How to Recruit a Twitterati Lynch Mob

It had been a good couple of days away from it all. Being out of 3G and WiFi has its blessings and spurred a couple of thoughts. So, just to get myself back in the swing of things, for around 24 hours I tried tweeting/retweeting on a dozen or so of—to me at least—pithy issues in the hope of generating some debate and alternate insights.

I needn’t have bothered. As with similar forays I had tried in the past, there seem to be few out there with much insight, most of whom appear to tweet cautiously (pictures of the Rest-and-be-Thankful or pious comments on party conferences). I ran the idea of setting a cat among these Twitterati pigeons by a friend who acted as if I had just suggested trailing muddy boots across his wife’s new carpet: ‘cautioned against it’ would be heavily understating the vigour of his opposition.

But…being who I am (for readers unfamiliar with detail, I am not much of a respecter of unearned authority, or anal health & safety sticklers or those who believe political correctness and the moral high ground go ipse facto hand-in-hand) I persisted in testing the waters. There was an innocuous tweet with a picture of Ruth Davidson doing her bit for Better Together at the Tory Conference, holding one of their posters, which urged us all to keep the British family together. That would do nicely. My tweet said:

@RuthDavidsonMSP sez: “Good to see @UK_Together spread the word” Is there no contradiction in her promoting ‘family’ pic.twitter.com/gqvveVw9bv

No question that was provocative: indeed, that was rather the point. But the following few hours were the same as if you had gone fishing for a few mackerel and landed a shoal of sharks. There were people early on who challenged the undoubted implications in the above, but did so in a firm and even-handed way—i.e. they gave me the benefit of the doubt but asked what I specifically meant. I want to thank the dozen or so of them for their forebearance to which I extended the following amplification:

“For the record, (recipients) I think those w/no family should keep opinions private.”

Which, though still out on a limb and deserving of challenge, ought to have knocked suspicion of homophobia on the the head. Or so I thought. But that was just the beginning. While the usual suspects among those hostile to whatever I say (even if I just quote the phone book) were to the fore, a whole new congregation of hostility joined them and, perhaps most disappointing to me, a number of people familiar with me and my against-the-flow utterances over the years put as venal an interpretation on my original tweet as any of the signed-up hate squad. It was quite an eye-opener.

But my original theory—that real debate is hard to find but you only have to stick a toe into un-PC waters and the moral pirhanas have half your leg before you feel the first bite—seems to stand. There has been debate previously—egged on some by their opponents—that Twitter was awash with Nasty Nats. Brian Wilson, Jim Murphy, David Mundell et al disparaged their harsh, condemnatory hostility as unworthy of the debate. Well, I’m a nat and (the foregoing notwithstanding) not nasty (if you’ve read this far, you may as well find out why by continuing), yet you could have cut the venom with a knife.

First off, my one and only fulsome apology goes to Ms Davidson. I used her and her sexuality (though never specifically mentioned) as bait for the morally oversensitive. The fact that no-one gets to be Tory Leader in Scotland without being able to shrug off such minor jibes as mine is not the point. Her personal life should not be fair game and I made it so to make my point. I have apologised to her for doing that.

And to the (so far) ~57 other tweets that range from unsubstantiated prejudgement to insults, I would ask them to cite—even if I were a homophobic bigot, which I emphatically deny—more than a flimsy hook baited like this one before they go overboard in venting  spleen online. Ask yourself if communication on Twitter, let alone the debate on Scotland’s future and the sum of human knowledge, is advanced by your contribution. And, though my second, amplifying statement (above) is flawed in its attempt to project my opinion on that of another person, I would argue that decent debate should allow such flaws without a black sentencing wig being donned with each transgression.

I cheerfully confess to being a flawed debater. But no statement I have ever made was intentionally homophobic, racist, anti-feminist or any other form of disrespect for other human beings, no matter their provenance or preference. I have disparaged some that I felt were being overly hostile to me but it takes some to rile me and—in being flawed myself—I do almost always see and appreciate the humanity in others. In short, I respect all and seek common ground.

So if any responsible for the 57 ‘hostile’ comments still feel aggrieved, comment here and I will respond to all that are not simply egregiously hostile/insulting. I want a Scotland where people talk to each other (hence my original frustration) and do so in a way that does not resemble lobbing grenades between trenches (see Tweets of Shame below). Nobody remembered that I have praised, quoted and retweeted Ruth Davidson in the past, despite my own hostility to Conservatives and much of what they stand for. We need to understand one another if we are going to have a prayer of discussing options for what matters to us all. Simply jumping all over what others seem to say will not lead to that.

Perhaps I don’t have as broad a mind as I think I have, but I’m trying to improve it.

Are you?

Appendices

The Only One to ‘Get’ It: @Mr_Mark_Brown Ahhh, so this is a parody account after all. Stand at ease folks…

Best Response goes to: @Taffoma Mother Theresa never had kids, but I always respected her opinion!

Second Place goes to: @GeoLaird No is the short answer, but Ruth Davidson needs to learn to hold the sign level

Third Place goes to: @euanmccolm and people without trident missiles in the shed shouldn’t talk nukes.

