Thursday, August 16, 2012

When the Twit is in the wit is out

As we go into the third and final Test of the series between England and South Africa we are denied our best player, Kevin Pietersen. The curse of Twitter strikes again.

David Cameron got into trouble simply for saying he wouldn’t use Twitter. He used a word which, in the old days, seemed pretty innocent but which is now regarded as an obscenity.

Twitter is a shortened form of professional suicide and to be avoided.

If you are not in the public eye, why is anybody be interested in what you had for breakfast, what you think of the revolution in Syria or whether some C-list star was any good on the telly last night?

Pithy comments, witty asides, smart put-downs – perhaps the Twittersphere is full of them.

Somehow I doubt it. Hardly a day goes by without some poor fool falling foul of the alleged freedom it offers us.

Greek triple-jumper Voula Papachristou became the first person to be kicked out of the Olympics for Tweeting.

With a hop, skip and a jump she was on the plane home after her “unfortunate and tasteless” joke: “With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitoes will be getting home food!!!”

She was also accused of backing the right-wing Golden Dawn party in Greece (mind you, so do 425,969 other voters).

If she’d been sitting in some taverna with her chums on a Saturday night, she’d have got away with it. Her joke certainly wouldn’t have got her chucked out of the Olympics.

Twitter seems such an innocent way of chatting to your friends and fans. No doubt when you are Tweeting you imagine you’re dealing with a few like-minded people.

Unfortunately, once your words are “out there”, they’re fair game.

I have no sympathy for anything John Prescott says or does but he managed to make himself more of a prat than usual when he Tweeted a message attacking Grant Shapps, the Housing Minister.

Apparently the pair have kept up a Twitter feud for some time. But Prezza gaffed when he complained about advertisements for Thai brides on the Shapps website.

It turns out the ads were generated specifically for each visitor, based on what they have previously searched for on the internet. Two Jags supposedly wanted a Thai bride.

If it were not that Lord Prescott is incapable of shame, you’d think he would crawl away and hide. Instead, he wants to become the £155,000-a-year boss of Humberside police.

His brass neck may have something to do with unconfirmed allegations that His Lordship’s witterings are actually produced by his son, David.

Let’s hope so, otherwise the long-suffering Lady Pauline might have something to say about it all.

Twitter isn’t just an elephant trap for the unwary. It’s opened up a whole new world to appalling people known as Trolls.

These are individuals who delight in being as offensive as they possibly can be.

After diver Tom Daly missed out on an Olympic medal, somebody Tweeted: “You let your dad down i hope you know that.”

This was particularly unpleasant because Daly’s father died last year of brain cancer. Daley responded: “After giving it my all... you get idiots sending me this...”

It seems the alleged Tweeter was arrested on suspicion of sending a malicious communication. Which, of course, raises the whole question of freedom of speech.

For once, the High Court made a sensible decision by clearing Paul Chambers, aged 28, of sending a menacing message after he Tweeted his frustration about Robin Hood Airport in South Yorkshire being shut by snow.
He wrote: “Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!”
A joke. Not funny and not nice. But a joke. Yet he was prosecuted, fined £385 and ordered to pay £600 costs. Now, at least, the courts recognise terrorists don’t betray their plans via Twitter.
Despite such catastrophes, Twitter is a temptation for people who really should know better.
In many ways, Aidan Burley had a point when he complained the Olympics opening ceremony was a bit left-wing (what, I wondered as I watched, is there to celebrate about the NHS?).

Even so, you’d think the Tory MP for Cannock Chase would be wary of sticking his head above the parapet and wittering on about it being “leftie multiculturalist crap”.

This is the MP who got into trouble for taking part in a Nazi-themed stag party. You’d think he might want to lie low for a while.

Embrace Twitter and common sense flies out the window. Wits become twits. We all become half-wits.

Worse than that, we end up depriving English cricket of its star player at a crucial moment (unless, of course, it’s a South African plot).

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