Luddites and a Twitter Joke that Miserably Failed!
Posted on February 27, 2014
When I went to the bank the other day, the lady cashier said that something had appeared on her computer screen indicating that I could now do internet banking via a new system that I could use on my mobile phone.
I asked her if it involved downloading an HSBC App on my iPhone.
“It’s no use asking me as I am a complete Luddite.”
To me this sat up like a great joke that would have her belly laughing at my razor sharp, spontaneous wit.
“Oh if that’s the case, if I ever want to assassinate your character, I shall do so via Twitter and you will never know.”
The belly laugh didn’t arrive and as the tumble-weed floated past her dead pan face whilst a bell rang slowly in the distance, it dawned on me that because she was a confirmed Luddite, she didn’t know what Twitter was.
What a waste.
I have always known that Luddite is a term used against or by people who were opposed to technology but rather ignorantly it turns out; I have never known the origin of the term and the chaos that the Luddite movement caused in-between 1811 – 1817.
I do now.
The term Luddite is generally thought to have come from the name of a young man called Ned Ludd who smashed up two stocking frames in 1779 as a protest against modern machinery stripping the jobs from textile artisans.
When the movement began it swept rapidly throughout Britain over the coming years with machinery being smashed up and factories burned to the ground as the industrial revolutionists struggled to take control of the situation.
The Luddites would secretly meet at night on the moors surrounding industrial towns, and set about practising drills and manoeuvres. Their main areas of operation were Nottinghamshire, West Riding and Lancashire by March 1813.
The Luddite Movement 1811 -1817
Using the pseudonym King Ludd, the Luddites and their supporters anonymously sent death threats to magistrates and food merchants as well as on occasion, launching out full scale attacks on anyone associated with the industrialists who were frantically attempting to crush the uprising before it became a full scale, working class rebellion.
The Army clashed with the Luddites on several occasions and at one point, the situation got so serious that there were more British soldiers fighting the Luddites than there was Napoleon.
As the crisis deepened, a trio of Luddites, led by George Mellor, assassinated a mill owner, William Horsfall from Ottiwells Mill after he (Horsfall) had boasted, somewhat stupidly it turned out, that he would “Ride up to his saddle in Luddite blood.”
Mellor fired the fatal shot into Horsfall’s testicles (ouch) and all three men were subsequently arrested. Whether Mellor fired the shot into the bollocks of Horsfall on purpose it is not known, but you can imagine that it was a time when feelings were running very high and for Mellor it must have felt that justice had been served.
The Government swiftly reacted in favour of the industrialists/capitalists and conducted a mass trial in Yorkshire in 1813 to suppress the movement with whatever means possible.
More than sixty men, including Mellor and his companions, were charged with various crimes in connection with Luddite activities and whilst many charged were a practising Luddites, several had no or little connection to the violent section of movement but were rounded up and charged anyway.
The more I read this, the more it sounds like echoes of the 1984 miners’ strike.
These trials were not legitimate judicial reckonings of each defendant’s guilt, they were classed as show trials intended to strike fear into other Luddites from continuing their destructive campaign against industrialisation. Extraordinarily harsh penalties were meted, including penal transportation and even the death penalty; unsurprisingly, these very public the trials quickly ended the movement.
In modern times the term Luddite is used against people (like the lady in the bank) opposed to, or slow to adopt to any form of, industrialisation, IT or any other new technology that is arriving in their everyday lives.
In the world of business, economists use a term known as Luddite Fallacy to explain a theory of technological unemployment leading to structural unemployment when an organisations technological advancement results in a reduction of labour requirement, shifting the supply curve outward whilst at the same time reducing price of the product (elasticity of demand).
I wonder if in 1811, a Luddite would have predicted that they would, 200 years later, be the subject of a failed joke in a bank?
The moral of this story is…Don’t use Twitter in a Luddite joke.