Friday, 30 August 2013

Fifteen minutes

I’m used to losing people I love. Whether it’s actual loss like the death of my brother at 17 or my mum at 77, or emotional loss like my mum’s slow development of Alzheimer’s or my learning disabled daughter going to residential school, I’m quite familiar with the concept.

Being a carer for twenty years also familiarised me with the notion of being a loser. Because when your needs and wishes are superseded by actual needs and advocacy for 3 other people, you have to adjust to your position of failed hopes because otherwise you fail people whose lives depend on you.

I’m 47 now so in the years that I stood back from ambition and desire and career and status, I was able to learn things about myself and about life that gave me clarity of viewpoint.

In short I learnt what mattered. I learnt that empathy is a gift, which comes naturally to some and one which definitely should be valued much more than it is. I feel it’s so lacking in our dealings with one another that it really should be taught in schools.

In recent weeks we’ve seen that the lack of empathy, which is so crucial to our humanity has entrenched itself on social networking sites. People write messages to one another, which are sometimes criminal like threats or are morally criminal, like bullying.

Either the lonely individual venting at high profile people from their safe place of anonymity or more worryingly people with a platform deciding to organise and orchestrate attacks on those people they deem to have transgressed.

It is those people who are the most worrying to me.

Andy Warhol said that in the future all of us would be famous for fifteen minutes. I’ve tried in the fifteen minutes I’ve had, spread over five years of online campaigning, to make sure my time counted.

I haven’t always succeeded and I haven’t always been polite but the horrors unfolding for many disabled people, whether hate crime in our streets or policy from our legislators has made me acutely aware that there are real lives at stake again. These lives have value to me.

So I’ve used my time to tell these stories, I’ve used my time to shout up.

What I’m seeing now is that these raised voices on social media, spreading out into actual media, are not shouting up but instead shouting at, their perceived targets.

The crimes their targets stand accused of are not crimes of actual transgression but of perceived transgression. Myths begun by bullying mobs are spreading like the norovirus they truly are and like the norovirus they are composed of bile and excrement. Clones with the same values further this perversion of truth and frustrated ambition; the mobs are now dominating all online debate and conversation with a reign of terror, which ensures that too many people are being silenced or hounded into submission.

Meanwhile racists, misogynists, homophobes, disablists and the religious right can stand back with a self-satisfied smile and watch as their work is being done for them. Because now those who would formerly have challenged such bigotry across social media, are removing themselves from these platforms, because the mobs are wrongly accusing them of the very things they fight against.

The mobs so assured of their own correctness, are simply ensuring that the only voices being heard are theirs and they are venomously attacking the wrong people.

In their dogged pursuit of this one objective they are failing everyone else. They want their voices to be heard but they fail to recognise the crucial flaw in their determination is that they are incapable of listening. Their message is one of denigrating others and as they vent their own agenda of personal ‘injustice’ they silence those who speak of actual injustice affecting millions of people.

There has never been a more crucial time to dance in the light and to broaden the light to those who are standing in the shadows but those occupying the social media stage currently seem to have forgotten why they claim to be there.

Women attacking other women, activists, attacking other activists and fracturing political agendas of selfhood, are demeaning the struggle so bravely fought for around the world.

Our artists, writers, storytellers, journalists, campaigners and musicians have a wealth of real stories to tell.

Yet the poverty of activism which now seems to dominate our media of “he said” “she said” of article and counter article, of sound bites and quotes and ‘who did what to whom’ is predicated on a “what about me” ideology and it’s slowly suffocating actual debate.

We need to recognise and grieve for this loss, as it's a huge debasement of the forum of vital debate.

