Richard Ingrams’s Week: Stop and think before pressing the 'send' button

Share
Related Topics

It is reported that the all-powerful Google is taking steps to help people who press the "send" button on an email and then instantly regret it. As things stand, there's nothing at all they can do.

Google's answer, apparently, will be to install a new mechanism that delays the despatch of the email for five seconds. But critics of the system point out that five seconds gives you no time at all before the panic feelings kick in.

One of the great mysteries of modern life is why so many intelligent and important people use emails to send compromising messages to their friends and enemies when they must be well aware that hackers can get access to them.

Only last month I wrote about Tony Blair's defence adviser Desmond Bowen who, prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, sent an email to intelligence chief Sir John Scarlett instructing him to cut out all the qualifications in his dossier about WMD and not to "hedge" his assertions with words such as "it is almost certain". Here was cast-iron proof of Blair's interference with the dossier – but only because Bowen had entrusted his thoughts to email.

Now the ill-fated Damian McBride has done the same sort of thing and no one can seriously believe that a five-second delaying mechanism would have stopped him in his tracks. The result: a major political scandal more damaging to Gordon Brown than anything that has so far happened since he became Prime Minister.

Why do they do it? One possible explanation is simply laziness, either that or a disinclination to talk to anybody either directly or on the phone. Or perhaps it was just in this instance that McBride had had too much to drink.

L Ron and the legend of Xenu

Students of Scientology, of whom I am one, will have been interested in a recent pronouncement by the cult's spokesman in Los Angeles Mr Tommy Davis. Mr Davis has spoken on an important issue of the Scientology creed which has hitherto been a subject of controversy.

It concerns the role in mankind's origins of an alien overlord known as Xenu. In the past, confusion has shrouded the story of Xenu partly because of the intervention of Scientology founder L Ron Hubbard who once issued a warning that anyone who was exposed to the Xenu story before completing the necessary steps in Scientology would be liable to fall victim to pneumonia and die.

As a result of this terrifying threat, even devoted followers such as Mr Tom Cruise have hitherto apparently been denied the existence of Xenu. I have yet to receive a copy of a new book on Scientology, edited by one James R Lewis and published by the prestigious Oxford University Press. So I do not know whether Mr Lewis sheds any light on the mystery of Xenu.

Reports of the book, however, suggest that its treatment of the Scientology cult is unusually sympathetic, one contributor saying that "the basic outline of L Ron Hubbard's life is not contested" when it is well known that L Ron's CV makes Lord Archer's look like a model of objective truth. Even more puzzling than the mystery of Xenu is how Oxford University Press came to publish such a book. At the risk of being struck down with pneumonia it surely can't be the case that there is a Scientology cell operating somewhere in Oxford (famously known as the home of lost causes)?

Too many people, too few reasonable ways of dealing with it

That most treasured of all our national treasures, Sir David Attenborough, left, has repeated his call for a reduction in the world's population. There are too many human beings, he says, and there are going to be even more of us. Something must be done.

But what, exactly? Sir David does not spell out his plan but might they include compulsory sterilisations, Chinese-style limitations on children, yet more abortions? Or would he, like the late John Aspinall, prefer us to turn a blind eye to the spread of plagues such as Aids on the grounds that they help to reduce the numbers in the Third World?

Sir David is not alone. The Duke of Edinburgh, no less, has voiced similar opinions in the past – the Duke, himself a father of four, being a good example of somebody who assumes that birth control will not be expected to apply to important people like himself. There was the same sort of campaign in the days of the Regency when Rev Thomas Malthus prophesied doom caused by an overexpanding population. He put the blame on the "lower orders" who produced too many children, and he recommended that they should be made to regulate their irresponsible sexual habits. Malthus's opinions were popular with politicians because he provided them with a good excuse for inactivity.

The Attenborough doctrine will likewise be welcomed in today's world. Thousands may be starving in Africa but what's to be done? It's all the fault of overpopulation, not forgetting the Pope and the Catholic Church who continue to fail to embrace the benefits of contraception and abortion clinics.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cabinet Maker / Joiner

£22000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This bespoke furniture and inte...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic and Motion Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you get a buzz from thinking up new ideas a...

Recruitment Genius: Media Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£14500 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Female Care Worker

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This expanding, vibrant charity which su...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Think I'm living the high life on benefits? Here's what being disabled costs me every day

Hannah Buchanan
 

Like many other black men, I grew up with only women around. Now I'm worried the experience has ‘feminised’ me

Tyrell Williams
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones