Posts Tagged ‘twitter’


It’s a useful hashtag, my occasional entirely self-deprecating ‘I is a idiot’ on Twitter notwithstanding. But it can mean so many different things.

Obviously, as with most hashtags, I can’t say that the first time I saw it was the first time it was used, but the first time I saw it used, well, it sticks in the memory.

A British comedian, a fairly well-known, fairly successful one then, a better known, and more successful now, comedian… made an arse of himself.

He credulously repeated an urban myth about Orthodox Jews, apparently in all innocence. To say that it was surprising is to understate it, That he repeated it was jaw-dropping.

His Jewish friends, his more educated non-Jewish friends, pretty much everyone. fell upon him with the weight of several tonnage of bricks.

And he apologised, Instantly. With a full, unreserved, completely and entirely self-excoriating apology. No self-serving ‘if I offended…’, none of the ‘I merely repeated…’

No, this was a full blown “I fucked up, I was gullible, I am an idiot.

It was the last bit that made me remember it so strongly.

I mean, I was asked about it at the time. (I didn’t know the comedian then, personally. New his work, but didn’t know him. I got to know him later, and it was a pleasure to discover that I liked him as well as his material.)

I remember being shocked by the credulity, and impressed by the apology, both its speed and completeness, but especially by the “I am an idiot”. I accepted it as heartfelt and genuine. I’ve never had occasion since to doubt either.


Sidebar: what I’m about to write about isn’t the usually humorous self-deprecation when someone explains something to me that makes perfect sense when it’s explained but that I’d never thought about before.

Example. The rules for election broadcast coverage of elections in the UK. There’s a broadcast rule that, well, as they put it, in 2015:

I knew the rules existed, but I was puzzled as to why it started at midnight-30, not at 12 o’clock precisely.

It was explained to me: it allows the broadcast media to run their midnight news, reporting on the final day of campaigning.

I thanked the person who’d explained it to me and added “I am an idiot”. It was self-deprecating and everyone understood it as that, nothing more.

That’s not what I’m talking about here.


Occasionally, I fuck up online.

No, let me restate that. Occasionally I realise I’ve fucked up, online. No, that’s not it either.

OK, Occasionally both me and the person who tells me I’ve fucked up both agree that I’ve fucked up.

Yeah, that’s better.

Now I’m not talking about being wrong about something. That happens all the time. If you’ve any sense, and any reserves of personal integrity, you correct the record and the matter’s closed.

Here’s one.

I’m not a fan of Jeremy Corbyn. Anyone who’s followed me on Twitter or read this blog will know that.

But I’ve never understood the need for disprovable, easily or otherwise, by independent third party evidence, allegations. I made a statement about him. I was shown it was incorrect in one aspect: the date I’d said the specific thing happened occurred. I immediately withdrew the tweet, and amended it, correcting the date.

I was wrong. I corrected my error. I wasn’t an idiot. I was just… wrong.

Here’s an entirely harmless but memorable I am an idiot. When I was a young child, our primary school had a local theatre group in to give a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Afterwards, there was a Q&A session. Apparently I asked in all seriousness what the medicine was that they’d given Titania to make her sleep as my kid brother wouldn’t sleep at night.

They kindly explained that it was called acting.

I was an idiot. I was very young. But yeah, I was an idiot.

Here are two more examples where I was an idiot. of what I mean with “I am an idiot”, one long before Twitter existed, one on Twitter; one entirely harmless and silly, one less so.

For a while, that same kid brother lived on Bermuda. He was learning his trade as a hairdresser, and took a job on the island to spread his wings a bit and to hone his skills with different types of hair; he was there for a year or so.

During this self-imposed exile, I visited him and we were hit by a tropical storm. I don’t think there was a causal relationship but who knows?

Anyway, we were hit by a storm. It wasn’t pleasant; it was even a bit scary. The following day, when the storm had passed, we went to the beach to have a look at the damage and enjoy the lack of, y’know, wind and rain. The beaches on Bermuda are gloriously soft, and your feet sink a couple of inches into them. That should have been my first clue in retrospect.

