Saturday, 10 March 2018


I did it myself. I made a couple of joke/glib comments that Nationwide's Flo and Joan are actually the famous eyebrow wiggling Cadbury Dairy Milk kids grown up, after a career hiatus. Considering one of the 'wigglers' was a boy, my implied joke was obviously that one of the ditty-singing sisters had undergone a sex change. A fairly crass joke admittedly, not to all tastes, but perfectly innocent.

Because that's all it was: a joke. My sense of humour. I don't actually think either of them has had a sex change, or is remotely masculine. The actual truth is I think they seem like very sweet ladies. I quite enjoy their sibling rivalry set to music, and I also enjoy the interlude of notably organic and humble musical performances - amid all the mass over-produced bullshit and vaunted egos we see in popular music today.

Granted, I'm not sure it has much to do with banking, but hey, that's just marketing in the 21st century. Blame Nationwide, if you will. The idea of genuinely wishing these girls any harm or ill-will, I find truly appalling. I'm sure I'm not alone in having difficulty accepting we now live in a world where two girls singing ditties on TV, receive horrific online abuse.

Social media is quite literally a battlefield today: a war for the soul and heart of western values.

The Death of Observational Comedy

In fairness, there's probably an element of sensationalism for the purposes of a story. I don't think many probably really intended for their comments to be perceived as 'death threats'. If I say I'd like to "harpoon James Corden" and/or "launch him into outer space", I don't actually mean it. I wouldn't pull the trigger on the harpoon gun given the choice. (Maybe just a taser.)

Again, it's just my humour: linguistic license. Colourful language is something this country is very famous for, the most obvious example being Bill Shakespeare. I'm a fan of the bard, having studied his works for more of my school career than I'd care to admit, and I'd like to think if he was writing today, my analogy of the harpoon gun or rocket launch might be the sort of visual image he'd paint on a page too.

But here's the point: in today's environment, there's now so many people spewing those kinds of sentiments (and far baser ones) with genuine malice and intention of harm, it's often difficult to tell. And for the first time really, it occurred to me that some might even have read things I've said, and thought me malicious or somehow spiteful. I find that excruciating. The truth is I'm honestly the furthest thing from it. On the whole, I'm Snowflake Central (in fact, my very being troubled by the notion of thought unpleasant, almost certainly confirms it).

It's infuriating. Not only have moral values and decency been a casualty of this 'right-wing backlash' of recent times, but even the somewhat sacred medium of comedy is now under threat too. From do-gooders on the right, as well as just about the entire left. Somehow, I find the idea that we shouldn't laugh at jokes almost as offensive as anything else, and certainly a very dangerous progression.

'Crying Wolf'

Most people can tell the difference between a joke, gentle-ribbing or observational comedy, and bullying. Some of the funniest things in this world are ways that human beings differ, according to interests/background/geography/sex/race/ethnicity/religion etc. I don't want to live in a world where we can't acknowledge them in a lighthearted manner, for fear we'll be condemned 'oppressive'. That's going way too far. I've experienced actual bullying in my life; it's fair to say it's made me who I am. Both back at school, and more recently, in my musical career. I know how truly destructive it is, and I would never bully anyone.

However, I'd also argue that to push back verbally against those who'd bully you and/or others, is not bullying. It's the former of a 'fight or flight' mentality, and for me personally, it's the very reason I write at all.

There's a very different intention behind 'bullying' to simple observational humour; and most can usually tell them apart. Bullies just like to pretend it's 'joking'. However, considering the hatred and venom unleashed in our society in recent years, I do understand the hyper-sensitivity. The level of insentient malice now lurking out there like a turd in the bath water, needs to be addressed. The abuse of Flo and Joan might very well be the straw that breaks the camel's back. They are young girls, singing songs. They're not politicians actively hampering the lives of people around them, who deserve to be scrutinised and/or held accountable. Nor are they 'celebrities' who'd vaunt their lifestyle/opinions/wealth etc in our faces. Love 'em or loathe 'em, the kind of criticism and misogynistic abuse they've received just for singing songs with a plinky-plonk keyboard, is beyond abhorrent.

I don't know quite how we restore that balance, but by the gods, we have to try.

Right now the cries of 'abuse' for absolutely positively anything and everything - the 'crying wolf' - has had a disastrous double-edged effect. Not only did such hyper-sensitivity arguably precipitate the right-wing backlash we're experiencing, but now, a good many are so utterly fed up with all the political polarisation and bickering, they've switched off. They've had enough.

Which in turn has allowed prejudice and bigotry to run rampant unchecked, certainly on social media. It's now their turf.

People fighting for decency who've hung on, are likewise demonised as 'boring', 'too political', 'Corbynistas', 'conspiracy theorists' etc. Those who shout loudly from the left tend to end up ostracised by the very friends and people whose rights they're shouting for. Worse still, daring to speak out also has major repercussions for employment prospects nowadays (as I myself found out once, the hard way). Socialist and left-wing views are now seen as opposition to enterprise: a potential headache for employers - as if someone who simply believes in fairness might well prove a fly in the ointment later down the line.

Double-edged Sword

But speaking out really does have a purpose. The whole point is that social media HAS made politicians and businesses accountable in ways they weren't before. It's just that at the same time, the whole sphere has also become very unpleasant and noisy; often taken over by polarised morons. Swings and roundabouts.

Yes... social media! The bane of so soooo many lives, in so many ways. An invention that has quite literally laid waste to many aspects of our social structures; even our very existence as human beings. Some scientists argue it's irreversibly changed us as a species (I've heard the term 'Homo-Interneticus' coined to describe this change). It's made the world cold, distant, and unaccountable - hiding from behind a computer screen. Combined with massive geopolitical events like Brexit and the election of Donald Trump, eg: the normalisation of oppressive and nationalist attitudes, it's opened a Pandora's Box I think we'll struggle to get shut again now.

What am I suggesting?? For us to ditch mobile phones? Scrap the internet? Outlaw interactive social media? I don't know. But the latter idea, however draconian it might at first seem, might force human beings to be respectful to one another once again. And/or actually interact like human beings again. For the first time, I'm genuinely wondering whether perhaps social commentary should again be reserved for vocational writers, those who actually have a sense of responsibility, and/or know what they're talking about.

I don't know how the hell we'd police that without allowing huge propensity for abuse - it's quite literally how we've ended up in this mess (eg: only a handful of billionaires controlling what half the population think), but all the hatred out there is becoming intolerable.

For the sake of my daughter, and the world her generation shall inherit, I think we perhaps need to rein back in social media now. Somehow.

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