Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Poor Choices

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  • giovanni tiso,

    Another thing about Twitter is how it instantly turns you into a celebrity so you can then become fair game for the kind of criticism that is traditionally reserved to people in a position of power. By the time I caught up with the Justine Sacco thing, mid-pile on, I figured she must be some sort of high-powered individual, the way everyone seemed to know who she was. And obviously, her tweet was awful. But then people were going through her timeline, looking for past indiscretions, and when I cottoned on she was just a PR person I really couldn't quite figure out what the point of the whole thing was. It seems to me that the punishment for a racist tweet - the whole world suddenly hates you - didn't fit the crime.

    Along similar lines, I've unfollowed people for taking pleasure in making fun of Liz Shaw, once I figured out she was just this woman who wanted to be a star.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Adrienne Kohler,

    New Zealand really is a village sometimes. I agree with your summation of the DHC piece - I could see what she was trying to say about women aging in the media, but it lacked compassion and perhaps an understanding of the insidious nature of depression. The online bullying, life in the media, depression are a pretty toxic brew.
    But look at gossip columns in newspapers, online etc - that is just as much a form of bullying as twitter - isn't it time we had a look at the behaviour of some of those "journalists". Printing details of people's private lives because they are considered well-known is still a gross invasion of privacy, especially as the 'sources' often have malicious intent. We all need to a good hard look at how we treat others and how we would feel to have our lives subjected to such close examination in the public eye.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2010 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    Interesting, first thing I thought of when reading this post was Baldwin's column - but not to pile in on him. More as a useful (and somewhat rare) data point from the "other end of the story" (as he is undoubtedly presenting himself overly favourably).

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    I think the only possible exception would be a public safety campaign, where someone’s death really is the ultimate demonstration of a “xyz behaviour is dangerous” message.

    Even then... see, I think about the death of Nayan Woods. One of the things his parents had to endure was people trying to use that death to campaign against boy racers. Even if their point had been valid - it later turned out it wasn't - that was incredibly distressing for people who knew him as a human being and not a data point.

    At the least I would say, don't do it while the death is fresh, and don't do it if it's someone you don't know and never met.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward, in reply to Emma Hart,

    One of the things his parents had to endure was people trying to use that death to campaign against boy racers.

    Having experienced a "news-covered" death in my family a few years back, we were appalled by the immediate attempt to turn it into an "issue" - especially when said "issue" was so transparently a media angle to shift copies. And believe me, there was absolutely no valid campaign to be had...

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1727 posts Report Reply

  • Sue,

    The thing i’m stuck on
    is how ‘media’ appear to be discouraged from reporting on teen suicide or usually reporting, writing about suicide. But because of Charlotte Dawson reporting and opinion pieces about suicide is out there.

    Now that means there is maybe, a really lovely window created by a very tragic thing (regardless of your opinion of a person suicide is never not tragic) where journalists are free to report about teenage suicide, and suicide in general in a very meaningful way. Instead of the normal brush this under the carpet in case kids get ‘ideas’ there is a chance to make a difference. I’m not sure how but imagine an articles about the whys of suicide, the stats, the final things that have pushed people over. What we as a society and as individuals can do.

    I don’t know and honestly i’m only alive at the moment because when i was at my blackest 2 weeks ago it would have broken my mum for me to kill herself and a friend was awake and on twitter at the right time while i'd been staring at my bottle of sleeping pills for the last 2 hours. But there were so many things that had me at that edge and i dread to think what the final thing was for Charlotte Dawson.

    I also have ‘gold standard’ of treatment with a GP, a psychiatrist and a clinical psychologist all paid for thanks to mum and her retirement savings . What happens to those who can’t afford, or die waiting to get access to those treatments? that is a story, what happens to those who live on the fringes because there is no help or they have used up their allotted amount of help for a year.

    Would it not be great if this time was used to tell those stories, to teach, to learn and to help. And i suspect many an excellent journalist out there, would leap at this reporting if they weren’t going to get shut down in case it cause a suicide.

    I don’t know i’m fragile and weird at the moment. Today is a good day so i can write this. I suspect i’ll delete this post in about an hour because i don’t want some people i know coming across it by mistake. I love that PA is 'you own your words' but sometimes it’s not so easy

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 527 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    you can then become fair game for the kind of criticism that is traditionally reserved to people in a position of power

    Yep. Twitter can have the beguiling feel of a comfortable gossip session. I'd hazard a guess that most people tweet alone - in private.
    But a tweeter's 'poor choices' are public and accessible long after the event or emotion that sparked them has faded. It's 'making mistakes' in public. Most of us are used to making mistakes in private company, with people we trust to save us from ourselves, and tell us when we're being dicks.
    There's should be a built-in functional 'tweet-check.'
    "Stop! Your tweet contains spelling errors, egregious misrepresentation of fact, a threat to your relationships, general dickishness, and the strong possibility of future regret."