On the beach was a boulder the side of a small car. Not huge enough to be a truck, nor a house… but yeah, the size of a small car. It wasn’t small.

I was flabbergasted. I mean, I knew the winds had been strong but to dump a rock that size on the beach, And I expressed this astonishment to my brother… who started laughing.

I turned around to discover my brother hugging his sides with laughter, trying in vain to restrain tears of laughter.

Yeah, you just got there a second before I did: the winds hadn’t dumped the rock on the beach; the winds had stripped away the sand surrounding the rock.

Again, something I freely admit and have no problem with. I was an idiot.

Here’s one that’s less harmless. Where I was an idiot with what could have had serious consequences. No excuses, no self-serving oops: I was an idiot.

I’m not a fan of the journalist Peter Hitchens. While he’s smart, I wouldn’t deny it, I disagree with almost everything he believes, and promotes. And it would probably be best to leave it there.

Because once I didn’t.

He’d said something online that so angered me that I did something… unwise. What he’d said was so extreme, so anger inducing, that I mischievously wondered to myself whether he’d said something in the past that contradicted it. And, knowing Hitchens’ style, if he’d done so, it wouldn’t be a mild contradiction; it would be full blown.

And, delightfully, I found it. I discovered a piece from him not only directly contradicting himself, but saying that anyone who thought otherwise was an idiot. So I screenshot the contradiction and tweeted it.


Except that what I’d found was from a parody site. And I made a damn fool of myself. Publicly.

I retracted it, obviously. I apologised to him directly, and apologised in a separate tweet. (Give the man credit; he was graciousness itself when he accepted the apology and said publicly that he considered the mater closed.)

But yeah, that was stupid of me. I was an idiot, and not in a funny way, not in a good way, in a way that could have left me open to defamation proceedings.

OK, so if you’re wrong on Twitter, if you’re an idiot, how do you apologise? How do you set the record straight? I mean, how do you do it right?

There are umpteen ways of doing it badly. Deleting the original tweet, and blocking anyone who raises the subject. seems to be the current favourite. Or there’s hooking your apology on to an entirely irrelevant tweet from the person you’ve fucked over. That way you can claim you’ve apologised but no one ever sees it. Or there’s deleting it, brazening it out and claiming anyone who raises it is ‘weaponising’ the issue.

But how do you do it right? There were, for a long time, three fairly well accepted ways of doing it.

  1. Delete the original tweet, put out a new tweet obliquely referring to it without detail and issuing a form apology.
  1. Delete the original tweet, put out a new tweet retracting what you said and apologising, with an attached screenshot of the original tweet.
  1. Quote tweet the original tweet with an “I was wrong to tweet this; apologies.”

None of these ever seemed to be a good method to me. With option 1, you look like you’re trying to do the very minimum necessary and also like you’re hiding the original offence, pretending you did nothing wrong.

With the final two, you merely encourage (and it often seems this is the reason for it) others to repeat something you know if false. Because with 2., they just grab the screenshot and use that, and with 3., the original tweet continues being retweeted and QT’d, while you can say ‘oh no! Look what is happening! This is a very bad thing…‘ and pretend you’re upset at it.

The solution is pretty obvious, so obvious that one wonders why more don’t do it, and one is further forced to conclude that it’s deliberate.

That solution? Grab a screenshot, and overlay a watermark, like the attached.

That seems to work, and it’s what I’ll do if the situation requires it.

OK, one more thing to end on. One more “I was an idiot” story from my past that’s still relevant, and one more story I genuinely enjoy telling against myself.

OK, no one reading this is unaware I’ve got a fucked-up foot. When it became a fucked-up foot, the doctor prescribed fairly strong painkillers, which I still take. (At some point I’ll need a major op on the foot, but until then, the painkillers do their job, mostly.)

However, when I first started taking them, these powerful opioids, I was… worried, concerned, wary about… no, damit, I was scared shitless that I’d become addicted to them. And, after three months, I was getting more scared.

