It’s the age of online activists

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If I could sum up the 21st Century so far I would describe it as the era during which the world lost respect for almost everything.

One of the key side effects of the communication revolution, which has afforded billions of us a voice, is that nothing is sacred and nowadays reputations are routinely smashed to pieces in the full glare of the public spotlight.

Social media has allowed the mob to do their thing without having to get off the settee and society has been forced to adapt to this. If you are irked by a particular issue, it is a safe bet to say that there will be at least one petition out there for you to sign, giving you an immediate sense of satisfaction.

Encourage enough like-minded folk to add their names and it could even be ‘debated’ in Parliament.

Now we are all activists and can easily get behind many worthwhile causes long before our daily dose of This Morning banalities.

While encouraging public engagement in anything is to be welcomed, we must be careful that society doesn’t become more reactionary than it already is.

Take the latest guidance from those sages at the Local Government Association as a prime example. Last week we learned the LGA was cautioning councils against naming streets after individuals due to the risk that the recipient of this great honour could, further down the line, be unmasked as a child abuser.

The LGA says this is the sensible approach to take, given that the cost involved in naming a road is not insignificant and they know that councils would be left with little choice but to rename it once an army of online militants found its voice.

Today we want instant justice. This is rarely done via public demonstrations – that honour is reserved for ridiculously coiffured world leaders when they have really upset us – but through online protest. Such things are judged by the size of the virtual protest, a risky judgement when you consider that adding your voice to a cause takes seconds to do.

It is a shame that well deserving public servants should be denied the possibility of a future honour and the respect that goes with that due to the fear of public backlash.