Here’s what I can’t figure out about the internet: did gazillions of angry, anonymous, online bullies suddenly come to life as soon as it was invented; or were they there all along somewhere, furiously hating us and just wishing for some means to let us know?
I’d like to say that last week Twitter reached peak mean, but I doubt that’s true. The American actress Ashley Judd wrote a moving open letter to online abusers after she received threats of particularly sexual violence in return for commenting on a college basketball game. Before Twitter, were there really hundreds of people in the world who could get so outraged about college basketball that they’d threaten to rape someone who supported the other team? Maybe there were and we just didn’t see them. I don’t know which explanation is more scary.
In the same week, Zayn Malik left his band One Direction’s tour, signed off with stress after being routinely picked on and gossiped about by “fans”. An SNP member was suspended from the party after tweeting brutishly homophobic comments directly to the Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson. His excuse, when he was identified, was that he was “angry”. A children’s author, showing off to some bigger boys, called another author and critic a most un-children’s-authorly word. He seemed shocked and embarrassed when the critic pulled him up on it, as if it were the critic’s fault for noticing. Has everyone forgotten they’re talking out loud in these forums?
In another story in last week’s news, it emerged that road rage incidents have increased by 70 per cent since 2012, so maybe we are all much more angry and less able to deal with it than we were three years ago. Fifteen per cent of those who had experienced road rage had done so 10 or more times, leading the report by confused.com to suggest that “for many people, it might not be the road that’s making them angry, rather, they might just be angry”.
What can we do to pour oil on all of this boiling rage? Valium in the water supply? A psychotherapeutic questionnaire instead of a Twitter password? Take a deep breath and smell the flowers? I wish that someone would sort it out soon. It’s all just making me feel so cross….
Hooray for Clare!
A gold medal for my heroine Clare Balding, who has torn herself away from years of Grand National presenting so that she can turn up instead at the first women’s Oxford-Cambridge boat race on 11 April. “I believe that sometimes you’ve got to do something unexpected to make your point,” she said. “My point being, women’s sport matters.”
Like her, I don’t see why 50 per cent of the population shouldn’t get to see people like them striving and triumphing in sport, and so, like her, I love Sport England’s campaign “This Girl Can”. Sport England’s new report has found that women are half as likely as men to do regular exercise, and three out of five of us have never done it. And yet when I wrote recently about the adverts aimed at encouraging women, I was inevitably asked “But what about the men?” Guys, you’re great, and I fully support your right to five-a-side, but, in case you haven’t noticed, men’s sport gets quite a lot of coverage. This once, please can you just chill a bit, go for a run around the block and accept that everything’s not always going to be about you?
May’s Commons boob(s)
The inevitable has happened: Theresa May has been caught in possession of bosoms in the House of Commons (in a red dress, no less, which made criminally little effort to disguise the fact that the breasts existed). Like Jacqui Smith before her, May has been found guilty of carrying boobs in a public place, and the court of public opprobrium has spoken.
The verdict: tut tut, ladies, do try to be less distracted by being Home Secretary and spend more time thinking about what you’re wearing and how it might frighten all the men.
Not fitted to kitchen politics
I could not be a politician. Not only do I bring my boobs to work (sorry!) but there’s no way that my kitchen would withstand public scrutiny. There’s nothing in the fridge but beers and lemonade (the food is all in the freezer, honest), and my washing-up sponge is always manky (always!). There’s never fresh bread, let alone artisan bread, the kettle has a melted bottom from when someone was busy thinking about world affairs and accidentally put it on the hob, and there’s more cat food visible than human food. There is a water pistol by the back door, however, which I notice the Camerons don’t have. I guess they’re just too busy rearranging their spice rack to find time for soaking squirrels on the bird feeder.
When 1+1 =3
The last time I borrowed this column I wrote about how dismaying it is when senior politicians brag about being rubbish at maths. Then, both David Cameron and his Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, refused to say what nine times eight is. George Osborne had already baulked at seven eights. Now, Ed Balls has piled in, telling Good Morning Britain: “I was pleased you didn’t ask me any maths questions” and claiming he relies on his mother-in-law, a teacher, for all the Ballses’ arithmetic. How can the shadow Chancellor say these things? Why is being in the Can’t Add Up Club a point of pride?
In his Budget speech, George “It’s 56, Thickie” Osborne told us that households are £900 a year better off. Ed Miliband claimed they’re £1,600 a year poorer. Neither is correct, said the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which used maths to show that “there is no actual increase [in incomes] in the data we have so far… Real earnings have fallen.” Following the Budget, voters should have a better idea about which party they would like to represent them. All I ask is that whoever it is appoints a chancellor who can do sums.
Ellen E Jones is awayReuse content