Classic firearms dealer Diggory Hadoke found himself the victim of an episode in media duplicity, when having agreed to give an interview to ITV’s Breakfast programme, he ended up on the end of a hostile social media campaign. The interview request came after the furore surrounding the killing of a feral goat by American hunter, Larysa Switlyk, (see Enjoyment: It gets their goat 07.11.18) and having duly agreed to it, Haddock was filmed speaking from the study in his home. Alas, the room also contained a tiger skin rug dating from the 1900’s, which the film crew managed to manoeuvre into its shots. Cue a blitz of online criticism, profanity and threats.
In an article published in the December issue of Gun Trade News, Hadoke speculated on what this all meant, asking “what minority interests will not be subjected to the tyrant of the majority?”. By minority interests of course what Hadoke meant was shooting and the apparent disapproval of it felt by the wider population. Whilst he is right to be perturbed, he is objectively wrong on two scores. Firstly, the tyranny to which he refers is not of a majority over a minority. It is precisely the opposite. Those who spring into action via their keyboard, as they did in his case, are actually very few in number, but casual retweeting of what they have to say gives the appearance of wider support for their views, something which politicians and those in public life (to their shame) seem unable to ignore, hence the depressing and almost daily sight and sound of someone drawn from their ranks, apologising for having given offence to this or that “community”. The second way in which Hadoke’s view is incorrect is his belief that the majority of the public disapproves of shooting; something which all the evidence contradicts. The public does disapprove of firearms, but every poll and survey taken down the years confirms that when the differences between legitimate participation in shooting sports and the illegal use of firearms is explained to them, the overwhelming consensus supports the sporting shooter.
The latest scientific study of internet trolls finds that they tend to be manipulative, taking pleasure from inflicting pain on others and lacking empathy and remorse - characteristic traits of psychopathy. They are also driven by a feeling of intellectual inferiority – something evident in their enthusiasm for engaging in argument, but because intellectually their viewpoints are impossible to sustain, there follows a speedy degeneration into insults, threats of violence and sometimes worse. Add into this mix the anonymity of social media and the resulting bile, loathing and anger becomes easy to understand.
There is one weapon those in the public eye can deploy and which acts on the trolls rather as salt acts upon slugs, which is not surprising as the two are more or less the same thing. Humour*. The social media troll is wholly driven by the desire to be taken seriously and nothing infuriates and undermines them more than being treated as a joke. Not easy to do of course when as Diggory Hadoke found, one is being showered with threats. Until such time as action is taken to make the social media providers take responsibility for the behaviour of those who use their platforms, this will continue.
*In the interim anyone seeking a tutorial in how to get the better of the argument in this way, we refer you to the singer James Blunt, who has mastered the art of the online put down. https://www.dailyedge.ie/james-blunts-comebacks-3327662-Apr2017/