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Why we need to bar these hashtag hallions and their online assaults

By Lindy McDowell

Published 27/05/2015

Bitter Twitter: a comfy forum for trolls
Bitter Twitter: a comfy forum for trolls

It may say something about where I spend a lot of my leisure time that I tend to think of social media as being a bit like a big bar. People drop in for all sorts of reasons. To socialise and meet up with old friends and maybe make a few new ones. For a bit of fun and chat and occasionally for some heavy debate. To keep in touch with what's happening in the rest of the world.

But there are a few strange patrons (mainly those lonely pints glowering over at the rest of us) for whom the primary intoxicants down at the Online Arms are Self-Importance, Bile and Smuggery.

There is no human tragedy, misfortune or suffering which doesn't provide these intellectual Titans with opportunity to showcase their impressive wit to the rest of us.

Poking fun at illness or grief or calamity or hardship doesn't strike them as being in any way offensive.

Which is ironic given that many of them would be among the very, very first to point up what they'd deem to be offensiveness in others.

It would be going some to try to argue that social media alone is responsible for what I think of as the rise and rise of the new nasty-ism (everything's an ism these days) this culture of being nasty for ... well... just the sake of being nasty.

It would be fair to say though that social media does provide a ready forum for the hashtag hallion sniping away, usually anyway, from the coward's comfort of anonymity.

How coincidental that Twitter rhymes with bitter.

The sad thing is it doesn't just end there. It's bigger than malice confined to 140 characters or less.

All around there's plenty of evidence of the increase in what has now become a culture of vitriol, occasionally packaged as "clever" comment or even comedy. There are comedians who've made a name for themselves -and massive fortunes - cracking vile "jokes" about disabled children, cancer and tragedy.

We all know who they are. I don't have to name them - why give them any more of the attention they crave?

And yes, I do know that there's such a thing as black humour.

But there's a big, big difference between dark humour and deliberately aiming to offend and hurt people, particularly people who are at their most vulnerable, just so you get your name in the papers. That really isn't clever stuff. It's desperate. And despicable.

Ditto those "outspoken commentators" who peddle the outrageous and the odious because they know it will make headlines and thus increase their own marketability. It gets them talked about. What is the witch saying now?

But their game plan isn't about being bravely controversial. It's about picking on and sneering at soft targets to deliberately wind people up.

Posing as poisonous has become a smart career move. Profits come to those who hate.

So why do the rest of us tolerate this? Why do some people even think it's cool (especially for so-called comics)?

It isn't cool and it isn't clever. It's vile and demeaning and does real harm to real people.

At a time when we rightly recoil from all those other isms out there shouldn't we be making a more concerted effort to call out the smart-arsed and attention-seeking lowlife who specialise in spite whether it is online, on screen or on stage?

Back to my pub analogy - if they came out with this sort of stuff in a real bar they'd be drummed out of the place.

I can't see why we should have to put up with it anywhere else.

Pub name change is ye olde nonsense

The animal rights organisation Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has written to the owners of an historic English hostelry Ye Olde Fighting Cocks asking them to consider a name change to Ye Olde Clever Cocks.

The idea, apparently, would be to show that “chickens are intelligent, sensitive and super-social animals”.

To “encourage people to rethink the way that we treat chickens and grant these birds the respect and kindness that they deserve”. Honestly is this going to make that much difference from the hen’s point of view? Mightn’t the poor poultry be better served by Peta campaigning against, say, Ye Olde Sunday Roast?

Republic has new future in the bag

I loved that story about the Belfast electrical goods outlet (Noel Grimley Electrics Ltd, they deserve the plug) whose staff created a shop window display to celebrate the yes vote in the Republic’s gay marriage referendum.

It featured two wedded Henry Hoovers with flowers and congratulations cards.

Meanwhile, no referendum pending up here. Or upcoming Assembly vote — in the near future anyway.

In the Republic everything is changed, changed utterly.

They got, by popular demand, new legislation and what’s described as a social revolution.

We’re just left with a vacuum.

Belfast Telegraph

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