Stand back, rethink and for the sake of us all, make your fifteen minutes count, make it mean something other than your own ego, or please hand the microphone to someone else.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

2010's versus 1970's

      2010's        v     1970's

Grand Theft Auto
Drink driving without a license
Couples Counselling
Owning a shed
Diverse Sexuality
“Queer” or “Normal”
Equal Marriage
Substance abuse
Post work wind down
Page 3
Page 3
Colour TV
The Six O’clock News
Two plastic cups and a piece of string
Women only Gyms
Working Men’s clubs
The Internet
A diary
Top Shelf
Poor People
Working from home
3 day week
Mobile phone
Wimpy Bars
Coke Wrap
Coke Float
Jennifer Anniston
Farah Fawcett
Justin Bieber
Little Jimmy Osmond
National Milk Bar
Fruit Tea
Marks and Spencer
Marks and Spencer
Indoor Market
Waitrose Home Delivery
Mobile shop
Transistor Radio
Two Hairy Bikers
Fanny Craddock
Ant and Dec
Morecambe and Wise
Culture of Hate
Winter of discontent
Z Cars
Gap Year
Fruit picking
Casual Labour
The Queen
The Queen

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Twitter Mobs for Dummies

1)  Identify a person with an aggressive personality on Twitter (don't confuse this with being assertive. Assertive people don't need to bully anyone) As a weak person yourself, you need to find someone who seems "strong". This person is now your leader. You are going to be part of their mob or as they prefer to say "friend".

2)  Make sure your potential leader/shepherd speaks to issues which all right minded people know are wrong, like racism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny etc. The leaders accusation is enough to prove this accusation is true. The leader does not broker challenge. If they think someone is a misogynist then that target is just that. Dissent produces more targets (liberal use of the word "apologist" renders dissent null and void) The leader is now your “authority”, your moral compass  and your "voice against all injustice" NB :It's quite important to jettison a sense of humour now. It will only slow you down.

3)   Follow.

4) Engage with the leader if at all possible, usually with compliments so that they know you are available to participate in one of their mobbings (As a mob member you don't get to decide who that person is, your leader will decide who that person is. Your job is to show up on the targets timeline and be repeatedly unreasonable, assured of your own correctness and abusive.Do not bother the leader with any details/facts/your opinion)

5)   Be vigilant for signs of target transgressions. This will come in the form of a RT of a target's blog or Tweet, or article. Target has now been placed on the “list”

6)   Wait for the leaders opinion on the target. It will be furiously pointed out and may be followed by a lengthy and detailed blog and/or storify.Agree wholly and completely with this opinion.

7)   Distribute this opinion/storify/blog widely amongst your friends. That is the point of you.

8)   You are now in second phase twitter mob. You may get RT'd at this point. You will be described as an "Ally". Being an ally is a good thing. So much more positive, and empowering than the truth. Remember you and the group of many against one, are "NOT" bullies. The target is the bully.

9)   Add some “useful” detail of your own. Use words like “disgusting” and “vile” and "dinosaur" Make sure you call the target a bigot of some kind. All kinds if you can. Theorise as to the target's  perceived personality flaws, or suggest that they perhaps have deep seated 'psychological problems'. (the fact that the mob decries "mental health stigma" is one factor in a spectrum of contrasting assertions which the mob decry See also "victim blaming" . This is best ignored for now as it's not helpful to the mob ethos. The mob is always right) Basically use anything which promotes the idea that the target is not a human being, a person of value, or capable of emotion or pain. Key phrase to use about the target is "passive aggressive" 

10) Confirm that the leader is a “truth talker” and most definitely also a victim of the target.  The target is now “the enemy”. If the target argues back against the leader they are "bullying them"

11)   Prepare for battle.

12)  As the leader strikes look out for the key phrase “check your privilege” This idea and notion once used to identify power imbalance has now been co-opted to attack anyone deemed to have transgressed. If the target replies in defence against the leader they are "bullying them".

13)   Attack target. (Any dissent must be attacked or ignored. The target has been deemed “deserving”)

14)   Converse with others also attacking the target. Perhaps make up false claims and mock the targets efforts to defend themselves. 

15)   Tweet the leader praising them for their “truth talking” and mocking the target. Also be sure to alert the leader to your own and others progress. If possible start a rumour that people are being suspended from twitter, or that the target is deleting their tweets. This is vital as it reminds everyone that the target is a bully with power who will lie to cover up their actions. It's not true but is effective as this further justifies your mob behaviour. 