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 2091 posts Report Reply

  • Richard Stewart,

    Sometimes I just think Nick Cave was right..

    Pt Chev • Since Feb 2012 • 70 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    and when I cottoned on she was just a PR person I really couldn’t quite figure out what the point of the whole thing was. It seems to me that the punishment for a racist tweet – the whole world suddenly hates you – didn’t fit the crime.

    Yeah, the Sacco thing got quite scary. People were being denounced even for suggesting that a more measured view might be in order.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Emma Hart,

    that was incredibly distressing for people who knew him as a human being and not a data point.

    I AM NOT A DATA POINT - my next t-shirt. Sorted.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol,

    The guy was a Public Address reader – he’d even set up a regular donation. I hope he never, ever comes back.

    My first instinct was "fuck was it me?" wonder if I'm alone in that. But I don't have a regular thing, so I'm sure it's not.

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sue,

    Would it not be great if this time was used to tell those stories, to teach, to learn and to help. And i suspect many an excellent journalist out there, would leap at this reporting if they weren’t going to get shut down in case it cause a suicide.

    I was thinking the proposed disability blog I mentioned in yesterday's post would be a good place for the telling of stories. I'd be delighted if you felt able to contribute there, Sue.

    And I'm both sorry to hear it's been so tough and glad to know you have friends at hand.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Morgan Nichol,

    My first instinct was “fuck was it me?” wonder if I’m alone in that. But I don’t have a regular thing, so I’m sure it’s not.

    No! This was alarming, gendered and weirdly abusive. The guy was a cannabis advocate, and not at all a good advertisement for smoking weed.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22756 posts Report Reply

  • Sue, in reply to Russell Brown,

    yes disability blog! i was very excited to ready that as a potential

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 527 posts Report Reply

  • Barnard,

    The hounding of Liz Shaw got quite disturbing at one point, especially as it involved people who'd probably see themselves as compassionate right on types. Thankfully I've not seen anything for ages.
    Amanda Palmer is another one who seems to get it. I find her quite annoying, but also find myself rooting for her each time she gets dumped on. To her credit she seems to not let it bother her.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2012 • 72 posts Report Reply

  • James W, in reply to Nik Dirga,

    The media isn't allowed to say it's suicide.

    Sections 71 to 73 of the Coroners Act 2006 restrict the publishing of details relating to suicides in New Zealand, unless the permission of a Coroner is first obtained. Permission may only be granted if publication is unlikely to be detrimental to public safety.

    The Law Commission is currently reviewing it.

    Since Jul 2008 • 136 posts Report Reply

  • linger, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    I AM NOT A DATA POINT – my next t-shirt. Sorted.

    I love that. Prisoner reference, check; but also the delicious irony that wearing a messaged t-shirt does rather make you a data point.

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1890 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I was thinking the proposed disability blog I mentioned in yesterday’s post would be a good place for the telling of stories. I’d be delighted if you felt able to contribute there, Sue.

    +1

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Sue,

    thank you

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Nik Dirga, in reply to James W,

    Yeah, I knew about that rule, but it's curious as the SST used the word suicide repeatedly in their paper to refer to it -- curious if they got permission or just went for it?

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 24 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    This year I've also watched, glumly, as some poor sap became the subject of that day's Twitter pile-on, and wondered, sometimes, what became of the benefit of the doubt.

    The pile-on mentality is so weird. It's made Twitter somewhere unpleasant to use lately. I've unfollowed a few people and turned off retweets on others just to stop the almost daily pile-on panics.

    The craziest thing about pile-ons is how quickly they're forgotten. Remember a couple of weeks ago when everyone was angry that Air NZ were asking for people to write for their blog without payment? There were heaps of tweets and blog posts and commentary and Air NZ said they'd offer something to their writers, then a couple of days later everyone forgot about it. Oh.

    The pile-on wants a really quick mea culpa. The sinner is meant to issue a 300-word apology and then go back to work a changed person. They're not meant to go away and think about it. They're not supposed to have a massive revelation in the shower one morning three weeks later. No, if the pile-on can work up outrage in only a few hours, then the apology must be delivered just as fast.

