Wendy Wason Scandal

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Car Trolls

Posted on 20th August 2013

I have been just as baffled as everyone else to see recent events unfold on Twitter.
I understand that some people find putting a woman on a banknote may be offensive. I don’t understand why they think that. The Queen has been on them for years and presumably they are fine with that. A woman who is there as a result of an accident of birth is fine, but they have a problem with a woman being on a banknote to celebrate her merit?
Ok. I know that some things anger people. Just because they don’t anger me, doesn’t invalidate their feelings.
However, when their feelings lead to rape and death threats I am astonished. I am stunned and shocked.
The threats Caroline Criado-Perez and Stella Creasy received were vile, horrible and – it turned out – illegal. What baffled me most was the level of anger stirred up by a fairly innocous campaign. This wasn’t challenging a religion or disputing that the earth is round. It was merely saying: "Hey guys, shouldn’t we recognise women too?”
That the campaign brought out rape threats and death threats is stupefying. Is it really that level of anger or just the words?
I choose to believe that the world is full of lovely lovely people and then the odd idiot rocks up and spoils it for the rest of us. Spoiling it in a two-fold fashion: one; by shocking us with the behaviour and two; by making us wonder if people really are that nasty.
Last week I was talking to a friend about how hideous internet trolls were. We agreed how terrifying it must be. We then got into her car and drove into Central London. Every driver that cut her up or edged her out of the way was screamed at as she gesticulated wildy, turned the air blue with her language and her face puce with her anger.
Wow. It would have been funny if wasn’t so scary. It was eventually funny after when she’d calmed down and we were having a coffee. "I’m nuts in the car”, she laughed.
Is this what trolls are? Nuts in front of the computer but perfectly charming on the street outside?
I’m amused by the choices we make about what is acceptable. One friend doesn’t speak to another any more because he always borrows money and doesn’t pay it back. This friend is always late. Our mates are people who’s flaws we don’t mind. We decide what we can live with.
Audiences take on board responsibilites for what other audience members find funny. If you do a joke at the Edinburgh Festival that references London, someone will say: "Well I got that joke but I was worried people that don’t live in London wouldn’t like it” as if it’s their responsibilty. The same audience member will shove you out of the way to get to the bar or put six coats over seats for their friends, two of whom wont turn up – but they are just thinking of other people.
I wonder what horrible things I do that are fine to me and hideous to others. Possibly plundering the lives of my loved ones looking for a joke – that might be considered rude. I tend not to scream at strangers when I’m driving though. Whatever faults I have, at least I’m not a car troll.