16)   Receive praise from the leader, which is in fact another opportunity to praise the leader in return.

17)    After several hours become bored and desist. This is end phase mobbing known as 'post mob post mortem'.
Post Mob Post-Mortem-Affirm the leaders tweets about themself. There will be concerned tweets from the leader. They will send sympathy for those also "attacked" by the target. Check that everyone else is ok and recognise how much your leader "has your back". Your leader cares about you. It's the target they don't care about. The target deserves this "monstering". If doubt creeps in just return to the leaders timeline where lots of "evidence" will be provided. (refer to the blogs and RT's to strengthen your resolve. remember the target is a "bully". This is vital. Ignore the fact that they are one person and you are a mob. These are facts and details, therefore irrelevant.)

18)   Pat yourself of the back for a job well done.  Hopefully said target will have removed them self from Twitter temporarily. They will definitely have felt hounded, isolated, and distressed. This is of course the main aim.

19)  Feel no remorse or guilt or regret for your actions. This person “deserves” this treatment. They have “asked for it”. You have served them with justice. Feel proud and brave especially if you are tweeting anonymously. 

20)   The greatest Victory a Twitter mob member can enjoy is when a Target deletes their account. This is silencing on the grandest scale and you can bask in the glow of knowing that you were a small but vital part of making life online a “better” place to be, especially for women.  

Recognise that many Twitter mob members are women and that many twitter mobs target women into silence. Ignore this recognition. In your mind they "deserve it".

Above all feel proud, that you are being "strong and courageous" and making life "so much better for everyone" Smile and acknowledge your power. Above all hope that it never happens to you....

Friday, 2 August 2013

Check your Twitterige

I've already written one blog on twitter kindness as an alternative to abuse but wanted to also lay down a thought on the forthcoming #trolliday which seeks to leave Twitter to the trolls on 4th of August.

Caitlin Moran's reasons for this are of course fine and good. There is a beauty inherent of a unified call for action and as a campainer for 5 years nothing makes me happier than to see mass engagement against the cruelty waged by one person to another.

No one can fail to be sickened by rape and death threats and latterly bomb threats; targeting women writers who are speaking out against death threats and rape threats. No one except presumably the idiots who equate notoriety (for being an asshole), with winning the X factor (fast track fame game), and have jumped on the death threat bandwagon and also upped the ante.

It's Twitter Terrorism and like all terrorism seeks to destabilise and promote fear in pursuit of an agenda.

The fine Blogger PME2013 coined the phrase 'Twitter Taliban' to describe the mobs who swoop and attack and effectively silence dissent and opposition by sheer force of numbers.
Having been on the receiving end of one of these orchestrated mobs getting hundreds of tweets which lasted several hours, I would agree.

But whether mob or individual aggressor. There is always an agenda

In this case the agenda is to silence.

I pitched the idea for this blog to an online news outlet and was told it has been written already elsewhere. News to me and also not conversant with the approach generally evidenced by the many, many pieces covering the story of Twitter abuse/block button/boycott everywhere you look, but that aside, if I'm duplicating please alert me and I'll add links to the bottom of the page.

Anyway the reason to avoid the boycott is simple. If the point of the trolliday is to highlight the use of threats to silence women or anyone on social media then to electively silence ourselves is letting them win.

Bullying on social media platforms is endemic. From gossip to ignoring people, from orchestrated campaigns, to posting intimate, private images. From Twitchfork mobs to criminal acts like harrassment, defamation, libel and death/rape threats.

People deemed 'deserving' get shafted everyday in the form of the written word.

It begins with dehumanising and it ends the same way. As I said on Radio 5 live earlier this week Twitter is the people it is populated by and we must collectively choose to refuse to participate in these behaviours.

Boycott or not but for me, having repeatedly felt broken and defeated by Twitter I know that the good people really can rise to the occasion and demonstrate that we are more than the sum of our parts.

That needs to be shouted loudly everyday.