Saturday, 24 September 2011

Beware the online commentator

If you’ve got a blog or have written for an online magazine/publication you’ll be well aware of the phenomenon that is trolling. Much has been said about these ‘people’ and their nefarious pastime but far less about their younger and less famous sibling the online commentator.

I’ve written several pieces for online publication now so feel able to detail some of the categories that I’ve identified, think of it as a labour of love. Don’t be put off from commenting just look out for these identified groups it’ll do wonders for your blood pressure. Nik xx

The genuine commentator.
This is becoming an increasingly rare find in my experience. People who have read and enjoyed the piece or who don’t agree but offer balanced argument who feel motivated to go through the sign up process and who offer insights or experiences which broaden the below line debate . These people are my favourite people because they are motivated by the passion they feel for the topic at hand.
debate score =10

The Jealous commentator
There is a very high rejection rate for submission to online publications like The Guardian. Therefore some people who have pitched and been refused will target the work of those who haven’t with pointless argument about how the piece is wrong, misguided, lacking in cohesive thought or reasoning or other cheap shots.
Disappointingly frequent and easily identified as their comments are lengthy and include all the stats and facts they would have included in their own piece if only the world wasn’t deliberately conspiring to prevent them winning a pulitzer. They will often attack the genuine commentator for complimenting the author.
debate score =1

The lazy commentator
These people are interesting. What they lack in motivation they make up for in bitterness. It takes time to write or pitch a piece and a strong nerve to face rejection especially if your piece includes detailed research or is on a topic which means a great deal to you personally. The lazy commentator will also write at length and will include carefully worded barbed criticism of the author, a technique which they have honed over time to prevent their comment being moderated if too overtly abusive. They know what they mean, you know what they mean the moderator knows what they mean but the comment stays.
debate score =5

The expert commentator
These people are hilarious. They will have a pet peeve or all consuming passion. They will have been applauded at some point for being the authority on a particular issue and they will have extensive knowledge or a perception that they do which gives them the absolute human right to dictate who gets to comment on this issue. They do not deal in nuanced debate. If you are not on their mental list of approved writers they will take you down in the comments. They also fall into the Jealous commentator section however their blinkered view is much more damaging as it is completely counter –productive to the issue at hand. They remain doggedly untroubled by this notion however as their ego has been pricked and their objectivity shattered.
debate score =0

The agenda commentator
These charmers are the elite of commentators. They are well trained, fully prepared and calmly, expediently get the job done. They usually feature on issues which may have an impact on the public mood. They are in short politically driven. They can masquerade as you or I and will en arrive en masse at a topic which they deem to be “hot”. They usually target left wing sites and will thoroughly dilute balanced debate by causing side issue arguments. They also drip drip drip the sense out of a piece and any debate it prompts, with articulate pseudo complimentary but covertly patronising right wing bias. They chase off genuine commentators and quash perceived dissent.
debate score =0

The disappointed commentator
These people usually surface on pieces written about public figures. They are very driven because the object of their approbation was formerly the object of their affection. The public figure under debate may be a politician, singer, actor, or writer but they will all have one thing in common. They will have revealed something about themselves which has drawn disappointment. This revelation might be career choice or a marriage or an affair. They may be speaking honestly perhaps for the first time about their sexual orientation, addiction or lack of religious belief or a renewed faith. To some fans the disappointment is enormous. They imbue their celebrities with mythical powers. They project their own thoughts and feelings and belief systems onto the celebrity and when that public figure “fails” the unknown test, the disappointed commentator vents online.
debate score =4

The pedantic commentator
My second favourite after the genuine commentator as they are usually very sweet and equally determined.It's not what you write it's the way that you write it. You may be many things in your writing none of which matters more to the pedant than an inability to spell, punctuate or use grammar correctly.
debate score =0

The bored commentator
These people couldn’t give a toss about the issue under discussion. They don’t fall into the category of troll but do fit the time waster category. They will snipe and snark and belittle their way through a piece about disability as easily as they will rubbish valid points about relationships. They can be articulate but are usually fond of making puns at the expense of the issue discussed. They are usually stoned, bored hipsters who snipe and move on quickly.
debate score =0

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Epilepsy is nothing to be scared of

I was very interested in Epilepsy Actions campaigning film alerting people how to administer first aid in the event of a person with the condition having a seizure.