I spoke to the young lady I was then seeing, who happened to work as a drugs counsellor. She reassured me:

Of course you’ll become addicted to them; they’re addictive.

Ok, maybe ‘reassured me’ wasn’t the right verb. However, she then attempted to reassure me properly, by explaining the difference between being addicted to something and having an actual addition… “problem”.

Look, first off, I’m a drugs worker. I’ll know you’ve got a problem long before you know it…OK, I’ll tell you what I tell my clients: if you’re worried, find a day where you ‘need’ to take all eight tablets and take seven. See if you ‘live’ for the tablet you don’t take.

That made sense to me, and a couple of weeks later, I did exactly that. For three days. My foot was on fire and I took only seven tablets not six. And oh gods did I lived for that other tablet.

So it was with trepidation that I told her what had happened.

And she… laughed at me. Pretty much about as much as my brother had about the rock on the beach.

I wasn’t amused. But then she explained.

I thought you were supposed to be smart, she said. Of course I don’t tell my clients that. I told you that to prove a point. Don’t you get it? If you had a problem, you’d have taken the other pill. You’d have made every excuse to me, to others, to yourself, but you’d have taken the eighth pill. You stuck to seven not eight… merely because a friend told you to.

I was an idiot. In a good way, but yeah I was an idiot.

(Not for nothing, but the fear of losing control of the addiction remains. And years later, still on them, my GP and I discuss the matter three times a year, so that we’re both certain i) I still need the painkillers and ii) I’m not abusing them.)

So what have we learned?

I am an idiot.

No, what have we learned?

That I am an idiot, and that that’s ok… most of the time.

See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

I put something up on Tumblr – not on goingcheep , but on the rarely used but still extant budgie’s blatherings – , but figured I might as well record it for posterity here as well…

As I write this, I’m looking at my phone with a mixture of amusement, bemusement and mild irritation.

I just had my Twitter account locked, because I told someone who defended a tweet egregiously and knowingly falsely calling the jewish journalist David Aaronovitch antisemitic… to combine sex and travel, ie to fuck off.

David A had described the person behind an organisation as a shyster.

The organisation pretended – against every etymological sense – that this epithet was linked to Shakespeare’s Shylock, and was therefore exclusively antisemitic.

Of course it’s not. It’s not exclusively antisemitic. It’s not antisemitic at all.

And it never was.

But someone defended the tweet attacking David A as antisemitic. And once I said that it was bullshit – inaccurate, etymological nonsense and flat wrong – and they then continued to defend the original tweet calling David A antisemitic… I invited them to fuck off.

And every time he replied, defending his actions and comments, I repeated the invitation.

And – while leaving abusive comments on my blog; using different names, but all with the exact same IP address – he reported my tweets as targeted harrassment.

(Note for blog: all effectively anonymous comments are moderated, so they never went live, but I have them all saved in my ‘deleted’ folder should I later… ‘require’ them. Amusingly, they took me 1/2 a second to delete when they must have taken him several minutes to do each one.)

So Twitter has locked the account until I delete the tweets.

I’ve appealed, but we’ll see. I mean, I’m usually not that appealing in the first place, so it’s a tossup whether they agree or not.

In the meantime… ah well, such is life and all that.

EDIT TO ADD: Notwithstanding the tweets where I did, indeed, tell him to fuck off, I’m honestly bemused at these two prima facie judgments…

I’ll update this with the resolution, whatever the hell happens.

UPDATE: Twitter sided with the fuckwit. The same fuckwit who continues to leave abusive messages on here and on Twitter. Now, of course, with Twitter’s approval.

Oh, and I woke this morning to discover this:

Which, some might argue, is kind of libel-y; y’know, what with the reference to drug and alcohol abuse.

And Twitter saw no problem with it at all.

Oh. Fucking. Joy.

(There was, of course, no such apology. Like everything else from the fuckwit, that was unreserved, unmitigated, bullshit.)

I know most people reading this already know who I am, and all, so you can skip the rest of this post if you’d like. But what with the re-emergence of this blog for the seventy-five day countdown to 1st January 2017, I seem to have attracted a few recent new visitors to this blog and to Twitter.

