Louise Mensch bullying shows Twitter needs to be taken down

Louise Mensch: at phone-hacking Culture, Sport and Media Committee hearing in July
Louise Mensch: at phone-hacking Culture, Sport and Media Committee hearing in JulyRex Features

It seems as though everyone’s been so busy falling over themselves to extol the virtues of Twitter – especially in the media, who by coincidence use it as a promotional tool and so are there in no way biased towards its growth – that they haven’t stopped for an instant to acknowledge how horrifying it can be in other regards.

With that we should collectively say ‘thank goodness’ that Louise Mensch has spoken out, following other incidents of bullying which have come to light over the past few weeks.

Just imagine that you can suddenly hear the thoughts of all you come across, laid out in the starkest possible terms (that can be expressed within 140 characters).

No matter how much reassurance you might get from your mum on the phone afterwards, there would be no escaping the dire truth of how poorly many completely rational, upwardly mobile individuals regarded you.

That’s why I’m surprised at the amount of celebrities who have so eagerly signed up to Twitter. It might have its benefits in terms of interacting with a fanbase, but in a more negative light I think of it like some perverse online update of What Women Want where – instead of hearing clunky clichés about being a female – Mel Gibson is then subjected to the full blunt depth of fury that can be aimed in his direction whenever he says (or roars) something not to somebody’s liking. (You can only imagine with the slackest of jaws a world in which Gibson existed on Twitter.)

It’s a flaw of the system. It’s why somebody with a public persona might not want to sign up to Twitter. It’s certainly why I wouldn’t sign up to Twitter if my face was plastered all over the TV or other forms of media. (I think we can all be thankful that it’s not.)

When examined as a group, human beings are often horrendously dumb creatures, as can be evidenced again and again throughout history. Which makes it surprising that people are quite so surprised when a supposedly marvellous invention of the modern age is used with nefarious intent.

It’s not to shift the blame on to Mensch for what’s taken place. It’s just that nobody should have expected anything less from a site which heralds the right to free speech, confusing that with providing a public platform for people to air their repellent thoughts and notions.

However much people might like to pretend it to be so, one person’s opinion is not as valid as another’s, and it’s about time that we recognised this, rather than chirpily pretending that by publicising the issue of bullying and trolling those pigs responsible will suddenly have a change of heart. People will be cruel and vicious, and that’s not going to be change over the course of a day – or within a lifetime – because outraged reaction tops the Google News ranking.

Though Mensch has said it’s not Twitter’s fault, it’s exactly Twitter’s fault (even if those who posted the Tweets are those who ought to take responsibility for the content of what they’ve written).

It had a great many things right about it, but the site was terminally diseased from its inception. Its broad idea was soon subsumed by spambots and scramble-brained plebs, to the extent that it’s a wonder to get anybody to sign up who isn’t interested in their own self-promotion. The likes of Matt Lucas were driven away (when comments were made about the death of his ex-husband) thanks to it being a feckless free-for-all, and his case will likely be far from the last.

Why not move on, as we did from Myspace or Bebo in the past, and embrace a similar sort of site where quality can be correctly weighed against quantity? An invitation-only alternative, where quality of potential contributions are first identified before a full user profile is granted. If you talk about what you had for lunch, or indulge in pathetic bigotry, or think it alright to use sexual insults at members of the opposite (or any) sex then you’re instantly canned from being able to post updates.

For all but a minority Twitter is nothing but a vast deluge of useless bilge occasionally punctured by a snippet of handy info, and it only becomes increasingly bloated by the second. It’s time to take some action before the consequences of the escalating bullying culture that lies within it causes actual physical harm, in addition to the emotional distress it’s already inflicted on so many.


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