Back in the 19th century people would stand on wooden boxes to make impromptu speeches in public, demanding to be heard on some issue of great import. Like stand-up comedians now, they were at the mercy of their audience.
Like, literally at their mercy.
People still reach for soapboxes, but the audience now is vast and varied and (usually) safely at arm’s length. Increasingly, there’s groundswell support among the Twitterati for censoring the vilest members of their audiences through regulation and / or the threat of civil or criminal sanctions.
For example, political reporter Leigh Sales has blasted the “hardcore mob of bullies” on Twitter for making life difficult for those in her profession. Sales has more supporters than detractors, but it’s only the vilest of the latter she wants silenced.
Imagine that happening in the streets of London c.1829, with the citizenry protesting the truncheon-tactics of Sir Robert Peel’s bobbies. While your BLM (British Lives Matter) supporters might cheer and clap, you opponents would boo and hiss, and maybe even throw throw things at you.
While the sticks and stones thrown on Twitter may not break any bones, the name-calling (and rape threats) are very hurtful. But exactly who’s throwing what, and at whom?
Sales cites a 2019 survey which showed how small the Twitterverse was in Australia. Only six percent used the platform often, and 67% didn’t use it at all. This surprised me, but after lurking on the platform for about six months, I concur.
Twitter is what happens when everyone gets a soapbox.
They’re definitely a weird mob. It’s as if all the angriest people in the world migrated to a remote island so they could argue, bait, and trigger each other, with everybody looking for the gotcha moments that recruit them the most followers.
But nobody off the island gives a shit. Only the six percent care.
And they care a lot.
So when Sales says that she’s sick of the “hardcore mob” she’s actually talking about her people. A tiny, unrecruitable faction of Twits, but Twits nonetheless. And like all media hawks, Sales knows that bad press is better than no press, hence her take on ‘bullying’ today to keep stoking the fire.
It’s all a bit self-serving.
Sales claims to the thick-skinned, but comes across brittle. A colleague of hers who suffered threats and other torments chose to abandon the platform. Sales herself has called Twitter irrelevant. Her peers call Twitter a ‘vile cesspit’ full of ‘anonymised trolls that spew hatred every day‘, so why remain in the pit with the trolls, mouthing vague threats?
Because journos love Twitter.
The bully pulpit, the immediacy, the sense of being first-to-know or (so much better) first-to-tell. Public approbation. They want all the positives, none of the negatives, a reputation as a fearless investigative journalist who pulls no punches (yet suffers from a glass jaw).
Dry your tears. Because in reality social media is just Fight Club for girls.
That’s why Twitter is so popular among women — they get to unleash the inner bitch without risking a real uppercut. In lieu, rape threats from anonymous troglodytes, all that other nastiness, is already provided for at law.
Subdivision-C of the Criminal Code Act 1995, specifically.
So use that to gaol your harshest critics, then get back to being snide judge, sneering jury and public executioner of other prominent figures under the guise of what passes for journalism in Oz these days.