Been a while since I’ve done this, so why not update it?

Why not indeed…

Something specifically for Twitter followers… It’s been a while since I’ve done this, so it’s probably worth doing if only for future reference.

So, a quick non-Frequently Asked Questions.

So you’ve decided to follow me on Twitter or read the blog. Thank you! I’ll try to make the experience an enjoyable one.

So, don’t take this the wrong way, but who are you? I just added you because [other Twitter user] suggested it
I’m Lee “Budgie” Barnett; I’m British; I live in Ham, near Richmond. I used to be involved in the most peripheral of ways in comics, and ran a successful panel at UK comics conventions with Dave Gibbons entitled hypotheticals. Ask your parents about it; they may distantly remember it.

I write. I’ve written for radio, tv, the occasional comic book, an online novella, and several hundred 200 word slices of fiction as part of The Fast Fiction Challenge, including 150 stories written in 150 days during one stint. For a few years, I did The Twelve Days of Fast Fiction, you can read them in the link you just skipped past. Similarly, in 2013, I wrote twenty-four of them in twenty-four hours for Comic Relief. You can read all about them here.

Many of these stories have been collected, and several collections have been published so far; you’ll see me promote t hem every so often when I want some cash to expose new relders to them. Volume 1 of The Fast Fiction Challenge, containing 180 tales, was published in 2009. Volume 2 of The Fast Fiction Challenge, containing another 200 stories, was published in late 2010.

There’s also the ebook of You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly, available at all good email addresses, i.e. mine

“Budgie”? Why “Budgie”?
It’s a story you used to have to get me very drunk to tell… but after too many tellings, I stuck up the story here.

You use your name as your icon. That’s a bit weird.
I know. It is, isn’t it? David Gibbons designed the icon when we wrapped up hypotheticals. I started using it then and never really had a reason to change.

You’re hiding what you look like! Are you one of these anonymous trolls I’ve heard about?
Naah, not really. But it’s a perfectly understandable assumption. Here, this is what I look like: A Life In Pictures – December 2015 update. I update it at the close of the year.  

Anything else?
Yes, I have a son; he’s 21. (I know, I don’t look old enough, you’re too kind.) His name’s Phil, but for some reason his mother insists on calling him ‘Philip’. He gets mentioned every so often, usually complete with some indication of the pride and love I feel for him. He’s studying at Aberystwyth University right now, and probably in lectures. Or shooting music and gig videos with his fiancée, Rheannon. 

His mum’s name’s Laura; she’s one of my favourite people on the planet. We got divorced last year though we’d been apart since 2005.

What kinds of things do you blog about?
A mixture of fiction, my thoughts on various matters important and unimportant, occasional links to other people’s blogs or news reports, photos, videos… oh the usual. There are some standards, however; a Saturday Smile post, occasionally some politics, very occasionally a rant about something that’s pissed me off. And I’ll post something on 9th January every year in memorial for my late brother who died at 38.

You lost your brother? Shit, man, I’m so sorry.
That’s ok; you didn’t know. Here’s what I wrote about him this year.

You said you write about silly things as well though, yes?
Oh yeah. Here’s something about The History of the World. You’ll like it.

What kinds of things do you tweet about?
A mixture of utter nonsense, references to interesting posts – either on Twitter or their blogs – that other people have made, replies to questions, and occasional bursts of frustration.

You’re not going to overload me with your tweets, are you?
Oh, I hope not. Many of my tweets are replies to other people, so if you don’t follow them as well, you’re fine.

That’s not all of them, though, right?
Well, no.

So you’re going to follow me back, right?
Not always, no. I tend to follow people that I know for the most part. But engage me in conversation, comment on the blog, and it’s quite probable that I’ll add you. I’ll usually take a look at your recent tweets though, and may not… If so, sorry in advance, no offence intended.

