The Stupidest Thing I’ve Read This Week (11/8/12) – With Extra Olympic Edition!

Last weekend saw another absence of this series, again due to commitments that kept me internet free for the weekend. But that just means I’ve been able to come up with a twofold bumper edition of “Stupidest Things” this week, one split into my usual round-up and a special one just for the 2012 Olympics.

Third place in the regular column goes to Allison Pearson of the Telegraph, who is more concerned with why a child was allowed to watch The Dark Knight Rises than the fact that she was shot dead by a crazed murderer while doing so. Underneath the headline is this: “A six year-old was one of those shot dead in a cinema by a man with a Batman fixation – how disturbing”. Yeah. That’s the disturbing part of the situation.

This is all part of a misplaced and badly thought out rant on the violent imagery that has apparently taken centre stage of the Hollywood machine, which seems to have the ability to “warp” minds. On either side of a poorly written diatribe against American gun culture, Mrs Pearson proves herself part of the reactionary and idiotic mass who read about someone shooting up a movie theatre, and decide the most important part of the rationale must not be where the killer got his guns, how he got into the cinema with them, whether he was ever tagged as someone with mental instability, whether he ever had a criminal record or anything like that.

The important thing is what movie was showing, because that must be the primary source of the problem. Not a damaged mind, not a failed healthcare system. Nope. Batman, Christopher Nolan and Hollywood are the problem. The thing that the damaged mind wrapped itself around is the problem. Mrs Pearson, good job on making that problem worse, not better.

Speaking of American gun culture brings me right along to second place and Walt Wawra, an US police officer on holiday in Calgary, Canada. Officer Wawra has become the target of much (well-deserved) ridicule after sending a letter to a Canadian newspaper describing a harrowing encounter with two men who asked he and his wife “Have you been to the Stampede yet?”. The “Stampede” being a local festival of some sort.

Well, this “confrontation” with some tourism reps made Wawra so uncomfortable that he felt the need to complain to the Canadian media about his lack of a gun. Yes, the American cop felt so threatened by these two men trying to sell a local festival to him that he considered it a situation where he may have had to pull a weapon on them.

American gun culture is a fascinating, yet fairly horrific, thing for an outsider to look at, but this is no issue of gun control or a right to bear arms. This is, on the face of it, a pretty hilarious story of a ignorant American making a fool out of himself, which has spawned many satirical comebacks all over the place. It’s funny (and stupid) because a very defensive person saw a threatening situation where there was none, illustrating a stark difference in how Americans and Canadians view the world.

But it is also somewhat scary (and eye-opening) to wonder what may have happened if the guy had been armed. What if he pulled a gun? What if it all went wrong? What if someone died because an American police officer couldn’t distinguish between a legitimate threat and legitimate offer to come and see the local rodeo?

The winner of the regular column, which will lead me neatly into the Olympic section of this week’s entry, concerns Katie Taylor and Twitter.

This one is a bit more intangible, but earns a winner’s podium because it annoyed me so much. Katie Taylor is, if you didn’t know, quite religious. This came as a surprise to some of those who only hopped on the bandwagon of her Olympic success in the past few days.

Thursday night, on Twitter, you might have been forgiven for thinking that the sudden revelation of her religious beliefs had led to a hate campaign of staggering proportions, such were the number of tweets defending her beliefs and the right to have them.

Only, such a campaign didn’t happen. What we had was a veritable mountain of defenders, and a near complete lack of attackers. This tweet was the worst I could find and while it is certainly a classic “neg” insult, it hardly bears getting so worked up about.

For a further example, take the comment section of this Broadsheet piece. Literally 2-3 people criticise her belief system (in a way, none outright criticise her) and are set against hundreds of defensive responses.

The stupidity I see here, earning a winning spot, is the social media and internet bandwagon that sniffs the slightest bit of something it doesn’t like – in this case, an intolerant attack on the religious beliefs of a national sporting hero – and goes into a defensive onslaught of manufactured outrage, criticising a movement that largely doesn’t exist. I hate that kind of thing. It’s really stupid and shows off the worst aspects of internet mob mentality. Another example of it is after the break.

The Stupidest Olympic Thing I’ve Read

Fifth place of the Olympic edition (I admit, only loosely connected to the Olympics, but just roll with it) goes to another story where the very problem was it got too much attention, so no links. A famous, well-liked, (and well followed on Twitter) British synchronised diver goes for Olympic Gold. He loses, botching one of the last runs (or something. I’m not well up on the sport).

Enter teenage Twitter troll, total nobody, throwing abuse at said diver on Twitter. Said diver, “followed” by tens of thousands of people, retweets some of the abuse.

