Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Bullying Labour MPs on Twitter is the latest in a tedious trend of anti-social media behaviour
I work in social media, scurrying through the virtual corridors of Twitter everyday, and I see a lorra lorra angry tweeters. If I ever dare to enter the dangerous uncensored free-for-all of The Timeline, I might see a string of misspelled over-punctuated capitalised outbursts; a badly photoshopped image of David Cameron and a pig intimately entwined; or worse, a clip of Donald Trump opening his mouth to speak. I can’t help but think that all this undiluted fury isn’t brave; it’s boring.
People are upset about injustices, and rightly so. It’s a dark old world out there, and it’s appropriate and necessary to be unhappy with it. If no one points out wrongdoing when it happens, then it will keep happening. So we’re all agreed that the world needs to improve. It’s simply a matter of how to bring about improvement faster.
Anger certainly has its place, and I’m not trying to neatly label it all as invalid. But it’s common sense that the energy from anger at injustice should be siphoned off into effective, long-lasting solutions to preventing that injustice.
It’s far from glamorous, but actually helping will involve patiently and politely interacting with MPs and their staff, organising protests and starting petitions. Heck, it might even call for a ring-binder and a couple of hours on a Sunday (post-roast) to doing admin for this particular cause. But quiet, diplomatic persistence is far more likely to earn other people’s respect, win people over and maybe even make real change in government than a barbed tweet.
What will harm the cause is swearing, abuse, threats, intimidation, and aggression. It’s upsetting, it’s repetitive, it’s one-dimensional, and it’s eye-rollingly self-congratulatory.
The treatment of Stella Creasy MP this week is a case in point. Creasy has been subject to a barrage of abusive messages today and yesterday, after she voted to extend UK airstrikes in Syria. Yesterday there was also a protest against the war in Creasy’s Walthamstow constituency, which was initially misreported to be outside Creasy’s home, but was actually outside her office. Creasy herself has differentiated between those sending her abuse online and those protesting in her constituency, so I’m not surprised to hear that those at fault are hiding behind a screen. One said: “You have no children and you look like a cold…person.” Nothing beats a calculated personal insult after making a complicated decision.
It’s easy to dismiss these people as crazy unhinged internet trolls, but I think it’s far more common. It doesn’t take a sociopath to be angered by decisions made by the government, and Syria is a highly flammable issue. Each of us are never more than 140 characters away from tweeting what might feel like retribution, but what counts as personal abuse.
Putting pressure on those in power is a democratic right, but this is wholly the wrong kind of pressure. If the goal is ending injustice, there’s no logic in creating more.