You’re not going to get pissed off if I unfollow you, are you?
I’ll be furious and… no, of course not. Plenty of reasons why people unfollow me: I tweet on stuff they’re not interested in, or they followed me out of curiosity and that curiosity has been well and truly assuaged. Mostly, though, people unfollow me because they’re bored by my feed. That’s ok. Welcome to Twitter. 

I’m new to this Twitter thing. What do you use to tweet from? Come to that, how do you blog?
 Come to that, Almost without exception, I’m tweeting from either my iPhone or my iPad. If so, it’s usually from the Tweetbot app. I prefer it for all sorts of reasons to Twitter’s own app, but on the rare occasions I tweet a poll, it’ll be from the Twitter app. For blogging, I use the WordPress app.

Are you anywhere else online?
Other than here? Yes, I do a daily braindump – a couple of hundred words or so on whatever strikes me – on a tumblr entitled going cheep. NoI’m not on Facebook.

So what’s your Twitter account again?
I’m on @budgie

I’ve been on Twitter for about six and a half years, from the start of 2007.

In that time, somehow, I’ve managed to attract a few followers, and I currently follow about 500 people’s tweets. Some of those people tweet more than others, fairly obviously, so it’s not like I’m reading 500 people’s views, opinions, and what they had for lunch.

Lots of these people I know, as in I’ve met them, or known them online for years. Some of them I’ve not met, and am never likely to. And some people I follow because I admire them, and – as much as you can, having never met them – like them.

I like Twitter. I like the to and fro of conversation. I like how Twitter can simultaneously lift your sprits, lower your expectations, bring a smile to your face, and hugely embarrass you in a coffee shop as you burst out laughing at something you’ve read.

But there’s a darker side to Twitter. A nasty side. In fact, there’s more than one. I’ve written about the horror and nastiness of ‘@ attacks’ previously, a problem for which I’m still genuinely struggling to find a solution.

Another less than pleasant side of Twitter is both far easier and far harder to solve. Even though the solution is well-known, executing it, following through with the policy, is sometimes one of the hardest things in the world for someone online: it’s simply not responding to specific tweets.

At this point, I would be remiss (and I’d probably be fired from the Internet) if I didn’t refer to one of the smartest and most perceptive of all the cartoons produced by

So, ok, we all recognise that, I’m sure.

So what makes it worse when it’s someone you know, or someone you like, or someone you respect and admire? I don’t know. But it does. In spades.

Recently, I had an experience on Twitter where I suspect I did not cover myself in glory. Someone I respected and certainly admired for her work and how she’d led her life made a comment that was ignorant at best and astonishingly plain stupid in respect of comic books. It ‘pressed a button’ of mine and I responded less than politely, calling her ignorant, challenging her reasonably aggressively. I meant ‘ignorant’ in the literal sense of the word, but in retrospect I probably should have used a different word. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility (probability even) that she was simply unaware that comics had changed in forty years; I should have taken the opportunity to hopefully educate her rather than make her think that I was one of ‘those’ twitter users.

Ah well, hopefully a mutual friend will ease that particular rocky patch.

The two golden things that are pretty much guaranteed to rile any Twitter user are, inevitably, religion and politics. And, fortunately, there are more than enough places in the world where the two are conflated by everyone concerned (residents, onlookers, commentators and the Internet) so you can offend twice as many people at one go!

So what do you do when someone you like, someone you admire, someone who’s work you respect, makes a comment that is just so wrong-headed, so.. just so… just so WRONG (in your eyes) that to leave it there unchallenged is equally wrong?

Me? I’m going to try to start realising that whether or not I respond is irrelevant. It’s unlikely that I’d ever change their mind over a deeply held opinion; debating the subject is equally unlikely to change either of our minds. And if I don’t respond? Hey, 30 seconds later it’s gone from my timeline, scrolled into the electronic ether.

There are some exceptions, of course. Provably incorrect urban myths, mistakes and just plain errors of fact are worth correcting. (I’ll leave it to others to judge the line for themselves where something crosses from opinion into fact; if you believe it’s an easy decision in all circumstances, try discussing Israel online sometime…; it’ll cure you of that certainty in a fucking heartbeat.)

