Toxic Internet

Outrage about online abuse seems to be the erratically undulating fixation of the media and politicians at the moment. Whether you watch the display of professed outrage and think of cynical opportunism or earnest determination to moderate the social discourse moral indignation about such abuse remains an increasingly prominent feature of the commentariat and news cycle. Which is as it should be, really.

Our political (and social) landscape is a toxic place, abuse is ubiquitous and pretty much everyone who talks about pretty much anything is liable to find themselves on the receiving end of it. There’s no doubting either that as it’s fed into by sexism, racism, anti-semitism and general bigotry the force and prolificness of it ratchets up too. All the way to the point where someone like Jo Cox can be murdered while a hundred others, with minimal attention, put up with daily threats of violence and death, never mind the more routine insults and attacks. With that in mind it’d be nice to think that the voices of outrage which echo out the loudest were, as a rare show of society wide disgust, setting out a universal line in the sand which everyone could acknowledge and accept as one which we don’t want to cross. Unfortunately though there’s not much reason to believe that’s the case.

Instead the issue of abuse seems to be distilled into a commodity almost. Not by the victims, I’ll add that straight off, but by a wider political and media community which, in some cases, seems unable to simply condemn without trying to score some marginal profit or moral kudos off of it all.

Online abuse, online threats of violence and general hostility are societal issues. They effect everyone to one degree or another. There’s no opinion so mundane, no act so bland and innocuous that mentioning them on Twitter won’t result in some form of hostility from one corner or another. If you use Twitter, or any other social media platform, you probably know that already. Insults and threats are made mundane with the prevailing attitude being that you either suck it up or give up. The lazy response to any complaints usually being that ‘it is what it is’, a judgement commonly delivered by the perpetrators themselves. Work through the disparate demographics of social media and you can see the abuse build up too as racism, sexism and bigotry are all met with the same shrugging acceptance by people who usually aren’t in a position to be a victim of any of them.

It’s the ubiquity of this sort of thing that makes the mainstream discussion of abuse seem hollow really. There’s not a trace of doubt that the attacks on people like Diane Abbott and Laura Kuenssberg should be acknowledged and condemned but there’s plenty of doubt to be had about the way it’s done. With the former it’s often half-hearted and laced with sniggering disdain, with the latter it seems almost directly fuelled by political point scoring against a political left which is imagined to be far more coherent than it is. In neither case is it approached as the sort of society wide issue that it is. Some of the loudest voices of complaint seem to infinitely prefer recognisable totems for their outrage to genuine efforts against something which is increasingly universal in it’s effects.

It’s an instinct, I think, which has become inherent to the media and politics these days. Real moral outrage is consistently subjugated to individual narratives. You can see the same happening in the US with almost every declaration Trump makes – like his recent NFL nonsense. What started with a protest against the treatment of black Americans has ended with Il Douche picking more or less personal fights with people he doesn’t like and the mainstream opposition gleefully ‘taking a knee’ against him without any real awareness or interest in what made Colin Kaepernick do it in the first place. With both issues the narratives have increasingly become ones about a small cast of individuals rather than real, society wide problems. Something I’m pretty certain that none of the oft cited, recognisable, victims would want never mind it being of actual use in confronting the issues at hand.

As things stand now, as the mainstream narrative appears to be playing out, this story has a long way to run. By myopically framing arguments about online abuse with individuals who are quite clearly classified in the reporting as members of one ‘side’ or another there’s no room for anything to be solved. The perpetrators get a constant free pass to justify their actions by their objections to the individual. With a shrug of ‘I know it’s not right’ there’s always a ‘but…’ allowed to follow it up. A completely hollow defence, no doubt, but still one which has been allowed to fester into being. And while commentators eagerly lay the blame for the abuse on the faction that they don’t belong too it’s always set up as an adversarial fight – whose bigots are worse, whose death threats merit more column inches, whose Trolls are nastier. A line you can only really push if you yourself are safely out of the groups likely to be effected. Whereas what we really need is a wider acknowledgement and blanket condemnation of the realities of abusive behaviour. Not because it’s reached a recognisable name but because it reaches millions of people, repeatedly, every day. And in all it’s forms, racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic, homophobic and broadly bigoted it’s a problem for all of us. Not a story we need to be told about any given politician, journalist, celebrity or sportsperson.


