I did it myself. I made a couple of joke/glib comments that Nationwide's Flo and Joan are actually the famous eyebrow wiggling Cadbury Dairy Milk kids grown up, after a career hiatus. Considering one of the 'wigglers' was a boy, my implied joke was obviously that one of the ditty-singing sisters had undergone a sex change. A fairly crass joke admittedly, not to all tastes, but perfectly innocent.
Because that's all it was: a joke. My sense of humour. I don't actually think either of them has had a sex change, or is remotely masculine. The actual truth is I think they seem like very sweet ladies. I quite enjoy their sibling rivalry set to music, and I also enjoy the interlude of their very organic and humble musical performances amid all the mass over-produced bullshit and vaunted egos we see in popular music today. Granted, I'm not sure it has much to do with banking, but hey, that's just marketing in the 21st century. Blame Nationwide, if you will. The idea of genuinely wishing these girls any harm or ill-will, I find truly appalling.
I'm sure I'm not alone in having difficulty accepting we now live in a world where two girls singing ditties on TV, receive horrific online abuse. Social media is quite literally a battlefield today: a war for the soul and heart of western values.
The Death of Observational Comedy
In fairness, there's probably an element of sensationalism for the purposes of a great story. I don't think many probably really intended for their comments to be perceived as 'death threats'. If I say I'd like to "harpoon James Corden" and/or "launch him into outer space", see I don't actually mean it. I wouldn't pull the trigger on the harpoon gun given the choice. (Maybe just a taser.)
Again, it's just my humour: linguistic license. Colourful language is something this country is very famous for, the most obvious example being Bill Shakespeare. I'm a fan of the bard, having studied his works for more of my school career than I'd care to admit, and I'd like to think if he was writing today, my analogy of the harpoon gun or rocket launch might be the sort of visual image he'd paint on a page too.
But here's the point: in today's environment, there's now so many people spewing those kinds of sentiments (and far baser ones) with genuine malice and intention of harm, it's impossible to tell. And for the first time really, it occurred to me that some might even have read things I've said, and thought me a malicious or somehow spiteful person. I find that excruciating. The truth is I'm the positive furthest thing from it. On the whole, I'm Snowflake Central (and in fact, my very being troubled by the notion of thought unpleasant, almost certainly confirms it).
This infuriates me. Not only have moral values and decency been a casualty of this 'right-wing rebirth' of recent times, but even the somewhat sacred medium of comedy is now under threat too. Mostly from do-gooders on the right, as well as just about the entire left. Somehow, I find the idea that we shouldn't laugh at jokes as offensive as anything else, and certainly a very dangerous progression.
Most people can tell the difference between a joke, gentle-ribbing or observational comedy, and bullying. Some of the funniest things in this world are the ways that human beings behave and differ, according to interests/background/geography/sex/race/ethnicity/religion etc. I don't want to live in a world where we can't acknowledge them in a light-hearted manner, for fear we'll be condemned 'oppressive'. That's taking it way too far. I've experienced actual bullying in my life; it's fair to say it's made me who I am. Both back at school, and more recently, in my musical career. I know how truly destructive it is, and what it feels like, and I would never bully anyone. No, I'd only maintain that to push back hard verbally against those who'd bully you and/or others is not bullying. In fact, it'd probably only take a rudimentary psychologist to work out much of the reason I write at all, is my absolute and entire opposition to bullies from any walk of life.
So I do know full well, there is a very different intention behind bullying to simple observational humour alone, and most people can usually tell the difference. (Bullies just like to pretend it's all 'joking'.)
However, considering the sort of hatred and venom that's been unleashed in our society, I do understand the hyper-sensitivity. And I do think that level of insentient malice now lurking out there like a turd in the bath water, needs to be addressed. The abuse of Flo and Joan might very well be the straw that breaks the camel's back, in my mind any way. They are young girls, singing songs. They're not politicians actively destroying the lives of people around them, who deserve to be scrutinised and/or held accountable. Nor are they 'celebrities' who'd vaunt their lifestyle/opinions/wealth etc in our faces. Love 'em or loathe 'em, the kind of criticism and misogynistic abuse they've received just for singing songs with a Casio keyboard, is beyond abhorrent.
I don't know quite how we restore that balance, but by all the gods, we have to try. Because right now the cries of 'abuse' for absolutely positively anything and everything - 'crying wolf' - as previously mentioned, have had a disastrous double-edged effect. