So the whole Jane Austen banknote thingy caused quite the uproar in the UK these past few days, particularly for a woman named Caroline Criado-Perez, who apparently spearheaded the push to have the banknotes that depicted 100% women. The Queen is on the face of ALL banknotes, so they automatically have a woman on them, but whatever. Some of the notes should have ONLY women, and none of them will have ONLY men.
Well, not until Charles becomes King, and then William after him, and George after him. Christopher Hitchens was pretty pessimistic that the Royal Family would last that long, but if they do, THEN there will be some validity to the argument that there are no women on banknotes.
Further down the scale, though, the monarchic principle constitutes an obstacle to precisely that sense of responsibility about which we hear so much. It can’t be good for people to lead vicarious lives, made up partly of prurience and partly of deference, and fixated on the doings of an undistinguished and spoiled family.
I like how Hitchens disliked the monarchy because it’s an obstacle to the idea of responsibility. Hitchens was a big fan of owning your own shit.
At least since Einstein, we have lived in a world where the discoveries of physics and genetics are far more awe-inspiring, as well as infinitely more liberating, than the claims of any religion. Yet somehow, our very idioms and vernaculars fail to rise to the moment. Even worse, we preserve the literal-mindedness of the age of ignorance; the epoch when our ancestors were taught to believe that the universe was man-centered and that everything revolved around us.
At the heart of this is the absurd and contradictory notion of “humility,” whereby believers consider it humble and self-effacing to appoint themselves the mere executors of a superior being. (“Don’t mind me — I’m just doing God’s will.”) This false modesty would be no more than irritating if it was not accompanied by insistent demands for real money, and real secular power over other humans, in the here and now.
Denial of personal responsibility, prurience, deference, living vicariously in a world conceptualized as revolving around ME ME ME, pretensions of humility when the real goal is to control others – sounds an awful lot like the Twitterverse, doesn’t it?
I’m not much of a sports fan, but apparently there are a bunch of people in the UK who are really, really into watching grown men dressed in matchy-matching outfits chase a ball around, and they get really super emotional when the ball doesn’t go where they want it to.
Not something I can relate to, but whatever.
There are all kinds of reasons sports fans get riled up at these games, and some fans are not very nice. When one of the players fucks up whatever he was supposed to do with the ball, he will be called all sorts of nasty, vile, mean, jerky, stupid things by the spectators in the crowd. Some of those nasty, vile things will be racist.
That’s terribly unpleasant, but par for the course when you make your living chasing a ball around, no? If fans were NOT deeply emotionally invested in where that ball goes, there would be no demand for professional sports at all.
The normal constraints on behavior tend to get chucked out the window when it comes to sporting matches, and people generally feel safe screaming and shouting and carrying on in a way that would be frowned upon in the supermarket. The Terry Tate, Office Linebacker ads are hilarious precisely BECAUSE they highlight the differences in what we consider acceptable behavior on and off the field.
I’m not a sports fan, and I think the Terry Tate ads are hysterical.
Sometimes the players get rough with each other, and they get a penalty for doing so, but we don’t view their behavior in the same light as we would view the exact same behavior out of the context of the game. Zidane didn’t like another player calling his sister a whore. He responded with a head butt. Not something we would tolerate off the field, right?
Jesus, hockey players beat the crap out of each other, but in the context of the game, it’s all good clean fun.
The normal constraints on behavior simply don’t apply when it comes to our faux gladiators, and most people appear to be able to comprehend that what you can get away with in the arena is vastly different from what you can get away with on the street.
Twitter is just another arena. The normal rules don’t apply. You can say things you would NEVER say in real life. That’s social media. And if you don’t like the rules, well, get off Twitter. No one is REQUIRED to be on Twitter or any other social media. There are features on Facebook or Tumblr or Twitter that allow users to control their privacy settings, block annoying commenters, or restrict access to their information. The social media universe can be manipulated to conform to how a particular user wants to use that media.