I’m reminded of an occasion where a comedian I hugely respected made a crass comment about Jews, repeating a quite widely believed but flat wrong myth. He was corrected by many people and not only apologised but did so in a way that the honesty of the apology and how foolish he felt for repeating the myth were plain to everyone.

There are subjects I don’t discuss ‘in real life’ with friends. It’s not worth it. One friend of mine genuinely, honestly, believes that the Jewish practice of circumcising infants is child abuse. We don’t discuss the inconvenient-to-our-friendship-otherwise fact that my son is circumcised.

You know what? I’m going to try and follow Wil Wheaton’s advice, and try not to be a dick. It’ll be for others to judge how successful or not I am.

It’s been a while since I’ve been personally attacked for something I’ve written. No, I’ve not missed it, so please, don’t feel obliged to do so in response to this piece.

But if you do, in the comments box below, I can’t really say I haven’t asked for it here, can I?

Criticism of creative works, whether they are writings, cartoons, comedy, music, or any creative endeavour, comes with the package. If you’re not prepared to be criticised for your opinions and works, then don’t offer them to the world. There will always be those who agree with what you’ve created (no matter how good or bad the work) and always be those who dislike “it”, whatever “it” is.

I’ve written previously about the personal and misogynistic attacks Laurie Penny has faced over some of her pieces, and I’ve been sickened at those and other attacks at friends whose sole offence seems to be to provoke a reaction of “we don’t like you.”

However, notwithstanding my earlier comment that all creators invite criticism (good and bad) of their works, there’s a current unpleasant practice on Twitter that I think is worthy of comment.

Now if you write a column, or a blog, there is usually an opportunity at the venue of publication to comment upon that piece of writing. The very fact that opportunity exists invites people to do so. And, while the advice of “never read the comments” is always given, it’s a fact that precious few creators have the ability and willpower not to at least glance at them.

“Never read the comments” is perhaps the best advice for the Internet, apart from Wil Wheaton’s advice of “Don’t be a dick.” Sadly, it’s equally ignored by many.

But, if I can use an analogy, many people complain about a television programme offending them. The usual response is “don’t watch it then”, and it’s a fair response at that. Despite the oft-quoted counter of “I didn’t ask for this to be in my living room’, I’m sorry, but you did precisely that, by selecting that television programme to watch.

In the same way, if you go looking for criticism of your work, in some (but not all) ways, you forfeit the moral right to complain at what’s been written about the work. You don’t, however, ever forfeit the right to complain about personal attacks.

However – back to the tv example for a moment – so far, at least, my television has never switched channel mid-way through an episode of House MD to show, say, Keith Olbermann attacking me in full “rampaging bull elephant on heat” mode.

Neither, to take another example, has my internet browser suddenly alerted me with a pop up window showing me details of an Internet commenter ripping me, or something I’ve written, apart.

And then we have Twitter. Twitter is almost unique (Facebook has tags, but they’re somewhat different) in that anyone on Twitter, anyone at all, can attach an ‘@’ to your Twitter ID in a tweet and it will be brought to your attention. You can’t avoid it. It’s the way Twitter works.

So, let’s say Joe Oik from Cityville, Nebraska doesn’t like something I’ve written.

Fair enough, it happens.

He tweets the following:

Just read the latest column by Lee Barnett. God, the guy’s a dick. He should give up foisting this crap on the world. He’s fucking useless.

Fair enough, it’s unpleasant, and I would – I’d imagine – disagree with the broad sentiments of his views. And yes, if I or friends saw it, I or they might respond. We’d be idiots to, but hey, we’re entitled to be idiots just as much as anyone else online.

But I am, and they are, unlikely to see the tweet unless I or they undertake a vanity search on Twitter, or on Google, since Google have started showing tweets in their search results.

Contrast that with the following tweet:

Just read the latest column by @budgie. God, the guy’s a dick. He should give up foisting this crap on the world. He’s fucking useless.

Now, I’m going to see that tweet. I’m definitely going to see that tweet.