    The pile-on is becoming an odd form of entertainment disguised as a moral campaign.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    Remember a couple of weeks ago when everyone was angry that Air NZ were asking for people to write for their blog without payment? There were heaps of tweets and blog posts and commentary and Air NZ said they'd offer something to their writers, then a couple of days later everyone forgot about it. Oh.

    Hang on a minute: that was a highly justified response to what was an outrageous attempt at exploitation by a major corporation. It was successful, too, as Air NZ backtracked. So people moved on. What's wrong with this picture exactly?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7473 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle MacDonald, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Yeah, that got seriously weird (not a clinical opinion).

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 82 posts Report Reply

  • Morgan Nichol,

    I find the conception and assumptions behind Charlotte's Law and other similar previous proposals to be toxic and ill considered.

    In a world where essentially anything you don't want to hear can be cast as bullying it would just be another way to silence people you don't agree with. (And for other people to silence you.)

    You can't legislate to make people nice. Or make people suddenly agree with you. You can't even legislate to just make people shut the fuck up.

    Yet, every now and then I encounter this very peculiar type of person. Not just your regular sort of hater, content to make a mean spirited one liner and then get on with their life (which most of us probably do once in a while, let's be honest).

    But that strange creature that makes a real hobby of their hatred and rage.

    They're almost universally men, which is a shame, but there you go.

    Now I only follow people on twitter that I'm really interested in interacting with, so I don't actually have to interact with a lot of those proper fuckwits in situ (I mainly just read about them after the fact), and I'm very happy to block people on the odd occasion it's been necessary -- which in my experience instantly solves the problem.

    (But doesn't instantly take away the bitterness. That's a long lingering aftertaste in my experience. I'm one of these stupid saps that replays things in my head for a while. Sometimes for the rest of my life.)

    So block. Block is easy. Block early, block often.

    But then I see what happens with people like Anita Sarkeesian, and when you're dealing with a certain kind of professionally vile cuntish motherfucker on the internet, using block really isn't enough. They'll create additional accounts just so they can squirt another shot of hate at you. And it doesn't matter that they're pretty rare beasts, on the internet rare still adds up to millions of people.

    But even so, even knowing there are those people out there, I worry terribly about the dangers of any kind of legislation about "bullying".

    What is bullying?

    I rather enjoy getting a bit feisty.
    I often quite like disagreeing with people.

    Is that bullying? I don't think so personally. Unless your name is David Bain I doubt anyone would have any really plausible complaint about the way I treat them online.

    But it's clear that if you tasked Craig with deciding who was a bully and who wasn't you'd get a very broad answer.

    (He might think I'm being bullying right now just by disagreeing with him a bit snarkily. Who knows.)

    What would the mechanism even be?

    If there's a complaint process, who do you think is going to use that? For each person being persistently targeted by someone who represents a genuine threat, how many false complaints would you get? How many people who politically or religiously disagree with someone else? How many of the really nasty people ironically complaining about their targets in the hopes of getting them shut down?

    Seems undesirable.

    The Catholic church, an extraordinarily powerful and wealthy organisation sometimes acts like its being bullied. Is it i though? And if it is should we care enough to do anything about it? Is all sustained criticism bullying? What about when it actually is right?

    When I looked at the Charlotte's Law petition the top comment was something to the effect of "we should track the IP addresses of all the bullies". Just how do you think that would function? What you're asking for is for _everyone_ to be tracked all the time.

    What is the standard of behavior and who decides?

    It might be all flowers and butterlies if it was the most vulnerable and fragile person you could possibly find would never be confronted or upset by anything, but actually most of us don't need to be treated with kid gloves like that. We can't build our entire society around outliers.

    The way we treat other people is called etiquette not law for a reason.

    We can expect whatever level of politeness we like, but we can't force it on people, not everywhere. The only person any of us can hope to control is ourself. (So be cool as much as possible, and maybe think about stepping in when you see things kicking off.)

    Auckland CBD • Since Nov 2006 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Gav Hyde,

    DHC crossed the line from writing a provocative piece to writing a troll column. The tastiest type of column for other trolls. But mixed in to that the column also enraged a lot of average joes throughout social media. That needs to be acknowledged.

    I do not know DHC or CD, but I will not hold back from criticising the writing as poorly timed, poorly focused and insensitive to the extreme.

    If you would not say it on a soapbox in front of a real crowd think twice before writing it on Twitter or as a columnist, as the tomatoes and cabbages still get thrown.

    Titirangi • Since Feb 2014 • 1 posts Report Reply

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