Tag Archives: twitter

On The Twitter Mob

I never thought I would find myself defending Emily Thornberry. I admit I laughed along with the rest when THAT tweet was published on Thursday afternoon by the now former shadow attorney general.

It was “Bigotgate” all over again, when Gordon Brown called a member of the public who questioned the wisdom of unfettered immigration a bigot. One of those occasions when the mask slips, and we realise the contempt with which the inner political circle holds us and our views even as they fawn over us for our votes.

But there is something disturbing about the way she was hounded out of office by a Twitter mob. Engagement with social media is obligatory now for politicians, and gaffes are inevitable. Our political class is obsessed with such mistakes, because it takes attention away from any debate on substantive policies, which might require them to put some unpalatable truths before the electorate.

She should have brazened it out. Pointed out that, as it happens, she had been raised in a council house.

In recent days the Twitter mob has also whipped up a campaign against a Californian who claims to be able to teach men how to seduce women. Sexist. As a result he has been banned by the authorities, as if he were some neo-Nazi or Islamic hate preacher. We have to be protected from hearing his asinine ideas because the Twitter mob says so.

It is terribly easy to ignite a Twitter campaign, because of the self-feeding, self-replicating nature of social media. One click becomes ten clicks, becomes a hundred clicks, and so on. Soon it appears that large numbers of right-thinking people support it. Actually, it is a few thousand nutcases and single issue fanatics, brought together by the Internet.

Better for said Californian to be allowed into the country, given time on prime time TV and then taken apart by a seasoned interviewer. Not difficult, and ridicule is what such people fear most. Being made to appear a martyr only feeds their sense of importance.

All this matters because Twitter, and social media, has been used on a number of occasions recently to shut down reasoned debate at universities, somewhere where you might think the putting and abutting of robust views would be welcomed. Oxford, Cambridge and others have cancelled public debates on important subjects because of the Twitter mob.

Students must be protected from hearing opinions that do not accord with the world view of a few single issue fanatics. Heaven forbid they should be introduced to new ideas and allowed to make up their own minds. That’s not what universities are for, is it?


On Obesity

I seem to have got myself into a little trouble on Twitter for a semi-serious suggestion that those who choose eat themselves to obesity and therefore take up more than one seat on public transport should be required to buy more than one ticket.

This was, inevitably, prompted by my own experience this morning. Do I not understand, someone tweets, that chronic obesity is more complex than that, and can be related to depression? We should be more compassionate, not punish people.

Up to a point. Obesity, leading to related conditions such as diabetes, is one of the leading preventable causes of death today, up there with smoking. Some cases are caused by existing psychological conditions. The majority, though, are down to taking in more calories than your body needs and not taking enough exercise to burn these off.

The link is as established, and as incontrovertible, as that between smoking and lung cancer. No medical expert is going to turn around, at some stage in the future, and say, we got this one wrong. It’s all down to car exhausts. Or sunspots. Or excess reading of medical scare stories in the tabloid press.

We are back  to the old argument rehearsed here before – to what extent are people responsible for their actions, and to what extent should they, and everyone else, be compelled from adopting courses of action that medical experts would prefer us to avoid? I am not suggesting fat people – to use the correct, politically incorrect phrase – should be discriminated against. I am suggesting that, except in a few sad cases, they are not victims.

Though if you choose to fly with your cherished cello occupying the seat next to you, you are required to pay for both. The same reasoning could be argued to apply to travelling with your excess avoirdupois in the same location.

This on the day when we learn that the wife of a mega-rich Middle East politician is suing a casino for allowing her to gamble away millions even though, she claims, they knew she was a gambling addict. The staff at the casino made no effect to discourage her from gambling, she claims. Well, they wouldn’t, would they?

 There is such a thing as taking responsibility for your own actions.


On Twitter

Given I started my career in journalism before computers had been invented, it is no surprise that I sometimes grapple unhappily with new technology. That this blog is in any way readable is entirely to the credit of my two teenage children, who created it between them.

But I, and others, too, were startled to discover something about Twitter the other day. I started tweeting a couple of months ago. I thought I was getting the hang of it. But I discovered the other day that it is possible, from my tweets, to work out exactly where I live.

Forgive me if you are already aware of this. But of the three people also on Twitter who I discussed this with, two did not. One, a woman, hurriedly amended her account. When you set up your account – all right, when your teenage daughter sets up your account for you, in my case – you have to opt out of the location option. This is not exactly made obvious at the time.

Otherwise, click on the location mentioned on someone’s tweet, and a Google street map comes up, with their address on it. In my case, there is even a picture of my car, parked outside my house. Forgive me if an old Luddite finds this all rather creepy.

PS: my daughter says, yes, she did indeed know this, and her location option is switched off. Again, proof that only her generation have the skills to survive in this new world.