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On Twitter – a lesson in good manners.

Peter Phelps, MLC versus tweeps.

Twitter is the cyber equivalent of Speakers’ Corner. In the old Speakers’ Corner you could get out your soap box and say whatever you like, especially venting on those issues of the day that had given you the shits. The really great speakers could always attract a crowd. Their subject of special interest was laced with lashings of good humour, a lot of it self-deprecating, and witty repartee with those members of the general public who decided to stop, listen and engage. Even the most heated debates rarely descended into personally abusing an opponent when the rigours of the debate became too much.  There always seemed to be an unspoken understanding as well as a certain degree of tolerance and good humour that permeated the scene.

In today’s world such niceties of behaviour have long gone. Today’s plethora of shock jocks whose appalling lack of manners are tolerated because of the ratings and money that such behaviour generates, and reality television that belittles and regularly abuses those who appear, are the backdrop to a form of populist culture that certainly dominates in terms of quantity.

It is, therefore, interesting and quite unexpected to discover that when you enter the twitter world things can be a little different. In the five months I’ve been tweeting I have come to regularly converse with a very nice, intelligent and engaging group of people, a reflection of my eclectic range of interests. In that time there have only been three instances of what I would describe as unacceptable antisocial behaviour.  All three cases involved men of some authority and status who, when confronted with either reasonable questions to which one expected reasonable answers, or exceptions to what they had said, or, heaven forbid, alternative points of view, resorted to a form of personal abuse that was both unnecessary and highly offensive. In all instances these personal attacks were against women.

In two of these cases both men should have known better, but that didn’t stop them from behaving like bully boys as well as being just out and out rude.  My! How proud their mothers must be. One is a recently arrived journalist for a prestigious overseas media outlet. The other is a politician who yesterday came unstuck when his imprudent language and behaviour, which I suspect to be commonplace, was deemed to be beyond the pale by a number of twitterers.

The details of what Mr Phelps said that prompted the outrage was a tweet about a fellow committee member, Rhonda V, and female witnesses to parliamentary committee hearings and their need to ‘HTFU’ (harden the fuck up). This tweet resulted in a number of tweets. One of which came from @Nyx2701 suggesting that perhaps Mr Phelps needed a “good punch in the head.” To which Phelps wrote the now infamous tweet of telling Ms 2701 to “go fuck yourself, commie! And you can’t complain because I put in a smiley;-)”. Well I don’t know whether Ms 2701 wanted to complain or not, but there were a hell of a lot of us who sure did.  My contributions were small potatoes compared to others, however I did suggest that if Mr Phelps couldn’t behave himself with more decorum then perhaps he shouldn’t tweet; that he was in a position in which his behaviour is expected to be of a certain standard; and descending into personal abuse indicated a lack of intellectual application on his part. These contributions were met with a few offensive, demeaning and just rude replies, but was nothing more or less than anyone-else received from Mr Phelps yesterday, except of course @Nyx2701 who received the brunt of Mr Phelp’s toxicity. 2.webloc

Ultimately the he said, she said, we all said does nothing more than indicate that Mr Phelps feels he can get away with this kind of behaviour on twitter because he seems to be able to get away with it in the non twitter world. I suspect he was quite taken aback when a number of tweeps took umbrage at what he had said, and were forthcoming in their disapproval.

Twitter gives one a false sense of security. Often you are conversing with total strangers, sometimes in a country not your own. It is therefore easy, if your personality tends towards the bullying, to think that it isn’t going to matter a jot if you engage in similar kinds of behaviour on twitter as you exhibit in all other areas of your life. One would expect it to be even easier because of the anonymity that appears to be Twitter. I now believe the reverse to be true.

At anyone time there is a whole group of people on Twitter who will happily stand up and attempt to nip cyber bullying in the bud, deeming it to be totally unacceptable.  The anonymity of the cyber environment can instead liberate the intended victim to a position of not giving two hoots as to who you are, what position you may hold, or what profession you may have. The subject of the abuse can’t be physically intimidated, and, if someone has to resort to bullying or personal abuse, their intellectual vigour has been found wanting.

Twitter is empowering, informative, can be intellectually stimulating as well as creative and just out and out fun. No one should have to put up with the nonsensical, offensive and mean spirited abuse that came from Peter Phelps yesterday.  He is a publicly paid for politician who is supposed to be a part of a group of individuals, including church and corporate leaders, that together are supposed to help set the moral tone and standards we, as ordinary Joes, are then supposed to emulate.

