something’s wrong with the world (1)

xkcd: something is wrong on the internet

There’s been too much more nonsense recently. Examples and copy-pasting today; commentary follows tomorrow. 

First, some names of people who should be alive and are not, who should be alive and happy and instead died unhappy:

  • Daniel Perry
  • Hannah Smith
  • Rehtaeh Parsons
  • Tyler Clementi

Take a moment. Read those names. These were people.

These are the names that are probably the most recognizable. There are others. Think of them too.

Have another moment.

Make that a proper two-minute silence.

Thank you.

I am now watching Twitter become morally depopulated […] some of the interesting people are going quiet. Their tweets are becoming more “professional” and less spontaneous.  […] Above all, some high-profile women are having to engage in a time-consuming defence of their online space against rape threats, death threats and the much more insidious problem of trolling. […]

My response has been to go on a blocking spree so aggressive my thumbs are sore. And it has worked for a single reason: I am male. Twitter trolls – internet trolls in general – overwhelmingly target women. The rationale was spelled out in an online interview I did with one: “Because women are easy. They get butthurt so easy and react. If they don’t react nobody flames. It’s that simple … People target feminazi’s [sic] because they’re incredibly hypocritical and full of bullshit.”

There is, in general, a rise in the organised trolling of political opponents on Twitter. Bahraini democracy activists have been on the receiving end since the uprising began. When I was covering the police crackdown on protests in Istanbul, I noticed a marked increase in abusive tweets mentioning me, from a small group of always anonymous, pro-government tweeters.

But anti-female trolling has a different intent. The political griefer aims, at least, to convince a larger audience that certain reports are false, or someone’s integrity is compromised. The woman-hating troll posts random, sick and offensive comments to an audience of just one, and that is you – “bitch”. […]

But in the end, only the users can save it. It looks as if that will involve shared, user-created lists of accounts to block. DIY versions of these exist, but if Twitter were to bolt on the facility to its own user interface it would make things easier. If it did, relatively quickly – for this thing knows only exponential impact – Twitter would divide effectively into a community that tolerates abuse, and one that doesn’t.

All the “free-speechers”, the self-identified deviants, the online Nazis, covert and overt, together with all the crazies could then inhabit their own hermetic social network, while the rest of us get on with using it how we used to.

The downside would mean handing control over what you see to a collective third party; some people might get unjustly blocked. Levels of rage would rise among those who get their kicks from trolling. But the result would resemble the Last Judgment scene in the Sistine Chapel; a division of online humanity into the saved and damned – only crowdsourced, rather than as the result of divine intervention.

And that would be apposite. For the sudden eruption of trolling, rape threats and 24-hour psychosis into my timeline has been a reminder that evil exists in the world. Evil may be a medieval theological concept, but when it invades your interface with the rest of humanity – and confronts your unwilling mind with imagery designed to provoke disgust, fear and self-loathing – it is all too modern. The first step to dispelling it is realising we do not have to act alone.

charlie brooker comment guardian

[…] I’m aware this is Olympic-level navel gazing, but you’re a human being with free will who can stop reading any time. Here, have a full stop. And another. And another. There are exits all over this building.

[…] I have, for the meantime, stopped writing weekly, […] partly because I’ve recently been overwhelmed by the sheer amount of jabber in the world: a vast cloud of blah I felt I was contributing to every seven days.

If a weatherman misreads the national mood and cheerfully sieg-heils on BBC Breakfast at 8.45am, there’ll be 86 outraged columns, 95 despairing blogs, half a million wry tweets and a rib-tickling pass-the-parcel Photoshop meme about it circulating by lunchtime. It happens every day. Every day, a billion instantly conjured words on any contemporaneous subject you can think of. Events and noise, events and noise; everything was starting to resemble nothing but events and noise. Firing more words into the middle of all that began to strike me as futile and unnecessary. I started to view myself as yet another factory mindlessly pumping carbon dioxide into a toxic sky.

This is perhaps not the ideal state of mind for someone writing a weekly column in a newspaper. Clearly it was time for a short break.

Reader comments form part of the overall wordstorm described above, and it’s true I’m not a huge fan of them, but that’s chiefly because I’m an elderly man from the age of steam who clings irrationally to the outmoded belief that articles and letters pages should be kept separate, just like church and state. I guess conceptually I still think I’m writing in a “newspaper”, even though the reality of what that means has changed beyond measure since I started doing it. So now I’m sitting grumpily in a spaceship with my arms folded, wearing a stovepipe hat. Ridiculous.

These days most newspaper sites are geared towards encouraging interaction with the minuscule fraction of readers who bother to interact back, which is a pity because I’m selfishly uninterested in conducting any kind of meaningful dialogue with humankind in general. I’d say Twitter’s better for back-and-forth discussion anyway, if you could be arsed with it. Yelling out the window at passersby is another option.

