If you insult someone on Twitter, don’t they have the right to defend themselves?
You know I’m a big fan of Twitter and I think in the three years I’ve been on it the most important lesson I’ve learned is that it’s best to try and avoid public spats if you possibly can. If someone insults you, or is aggressive to you, just block them, move on and don’t give them a second thought.
And one of the best things about Twitter is the instant engagement it gives you with high profile tweeps – for example, this morning I tweeted a response to a tweet Nigella Lawson and she instantly DM’d me. Twitter is a great leveller, although it can give people a false sense of security.
Yesterday a tweep called Alice Vincent tweeted Giles Coren with what can only be described as an inflammatory tweet. ‘Columnists basing their opinions around their children. So yawn. Your column today is one step up from a mumsnet blogpost, @gilescoren.’
Now, leaving aside the fact that this tweet was insulting to mumsnet bloggers (!), what’s beyond me is why Alice chose to @ Giles Coren. She could have expressed her opinion about his column without @ing him. The fact she chose to do so ensured her tweet would be seen by him. You could argue, in fact, that she was hoping he would see her tweet, and respond.
There is nothing wrong with constructive criticism of course, but telling someone something they’ve written is ‘so yawn’ isn’t constructive. It’s rude. And telling him she deemed his column ‘one step up from a mumsnet blogpost’, was clearly meant to be a huge insult (and how insulting to those of us who are mumsnet bloggers).
What happened next was entirely predictable, because the column was to do with Giles Coren’s experience as a parent. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, he took great umbrage at what Alice had tweeted to him. Anyone who follows Giles Coren knows he does not mince words – he can be very offensive. But if you don’t like the way he tweets, I would argue, then the solution is to unfollow.
Giles tweeted Alice that she was a ‘barren old hag.’
This is of course offensive on several levels – mentioning a woman’s fertility, as though if she’s unable to reproduce she’s not worthy of an opinion; saying she’s old – well, that’s just ageist (as it turned out, she’s 23, so he revised the insult to ‘young’.) And that she’s a ‘hag’ – well that’s just rude.
But is it really misogynistic, or just very inane insults being bandied about?
I would argue that if you @ someone with a reputation for being outspoken in a deliberately provocative tweet you are in fact fully aware of what you’re letting yourself in for. If you look at Giles Coren’s timeline, it’s littered with insults.
Now the spat has descended into accusations of bullying and trolling, and it’s all really very ugly. And all because when Alice made her comments about Giles’s column, she chose to @ him.
But you pays your money and you takes your choice, surely?
I’d be interested to hear your views. As long as you don’t call me a barren old hag