Enter Twitter mob mentality. Troll is suddenly “trending”. Thousands of abusive tweets now sent his way. Phone numbers, personal details are published. Social media justice.

Said troll varies between apologetic and furious at current predicament. Makes threats towards diver.

Said troll is arrested the next day, and is front page news on many papers.

A twitter troll. Front page news. During the Olympics. Think about that for a second.

The whole situation is stupid for many reasons. Aside from another example of the Twitter mob in action, we have a situation that indicates that Twitter popularity equates to more protection under the law. The progression was very clear here. This teenaged kid, spouting nonsense on the internet like millions of teenage kids everyday, got arrested for trolling, something that happened because his target was someone who had connections to tens of thousands of people through social media. That’s the only reason this troll got notice, it’s the only reason the police took an interest. To think anything else is painfully naive.

What about the “death threats”? Well, I can only say that I have read many such threats on Twitter, and far more on other sites – Facebook, forums, chatrooms, everywhere. I’ve never been the subject of a death threat online, but taking the criteria of this one I’ve certainly seen and been the subject of them in real life. Arguments, football matches, school fights, local scumbags, whatever. “I’ll kill ya”. That’s a death threat right? (Hell, a GAA coach once encouraged me and teammates to “go out and kill” the other team. Incitment?)

Well, I had the confidence in those situation not to call the police. Though, I know people who have called the police in those situations, who have either been politely told this is not something that law has the resources to follow up on (i.e., we have more important things to do), or has resulted in the offenders being simply warned off. No arrests. No front page news.

A modicum of common sense really. There are “death threats” – like ones that some anonymous cretin with no connection to the target and obvious emotional immaturity (you know, a male teenager) makes over the internet – and actual serious death threats that have clear meaning, purpose, geographical proximity, motive, past history etc. They have to be credible and understood in context. And certainly, the number of people who follow you on Twitter shouldn’t be the determining factor in determining police action. If this guy had sent that threat my way for whatever reason, few would have cared.

That was a long one wasn’t it? Something a bit shorter and general. Fourth place for the Olympics goes to the innately biased and frustratingly jingoistic commentary teams of various broadcasters. RTE is pretty guilty, but I have to give a lot of attention to the BBC and the American networks, who praise their own athletes to high heaven and frequently find themselves subtly digging at everyone else. It gets rather irritating to watch, after a while, as BBC journalists lavish visual shots and interview time on British runners-up and completely ignore the person who actually won (and I mean “completely ignore” in a very literal sense) Check this video out for some examples of American arrogance, that also frequently leads to accusations of doping against athletes who beat yanks.

Third place goes to Jamaican Brigitte Foster Hylton, who after crashing out of the 100 meter hurdle race in spectacular fashion, slamming into one of the obstacles late on, produced this display for all the world to see. A childish tantrum that was embarrassing to watch. Excuses can be made I suppose, for someone who worked hard and saw dreams crushed at the last moment, but whose fault was that? Some decorum please.

Second place has to go to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, (no links again, it was attention seeking) who successfully baited the entire Irish nation by claiming that Katie Taylor, our gold medal darling, was British. It would be quite incredible for such an error to make it past editors and sub-editors without some bit of intent and boy did Ireland (and our old friend the Twitter mob) take the bait big time. We did get some funny stuff out of the whole experience anyway. My favourites were this and this.

But the winner simply must be Australian sports pundit Russell Barwick, speaking on ESPN, who ranted about the apparent insanity that was Ireland not competing as part of Team GB.

Showcasing an ignorance of history and basic geo-political affairs that would make Snooki guffaw, Barwick insisted that the relationship between Ireland and Britain was on a par with that of Hawaii and the USA, or Tasmania and Australia. That is, presumably in his thinking, Ireland was part of Great Britain. He actually said that “half” of Ireland was in Great Britain, before claiming to “understand the history of Irish politics”. Not really.

He also produced as evidence for his assertions that the Irish “kiss and make up” with our former owners for the British Lions – ignorant of the fact they are now called the “British and Irish Lions” over this very issue – and for the Six Nations, equating our All-Ireland Rugby Union team with complete reunion with Great Britain – which, ironically for Barwick, competes in the Six Nations as three different countries.

No, he wasn’t drunk. I think.

He was swiftly chased off Twitter in the aftermath (there we go again) after a humble apology. Still though, he took the cake. Pretty stupid. Enjoy the last days of the Olympics folks.

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1 Response to The Stupidest Thing I’ve Read This Week (11/8/12) – With Extra Olympic Edition!

  1. Pingback: The Olympics | Never Felt Better

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