It’s going to be notified to me next time I go on Twitter. Depending upon how I access Twitter, I might even get a little icon lighting up highlighting the fact that someone has mentioned me. And, since I’m like everyone else, I’m kind of curious when someone mentions me.

So I’ll read the tweet.

Make no mistake, this doesn’t fall within “don’t read the comments.” This is the actual “I didn’t want this in my living room” as opposed to the falsity of that being applied to television.

Of course I’m going to read it. Because that was what was intended by the tweeter when he or she wrote it.

I was trying to think of any “innocent” reasons for including someone’s Twitter name, suitably @’d, in a nasty, criticising, tweet, and, with a couple of friends, I think I’ve identified two:

(1) the tweeter is new to Twitter, and doesn’t realise that every ‘@’ is notified to the subject.
(2) the tweeter is a fucking idiot.

(1) is possible. It is. People new to any form of communication make errors in etiquette, format, etc. Just think of how many people over the years have had to be told that writing in capitals denotes shouting. Or just who has has to be informed that “LOL” doesn’t mean “Lots of Love”.

So, (1) is possible. But I think it’s difficult to argue ignorance or naïveté when you’ve got 500+ tweets under your belt.

And (2) is more than possible. Paraphrasing the words of an old Labour MP when accused of being a stupid cunt, there are lot of stupid cunts around and they deserve some representation. And there are even more online.

But I’d venture to suggest that of all the offending tweets with which this piece is concerned, i.e. nasty tweets with an ‘@’ in them, maybe, maybe, 1% fall into this ‘innocent’ category.

Now, there are various ways of dealing with these tweets once they’re in your view, in your view I repeat through no effort of your own, in your view because they’ve been put there quite deliberately by someone whose only motive is to offend or, if you’re both cynical and forgiving, to bolster follower count by offending someone.

There’s what I call The Cathartic Response: Retweet the offending tweet without comment. Get it out of your system and just slap it out there for the world to see. It can’t ‘hurt’ you any more and it has the side-effect of letting your followers and fans know that someone’s been nasty to you. Who knows? Someone may… remonstrate with the tweeter and let them know that their’s is a minority view.

(I’m reminded of the tale of George Bernard Shaw, upon taking his bows at a first night to thunderous applause, and detecting one person booing. GBS is reputed to have responded “Personally, sir, I agree, but what are we two against the multitudes?” I don’t believe it. I think Shaw probably told him to fuck off.)

Then there’s the “I’ll show him” Response, where the creator point blank tells his followers to take on the tweeter. Though I have little sympathy for the tweeter, this is just plain stupid.

As is the Hit Back Just As Nastily Response, as exemplified by Giles Coren yesterday. Yes, it’s tempting, but it ends up with neither ‘side’ smelling of roses. I suspect that Coren’s tweet will become the new example of “tweet in haste, repent in leisure.”

The only sensible thing to do is… to do nothing. And that’s about as likely as no-one ever reading the comments on the Internet.

So you’re left with the not very sensible things to do.

Which is also unsatisfactory.

I don’t know the solution – I really don’t.

But here’s an idea. It’s novel, I know, and terribly old fashioned, but then in many ways, I’m a terribly old-fashioned bloke.

How about… just not doing it, people of Twitter? How about having the common courtesy not to ‘@’ someone if you’re taking a pop at them? How about just thinking a moment before hitting that “Send” button?

How about… just behaving like you’re not a dick?

Reading Amanda Palmer’s latest blog entry set my brain a-running in various directions, always a dangerous consequence, but not necessarily an unpleasant one.

In the entry, Amanda makes the point that

often blogging is just mind-shitting. sometimes tweeting is just soul-puking.

but when it’s not?

art-making, writing and music-making have never been so DEMOCRATIC.

I can’t disagree, with either statement.

And that started me thinking about the plethora of instructions handed out or made available to users of that new-fangled invention: the telephone.

A good summary of phone etiquette through the years is here, courtesy of ars technica.

Included within the above link is the glorious image you can see to your right, an advert from 1910.