When We Loved

You cornered me with love
a contortion into hate
between what you said
and what you did
who you claimed
and who you were
a chaotic contradiction
out of which I ended up believing
that to control
was to care
and to fear
was to feel

You wielded over me all the power I longed for
through force you shaped my self
while I wished to have a different form
but incapable I gave myself over to you
to make me what I thought was better
but which turned out to be just you,
your image,
your dream
and your ideal
broken imitations
of who I used to be
and corrupted lies
of who I should be

In the end I broke our love
or so you said
yanking at frayed ropes which had bound me
trying to drag me back into your world
as I sought out a new one

I’d like to say the power is mine now,
that my hands took over
but I know that’s not true
over every move I make
lingers your so called love
eager to recount
another cruel fable
of who I used to be
and who I should be

Time stands at my side though
the time I need to forget
and regrow
beyond the chaotic contradiction
of your love


A Connection, I Suppose

This body politic is infected
broken down by a pathogen that’s half self aware
half selfish
insidious in nature
consuming in scope
and proud to say it’ll get us
before any other disease will
a form of connection
I suppose

This country’s economic ghetto
is under the thumb
held in stasis by a financial Cosa Nostra
maintaining order through exploitation
and tradition through corruption
with ageing Dons counting cash
assuring the hungry that it only gets worse
when new gangs arrive
holding us safe from invasion,
only to kill us themselves
a form of connection
I suppose

This home and castle
has a Lord
claiming Prima Nocta
to fuck us
and calling it Right
because who put up the walls that keep the enemy out?
Who swings the sword against the outsider
even before we’ve heard their name
or had a chance to know why they came
attention drawn away
by cap doffing obedience
to Regal right
a form of connection
I suppose

This story has no ending
not the way it’s told
the dulcit tones just carry on
until the body’s cold
always reassuring
that the teller’s got it right
always disavowing
any poor, unknown insight
It’s words are getting louder
it’s silences obscure
and the chance of thinking round it
ain’t quite there any more
a form of connection
I suppose

But we still have one reminder
of what we were and are
beneath all of the diseases
and Mafiosi power
we’re the one’s who live life
not the ones who say it loud,
not the ones who run it
or build walls
and steal crowns
and sooner rather than later
the body will react
locals will stop paying dues
all that bowing we’ll retract
we’ll find the final fullstop
start on another page
and all of those connections
will be from a dying age


An Easy Discovery

Face by Dylan Malik Orchard

It wasn’t caged
it did not hide
nor deny it’s rightful place

It wasn’t new
it wasn’t found
it came through no new grace

It wasn’t yours to gift to me
nor any bodies else’s

But still I found it
though never hoped
to discover long lost faces

In memories I saw it pass
in fleeting, nervous moves
in lonely hopes
and doubtful moods
I clung to unseen truths

And only now
in silence’s maw
do I finally see
that one true missing aspect
was all that was meant to be


Charlotesville & Violence

The reaction to events in Charlottesville has been a major part of the news and social media cycle recently. Rightly so, although it’s worth remembering that banner head events like this are just the peaks of what can and does happen on a daily basis throughout the US and here in the UK too. It’s size makes it more prominent, but perhaps not massively more important than the daily acts of intolerance and hatred that some people set out to encourage and take part in.

One of the strands of reaction, one which I find perhaps more confusing than any, is the condemnation of those people who set out to physically resist the Fascist presence on the streets. It’s not the loudest line, fortunately, but it does have enough prominence to be a disturbing one so I figured I’d throw in my 2p’s worth of opinion on it.

I don’t understand how, or why, people try to analyse physical action as a political or philosophical act, I’m not sure everyone involved in it does at any rate. Even if you believe that some Fash or fellow travellers can be talked to and brought back from where they are (and I do) that’s a moot point when it comes to actual, street level action. The only question there is what effect their presence has on a community and what measures are needed to limit it, I don’t understand how anyone with any experience of the world can honestly try to break that down into a comfortable political talking point to be chewed over with sorry recriminations from a safe distance. When these people go out to march, or more usually just act up in their day to day lives, they’re not setting out to convert people, or convince people of their righteousness, they’re trying to assert their power, they do it solely to make themselves feel bigger and to intimidate and threaten the people around them. Saying no violence in return as a personal position might feel morally right to an individual, it might even be morally right to an individual but it’s still a myopic position and a selfish one to impose on other people.

Try to impose the same thinking on others, imagine it’s your family, your friends or your kids who are walking around that area when the Fash are out. Imagine it’s them being told they deserve to die, that they’re less than human, that they should be lynched or thrown in gas chambers. Imagine that it’s them being physically attacked for the colour of their skin, or their religion or for believing that Fash thinking is wrong. And that’ll all happen even without them being involved in any counter protest, it’ll happen just because they exist. It happens every day in fact. To condemn people who take physical action in return, or who defend those who are attacked in that way is, tbh, a fucking disgusted moral imposition to make on anyone especially if you’re taking your stand from a safe distance where you’re fairly sure you won’t face the same.

I’ve posted a statement from a former member of the clergy above (click to enlarge). To me that’s a truly decent position for any pacifist to take if they hold their beliefs honestly. You don’t have to fetishise violence or think it’s good or get a buzz off of it. You just have to accept that your moral stand (if that’s really what it is) isn’t viable or reasonable for everyone and perhaps even acknowledge that, if it were, it wouldn’t just be the philosophically peaceful counter-protestors who’d get a beating for it. If Fash felt they could act with impunity on the streets, whenever and wherever they are, it’d be whole communities who’d have to live with it. Day in and day out.