Richard Ingrams' Week: Reasons not to trust technology

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The Independent Online

For the first time in my life I was forced this week to use a computer. I was attending what they call a Speed Awareness Course, which, if you are lucky enough to live in the right area, is a way of avoiding three points on your driving licence. (You still have to pay £74). For more than an hour I sat answering the questions on the screen, for example, about my sleeping habits or whether I resented being overtaken (answer: yes).

I have avoided computers partly because I am technologically inept, but also because I don't trust them. I feel much the same way about mobiles, which are again in the news as a possible health risk.

If you wanted proof about the danger of e-mails you have only to look at the case of Ms Ruth Turner, described as Mr Blair's "gatekeeper", who was arrested last week by police investigating the sale of honours on suspicion of perverting the course of justice. Her alleged offence: concealing e-mails from the police.

Many innocents may have thought that if you have deleted e-mails then you cannot be caught out. The truth, however, is that e-mails are indestructible. Not only that, they are available to anyone who knows how to tap into the system - a comparatively easy task for skilful criminals.

The perils are there not just for government officials but for journalists as well. Lawyers fishing for a libel action can now trawl back through e-mails to prove a case of malice and there's no way out of it.

Far safer to rely, like me, on the traditional pen and paper, and when it's necessary, the shredder. You can't shred e-mails.

I can think of better ways of spending £90,000

I was not aware until the other day that the BBC had a "diversity executive". She is Ms Mary Fitzpatrick and she is paid a salary of £90,000 p.a.

Her existence came to light thanks to a newspaper report to the effect that she had criticised the BBC for expressing horror in its news reports at the manner of Saddam Hussein's execution - because doing so imposed Western values on a different culture.

Hanging people, jeering at them beforehand and filming the whole process is, by implication, evidence of Iraqi culture and the kind of behaviour that we in the West should try to understand rather than registering our disapproval.

If you take the argument further, we are asked to infer that Iraqis themselves are not in the least bit appalled at what has happened. Perhaps they even resent criticism from foreign countries of the tide of assassinations, suicide bombings, torture and kidnapping which have followed the Bush/Blair invasion of their country.

Perhaps what we may describe as atrocities are all part and parcel of the traditional Iraqi way of life which we in the West have failed to appreciate.

Another slightly more sensible conclusion is that if the BBC is thinking of economising with all the money we pay it, it might consider dispensing with a "diversity executive" and spending Ms Fitzpatrick's £90,000 in a slightly more pointful way.

* The interest of the children must come first. That is the mantra that is solemnly repeated by anyone pontificating on the current argument about gay adoption. Very few people will go so far as to say that the interests of the children are best served if they are brought up by a father and a mother.

The overall silence on this point shows the extent we have been brainwashed into thinking that gay couples are no different from a male/female partnership - even when it comes to bringing up children.

Even the great defender of family values, the Daily Mail, only goes so far as to say that children need a male and female "role model". No mention that they might like to have a mother to comfort them or a father to play football with in the park.

There is no evidence, says this paper, that children adopted by gays are any worse off than those with mothers and fathers. But is there any evidence either way? In all the of words written about this subject in the past few days you read scarcely anything about the operation of gay adoption.

Nor have I seen any reference to the fact, well known to many couples who have tried to adopt, that it is almost impossible for those who are over 50, who are smokers, or even those who are considered obese. Could we have a situation - do we have it already? - in which gays have a better chance than smokers? It may seem unlikely but we ought never to lose sight of the fact that the world we now live in is a very strange one.

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