Belfast Telegraph

Forget false alarm in Hawaii ... millions of us go ballistic when we hit the button on our hate-filled Twitter commentaries

By Lindy McDowell

The Pope has a point. According to his holiness, the world is now but one step away from nuclear war. One quick button push.

One accident would be enough, he warns, to spark catastrophe.

And, as we know, accidents do happen...

At the weekend some bloke in Hawaii, signing off his shift for the night at the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, somehow managed to hit the wrong button and in the process sent a false ballistic missile alert to the entire local populace.

"Hi love, that's me finished for the night. Be home in half an hour. Fancy going out for a bite tonight? Jeez... what did I just do there?"

A pre-prepared text pinged out to phones across the state.

"Missile threat inbound to Hawaii. Seek immediate shelter. This is not a drill," it read.

Be honest. You would have had kittens.

Some stoics insist they just opened a bottle of Chateau Armageddon and sat there facing the sunset awaiting the apparently inevitable. Others sought shelter where they could.

One man live-tweeted that he was in the bathtub with his partner, the kids and the in-laws(!) with a mattress over all their heads. How, in such confined circumstances, he found room to manoeuvre the phone for his Twitter updates he didn't say.

Obviously it must have been terrifying for all concerned. For 38 horrible, long minutes people genuinely believed that they and their nearest and dearest were about to be obliterated.

Recent bellicose statements from North Korea have heightened tension in the region. Hawaiians know they are now within striking distance of Pyongyang.

Eventually another message pinged in (you do feel for people whose mobile batteries may have run down in the meantime).

"There is no missile threat or danger to the State of Hawaii. Repeat. False Alarm."

The authorities knew it was a mistake a mere three minutes into the "alert". The reason for the delay in getting a retraction out was that no such message had been pre-prepared.

Obviously they had never envisaged a situation where the original "incoming" text could have been sent in error.

And you do have to wonder how on earth this could happen. One employee shuts down his computer at knocking off time and manages to simultaneously send a message of impending nuclear holocaust to millions. The Hawaiian authorities may need to consider tightening up their alert procedures.

Also, if a nuclear alert can be fired off that easily, it would be good to know just what barriers are in place to stop someone from mistakenly launching an actual missile. Inevitably in the wake of the ballistic scare things have since gone, well... even more ballistic.

There have been death threats against employees of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency.

Of course there have.

That is how we deal with crises and drama in these hair-trigger times of ours. With death threats and vitriol. Mostly spewed on social media.

True, the Hawaiians need, as has been acknowledged by the agency, to "let off some steam".

But it's not just the genuinely distressed or even the despots going nuclear any more. We're all going nuclear.

Self restraint is a thing of the past. In 2018 we glory in going ballistic.

And we're certainly doing our bit for hysteria here in Northern Ireland too, bearing in mind some of the local bile online in recent days.

Why do people do this? What do they get out of spewing such hatred?

Online screeching and grandstanding is all about making yourself look big to your fellow posters. If you want to get a reaction you push other people's buttons. That's the way it works. It's that infantile.

Most of us look on, mouths agape, at the spectre of two world leaders slugging it out on Twitter over who's got the biggest, best positioned button.

But in the age of 140 character cruelty and bombast, they're only doing what countless other mega-mouths all round the globe also do to make themselves look important.

Mouthing off. Then hitting send. The fear of nuclear holocaust has been around a lot longer than social media itself. But the Pope does have a point.

The way this "civilisation" of ours is headed, we're all doomed.

Jason's weight loss invention uses the head

Congratulations to neuroscientist Jason McKeown from Portglenone (near where I come from) who has developed a weight loss headset that's causing some excitement in the US.

You strap the gadget over your head where - and now for the science bit - it stimulates the hypothalamus to boost your metabolism.

As ever with these breakthroughs though, it's advised that a certain degree of self discipline and self denial will still be required for optimum results.

Might work better then, if you were just to strap it in across your gob...

Killer storyline shows Corrie's no soft soap

With so much real violence in the world, should we be worried about fictional killer Pat Phelan (left) stalking the streets of Weatherfield?

Coronation Street viewers have complained, not so much about his killing spree but that he has been killing people before the watershed. Corrie is no longer the soft soap it used to be.

It's McMafia with cobblestones. And sadly not all lowlife get their comeuppance. Another Corrie killer, Tracy Barlow, has been reinstated as a sharp-tongued stalwart of the show.

Proof that in soaps too, just because you have a past doesn't mean you can't have a future.

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