When it comes to comments, despite not being as funny as I never was in the first place, I get an incredibly easy ride from passing wellwishers compared with any woman who dares write anything on the internet anywhere about anything at all, the ugly bitch, boo, go home bitch go home. Getting slagged off online is par for the course, and absorbing the odd bit of constructive criticism is character-building. The positive comments are more unsettling. Who needs to see typed applause accompanying an article? It’s just weird. I don’t get it.

But then right now I don’t “get” most forms of communication. There’s just so much of it. Everybody talking at once and all over each other; everyone on the planet typing words into their computers, for ever, like I’m doing now. I fail to see the point of roughly 98% of human communication at the moment, which indicates I need to stroll around somewhere quiet for a bit. […]


monty python

Some choice comments: my own choice, and for many reasons. Some of these reasons may be elaborated in tomorrow’s commentary. While each comment below seemed worth including for some reason, that reason might only be one small bit of it. I’ve then included enough context for the bit I liked to make sense. I do not necessarily agree with everything here. I certainly wouldn’t agree with every statement ever made by any or all of the commenters below, nor with all of their views as represented in their contributions to “Comment is Free” and anywhere else.

Even this selection should give some idea of what we’re dealing with, in online commentary: these are the better ones, on what is generally supposed to be a better-quality site. So that’s a doubly-higher standard than the online average. Yet the standard and style of the whole commentary on Charlie Brooker’s piece (i.e. all 714 comments) are not always a million miles from commentary pretty much anywhere I’m reading online these days.

Yes, I read through all 714 comments. That’s what literate geeks who care about things do. It’s a lot better than Twitter, let me tell you…

Selections from selected thread #1:
This is chronologically the first; the contribution I’m starting with appears part-way through, and it’s the Top Pick of all the comments on this article.
CiF = the “Comment is Free” section of the online Guardian.
“Graun” = The Grauniad = The Guardian, because of its many typos, over a long history of haste and a lack of proof-reading, often in the interest of getting news out fast, and that antedated going online by a long time / generations of readers:

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.20.02 PM
Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.54.41 PM
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Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.20.28 PM
Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.21.12 PM

Thread #2; “IDS” is not “irritable bowel syndrome” with a typo (but a good guess, close, and with much in common); cross-references are to another “Comment is Free” piece from the same day, “I’m proud of our welfare reforms:  I don’t apologise for trying to make the welfare state fair – it’s something only this government can do,” by Iain Duncan Smith (a.k.a. “IDS”), the (British) Conservative  Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.29.56 PM
Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.30.19 PM
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Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.33.04 PM
Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.33.33 PM

A one-comment thread, #3:

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.35.14 PM

Thread #4:

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Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.36.56 PM
Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.37.28 PM
Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.38.04 PM

Thread #5, which amused me:

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.38.40 PM

Context / intertextual allusions:

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 9.48.50 PM
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More comments from FawltyGenome here. I had a suspicion this might be Milton Jones or Tim Vine; Miltonian moments and surreal punning Vein…

And then we have the specially-selected thread #6, my own favourite:

Screen Shot 2013-08-20 at 8.14.33 PM


monty python

monty python

monty python




Sorry. I’m sorry to have to end a piece on such a note, but there’s no way around it. This last item simply angered and saddened me:

jezebel what a gent

It’s a tale as old as time, a young woman was photographed giving head to a dude and the photo started making the rounds on all the usual Internet suspects. Of course, she was labeled “dirty”, “slut”, and “rank” — and the dude? Oh, he’s just a dude.

It all went down at an 80,000 person Eminem concert at Slane Castle in Ireland. The crowd got a little out of control, and the local police arrested over 50 attendees. Fine, whatever, but then on Saturday photos from the festivities emerged showing a high school girl performing oral sex on two different men in the crowd.

The Daily Dot reports:

In one photo, the girl locks lips with a man in a neon-green hat and matching pants. In another, more explicit shot, the same man is almost totally nude. He raises his hands victoriously in the air. He has not been harassed or bullied or had his identity broadcast to the Web.

The hashtags #slanegirl and #shaneslut emerged, and it was open season for assholes:


Wouldn’t it be cool if we lived in a world where people took care of their fellow humans in compromised states, rather than taking photos of them to post online? It’s like we’re all parasitic paparazzi wannabes and Twitter/Tumblr/Reddit are our equally offensive TMZs. No, not everybody is like that, and there are plenty of people who know better — so maybe we adults could teach kids that instead of grabbing their cameras when they see another person in a shitty situations, they can instead step in and help them.

Jezebel (2013-08-20)

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