Tilting at windmills

Photoshopped image by Pixy

Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty social media companies that rise from that Internet. And no sooner did Jacinda see them that she said to her squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Emmanuel, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”

“What giants?” asked Emmanuel Macron.

“Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh into every computer.”
(With apologies to Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote.) Quote.

Magic Talk host Sean Plunket says Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has her priorities completely wrong on the back of the announcement that New Zealand and France would lead the way in stopping social media use for terrorism.

On Wednesday, Ardern announced New Zealand and France would host a meeting in Paris in May aimed at bringing together world leaders and technology company chief executives to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.

“We all need to act, and that includes social media providers taking more responsibility for the content that is on their platforms, and taking action so that violent extremist content cannot be published and shared,” Ardern said.

But Plunket said “taking on social media” was “ridiculous and a rather futile exercise”.

“Social media didn’t shoot 50 people in Christchurch. Social media didn’t plant bombs in Sri Lanka,” he said on Wednesday.

“Some people use social media to interact with others, and spread or discuss ideas that other people find unpleasant, uncomfortable or downright wrong. Well that’s living in freedom people, and we better get used to it.”

But Ardern said it isn’t about limiting any freedoms.

“Our plan is to try and build unity around this issue – that we, of course, maintain the principles of a free, open and secure internet. This isn’t about freedom of expression – this is about preventing violent extremism and terrorism online.”

Plunket said the meeting in Paris, which will be held alongside the Tech for Humanity meeting of G7 nations’ digital ministers, would comprise of bureaucrats grandstanding, patting each other on the backs and sipping coffee on the streets.

“We have a Prime Minister who certainly appears more in women’s magazines and lifestyle magazines than she does in any real media.

“We have her running off to Paris with her mate Macron to basically say ‘Look at what a good person I am’. It will make no difference.” […]

But Plunket believes changing social media for the better was up to its users.

He also listed several terrorist organisations, including the IRA, Ku Klux Klan, Black Hand and the Tamil Tigers, which he pointed out were able to successfully organise and terrorise people without the help of social media.

“Social media isn’t the problem, terrorism and extremism is, and it is naive to think that having a gay old time in Paris, sipping French wine, and being back-slappingly mutually virtuous is going to make any difference.” […]

Plunket said Ardern should focus her priorities on issues within New Zealand that she promised to solve, like child poverty, housing and the tax system – which she last week ruled out adjusting with a capital gains tax. […] End quote.


Tilting at windmills is an English idiom that means attacking imaginary enemies. The expression is derived from the 1605 novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes, and the word “tilt” in this context comes from jousting.

The phrase is sometimes used to describe either confrontations where adversaries are incorrectly perceived, or courses of action that are based on misinterpreted or misapplied heroic, romantic, or idealistic justifications. It may also connote an importune, unfounded, and vain effort against adversaries real or imagined for a vain goal.