I have new respect for Mary Beard

I don’t often watch Mary Beard’s documentaries, because I’ve always thought of her style as rather eccentric. In reality, she’s proved her metal on the web in the way she dealt with her so-called ‘troller’- Oliver Rawlings.

Now a lot of the media has focused on the fact that he’s a private school boy. I’m not sure why that’s relevant. And the way The Daily Mail dug up details on his life and home is quite disturbing, and makes me think that however bad the tweets he tweeted, nothing compares to the public disgrace the boy must be facing.

It was clear just from reading the Daily Mail online article that they’d sent someone to snoop around his house and bother all his neighbours. At one point they talked about a housemaid who refused to come to the door. I wonder why.

But the tweets he tweeted were vile, and the way Mary Beard dealt with him was admirable. She forwarded his comments to her 42,000 followers, and one of them offered to send her his mother’s postal address. I find this hilarious, especially because he immediately broke down and apologised in the most grovelling terms:

I was wrong and very rude.

Thanks 4 showing me the error of my ways.

She went on the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2, and when asked if she’d like to meet Oliver Rawlings, she said:

Yes, I’d take him out for a drink and smack his bottom. I just hope he never does it again.

This was especially inspiring. She talked about how public figures were advised not to reply to hate speech online, but that she wasn’t about to be bullied by anyone.

But apart from Mary Beard’s spectacular performance, there are also the cases of Caroline Criado Perez, whose battle to get Jane Austen on the ten pound note sparked some hatred from misogynists, and Stella Creasy the Labour MP for Walthamstow. Both received terrifying rape and murder threats, which no-one should have to endure.

Nobody deserves to have those things said about them online, and we must do whatever we can to diminish the number of these incidents. Inevitably, a few will always occur, such is the risk of putting yourself in the public eye. But the sheer number, concentration and ferocity of these recent attacks have left us all reeling, and wondering about what to do.

Twitter has announced it plans to make a ‘report abuse’ button, although it seems to me that such a button should already be in place, seeing for how long Twitter has been up and running. (July 2006.)

According to Wikipedia, 340 million tweets are generated every day. Such a massive network needs to be properly maintained and regulated, but how much? I don’t have the usual complaints about freedom of the press, and tend to think of myself as a pragmatist where these things are concerned. Perhaps because I’ve never lived in a dictatorship? Hopefully we shall never know.

But I think that allowing twitter users to report tweets is the easiest way of ensuring that this type of thing never happens again.


Sources/ Further Reading:



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