Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate

Sniping at the less clever is so acceptable that thousands of perfectly rounded individuals add 'pedant' proudly to their Twitter biography as one of their attributes

Share

You probably noticed last week that Gemma Worrall – a 20-year-old beautician from Blackpool – made the most stupid remark in world history. It was about the Ukraine situation and it set Twitter alight with glee. “If Barraco Barner is our president why is he getting involved with Russia, scary” Gemma typed.

As the flawless, deeply cognisant, beyond reproach human beings who constitute everyone on earth apart from Gemma, we took her rather sweet, funny mistake and rounded on her with sticks. Evidence of her stupidity was retweeted 7,000 times, abuse turned from jovial ribbing, to “banter”, to straightforward personal abuse, to your common-or-garden internet threats to “stab a dumb fuck like her and rip her tongue out”.

Gemma spoke publicly about being very scared by this. Despite police arrests following the Caroline Criado-Perez affair, it still seems as if society feels such abuse is acceptable and “just the way it is today”, particularly if you’re a person who has committed a crime as bad as Gemma’s: poor spelling and a no handle on current affairs. The crime, that is, of being stupid.

Sniping at the less clever is so acceptable that thousands of perfectly rounded individuals add “pedant” proudly to their Twitter or Facebook biography as one of their attributes. Pedantry – the grim social curse of the middle classes – is the inability to stop pointing out to strangers their minor errors and then bask in the cold dank pool of mutual bad feeling.

“That sense of inadequacy! I created it! Me!” the pedant whispers inwardly before stumbling off to point out the idiocy of mistaking “infer” for “imply”. The Gemma Worrall situation must have blown internet pedants’ vast, expansive minds. She was just so, so stupid.

Of course, away from the classroom, stupidity and smartness are really only relative to what it is one actually needs to know. Because, yes, Gemma hasn’t much of a grip on Ukraine – neither have I, but I’m a damn good bluffer – and neither can she nail the spelling of Barack Obama without making it sound like a delicious vitamin C drink. But as a beautician, Gemma is one of those girls I am constantly giving money hand over fist to.

Gemma has a skill. Gemma will most probably have a thorough understanding of Shellac nail procedures and skin exfoliation. She’ll probably know how to remove excess upper-lip hair, push back cuticles and spray a Fantasy tan without missing elbows or staining knees. So, yes, Gemma seemingly can’t spell Barack Obama. But she will always be in employment.

Meanwhile, the clever person with an arts BA Hons 2.2 who can spell Angela Merkel first time without googling it will be sat at home writing petulant blogs to David Cameron about why the Government hasn’t furnished them with a job as a medieval art curator. We deride the differently skilled and slap down the not quite as sharp, but the country’s cogs turn via the energies of people not quite as bookish as you.

And for what it’s worth, I enjoyed Gemma’s slight confusion that Obama is a high-level influencer in British politics – no Westminster pundit in the land would quibble at this suggestion. Also, her worry about provoking Russia and her fear of war aren’t silly in the slightest, they’re absolutely bang on the money. Perhaps Gemma isn’t enormously au fait with the history of the Cold War or the break-up of the Soviet Union, but she’s possibly seen photos in the tabloids of Vladimir Putin with his top off riding a tank or letting stallions nuzzle him – and that’s enough to guide foreign-policy strategy for most of us.

As access to the internet makes many of us feel cleverer, more connected, more omniscient, more infallible, it’s tempting to write off all the people “left behind”.

All those little unthinking people without university degrees who shape our nails, or clean our houses, or mend our toilets, or rewire our kitchens, and can’t even spell a president’s name without messing it up.

But the fact is, they might not know where Ukraine is, and they might not know why Germany doesn’t favour sanctions against Russia, but when the lights go out in your house, they know where the fuse box is and which wires to fiddle with to mend it. And right at that moment that’s a damn sight less stupid than you.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Specialist - HR Team

£26000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £38,000

£16000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Sales Advisor - OTE 18k-23k

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of Ford's leading Parts Who...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A man enjoys the  

If you really want to legalise cannabis, then why on earth would you go and get high in a park?

Peter Reynolds
 

No wonder 1,000 women a year are getting abortions because of extreme morning sickness. When I was suffering, my doctor said it would 'cure' me

Jo Crosby
Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders