Friday, 29 October 2010

Brian Coleman's fear of Facebook

During the fire dispute in 2002-3 a rank-and-file firefighters and supporters website, 30K, played a pivotal role in events. While the top leadership of the Fire Brigades Union buckled - surprisingly quickly, actually - under media and government pressure, 30K did its best to keep organising at the grassroots. The current leadership of the FBU is in large part a product of the experiences of that time; they will be a much harder nut to crack than Andy Gilchrist was, and I think the unity of the firefighters is stronger now.

30K became UK Fire, "The UK's No.1 Firefighters' Forum", still going strong after almost a decade (and various attempts to censor it).

So, how is social media being used in the current dispute? Well, now we have Facebook and, as you might expect, there is a Facebook group set up for firefighters and their supporters. Or there was.

The group, "I support London's firefighters", keeps being taken down and the individual Facebookers running it suspended, as the LFB applies for it to be investigated. Its current status is disappeared. Individual firefighters are being disciplined for comments they are supposed to have made on Facebook.

In the traditional media, there are all manner of shenanigans going on in an attempt to smear the firefighters; there are rumours that LFB has released details of individual firefighters to the Daily Mail so that they can run "exposés" of individuals earning London weighting and living in far-flung places like Tenerife - this can't be right when Brian Coleman himself has to live in Finchley! - and Stevenage. Wherever the papers are getting their information from, it is certainly very detailed.

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