The democratic right to document what we experience as citizens, was rudely shattered by Joan Burton's remarks that smartphones are just a bit too glitzy. David O'Donoghue weighs in on how vitally important the right to record events are for democracy.

Over the weekend tens of thousands of protesters brought our capital to a standstill over water charges. Whether you are vocally against the charges or accept them as a grim necessity you have to admit, that is impressive. As a society bitten once too many times by our broken and corrupt political process, and one dominated by total political apathy, watching our capital’s streets shimmer and shake with vocal protest on a political issue is inspiring regardless of where you stand.

But as my eyes were arrested by this inspirational spectacle my gaze also moved to Joanne Burton. Our Tanaiste and Minister for Social Protection had, a few days previous, launched a scathing criticism of those who were protesting the water charges and obstructing those fitting water meters. As protesters exercised their democratic right to document and film those attempting to install the meters, ostensibly public servants, our dear Minister felt the phones they were using to film were just a bit too glitzy.

“All of the protesters that I have seen before seem to have extremely expensive phones, tablets, video cameras” The minister commented.

Now as all of you know, I am a very calm, rational, sober individual who doesn’t lose his head at the slightest hint of stupidity from the Irish political elite.

Ok, I admit it, I totally lost it.

This nefarious idea is one we’ve seen before. Attempting to insult you’re opponents as being somehow entitled, or privileged or hypocritical is a common technique of argument for those who have few compelling arguments to offer themselves.

Most notably this idea has been seen in the Occupy protests of a couple of years ago. The political elitists and the talking heads joked about all these “hippies” campaigning for “income equality” on their smart phones. It didn’t seem to occur to them that the large majority of young people today have a smartphone of some kind and that it would be only natural for our generation to centre our political protest in the online world, where so many of us feel most at home.

Indeed our smartphones and twitter feeds strengthen our political positions, not weaken them. The internet is one of the most potent symbols of real democracy and transparency we have. That’s what makes political elites like Minister Burton so terrified of it. The internet is the great leveller, where all voices are equal, no particular thoughts or arguments are privileged and an advantaged few cannot hide information for their own nefarious purposes.

To think that our generation, while finding its political voice, wouldn’t make use of the cybernetic vocal chords we use for socialising and commerce and culture is absolutely ridiculous. You might as well become frustrated at how the early Church reformers used the printing press to get their message out there.

Our corrupt and cosy political elite hate protesters’ use of social media not because it is somehow hypocritical of them but because it represents something terrifying to the stagnant and conservative body politic in this country. Our political class thrives on your ignorance, thrives on your apathy and your dismissal, but the internet has the potential to change that. The internet is an open marketplace of ideas, where you can taste and try all kinds of streams of thought and ideology. There are no sacred cows, no boundaries to discussion and everyone can get involved regardless of their race, gender, class or social status. This ground-breaking level of political engagement and actual democracy petrifies our lazy political class, who think that democracy is someone scared, frightened and ill-informed shuffling to a voting booth every now and then to give big bucks to incompetent morons who will “take care of things”. The internet is a tool for the realisation of true democracy, where people really and truly participate in society and take responsibility for it, steering our direction from the ground up and not the top down.

Technology is a wonderful democratic tool, and it is our tool, and we should never let anyone make us feel ashamed for using it. Over the weekend tens of thousands of protesters brought our capital to a standstill over water charges. Whether you are vocally against the charges or accept them as a grim necessity you have to admit, that is impressive. As a society bitten once too many times by our broken and corrupt political process, and one dominated by total political apathy, watching our capital’s streets shimmer and shake with vocal protest on a political issue is inspiring regardless of where you stand.

But as my eyes were arrested by this inspirational spectacle my gaze also moved to Joanne Burton. Our Tanaiste and Minister for Social Protection had, a few days previous, launched a scathing criticism of those who were protesting the water charges and obstructing those fitting water meters. As protesters exercised their democratic right to document and film those attempting to install the meters, ostensibly public servants, our dear Minister felt the phones they were using to film were just a bit too glitzy.

“All of the protesters that I have seen before seem to have extremely expensive phones, tablets, video cameras” The minister commented.

Now as all of you know, I am a very calm, rational, sober individual who doesn’t lose his head at the slightest hint of stupidity from the Irish political elite.

Ok, I admit it, I totally lost it.

This nefarious idea is one we’ve seen before. Attempting to insult you’re opponents as being somehow entitled, or privileged or hypocritical is a common technique of argument for those who have few compelling arguments to offer themselves.

Most notably this idea has been seen in the Occupy protests of a couple of years ago. The political elitists and the talking heads joked about all these “hippies” campaigning for “income equality” on their smart phones. It didn’t seem to occur to them that the large majority of young people today have a smartphone of some kind and that it would be only natural for our generation to centre our political protest in the online world, where so many of us feel most at home.

Indeed our smartphones and twitter feeds strengthen our political positions, not weaken them. The internet is one of the most potent symbols of real democracy and transparency we have. That’s what makes political elites like Minister Burton so terrified of it. The internet is the great leveller, where all voices are equal, no particular thoughts or arguments are privileged and an advantaged few cannot hide information for their own nefarious purposes.

To think that our generation, while finding its political voice, wouldn’t make use of the cybernetic vocal chords we use for socialising and commerce and culture is absolutely ridiculous. You might as well become frustrated at how the early Church reformers used the printing press to get their message out there.

Our corrupt and cosy political elite hate protesters’ use of social media not because it is somehow hypocritical of them but because it represents something terrifying to the stagnant and conservative body politic in this country. Our political class thrives on your ignorance, thrives on your apathy and your dismissal, but the internet has the potential to change that. The internet is an open marketplace of ideas, where you can taste and try all kinds of streams of thought and ideology. There are no sacred cows, no boundaries to discussion and everyone can get involved regardless of their race, gender, class or social status. This ground-breaking level of political engagement and actual democracy petrifies our lazy political class, who think that democracy is someone scared, frightened and ill-informed shuffling to a voting booth every now and then to give big bucks to incompetent morons who will “take care of things”. The internet is a tool for the realisation of true democracy, where people really and truly participate in society and take responsibility for it, steering our direction from the ground up and not the top down.

Technology is a wonderful democratic tool, and it is our tool, and we should never let anyone make us feel ashamed for using it.