I was interested because of my own child’s epilepsy but it also brought to mind a story which my husband encountered at work.

The manager of a maintenance department was approached by a local youth employment scheme as they were looking to place a young guy with epilepsy. I’ve changed his name

Tim started work and was notable because he worked hard, worked well and the office admin had never been as thoroughly and efficiently managed. It’s not an over statement to say he transformed the department in this respect.

His seizure activity was well managed and his self-esteem was boosted, which had an impact on the seizures.The manager was present for any seizures which were few and far between and these occurred with less than slight impact on anyone’s working day because everything had been re-organised by Tim so well.

The day came though when the Manager wasn’t present and Tim had a seizure. The response by the staff afterwards was nothing short of disgusting. They complained and they asserted collectively that it was inappropriate for Tim to continue to be placed there. The agency were involved and the manager fought hard for Tim to stay, but the weight of staff opinion was against them.

One member of staff had cited her pregnancy as the reason why Tim had to go.

Tim’s Dad arrived to collect his son and take him home. He was philosophical. He said that this had been the longest placement Tim had ever had, that it was a shame as he’d enjoyed it but that this was always the reason why the placement ended.

His experience of the system ensured that he didn’t want to “make a fuss”. Apparently this made finding other placements much more difficult.

It’s worth noting that this was an estates department of a hospital.

Ignorance and an irrational fear of epilepsy ended Tim’s placement.

I hope that a wider awareness of the condition and an understanding of basic first aid might help people to understand the person who lives with the condition because epilepsy doesn’t define or marginalise people, ignorance does.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Adult Bullying

It’s interesting times we live in as a nation. In times past we were apparently famous for our stoicism for our “I will not tremble or expose my vulnerability” granite implaccable unflappable "Britishness" whatever that is. We were oddly admired for our stiff upper lip..

Now we are more backstory orientated we still don’t tend to talk at length as adults about a very common problem. Bullying.

Children get bullied the “weak” get bullied.

Adults it is presumed are neither targeted nor affected by bullies.

However the reverse is true.

Adult bullies whether in work or within social groups target very specific people. Those who live honestly with integrity and those who have a perceived or actual vulnerability which can be exploited.In short pretty much anyone.

As the depressing economic downturn persists and more people lose their jobs the workplace bullying will increase.

For those bullied by their friends however there is no Human Resources department to whom you can turn.(I gather that these are not the most helpful places anyway.)

Social exclusion and isolation are very powerful weapons in a bullies arsenal. They will wield these brilliantly once the target has been identified and there are many enablers, not bullies themselves but sheep who will ensure through silence or fear of their own social exclusion, that the target is hit.

Once the "bullied" has been identified often by simply challenging the status quo (eg. by requesting for the first time that their disabled child be made a priority by friends of several decades) then the bullying will move onto the key stage.


Phonecalls don’t get returned or instigated. Emails and texts get ignored and group activities get arranged with your invitation not materialising or arriving at the last minute.

During the times when the rest of the group meets you are belittled, branded delusional and laughed at.

You can challenge it, you can complain about it but it’s ultimately pointless.
As wrong and as devastating as this sort of behaviour is there is nothing you can do but withdraw.

For people who have a job and social groups there this is one avenue to make other friends. For people whose children are of school age there is another opportunity.

If you have neither of those there is the beautiful wonderful internet. The fact that the right wing press believes it to be the source of all society’s woes (whilst of course enjoying the traffic through their online sites) makes it even more attractive.

The point that I’m making is this. If you’re being bullied it’s not because you are useless. It’s for the absolutely opposite reason, its because you are threatening.

Whether by virtue of intelligence, skill, natural ability or honesty you have engendered jealousy. You haven’t done so deliberately, you haven’t sought to provoke or enrage anyone. You have simply had the misfortune to invoke the displeasure of an insecure arch manipulator with extremely low self esteem.

The thing to know is that this isn’t your fault and that most decent people don’t choose bullying as a option.

The cumulative effect of bullying impacts on the target overtime. Find a good counsellor and talk to them.This isn't a weak act but a strong one. It really helps.

Most importantly it will enable you to make the decision which is the only real option.