Codes of conduct and ethics don’t grow from the ground up, they filter down from the role models at the top of the societal tree. If the current younger generation is not living up to the standards we would like, then we should start looking at the examples set by our leaders.

Barry O’Farrell was disappointing yesterday.  It was very nice of him to apologise, well he didn’t really apologise actually. Rather, it should not have been O’Farrell’s role to be put in the position of having to “apologise” on behalf of Mr Phelps. Mr Phelps should have apologised to those he sprayed, and not stood behind his leader as a small child stands behind its mother when in trouble. From Phelps there is still nothing but a deafening silence. The absence of an apology from Mr Phelps says volumes about the manner of the man.

To those who were sufficiently outraged to speak out yesterday I salute you. @Nyx2701 who was the subject of the most offensive rant, @greenat15, @kateausburn,  @mrtiedt, @kimworldwide  and @Jo_Tovey  @SMH

To poor Rhonda V who has to sit on a committee with Mr Phelps you have my most heartfelt sympathy.

About boeufblogginon

I am a frustrated cook who is also a lover of all sport, politics, film, TV, theatre and a standard poodle with attitude called Toss.

7 responses »

  1. Same applies for Facebook, my nephew (10 year old!) gave a spray to one of my Mardi Gras board colleagues, which I reported to his father who removed him from Facebook! People (even children) need to understand that the Internet is a publishing format that interacts with real people and bad behaviour has repercussions. A partner of a friend was offensive to me on Facebook, I deleted his comments and advised his partner of his behaviour. He was eventually deleted by Facebook itself, presumably for similar behaviour with others. He does not understand now why I ignore his friend requests from his new Facebook profile!

  2. Whilst I know you are addressing bad behaviour generally, I’d like to just focus on the nature of yesterday’s incident – that of people holding public office.
    Mr Phelps isn’t the only politician who is abrasive and abusive on twitter. Joe Hockey usually tweets terribly arrogant, crude and inflammatory remarks about the public – one memorable effort saying that tweeps with less followers than followees are all trolls. And Sarah Hanson Young of the Greens has also tweeted unwisely, complaining, for instance, that she was stuck in the debate on the NBN at 6:30pm on a Friday night, and missing out on Drinkies! When I called her to task on this, citing her responsibilities as a Senator, she blocked me on twitter.
    I think that the Parties should address social media at a policy level, and/or restrict their members from having twitter accounts in their own names. People who tweet like these examples above represent the Party they are a member of, and so some of these unfavourable impressions reflect back onto the Party itself, thus it does become a Party issue, not just a personal issue.
    And lets face it – these people have a large number of followers simply because they are members of political parties, and have been elected to Government. I’d have no interest in following Joe Hockey, or Sarah Hanson Young, or Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull et al if they weren’t in the government of the day. So their political identity is responsible for their twitter celebrity, and the Parties need to realise that, and set guidelines for maintaining standards within social media. Or preselect Adults to stand in their name, not peurile children.

  3. Hi Boeuf Blogginon. I was late to the twitter spat and agree that the behaviour of Peter Phelps was inappropriate, but feel like this post is a slap on the back of Nyx2701 for agitating Mr Phelps, therefore going unpunished for her offensive tweet.

    I agree that we all should expect greater standards from politicians, but Nyx2701’s tweet was bound to cause offence. Advocating violence? In jest, these remarks are capable of causing the same sort of damage Peter Phelp’s tweet has.

    In summary, I feel as though Nyx2701 has gone unpunished, because people were happy to pounce on a pollie who they would most likely disagree with.


    P.S. Keep the fire!

    • As you have come to the debate late I would look at the previous tweet to which @Nyx2701 was replying. Also it is useful to look at Mr Phelp’s previous history not only in the twitter world. I am tired of public people on the public payroll not behaving appropriately. I appreciate your comments and your support. I’m glad you liked the blog. As you can see it is an eclectic range of interests. Best Wishes. Joan

      • Thank you for replying Joan. I think people are appalled at his behaviour are correct to do so. Peter Phelps claims he is speaking his mind. I have, in the past, hoped pollies would speak truthfully instead of hiding behind spin. It’s a shame when they do though, it only reveals how second rate our politicians are.


  4. Well said and beatifully crafted. See you on #auspol

    • I’ve been trying to avoid #auspol as there seems to be little polite and reasonable discourse. Many thanks for commenting. It’s much appreciated. I’ll chase you down on twitter and hope to see you there.


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