Listening to the recent furore regarding politicians tweeting and deleting, I took some time to scroll through Twitter the other day to suss out what was going on. It’s not something I spend time doing save for preparing for an item on the radio show. I won’t say I was shocked because I’m not that innocent, but the lengths people go to in order to bully and abuse is really alarming.
But the vile hatred directed at Leo Varadkar in particular is beyond the pale in the eyes of any right thinking person
Maybe it has something to do with the stressful times in which we live but when it comes to Irish politics, the stuff on Twitter is disturbingly awful. Governments will always get the most flak. That’s a given. But the vile hatred directed at Leo Varadkar in particular is beyond the pale in the eyes of any right thinking person. He alluded to as much recently and indeed when you scratch the surface of the tweeters who pile on his every tweet, you don’t have to scratch too much to see where their political or ideological loyalties lie. And political parties with those sort of online supporters could do worse than disassociate themselves from them.
Regarding Varadkar, some individuals with strong left leaning views and others with hard right wing opinions seem obsessed with the man. It’s an unlikely alliance and it’s quite astonishing to observe how voracious some Twitter activists are in trying to take down politicians like him using tweets and hashtags as a weapon.
In the circles I frequent, that would be greeted with positivity even from political opponents. But, not in Twitter-land
The day that I took time to torture my mind by scrolling through the Twitter accounts of a few senior politicians and ministers was the day it was announced that Minister for Justice Helen McEntee was expecting her first child making her the first serving Minister in the history of the state to become an expectant mother.
In the circles I frequent, that would be greeted with positivity even from political opponents. But, not in Twitter-land. The tweets of abuse, snide remarks, misogyny and bile bordering on the deranged were something I wouldn’t have believed until I actually read them.
Twitter is not a proportionate reflection of broader society thank God, but my reaction to reading what was said about the woman was that there are a lot of very disturbed people lurking among us. And it seems to be getting worse.
As is the case in the Dáil chamber, the government of the day will always be held more to account and interrogated
I didn’t engage in any deep dive of detailed research into trends but online abuse and trolling is definitely not confined to any one party. Sick tweets come from supporters of all parties and none. As is the case in the Dáil chamber, the government of the day will always be held more to account and interrogated. Sadly on Twitter, the interrogation turns to contemptible, malicious hatred. You can work out yourself what was tweeted about Minister McEntee’s news.
That said, politicians themselves are not behind the door in inviting the dog whistles online either. But as somebody who earns a living from journalism, it really sticks in my craw that faceless individuals can say what they like in a public forum which acts now as a source of news and reportage for so many thus competing with professional journalism.
I cannot emphasise enough how dangerous to democracy this is. Good journalists cannot get work. Why? Because people are happy to source their news from the partisan echo chamber of whom they follow on Twitter at the expense of solid local media.
Anyway, why people spend countless hours every day scrolling social media and tweeting nonsense I’ll never know. Maybe I’m the one out of step.
James Horan will surely be able to paper the dressing room with the “six in a row” predictions if such things do act as motivation.