Tweets of Shame

@greiglam Thank god you only came “ve-e-ery” close to becoming an MSP in 2011. Desperate stuff. With views like those, I feel sorry for your family.

@JamieJamjrw Another ridiculous tweet from @DavidSBerry. Contributes nothing to the debate. Will you ever learn?

@ochayethenews Dickensian! No child or partner but still my community

@Anniewells12 what a complete Pratt

@Jamie4Labour Do your views extend to the Catholic Church or just gay people?

@GeoLaird best quit, you are only digging a deeper hole, real lack of talent in SNP

@endless_psych Glad to see @DavidSBerry was only very close to being one of our MSPs with ill considered tweets like that! FFS. It’s the 21st century mate

@dagwells for the record I think those with opinions like yours should keep quiet.

@colmhowardlloyd  @DavidSBerry asks what @RuthDavidsonMSP would know about families? Because LGBT don’t have families? Idiot..

@RossMcCaff everyone has a family you Fucking moron

@Lrhewat I’m sure you do (have a wonderful supportive family). Don’t let this ignorant mug dampen that.

@biscuit_ersed well aren’t *you* a nasty little man.

@DoctorWallis For the record, you should probably consider keeping your opinions private.

@Lrhewat I’m sure you do. Don’t let this ignorant mug dampen that.

@TheBellesPal Deary me Dave, big foot in big gub again. Dignified response Ruth, he is not worthy.

@MajorDMalpas *Ignorant peasant alert* you must feel so proud David.

@LawryONeill There really is no excuse in this day and age for this sort of nonsensical input

@andyneil_After reading this, I have to say that I’m pleased that you’re no longer in the SNP.

@sonnim8 a bit like heir apparent Osborne talkin about working class. Not a clue!

@indigohumbly plonkers is the only word to describe you

@GarethJAnderson You’re a sad individual, aren’t you? Do you even know what family means?

@greiglam As you can tell from his professional-looking website graphics!

@Fireflysghost &you should be thePosterBoy for #AbortionAsAChoice

@AndrewSouthside Thanks for the info. He’s not fit to hold public office. For the record nothing. It was a homophobic attack & @theSNP should kick u out. Perhaps someone should say the same to @DavidSBerry about his homophobic attack on @RuthDavidsonMSP #shameful

@mrjamesmack My guess is that the SNP leadership will hope @DavidSBerry follows his own Twitter biog and spends more time under the sea after today

@Squidge142 for the record Mr Berry, stupid, illogical, offensive tweet. Say sorry move on

@FraserForsyth Last R/T shows the SNP are still Scotland’s Nasty Party thanks to @DavidSBerry

@tommy_ball that is possibly the most bizarre sentence I’ve ever seen in Scottish politics. Thank God Iain Gray beat you in East Lothian.

@libertycaledoni your point was lost in your moronic ramblings! Distasteful and sublimely ignorant!

@alandssmith It’s a case being nowhere near as bright as he likes to think he is. I found it interesting that in your “apology” you use the word “fulsome” which usually means insincere.

@jasoneccles bigoted tweet alert

@haitch7 elected officials??? Heaven help us.

@euanmccolm this stuff about you “using” ruth to make a twitter point is pitiful. you’re making a bigger fool of yourself.

@daftquine He’s a very silly man. Type that always seeks a platform. & worse…they don’t know that they don’t know!

@UnionistRichard Unfortunately this sort of attitude sums up the separatists; they foment division and discord wherever they can.

@euanmccolm I don’t need to do that (describe why it was seen as homophobic), you idiot. It was a repulsive thing to write.

About davidsberry

Local councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Stood for the Scottish Parliament 2011; lost by 151 votes.
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3 Responses to How to Recruit a Twitterati Lynch Mob

  1. sorry David i’m #notbuyingit but fullmarks for the salvage blog. if you really see yourself as an arbiter, try less grubby ways

  2. Alison mulholland says:

    Hi,
    I am ‘sonnim8’ on twitter and see my comment is in your list of shame.
    I just want to say that 1. I did not interpret your tweet in anyway as homophobic and think that anyone who did, seriously misunderstood you point. 2. I interpreted the tweet as a dig at the contradictory rhetoric of the Tories as a whole and not the individual mentioned in the tweet. My interpretation was that, due to the austerity imposed on families by the current Westminster government on everyone in the UK, for Ms Davidson to be advocating that Scotland should remain in the union as part of ‘the family’ was ironic.
    I tweeted several times in response to others who questioned why I agreed with what you said (from my interpretation of your tweet) that the Tories are destroying families and have no experience in living the hardship they are imposing. My reference to Osborne was to demonstrate that as chancellor and an heir apparent to a baronetcy, he has not got a clue what his policies are doing to ordinary families trying to get by, and was continuing on from a previous tweet.
    Yours for Scotland,
    Alison Mulholland

  3. davidsberry says:

    You read more into it than I had intended but, by doing so, you have contributed another dimension to the debate and I’m grateful for that (my original motivation). But I do agree that the Tory/family link is both illusory and a dangerous choice for them to make as a symbol of the Union.

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