Saturday 22 October 2016

Online mob not interested in what Rosanna actually said

As Twitter blew up at the model's comments, it was just another example of old-fashioned Irish begrudgery

Published 30/08/2015 | 02:30

TWITTER STORM: Former Miss World Rosanna Davison signing copies of her new book ‘Eat Yourself Beautiful’ at Eason Bookstore in Dundrum Shopping Centre yesterday. Photo: John Dardis
TWITTER STORM: Former Miss World Rosanna Davison signing copies of her new book ‘Eat Yourself Beautiful’ at Eason Bookstore in Dundrum Shopping Centre yesterday. Photo: John Dardis

Rosanna Davison sparked an outcry after saying that research that could possibly link gluten to conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, autism and schizophrenia is the subject of hot debate.

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Social media went into overdrive. The Twitter hashtag (a device used to follow an online conversation) said it all: "Rosanna in Highest". The message was clear: this girl needs to be taken down a peg or two.

She was called an idiot, her husband ridiculed and even Health Minster Leo Varadkar (God knows he has better things to do than get involved in petty mockery) retweeted a jibe: "Why won't my mam and dad get back together? #blamegluten".

Fake excerpts from Davison's newly launched book Eat Yourself Beautiful were also posted in which a parody quoted Rosanna as calling herself a "pig" for "guzzling four raisins".

VIP magazine, which regularly features her on its cover, revelled in the hysteria: "Rosanna Davison is being SLATED over her latest nutrition comments," its official account tweeted.

Davison hastily tried to stem the backlash: "My qualification in Nutritional Therapy from the College of Naturopathic Medicine enables me to advise on a client's diet and nutritional needs, but always in conjunction with their GP if they're on medication, have a disease or need to get tests done".

She added that she was "by no means stating that gluten causes arthritis or any other disease or that they can be cured by removing it from the diet. What I was pointing out … was that there are an awful lot of studies that are out there at the moment that are hotly debating the subject of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity and even wheat allergy."

Afterwards a leading consultant psychiatrist, Dr Stephen McWilliams, the clinical lead of the Psychosis Programme at Saint John of God Hospital, said: "Ms Davison is not necessarily wrong in her assertions about gluten sensitivity and schizophrenia."

He cited a study which observed a link between a reduced supply of wheat and rye during World War II and a lower incidence of first-episode psychosis.

Popstar Keith Duffy, a father of a young child with autism, also spoke out in her defence.

He said: "I have worked with many children with autism who have really positively progressed after going on the gluten-free diet."

Neither Duffy's or the doctor's comments caused a reaction.


Whatever your thoughts on Davison's beliefs, it makes you wonder if the backlash was about our sensitivities at all, or if it was just a chance to take her down.

If only we were so passionate about diet and its effects on us, then surely we wouldn't be on course to become the fattest country in Europe by 2030.

As for the sensitivities of people with autism, the jokes flew back and forth.

"Just because her husband became autistic by eating bread. Oh wait", spat one follower. Another claimed they would have autism by lunch after eating bread.

Davison is beautiful, comes from a wealthy family, is well-educated, with a Miss World title under her belt, and now her book has just been published. She's exactly the type of woman some people love to hate.

I witnessed it as a student in UCD. Davison had just won the Miss World crown and a photograph of her smiling brightly was splashed across the front page of the student newspaper, which I was writing for at the time.

A group of girls had gathered in the news room and were poring over her image. Their friends were vocally excited, leading one of them to muse: "Yeah… but you should see her without her make-up." I smiled. The Irish are great for it.

While Americans have an obsession with success, in Ireland so many love a chance to make sure ambitious people don't get ahead of themselves. Type 'begrudgery' into and the first picture that pops up is Rosanna. Next to it, Bono. Social media has that flammable mixture of mob-mentality and schadenfreude. It is rare to see anything bad happen to 'have-it-all' Rosanna.

Her few words were all it took to serve up her comeuppance.

Sunday Independent

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