Sunday, 6 April 2014
Whosoever casteth the first stone...
Twitter is many things to many people. At its best it can be a glorious way to spread joy unconfined as happy tweeters share their uplifting thoughts with hundreds of followers and those same thoughts are transmitted around the globe, retweeted thousands of times to a potential audience of millions. Jesus would have loved it; just imagine, you could pen a parable and have half the world taken in before somebody read it properly and said, “Wait a minute”.
No, Twitter isn’t a force for good, but neither is it evil incarnate either. Twitter is better described (or decried) as a school playground; groups of friends sharing the fun, the odd fight drawing a crowd and here and there the manic loon, zooming about the place, pretending to be an aeroplane. Dotted here and there are the leaders and the losers, the lonely and the loony, but unlike the playground they choose to be here and it can be switched off.
One of the many things that twitter is known to be is the world’s Offendorium where people come to give and receive offence, to argue and squabble and then merrily block each other. In fact to some, being blocked is like taking a scalp and sometimes it is too easy; being blocked by Owen Jones for instance earns very few points as he blocks on sight. Omniscient being that he is he can look into your very soul via the medium of you being tagged into a conversation with which he mildly disagrees and instead of giving you the benefit of any doubt, there you are, blocked.
But some people genuinely don’t get Twitter. One such group of people are politicians, wrongly believing that all they have to do is tweet their wisdom and votes will come forth and multiply. Some of them do actually engage with the medium and use it well to connect with their constituents but others just come over as pompous jackasses. Prominent in the latter group, those who don’t understand the playground rules, is the leader of the opposition whose Twitter intern (‘Twintern’) regularly tweets up vacuous soundbites to which the popular meme for some months now has been to respond “Fuck off, Beaker”.
It’s a bit like replying “To see you, nice!” in response to Brucie’s ancient schtick, but unlike Forsyth, the Miliband account doesn’t respond either way; it is a one-way line of communication, receiving neither applause, nor adulation, nor indeed, offence. Enter Offendor, the warrior offendomong to take it on his behalf. Now, Old Holborn has written at length about the nature of offence – both giving and taking – and his sage advice has always been that it is entirely within your powers to NOT be offended, least of all on behalf of others, especially those who have not asked for your intervention.
But on Saturday night, a devout Labour Party activist (why, oh why, must they signal this in their bios?) who should have known better, waded in to play the unasked Good Samaritan. This is where the high horsery started:
Ed Milband Tweeted: “Gemma introduced me @scottishlabour conference last month. Her story of how she tackled her depression is important.”
To which, on cue, others replied “Fuck Off, Beaker!” and variations thereof. Not only was Gemma not identified in full (there was a link, if you cared) she was not tagged in by a Twitter handle. This was not a tweet about or to her, it was just another ‘man of the people’ placeholder by Miliband’s media morons. But Gemma was not to remain anonymous for long as our brave Christian Soldier leapt in to berate the Beaker baiters:
He tweeted: “@Shugism @GABaines @PanchoTaffy @Rolo_Tamasi @lemonrhind Will you apologise to @Ed_Miliband and Gemma Welsh for your disgusting tweets!”
To which the natural response was an immediate: “No, will we fuck. You can fuck off too, four eyes.” Ah, the playground taunt, best left ignored… except he couldn’t and standing as high in his saddle as he could, our brave Offendo-Knight, moonlight glinting off his righteous armour, ordered, “I am not asking you, I am telling you!” The sound of faces being palmed echoed around the Internet. But it was to get worse.
He asked “So you think mental illness is something to joke about!”
To which the obvious reply came: “Yes. Mental illness is fucking hilarious!”
Then he foolishly wrote this: “Dear @LouiseMensch @IainDale @TimMontgomerie @campbellclaret Will you help me name and shame these vile clowns?”
That was it – the floodgates of derision were wide open as he threatened to set his high-placed imaginary friends on the lot of us and Twitter did what it so often does… Fight! The funny thing was that at no point did anybody make a joke about mental illness, or direct any ill feeling towards Gemma. The only target was the perfectly legitimate Ed Miliband who genuinely does look more like a muppet than a human being and is as out of touch with the electorate as he repeatedly maligns David Cameron for being.
Oh, if only Twitter Jail was a real jail
Maybe being out of touch and grasping the wrong end of the stick is an inbuilt Labour instinct; after an hour or so Sir Offend of Grievanceshire signed off with a triumphant last sally: “Well one thing, all the nastiness in my Twitter feed from the trolls with regards to Ed Miliband and the mental health issue, I got to them!” Oh yeah baby, that stung so baaad! The storm abated, the waters calmed and then somebody summed up the whole thing thus: “His mistake is thinking we have a better nature to appeal to…” Amen, Twitter.