News Ian O'Doherty

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Need an expert? There are loads of them on Twitter

Published 19/08/2014 | 00:00

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Need an expert? There are loads of 'em on Twitter
Need an expert? There are loads of 'em on Twitter

In the ongoing debate about Twitter and social media, one of the most frequent complaints is the sheer abuse that passes for rational discourse.

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I've long argued that a certain English writer must have tired of Elizabethan trolls sending him abusive parchments which started: "Mr Shakespeare, you are nothing but a popinjay and your plays are more pestilential than a Frenchman's breath."

The thing is, angry people have always been with us. And angry people used to have to go to the effort of finding parchment and quill, or pen and paper, before firing off their squalid missive. Not any more.

But there is another pest hiding out there in the electronic long grass - The Expert.

The Expert is compelled to inform the object of their ire why they are wrong and worthless, obviously. But they have also decided that they, and they alone, are qualified to educate you on what you are doing wrong. Despite having no apparent qualifications.

We've seen that with the recent kerfuffle over Niamh Horan's piece in the Sindo. That was simply a knockabout piece, in the style of what used to be called 'fun', before some Mother Inferior from the Irish Times decided that 'fun' was something they stridently disapprove of.

As Horan, and any journalist who bothers to check their Twitter account will quickly learn, when The Expert disagrees with you, you automatically become a "journalist" rather than a journalist.

In fact, The Expert will inform you that journalism should be... whatever they agree with. Therefore, anything they don't agree with, is automatically non-journalism. Not bad journalism, you understand. Just not journalism at all. It's a bit like saying that because you don't like Coldplay, you refer to them as a "band" rather a band.

The Expert is always on hand to offer you apparently vital advice on matters they don't understand. Because there is no longer such a thing as a difference of opinion on any issue, it is simply a case that you are wrong.

It happens anytime a journalist, sorry, "journalist," dissents from the current orthodoxies - Israel, climate change, the threat Islam poses to the West. Now we can add women's rugby into that mix of topics which must all be sung from the same sheet.

This is a result of the curse of equivalence, which suggests that because someone has an opinion, it is automatically valid, no mater how mad or, increasingly, smug it may be.

Nobody pays any attention to what someone says on Liveline, yet The Expert will spew endless reams of Wikipedia-sourced info to prove a point that has nothing to do with the argument.

The common or garden troll specialises in schoolyard abuse. The Expert is a specialist in smug.

My favourite recent example of The Expert? When one of Horan's critics loftily informed her that "Carrie Bradshaw had no problem in writing sexual innuendos and more, much to her female readers' delight." And then added: "However, 
you are NOT Carrie Bradshaw, nor have you really earned 
your place in the Journalism world."

Should someone inform The Expert that Carrie Bradshaw was a fictional character and not an actual journalist?

But then, I'm no expert...

True courage under fire

Getting married can be a rather fraught experience. The planning, the pretending to give a toss about what flowers are going to be on the table, the endless wrangling over who gets an invite and who you will insult by excluding, that kind of thing.

When an American guy, Tucker Blandford, decided that his forthcoming wedding to his English sweetheart was all becoming too much he employed a novel escape strategy. He pretended he was dead.

Not only that, he decided the best way to get out of the big day was to contact his fiancee, Alex Lanchester, and pretend to be his own father bearing the news that his son had died in a car crash.

In news that will come as a surprise to absolutely nobody out there, a distraught Alex rang her deceased boyfriend's family to commiserate, only to be told by the baffled parents that their pride and joy was alive and well.

Now, I have no great expertise when it comes to the workings of the female mind, but she says: "The marriage is definitely off."

Um, I would have thought that was fairly obvious.

Ah, I think I'll pass, thanks.

That delightful young lady Miley Cyrus is known for many things: her multicoloured tongue; her obsession with showing us the kind of biological detail that really should be the preserve of her gynaecologist; and, of course, the fact that she's actually not that good.

As she hunts for fresh male meat, would-be suitors have to sign a release before dating her. This includes such reasonable demands as "only speak- when spoken to", as well as being told what they can and cannot wear, the topics which may be broached if she does deign to have a conversation, and last, but not least, they must 
promise that they won't contradict her when she expresses her views and opinions.

So, to date Miley Cyrus, you must keep your mouth shut, colour coordinate your outfits so you don't clash and you must agree with her at all times.

That's not dating, surely. That's marriage.

So maybe that Tucker Blandford chap wasn't so mad, after all.

Irish Independent

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