Saturday, September 1, 2012

Charlotte Dawson's apparent suicide attempt and Twitter trolling

Must say I'm a bit mystified about what actually happened to Charlotte Dawson in the wake of all that Twitter bullying. Particularly early on the event was strangely, perhaps carefully, described as her being "pushed to the brink" in many reports. 

Eh? Makes you wonder if she seriously, genuinely tried to top herself. Or did she pop some sleeping tablets, panic, then phone for an ambulance? In that case, it would have been more of a cry for help.

I know even that is serious, and I don't want to sound insensitive, but I think that's the more likely scenario. In any case, she was out of the hospital briefly to talk to 60 Minutes soon afterwards. So she clearly wasn't out cold and bedridden.

Another aspect of Dawson's reaction worth remembering is the fact that she's been known to snark up a storm herself. So she shouldn't be surprised when the, er, "tworm twurns" so to speak (or is that sptweak?).

Of course nanny nation advocates wasted no time in exploiting the incident, calling for greater controls and all the rest of it. But as Colin Barnett sensibly opined, there's no way you could ever enforce such laws.

Even if you could, they'd be far worse than the bullying itself, I reckon. The Dawson incident itself shows why. Not only was one of these Twitter "haters" suspended from her job, she's had her name -- Tanya Heti -- splashed all over the Oz and NZ meeja. Now for someone who seems not to want to live in the public eye (unlike Dawson) that must be devastating.

Okay, so she said some nasty things. Big deal. What's that old saying? "Sticks and stones may break my bones but collections of words totalling no more than 140 characters will never hurt me."

And some of the offending tweets were just ridiculous, like "go put your head in a toaster". Now if that qualifies as a crime we're all doomed. Imagine having the plods rock up on your doorstep 'cause you told someone to "go jump in the lake".

Then there's the issue of intention. Some people tweet things that are clearly tongue in cheek. But when taken literally they can result in all kinds of bother for the tweeter. Take the case of Pommie Paul Chambers, who joked that he was gonna blow up Robin Hood Airport and was consequently convicted of sending a "menacing online communication". He had to take his case all the way to the High Court to finally be taken, er, humorously

But back to being bullied online: Sure, it wouldn't be nice if you got hundreds of such tweets in a massive pile-on. But the problem is easily solved by blocking or just logging out. And the storm will always pass. 
I don't mind at all when I get snark, 'cause it's fun throwing some back. Actually, I even look forward to it from some people, cause it's so memorably phrased. One particularly florid leftie called me "mediaeval nightsoil". Brilliant! You gotta give credit where it's due ...

Speaking of lefties: I know they aren't the only ones calling for online policing. But they should be very careful what they wish for. No one does a pile-on like the Left, after all. Just watch the reaction to Sophie Mirabella when she's next on Q and A and you'll see what I mean. 


  1. I think this incident is just indicative of a meaner society which hides behind the anonymity of the Internet! You also have an entire generation raised without learning any consequences for their actions. No one wants a nanny state but no one deserves to be harassed by a bunch of mean spirited losers either!

  2. Yes, it's a very difficult situation. The problem is how to unscramble the egg!

    I really don't know the answer. But I do think that in a lot of cases the best approach is for people to just ignore attempts at provocation.

    I know that this is easier said than done. But the policing option is unworkable.