Grace Dent: 3,066,607 followers, one false move - why do Rio Ferdinand and the rest of the footballing tweeters bother?

Who, officially, is supposed to be offended? Cole? British people of colour? Mixed race people? All white people?


In this week's Twitter-spat news: footballer Rio Ferdinand is in lumber for LOL-ing at a tweet from a stranger in which Ashley Cole was called "a choc ice". Some people say "choc ice" is a low-level, snotty, racially motivated term meaning "black on the outside, white inside". Others say, Ferdinand most vehemently, that the term has shifted meaning to a non-racial, but definitely bitchy "fake".

Phrases shift their impetus and thrust continually – this fact anyone intelligent knows for sure. Ferdinand's actual response to the choc ice comment was: "That's classic." But, let's face it, Ferdinand has 3,066,607 followers and gets hundreds of messages whizzing past a minute, so I doubt he gave it much, if any, thought. Gosh, how I wish it was possible to report the important world of Twitter to non-tweeters without sounding like Zaphod Beeblebrox on The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy. It's all a bit "Rio has 97 Earthly Thang-bugs in his planetary force! Cyber-police are enforcing the mind-zap!"

Anyway, Derbyshire Police are investigating. And right now a Twitchfork mob of "random internet idiots who own computers but have no facility to extrapolate facts" are slinging crap about, hoping it sticks.

Oh, the perils of being Derbyshire's, or any police station's, resident vaguely tech-minded officer. The cyber brouhahas one must be asked to referee. There was a great bit in BBC2's Line of Duty last week where a policewoman sat scowling at a witness in the incident room, filling out reams of duplicate forms. "OK, let me get this straight," she says to the witness. "The woman next door called you 'a slag' on your Facebook Wall? Yes? So you wrote on her Facebook wall that you'd kill her?" Meanwhile, elsewhere in screenwriter Jed Mercurio's murky imagination, a gang of thugs were chopping off victims' fingers with boltcutters. I think Mercurio was making a subtle point about our priorities. Couldn't quite make it out. I was distracted by Twitter.

What I do know for certain is that "footballers" mixed with "Twitter" form a particularly virulent cocktail. Tons of well-known footballing names – Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Joey Barton and others – make use of the site, allowing us to feast on their spare cerebral crumbs. God knows why they bother.

Watching the Twitter messages that Premier League footballers receive minute by minute feels a bit like putting one's face against the outgoing sewage pipe on Blackpool beach and letting turds bash your forehead. Just one stream of racist, sexist, creepy illiterate rantings pouring in night and day. The FA should probably have its own 24-hour police Twitter bureau investigating serious written abuse against its players, tracing most tweets to identical braying morons sat in their mother's box bedrooms cranking filth into their computers under the guise of "freedom of speech". In the light of the actual proper abuse Rio Ferdinand must read about himself every day, and hear on the pitch, it's vastly ironic to see him investigated for simply hitting the reply key and saying "Classic" to a tweet he has strongly maintained was innocuous. And good luck to the investigator sorting this one out.

First, looking at the exchange, Ferdinand doesn't appear to be making any reference to Ashley Cole's part in the recent John Terry case. And keeping in mind both Cole and Ferdinand both married white women and have worked in a mainly white industry for years, it wouldn't make much sense for Ferdinand to suddenly announce in July 2012, "Yeah, Cole, you're a bit too white-friendly for me!" And, playing devil's advocate, if Rio Ferdinand was criticising Ashley Cole for being "inwardly white" then who, officially, is supposed to be offended? Cole himself? (He says he isn't.) Is it all British people of colour? Is it all mixed race people? Is it all British white people?

Blimey, has Ferdinand offended all the white people in Britain by quickly typing "Classic"? I don't feel very offended. I remember a Caribbean British friend being called "Bounty" once for going clubbing with me, and the brief emotional slap of feeling, "That's a bit small-minded", but in the long game my experience of "racism" is utterly negligible. I hope Derbyshire Police point us all in the right direction of our Ferdinand-based righteous ire soon, or, alternatively, I'll just hang around Twitter as it'll be some other poor sod's turn in a minute.

Summer's here, so let's joke about the Olympics!

"Around the middle of next week, pressure will build," chirped Cecilia Daly from BBC Weather yesterday. "This would allow our weather to take on more normal summer characteristics." It's unclear whether Daly gave this news of her own volition, or had a gang of sodden, deranged British citizens sitting on her chest shouting, "Make happy things come out of your mouth, Cecilia."

Summer, apparently, is around the corner. Oh, yes, since May, it's been all about Hammer Horror skylines, 80-denier tights, muddy feet, bus splashes, ruined weddings, being incarcerated staring at drizzle with fighting children, leaking roofs, and your colleagues smelling of wet dog. But turn the frown upside down, here comes the sun in time for the Olympics.

I have been most perturbed about the weather for this big International Sports Day Thingy going on in Stratford, but I'm quite sure Seb Coe has things covered. If there's a storm, I'm pretty sure the Olympics dinner lady will escort everyone into the assembly hall, trundle out the big TV on wheels and let the crowds watch a VHS of The Goonies.*

* I can make Olympic jokes like this as the brand team have such a keen sense of humour, I know they'll lap up this bit of fun.

Melissa Meyer – too dangerous to discuss

Along with polite dinner table no-nos of "politics" and "religion", the subject of Melissa Meyer, brand new CEO of Yahoo! – who announced her career move alongside her maternity leave date – is another matter to keep away from polite, non-punchy dinner tables.

Depending what side of the barbed wire your reproductive organs lie, Meyer is either a brave, feminist womb-warrior determined not to let motherhood set her stellar career back. Or she's an infuriating, expensive, potentially highly litigious office spare wheel who might well return in November while trying to get pregnant again, leaving other people papering over the cracks. You can decide. I always find the weather to be a much safer topic.

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