You probably will have heard all the hoohaa going on about 'trolls' on Twitter, after it came to a head the other day when someone tweeted a vile message to Robbie Farah about his recently deceased mother.
Since then there has been a lot said about it, and a lot of talk about hunting down these 'faceless bullies' and 'bringing them to justice'. This morning it's on the front page of the Telegraph , the headline 'You Can Stop The Trolls', with a little graphic of the Twitter logo with sharp teeth and evil eyes.
This post is a bit half baked and tepid, because I haven't formulated a strong opinion on it all yet. But what I do know is that I feel uncomfortable about all that rhetoric that explodes everywhere in these kinds of situations. The media love a 'faceless bully' to chase after and get people riled up about. But it all feels very A Current Affair-ish and Alan Jones-ey, all that stuff.
I have never been a fan of Sam de Brito, but I found his article yesterday in the Herald pretty interesting. Well worth a read. Here are a few snippets-
'Sportsmen such as Farah often use Twitter to remove the "filter of the media", so fans can get their idols' undiluted thoughts and opinions. They should therefore not be surprised when the odd turd blows back up the social media spout because they've removed this screen between themselves and the masses.'
'The very same champions who recoil from suggestions of state censorship and "gummint control of the meeja" seem to think there are two types of free speech: the polite, professional version they produce and the crude, brutal, inconvenient offerings of the general public.'
'..putting up with grubs like the one who baited Farah is an unfortunate consequence of all of us being able to voice our opinions in a democratic society.'
I think that's pretty spot on. I am a big fan of Robbie Farah, and he had every right to be angry and upset about the awful thing that was said to him, and the cowardly way in which it was done. No one could argue with that.
What annoys me about that sort of shock-jock, fear-monger journalism is it is so fast to set up this black and white, hero vs. villain picture of society. In another situation they'd be up in arms about a 'threat to our democratic freedom of speech', yet here they will be completely contradictory, saying what people can and can't say in society, and wanting to call offenders 'to justice'.
The mind boggles at exactly what sort of justice and punishment is being envisaged. It feels a lot to me like 'let's meet at the old mill at midnight and bring your pitchforks.'