Sunday, November 1, 2009

Bullying In The Twitter Space

Last night, Stephen Fry was offended by a tweet posted by a member of the public, to such an extent that he has threatened to quit Twitter altogether. The offending tweet was:
" I underdstand @stephenfry's tweets but, much as I admire and adore the chap, they are a bit... boring "
This led to the following tweet exchange (read from the bottom up)...

It is obvious from Fry's comments that he is having a bad time of it at the moment and this, critical, comment has pushed him over the edge. I don't blame him for being a bit peeved and don't pretend to understand what it must feel like to have his condition and have to perform in public day in and day out receiving petty comments like this all the time.

By including "@stephenfry" in his tweet BrumPlum was effectively "copying him in" to the message, however, Fry follows thousands of people and gets mentioned by a hell of a lot more people than he follows, so the chances of him actually reading a tweet with his name on is fairly small. But that doesn't stop it being rude to tweet a dig at someone directly. However, I think he explains himself very well in his blog, published early this morning (

For me, this incident makes real a fear I've had for a while about how Twitter is used to round on individuals or institutions. Up to now I've had no real problem with it as I've felt those on the receiving end of the abuse have richly deserver it... Jan Moir, Nick Griffin, Trafigura etc. I even joined in the kicking in most cases and thoroughly enjoyed myself, to boot.

However, last week AA Gill said he'd shot a Baboon "to feel what it would be like to shoot a man". This incredibly heartless and cruel comment was rounded on and he received a lot of intense abuse from the Twitter community, led by many of the "Twitterati" (celebrities with a massive following who have a big influence on topics of conversation within Twitter and, in recent cases, real influence on events once the twitter story goes national). I have to say I found Gills comments distasteful and saw nothing wrong with the light hearted mick taking of someone who would admit to such a thing. But the abuse started getting more ferocious as the day went on. It started to become all consuming and every other tweet was about Gill. The frequency and intensity felt out of proportion to the original comments. But, still, he shot a baboon and deep down, I was happy to see someone with a cruel streak like that abused, so I wasn't all that concerned.

But it made me think. It reminded me of the Big Brother racism row. That started with Jade building up an influential role in the house and turning (some of) her fellow house mates against Shilpa Shetty. In my opinion, this was more about bullying than racism. But let's not get into that now! The point is, it felt like a similar situation. Obviously, Shetty was completely innocent and Gill wasn't, but the point is, both were outsiders and offended a group of people who then turned on them in increasingly ferocious ways. I wondered, what if a celebrity decided to pick on someone who was less deserving of a good kicking than AA Gill?

Well, that's what I think has happened with BrumPlum's tweet. By pointing the finger at him and threatening leave Twitter altogether Fry has effectively (and inadvertently) mobilised his army of supporters, plus other hangers on who just like a fight. They have spent the day abusing someone for saying they found Fry's tweets boring. To make matters worse, other powerful Twitterati have stoked things up. Alan Davies being one. The sight of a rich and famous celebrity calling a nobody a "moron" for doing little more than express an opinion is replant to me. To make it worse, anyone who challenged him or the general Twitter community's reaction, was branded a "moron", "dickhead", "idiot", "prick" etc. Very ugly stuff. These celebs are used to poking fun at those in authority but don't seem to realise it is they who are the leaders on Twitter, and they act like school yard bullies rather than true leaders.

Stephen Fry has now surfaced again and, unsurprisingly given the measure of the man, apologised for the abuse his comments unwittingly incited. He has pleaded for people to "be nice" to BrumPlum now, but it's all a bit late and Twitter has shown it's ugly side once again, this time to no useful purpose.

For reference, Alan Davies tweets tonight (read from the bottom up again). Most of the tweets he's replying to are not abusive btw (I hope he apologises when he next gets a chance)...
  1. alandavies1 alandavies1 @Firequacker if needs be
  2. alandavies1 alandavies1 Anyone has a pop at your mates you stick up for them.Twittr needs to be more like Essex.If you wouldn't say it to their face then do shut up
  3. alandavies1 alandavies1 night tweeters, decent folk still winning on here.
  4. alandavies1 alandavies1 This is the kind of thing I don't give a toss about RT @suedehead99 fuck of Davies. Who gives a fuck about your opinion on the matter?
  5. alandavies1 alandavies1 My twitter is set at gas mark egg on your face for all the morons who are trying to make out @stephenfry is at fault for tiring of abuse
  6. alandavies1 alandavies1 @JamesSki special? what does that mean you prick
  7. alandavies1 alandavies1 @lachance680 I should "inform BBC news"? You are the new "biggest tosser on twitter" well done
  8. alandavies1 alandavies1 @JamesSki "all do respect"? you utter halfwit, go away
  9. alandavies1 alandavies1 @JamesSki why are you after stephen dickhead?
  10. alandavies1 alandavies1 @DeGap you are a moron yourself
  11. alandavies1 alandavies1 @Haha_tequila what an idiotic comment, well done
  12. alandavies1 alandavies1 @hay2608 yep
  13. alandavies1 alandavies1 @Prissiethruxton wise up? you prat
  14. alandavies1 alandavies1 @Uberfemme that tweet makes no sense
  15. alandavies1 alandavies1 @JamesSki yes he is and so are you halfwit
  16. alandavies1 alandavies1 @willshome yes it is moronic, you should know , being a moron yourself
  17. alandavies1 alandavies1 Anyone who thinks that @stephenfry could even fabricate a toss about anything @brumplum or any such moron says ought to stop worrying

UPDATE: Alan Davies blocked me from seeing his tweets (or being able to follow him) tonight, as I suspected he might. It seems he's blocked anyone who spoke against the mob vs BrumPlum.  It's classic bully behaviour - avoiding those that stand up to them. Either that or he finds my tweets a bit boring.. Actually, it's probably the latter isn't it?... Fair enough.

I've been speaking to @Haha_tequila tonight. Her crime was to point out that the reaction to BrumPlum's tweet had got out of hand - an "idiotic comment" according the Davies. She tried to engage him in a very constructive manner this evening only to be blocked. 

It's all rather sad, I really liked the guy before yesterday. I guess that's the beauty of Twitter. Celebs can't hide behind stage management and get judged on their real, unscripted reactions that expose their real personalities. Alan Davies (and his loyal twitter minions - twinions... no, perhaps not, sorry) are the only people to come out of this badly, I feel. @Haha_tequila drew my attention to a piece in The Independant that I think sums it all up well.

1 comment:

  1. Quite. Twitter may be new and modern and Web 2.0 and exciting, but the comments still come from people (mainly).

    And people are exactly as they always were. In real life, the prudent choose who they talk to; the same applies on the Web.