Now I started blogging in 2002, long after some people reading this, and long before many others. Nine years. And I joined Twitter in January 2007, although I didn’t start regularly tweeting for about eighteen months.

Thing is – no-one told me there were any rules.

Because, to a large extent, there aren’t. If any instruction manual was given to me, showing what the etiquette was for online communication, I threw it away years ago, relying upon my own common sense to judge what was (I felt) appropriate and inappropriate.

Now if only everyone agreed with me as to what was appropriate and inappropriate, there wouldn’t be any problems. But people will insist on having their own ideas, morals and ethics.

And immediately after they threw their own instruction manuals away, they started showing those differences.

There are consequences to posting either on a blog, or on Twitter, sure. And they’re the same rules, by and large, that apply to any form of communication. You’re still liable to defamation of character law-suits if you do, indeed defame someone. You’re still open to attacks in response to your words if you offend, as Ricky Gervais is discovering this week.

I’m not about to debate the rights and wrongs of his position here, just to reassure you, although feel free to ask in the comments and I’ll answer direct questions.

However, on the subject of offence, Jerry Sadowitz’s line

Being offended is a tax you pay so you can laugh at jokes that offend other people

is being bandied around as if that’s the be-all and end-all of discussion. Leaving aside that Sadowitz was specifically discussing humour, taking his position to its logical conclusion would imply that it’s quite ok to use, say, the ‘n’ word any time you want to, as if you offend someone, so what? They get the right to offend you in return. No further consequences should follow.

Life doesn’t work that way, and nor should it. You don’t make gags about child murder to the parents of murdered children; you don’t don’t (factually correctly though it might be) call me “Jew-boy”, and you don’t use words that are generally acknowledged to be offensive words deliberately to inflame those who find it offensive.

This isn’t legislation-requiring. This is common courtesy and decent humanity.

But then, of course, we come to offence, and the taking of it, itself.

Is there a meaningful difference between when it’s intended, and when it’s not?

Does offence occur only when offence is intended? Suppose offence is intended, but then that intention is denied?

A says something. B is offended. A denies any intention to offend. C – It’s always that bastard C that causes problems, you note – C says that he can’t see how anyone could take offence at A’s comment.

Who’s right?

And, if your answer is, “it depends”, then who makes that judgement as to whether an item has ‘crossed the line’?

This entire subject does have a history for me, going back some years. On an online message board, someone asked whether the Blood Libel could actually have happened? The person concerned had a history of posting anti-Israel, rather than anti-Jewish messages. (Note, not anti-Israeli Government, but anti-Israel, suggesting that the country had no right to exist, and should be destroyed.)

I, along with other Jewish members of the message board took offence at the question (“Can we even be sure that these supposed murders didn’t occur, in some bizarre sectlet of Judaism”) since, as far as we were concerned, it gave credence to a base canard. However, the person who asked the question defended it as merely asking a question and ostensibly, at least, believed that the question itself was neutral, since all that was required was a “no” in reply.

So where does the middle path lay? Or should a middle path ever exist?

And that’s ignoring (we’re back here again, folks) the whole area of humour: if A cracks a gag that I find offensive, does that mean the gag’s not inherently funny? Of course not, any more that it means that a gag I find funny is inherently funny. After all, you might not find it humorous. Indeed, you might find it offensive.

Does it all come down to courtesy? I don’t tell gags that you find offensive in your hearing, and you don’t tell gags that I find offensive in mine? What if you find the very notion of the joke offensive (say you consider it racist). Do you try to stop me telling the joke, even if you’re not around to hear it?

But even leaving aside the humour element, in a democracy isn’t it everyone’s right to be offended? Does that give people the right to offend? And if so, shouldn’t the work be criticised rather than the person producing the work? (A bit like the difference between me doing or saying something stupid… and me being stupid?)

And if so… is there a point where what I do or say denotes a trend (personal or wider ranging) and if so, who gets the right to decide when that occurs?

Damn, this could get complicated…

I need an instruction manual, I think.

If only I hadn’t thrown it away.