What to do when someone is wrong on the internet

Posted: July 7, 2015 in graffiti living
Tags: , ,

duty_calls [This is a personal diary extract written when #RIPRichardDawkins started trending on Twitter. THAT’S ALL. If you’ve nothing constructive to say, then go play outside or something.]

Well, here’s a subject for conversation. I just woke up at four in the morning to see #RIPRichardDawkins trending on Twitter. And you look at the tweets and it’s filled with the most hateful bile and garbage imaginable. And there’s no news that I can find on the net of his death. So either he’s dead, and people are mocking in him death. Or he’s alive, and people are wishing him dead. All because he expressed opinions that were unpopular. He never murdered anyone, never raped anyone, never beat anyone. To my knowledge. He just expressed opinions that people found offensive.

Now, between you and me. When Joan Rivers died shortly after expressing racist and hateful political views my response was: ‘Joan Rivers is dead? Good.’ I felt bad about it afterwards, but that doesn’t make it ok. My reasons for this sentiment: she spouted hateful and vindictive bile and garbage. In short, she said things that offended me. So I’m guilty of the very thing I’ve just complained about.

For the record, I have some (possibly newfound) respect for Joan Rivers. Sometimes she was funny (even to a curmudgeon like me). And most of all because she was unafraid to speak her mind. I don’t think you can take back what you said, so I own what I’ve said about her. But even at the time my thoughts were that it’s sad when anyone dies, regardless of their opinions. This is someone’s mother, sister, father, brother.

If you want to mock someone in death then maybe you should challenge them in life. But you don’t do it by wishing they’re dead or pretending that they’re dead. Show some respect and have some motherfucking courage.

So, Joan Rivers. I know that you’re dead and you can’t hear me. But to you I apologise. Not just to your family or your friends, to who my heart always go out to when they lose a loved one. But to you. I don’t give a shit whether or not I think you’re funny, or hateful, or even give a shit about your opinions. I’m just sorry that you’re dead and sorry that I ever said anything to mock you in death. If I had any beef with you I should have taken it up with you in life. I didn’t like what you said about Palestine? Free speech being what it is I should have countered it with my own opinions. Expressed as loudly and as clearly as possible.

And I also want to say thank you. Thank you for being an example of someone who wasn’t afraid to speak their mind, wasn’t afraid to court controversy, and (at least on the surface of appearances reputation) someone who truly did not give a flying fuck what anyone else thought about them. What do I take from this? That going forwards, I’ll try to challenge people’s opinions to their face and vocally whilst they’re alive. I’ll try to never wish anyone dead, no matter if I hate them or not. And I’ll try to never mock the death of anyone. Even if I argue with them or disagree with them. And I’ll call out anyone who does the same.

Furthermore, I’ll try to take the best example from the lives of people like Richard Dawkins and Joan Rivers. Speak your truth. Say what’s on your mind. Don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks. But at least try to do it with some style, wit and humour.

The thing I hate most about trolling? It makes people afraid. It’s the lowest common denominator. It’s not even funny.

When I saw the hateful comments trending on Twitter about Richard Dawkins, my first thought was to wander whether he was dead or not. Leaving aside opinions about his opinions, to leave snide and nasty comments on the death of someone isn’t nice. And if they’re alive, then you’re fake announcing the death of someone. More to the point, the majority of these announcements are filled with hate, sexism, racism, homophobia and pronouncements that he got what he deserved. That there’s no place in hell for atheists etc.

There are a lot of hateful, ignorant and stupid people on the internet. And I’m determined to challenge hatred, ignorance and stupidity wherever I find it — including in me.

Case in point: most of the people using the hashtag #RIPRichardDawkins” My first question back: “Did he actually die?” My reply: “I honestly don’t know. It looks like there’s no news of his death online. Either way, it turns my stomach.” And my first troll comment of the day: “a man just died, show some compassion” from a fake anon account who is retweeting fake announcements of someone’s death because they think it’s funny. And trolling people who don’t. Grow up. This will probably be my response to them. If I respond at all.

That’s it though. Do you feed the trolls? Or publicly shame them. A fake anon account with a cartoon face and no real name attached. Nobody should ever have to justify themselves to a cartoon squirrel.

I say: “You RT fake announcements of someone’s death, laugh about it with others and troll people who don’t think it’s funny. Grow up.” They favorite this response. They’ll probably say something back. Or laugh to themselves from their anonymous account. Hiding behind a fake name and a cartoon face. Their response, “i hope you don’t always react like this to deaths, you heartless wretch.” And on and on.

You know what? I really can’t be arsed to respond. This is clearly a troll and someone who thinks it’s funny. Anything you say in response will get them off. And if one starts, others climb on their backs and join in. If I was being sarcastic I’d be inclined to retort along the lines of only if I’m sure they’ll never find the bodies. Or only to yours. But it’s all venal, crass and stupid. And if they delight in getting a response then any further response is just fuel on the bonfire.

I decided to let them have the last word and leave it at that. Mildly amusing, obviously fake and stupid. Then other trolls crawled out of the woodwork and jumped on my back like ticks. Calling me a humourless cunt. Telling me to shut the fuck up. You know, the usual.

Watching their accounts (laughs at self for not letting it go) is interesting and creepy. Creepy because I’m doing it. Interesting because they’re talking with other anonymous but protected accounts. So it’s a little tight-knit community of 40-50 accounts tied together. Anonymous for their protection whilst they troll people.

I feel like an old man telling them to do something constructive with their anonymity. Like play with Lego or shut the fuck up. But maybe that’s me. Why add fuel to the fire. Why contribute to causes you don’t believe in. I’ve already come out against it in my own mind so to do otherwise would be as bad as joining in.

I’m now being followed by fake sarcastic tweets accounts and other bullshit. Move on with your day. More on that story later. We’ll be right back after these commercials.

They’re just kids, I said. Which may well be offensive to them, but it’s what they are. Just kids having fun with fake announcements of someone’s death. It’s actually kind of sad. I don’t want to be their friend but I also don’t want to be their enemy. They’re fucking kids. When you say grow up, you mean it and are old. Maybe once upon a time that dorky kid who thought it was cool to say whatever the hell they wanted with no thought for others was me. In many ways it still is. But obviously not, as I’m a grumpy old arse.

I’d probably be sad to hear of the death of Richard Dawkins. I can’t say I’m a fan of his many dickish pronouncements on Twitter. His opinions are unpopular for a reason. But I read The Selfish Gene when I was younger and it had a big impact on my thinking. Especially the concept of memes. Which is ironic really.

Still, the sun has come up. People are up in the house. People are awake. Which means I can drink even more tea and maybe eat breakfast. Much more important than tell people that they’re wrong on the internet.


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