Net Etiquette

Since I started occasionally posting pieces on the Guardian’s Comment is Free site, I’ve had my first taste of real net malice. My current favourite remains ‘Melissa Benn. Pig Ignorant and Stupid With It.’ the headline of quite the most extraordinarily insulting blog,  posted by The Devil’s Kitchen, in response to an article I wrote a couple of months ago about Tory education policy.

I know experienced writers who will not enter into the world of net comment for fear of attack. I completely understand their distate and worry; it can be unsettling and even frightening to face such verbal violence.

On the other hand, why let the bullies win? Here, I think my political upbringing may have proved useful. As a child and teenager, I became used to reading nasty diatribes, either in the press, or in the steady flow of abusive and threatening letters sent directly to my father or our family as a whole. So I learned that long term, it is the abusers who reveal themselves to be weak and spineless and the person who can put their point of view calmly, firmly, with wit and thoughtfulness etc, will usually emerge the winner.

Needless to say, that Devil’s Kitchen headline has stayed with me in recent weeks; its comedy has swelled in my imagination: so much so, I’ve actually been considering getting a fridge magnate or a kid’s party style badge made up with those very words on it. It’s the ‘ ……and Stupid With It’ that really cracks me up. As if ‘Pig Ignorant’ alone is …well………just not ……quite………rude enough.

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