I was prepared for some dissent; but I did not expect straight out abuse. Some of the comments posted in response to my views were just moronic. There was no attempt to debate the point or to put up a counter argument. It was just name-calling.
In some ways I am a bit of a geek. I enjoy watching Prime Minister’s Questions and often tune in to Question Time. I love a good debate. But you can’t have a discussion with someone who is incapable of stringing a sentence together and can only communicate by slagging.
The internet is, in many ways, a fantastic thing. But it has allowed people to confuse the idea of what free speech actually means.
Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate opinions and ideas. There is a reason why repressive regimes such as North Korea do all they can to suppress it, because free speech is powerful.
Slagging someone off is not free speech. It is mindless and stupid. A friend of mine Sue has also recently experienced cyber-slagging first hand. As Sue puts it “she made the fatal mistake of trying to reason with someone on Facebook”.
Sue put her views forward as is supposedly allowed in a democracy (incidentally the subject matter was Thatcher) and was hounded for the next two days. She received a huge number of nasty, spiteful messages. She complained to Facebook and eventually, after quite a lengthy delay, the powers that be took action.
This raises a number of points. Why is Facebook so slow to react to online abuse? Surely a prompt response to bullying would act as a deterrent. Allowing the bullying to continue for a couple of days before taking action is a like shutting the door after the horse has bolted.
Secondly, are we reaching a point where rational people are afraid to speak up on social media because the response from cyber bullies is so fierce and nasty? Surely we are allowing the small, minority who abuse social media to have far more influence than they deserve. Although cyber slaggers may claim they are only making use of their right to free speech, they are actually undermining it.
And finally, bullying and abuse does seem more vitriolic when the victim is a woman. You can make your own mind up about why this is, but the tone the abuse took with Sue really did come from the gutter.