Jan 07 2014

You’d laugh at them or ignore them

But then there’s the other way of reacting to threats and abuse on Twitter and elsewhere online – the way of dismissal and belittlement, the way of shrugging and laughing slightly and asking what’s the big deal.

Like someone calling herself (on Twitter) fleetstreetfox for instance. I’d never heard of her before but she used to be a columnist for the Mirror and she has over 60 thousand followers, so she’s not some tiny voice in the wilderness. What she says on the subject is horrible.

fleetstreetfox @fleetstreetfox

I think if there were really vile tweets to me I’d report them only if it sounded like the person was going to attack someone else.

That they were getting so wound up about me they were a danger to themselves or others, you know. Not nice, but wouldn’t take it seriously.

Perhaps it’s the fault of people like me that no-one takes this seriously and we all should come down on it like a ton of bricks.

I just think if someone said it to your face you’d laugh at them or ignore them. Twitter is the same as real life, the laws aren’t any diff.

It’s that last one that’s truly infuriating. This isn’t a matter of some random person at the supermarket or the bus stop or walking down the street saying something rude. If the someone who “said it to your face” is a co-worker or a neighbor or a fellow volunteer or any other category of person you encounter every day, and the someone “said it to your face” many times every day – no you would not fucking laugh at them or ignore them. Or, if the someone who “said it to your face” is part of a huge mob of people who are all saying it – indeed shouting it – to and IN your face, then no you wouldn’t fucking laugh at them or ignore them. If the two are combined – if it’s a matter of people who can say it to your face 24/7 and there’s a huge mob of them – no you would not laugh at them or ignore them.


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  1. 1

    No, I would not laugh. I don’t know how she could think that.

  2. 2
    S Mukherjee

    The ‘real world’ analogy is the target being surrounded by a mob who are shouting the vilest threats at her. Who wouldn’t feel fear at that?

  3. 3

    Me: I’d take a quick shufti around to evaluate the threat support. If low, I might poke a pencil in their eye. THEN laugh. Then ignore. (Unless I was carrying a typewriter.)

    No, not really. That’s just a pipe dream.

  4. 4

    What an idiot! Has she never crossed the street to avoid a gang of blokes hanging round in case they start commenting on her appearance – not even nasty comments, just embarrassing. Has she never encountered a gang of thuggish teenagers who can randomly abuse strangers? That sort of encounter doesn’t happen every day – but it’s pretty upsetting. So if this happened all the time to her it would be water off a duck’s back? Pull the other one.

    In fact our normal interchanges – at work, with friends, in public places – are friendly, courteous or merely neutral. Being grossly insulted is a rare occurrence in real life. You have to go to the internet for that.

  5. 5

    Being grossly insulted is a rare occurrence in real life

    I wish that were true, but it isn’t. At least, it isn’t true for everyone.

  6. 6

    Why does she think this is about her? If it doesn’t bother her, great. Whoopee for her. How does that give her a reason to tell other people to put up with their rights being trampled?

  7. 7

    If I issued death or rape threats to my coworkers I’d expect to get my ass walked out the door, probably in handcuffs. I suppose there might be some nervous laughter once I was gone and the locks were changed, but I don’t imagine there would be much.

    I think the general sentiment would be “Enjoy prison, asshole” followed by a collective sigh of relief and months of vigilant door locking.

    In other words, I would expect there to serious, swift, and lasting consequences to me (and possibly the people I threatened). And I would deserve that whether I did it anonymously or in the middle of a meeting. Rules don’t seem the same at all, to me.

  8. 8
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Not to mention that if confronted by threats in person, you have immediate remedies like calling the cops. You can file a restraining order if harassed continuously. (Not that these always work, especially if you’re a minor, but still there are some options available.) What can you do about Twitter harassers? Call your local police and complain about threats coming from people all over the country or the world whose names you don’t know?

    There’s a lower profile case beginning in Toronto soon apparently. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/twitter-harassment-case-lands-in-toronto-court-1.2487075
    The lawyer “expert” they interviewed about it was more than annoying, saying:

    “The behaviour has to be objectively offensive,” he said. “When it comes to Twitter, there is a lot offensive behaviour happening on Twitter all the time. It’s sort of par for the course. It’s interesting to see in this case how much that norm on Twitter translates into [the notion] that this complainant should not have felt threatened.”

    So….the more people are threatening and abusive, the less we should expect the abuse to be stopped? So because people feel they have a free rein to be criminals, we have to give them one? Don’t think they’d make the same argument about terrorist bombers.

  9. 9
    Pierce R. Butler

    … she used to be a columnist for the Mirror …

    And now has, with perhaps too much subtlety for her intended audience, submitted an application for employment in the Murdoch Machine.

  10. 10

    You might have seen this:


    as at least partially a response to the Pagels article, but also a response to this. That whole article is just more evidence that I don’t need to be on Twitter, and I’m a white hetero man.

    I still wonder how they can tell which threats are credible and which ones aren’t and if you can’t tell someone which ones are credible and which ones aren’t, how can you tell anyone they should just laugh off threats on the internet?

  11. 11

    Someone making threats of violence to your face is almost certainly committing assault. If you choose not to involve the police, that’s your call, just as you could choose to ignore physical battery. The important thing is it’s your choice.

  12. 12
    Gordon Willis

    fleetstreetfox @fleetstreetfox

    I think if there were really vile tweets to me I’d report them only if it sounded like the person was going to attack someone else.

    That they were getting so wound up about me they were a danger to themselves or others, you know. Not nice, but wouldn’t take it seriously.

    This is because I’m a tough, strong, compassionate person, and not concerned for myself, of course, obviously. It’s not that I’m an egotistical bigot who likes making other people feel small and weak in comparison to my superior strength and superior lack of concern for my (marvellous) self, and obviously I would never dream of making more than a teensy little hint that other women are a load of pathetic self-absorbed weaklings, obviously.

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