In the eye of a Twitter storm

Twitter bird

Esther Vargas under a Creative Commons Licence

Since having a child, I’ve given up on a real social life and settled for a social-media life instead. I’ve gone from laughing in pubs and gossiping over coffee with people I know and like, to arguing via computer with people I don’t know and don’t like. Sadly, for a delicate flower like me, my new social circle clearly doesn’t like me one little bit.

I take full responsibility, however, for my recent journey to the online sewer, which was the unfortunate result of a bad mood, an exquisitely unpleasant radio DJ and access to a smartphone. This heady mix was enough to propel me, unarmed and unprepared, into the centre of a frenzied Twitter war with a professional Troll, the debris from which is still echoing around cyberspace.

To get you up to speed, here, in a Twitter-sized 140-character nutshell, is what happened:

Pompous bully viciously attacks frail, elderly black civil rights campaigner on radio & tries 2 make fool of him. I go crazy #fallsintotrap

Stupidly, I took the bait like a lion from a dentist and walked blindly into an ambush. Trouble was, I’d barely engaged with any of the actual content of the histrionic diatribe the host had been spouting and, instead of making a proper argument, just felt a visceral need to tell him and the rest of the internet what a monumental dickhead he was. This I did, and, if I’m honest, I probably went a bit over the top. But not nearly as over the top as the bigoted self-publicist himself, who expertly escalated my admittedly fairly childish remonstration, spinning it into social-media gold like a bloated, rightwing Rumpelstiltskin.

He began our exchange with a direct threat (it was not clear if it was legal or physical) before going on to post my picture and work details, all punctuated by a consistent torrent of high-octane bile.

Next, he encouraged his army of haters to join in the fun and games. In fairness, many of their comments were fairly amusing, like the one suggesting I become a Mick Hucknall tribute act. I was also struck by how people so obsessed with being English can have such a grunting grasp of the language.

Very quickly I realized I’d been an idiot for getting involved in the first place. I decided I was giving the shock jock exactly what he wanted and I was best off not responding. But it soon became apparent that not responding was in itself provocation enough for the bargain-bin Lord Haw-Haw, who attempted to reignite the row by announcing I was ‘a talentless old soak’ who had ‘run off crying to mummy’.

Even now, weeks later, I still regularly get people commenting on or retweeting posts about me ‘being a waste of organs’, looking like Ronald McDonald or being a Muppet, and if I’m honest I find it quite entertaining. It was, after all, my fault for engaging with the porcine provocateur to begin with. I shouldn’t have descended to his level, I know. But honestly, he was being such a gigantic arse!

Steve Parry is a comedy writer, performer and political activist. He is Welsh and lives in north London. You can contact him on Twitter: @stevejparry

mag cover This article is from the December 2015 issue of New Internationalist.
You can access the entire archive of over 500 issues with a digital subscription. Get a free trial now »

Subscribe   Ethical Shop