01/11/14 From The Minister's Office Desk
The matter came to head recently when Sky News confronted an alleged troll for harassing the McCann family. The accused Mrs Brenda Leyland was found dead in a hotel room a few days later unable to cope with the social media storm the incident unleashed. It then became known that although she had sent hundreds of tweets about the McCanns she had not actually threatened them but had signed up to conspiracy theories about their missing daughter. The press were not so quick to publish that fact.
Many people though have been victims to the mindless people who hide their identities with nick names and heraldic titles. Caroline Criado-Perez who campaigned to get Jane Austen on the new ten pound note received fifty threats of rape an hour following the news that she had succeeded. Chloe Madeley who is the daughter of Judy Finnigan also had rape threats after her mother made remarks about a famous footballer who had been convicted of the crime. Journalists have been threatened, politicians, even the wonderful Mary Beard, the Oxford classist came in for the most horrific abuse. I will come back to her in a moment because she dealt with matter in a wonderful way.
All this says some unpalatable things about the modern life not least that the true self is revealed when people think they are anonymous. Bryony Gordon wrote in the Telegraph “ How strange it is that centuries of learning about morals and manners can be undone in the time it takes someone to compose and post 140 characters on Twitter. How frightening it is to realise that from time to time, all of us can behave like trolls”.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said in Matthew chapter 7”Do not judge or you too will be judged....why then do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brothers eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye” The message is simple, put your own house in order before you set to on anyone else’s. Proverbs has plenty to say about gossip, rudeness and foolish talk and perhaps we should start tweeting it to social media. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus also talks about loving ones enemies and praying for those who persecute you. Now I know that may come hard for those who were threatened with some of the above however Mary Beard put this into practise. She made contact with those who were abusing her over the broadband and befriended one particularly outspoken young man. She told him she feared for his job prospects when employers looked back at his social media. Another student when faced with the Professor’s care admitted he had not thought about her as a real person and he was sorry. She won the day and I am sure learning and maturity had a lot to do with her victory.
We need to pray for those who live in this new age of technology because it is a very had place to exist. The morals and manners mentioned by Bryony Gordon have all but vanished from the national fabric in the glare of the laptop. But even for those who wouldn’t touch a computer there can be failings. All of us need to give some thought to how we behave and keep in mind that we should not say whatever comes into our mind without thinking of the truth, necessity and kindness of the utterance. There may be a troll in all of us, just keep it quiet.