It’s up to the user to determine what they are comfortable with.
Unless, of course, the user is a woman, and then it’s up to everyone else to conform to what she decides is acceptable behavior.
So here is what happened with Caroline. She started a campaign to get the Treasury to issue bank notes that feature 100% women. The Queen on one side, and another woman on the other. She used her professional, public profile to garner support on social media, and on Twitter in particular. Fair enough. There’s the power of social media.
And, inevitably, not everyone agreed with her. People called her all sorts of nasty things, and then some gigantic jerks decided Caroline is a good candidate for rape.
People are jerks. Some people are super giant jerks. Super giant jerks get really, really brave on Twitter and say shit they would never dare to utter in real life.
Caroline, naturally, wants all the benefits of social media, but she doesn’t want to face any pushback unless it comes in precisely the terms she finds acceptable. Now she’s on Twitter to change its entire business model so that she doesn’t have to deal with jerks.
She wants a “report abuse” button. Report abuse to whom, Caroline? To Twitter? They are supposed to set up an entirely new system and monitor it so that you don’t have to deal with Twitter assholes? There is already a system in place to ensure that.
It’s called “delete account”.
At this point, Twitter is pretty much ignoring Caroline other than to point out that there are terms of agreement for all users and that super vile users can in fact, be reported and have their accounts closed.
Are rape threats nice? Nope, they’re not. They’re pretty disgusting. But Caroline, you are not a child, you are not entitled to decide what rules apply to everyone everywhere at all times and you do not get to impose your own sense of propriety on everyone else.
The United Kingdom is taking a very strange approach to how the rules work in cyberspace. A 21 year old man named Liam Stacey was JAILED for posting an offensive tweet about an injured soccer player, on the grounds that it incited racial hatred.
“LOL. Fuck Muamba. He’s dead!!!”
No doubt, there were thousands of other people at the match saying the exact same thing to their seatmates, but Liam decided to reach out to all his absentee friends on Twitter and the courts responded by jailing him.
Because Liam is such a danger to the public, right?
Now, IF the UK is going to jail Liam, then yes, they should also be going after the troglodytes that threatened to rape Caroline. And it looks like they are doing just that.
But it’s stupid.
If the police in the UK are prepared to arrest and jail everyone who has said shit on Twitter that they would never say in real life, they better get busy building a lot of new jails. If the police are going to start arresting everyone who has made a rape or death threat on social media, they can stop by my site.
I’ll give them a whole bunch of names.
And in my case, those threats came from OTHER WOMEN.
But you know what? I don’t want any of my little cowards arrested. When I decided to write this blog and put my thoughts out in cyberspace, I accepted that it wasn’t going to be all love and kittens and unicorns farting sparkles and rainbows.
I don’t need the Man to come and police my site. I do that myself. I don’t need the Man to come and arrest my haters. I have a delete key that serves the same function. And if it ever gets to the point where I don’t feel like I can handle the nastiness, I have an option:
That isn’t gonna happen, no matter how many haters stop by with their lovely sentiments about rape and bloodshed. Because I am able to grasp, for some strange reason, that trolls are really just cowards. I wouldn’t be afraid to face down any of them in real life.
Twitter is an arena where gladiators match wits with retards, all too often. Sometimes those retards are really nasty and hateful. And sometimes they are whiny suckholes who can’t take a hit once in a while.
Personally, I like the game. For the most part, people on my Twitter feed and blog comment in thoughtful, interesting, provoking, amusing and generally intelligent terms. And every one in a while, an asshole shows up and gets all brave. That is the price for engaging with people I would never, ever have a chance to meet, if it were not for global social media. I’m more than willing to pay it.
The game doesn’t need to change. Practically speaking, it’s not even possible to police every thought on the internet. It’s a dangerous precedent to even try. The players who don’t like the game have two choices:
Get out of the arena
Learn to play better
It’s that simple.
Lots of love,