it acceptable for a non-ethical bank to refuse homosexuals the right to bank.

Regardless of your position towards Christian Voice or Wikileaks it is crucial that organisations are allowed to function and can not be neutered and censored by corporations acting outside the law.

Democracy stands by the assertion that you don’t censor people who are wrong, but you debate them into obscurity. Celebrating the closure of CVs banking facilities is celebrating censorship and not debate.

Because money talks, and without it you can’t.

Another disclaimer: I’ve been stuck on a 3G connection for weeks now so have not been able to follow up references and such to levels I would like. So I am happy (as always) to accept corrections and the like.

* A fear which appears to have lead to pre-emptive registering of critical url addresses of various bankers

** Which it would seem the KKK do not violate

The time I saw a ghost.

It is christmas and that means we need a ghost story. This is mine.

So as a kid I was obsessed with the paranormal. Properly obsessed. UFOs, ghosts, supernatural powers, the whole deal. It was pre-internet so all this arcane knowledge had to be deciphered from from tatty second hand books pilfered from car boot sales and dusty shops.

Eventually I headed to secondary school and where I was lucky enough to encounter some tremendous science teachers. They infected me with the scientific method and, surprisingly, it didn't immunise me from the paranormal at all.

It strengthened my belief in it. For I knew I could use the scientific method to prove it all true.

But over time being skeptical and scientific knocked down the crazy things I wanted to be true. One little piece at a time. I saw the contradictions and intentional reproductions of previously admitted hoaxes and began to lose faith in the paranormal community.

But then I saw a ghost.

I would often walk down by the canal near my house. The entrance was especially pretty with trees overhanging the path that opened up to a view of a metal bridge and the canal itself.

Then one day as I walked up to that path I saw a man with his back to me. He was wearing jeans, and a top that was a green, or maybe blue. He had dark brown hair and he was clearly staring at the water from the bridge.

I was certain he was going to jump and try to kill himself. Completely certain. I remember my heart leaping. Striking my chest like a solid punch. I actually shouted out to him, but he ignored me. I was so worried I was routed to the spot. Eventually I snapped out of it, shouted again and rushed towards him.

He disappeared.

I don't think I've ever felt fear like I did when the suicidal man disappeared. I was rooted to the spot again with fear. I was physically shaking; a sudden cold washed over me and I didn't know what to do.

So I just stood there.

It all made sense, it was a ghost of a man who jumped to his death. It wasn't a tall bridge, but the water was full of junk and he was bound to have got caught on a trolley or something, been unable to resurface, and drowned. As it was suicide he had never found peace and was stuck repeating what had already happened.

As shaken as I was I suddenly realised I was right, and I was damn well going to use science to prove it. And so, on little more than a whim, I started pacing around the area I had been standing before I moved.

I must have looked a little strange.

I stood there inching around and moving my head this way and that for maybe 5 minutes. Which is a very long time to be acting like that. And it all seemed fruitless. But science requires rigour and so I stuck at it.

Eventually I got the ghost to return.

The branches of the trees were crossing the bridge in such a way that they outlined a crude shape of a man. The colour of the canal, grass, sky and concrete filled in the shape with jeans and a top, and gave him a reasonable head of hair.

As the wind blew the trees the image came and went and never had the absolute, complete reality that it's first appearance had, but even now I knew what was happening, it was a damn impressive optical illusion.

I was astonished at what a complete picture and story my mind had created with just this simple nudge from a random arrangement of the environment. If I was in a rush and had to keep walking, if I couldn't have spent all that time tilting my head this way and that like a moronic bird then to this day I would still be willing to bet my life, and that of my families, on the existence of a ghost on that bridge. I also realised that not once in the retelling of the tale would I ever think to mention the overhanging branches and soon I would forget they were even there. No skeptic, no matter how talented, would be able to solve the mystery from the most honest testimony I could give.

But I had the time, the good fortune, and scientific curiosity to stop and stare and rock back and forth and to test. And so I managed to disprove my very own ghost, and in doing so I got first hand experience of how completely and utterly my brain could lie to me.

And so seeing a ghost changed my life.