Move on and don’t look back.

This is a fantastic and very helpful website

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Austerity, Integrity and me.

From my perspective Tories stab you in the front Lib dems stab you in the back and Labour?

I’m reflecting over my time as a Labour party member particularly in light of the purple Labour document which is doing the rounds at the moment. It hails allegedly as an antidote to the Blue Labour theory by Lord Glassman.

Right well, that’s much clearer then.

As a member I didn’t really care what colour the latest theory was.

I joined because when my husband lost his job we would have lost our home but for Labour policy. It gave me an abiding love of Gordon Brown who I feel was responsible for many great things which will be remembered far beyond accounts in autobiographies asserting the contrary.

As time went on I became much more worried about the fact that in an historic time of membership engagement which saw me and many others join the labour party we were ignored and disengaged quickly and thoroughly by a slew of speeches from the top brass which made Tories out of us all and in my case a local party which was resistant to “outsiders”.

I live in a Tory town. The average age of the local labour party activists would make them good candidates for a Cocoon remake. This was fine in and of itself but it felt very quickly that they didn’t want “my sort” involved.

I believe in social justice that’s why I joined, I had limited time but wanted to devote as much of it as possible to my new found enthusiasm for politics. I became CLP secretary this was a big mistake.

I wanted to change things so armed with my labour Women’s training learnt at conference I made that clear. The whispering campaigns began. “oh she’s so ambitious” they muttered “who does she think she is?” they whispered “imagine and with those children she could never be a candidate” they asserted.

All of this was relayed back to me by activists who had already faced similar whispering campaigns and treatment. They too had arrived with enthusiasm only to be faced with jealousy and stonewalls, in my opinion.

This, it transpires, is politics.

It’s not what you do it’s what you’re perceived to be overshadowing that others do, by you doing it. I have never seen anything so shortsighted in my life. Weren’t we all on the same side?

“Those children” of mine are disabled so clearly the ideals of social justice which I joined the party to promote were missing a major step here. Apparently it seems to some that when it comes to candidates either councillors or parliamentary, carers are very low down the list of local priorities.

It is in my opinion very toxic here but I maintained my assertion that this was a local problem not a national one. Then Ed gave a number of speeches where he stood shoulder to shoulder with the demolition I mean coalition government on the issue of disability benefits.

There were, he stated, deserving cases but ,he said, we all knew of many people who play the system fraudulently. He’d said this first at his conference address as new leader. He also made a Forrest Gump gag.

I walked out in tears.

I’d enjoyed conference prior to that. Met some fantastic people who are still good friends and had the opportunity to meet some great and dedicated people who with the right opportunity could do a great deal for the party and the country.

But as with my experiences locally the national party seems so embroiled in petty in fighting and divisions, so hell bent of scuppering the ideas of people who may get a little media light they lose sight of the thing they claim to hold most dear. The people they are paid to represent.

It feels that with nonsense like the squeezed middle being uppermost in Labour minds, their target demographic is the Daily Mail readership.

The savaging of the welfare system will and has led to deaths of people who the Labour party should be fighting to protect.

There are passing references made to the vulnerable by all politicians and there is always a scramble to pose with disabled people when the cameras are around but vulnerable people should be remembered and fought for in reality. Sadly they are quickly forgotten when it comes to framing policy.

There was a film at conference which I sat and watched in tears. It stated all of the fantastic achievements by Labour in 13 years of government. DDA, The framing of the Equality Act, sure start centres and NHS waiting lists. All wonderful.

But the infighting the back-biting the suppression of “perceived” threats and the parachuting of malleable candidates, is in my opinion reflected nationally. No wonder politicians who rise through the ranks and achieve a position in their party age so quickly. It must be a nightmare.

The approach to Disability benefits was the reason I left the party. Instead I campaign locally and nationally for the issues which mean the most to me. For the issues which should mean the most to everyone but seemingly don’t.

There are still Labour heroes. Amongst many Jeremy Corbyn, Tom Watson and Johanna Baxter are very decent people who stand out and work hard to make a difference.

The Tories stab you in the front the lib dems in the back and Labour?

Well regretfully it seems to me they are so busy fighting about who will lead the press conference post stabbing, they just don’t have the time.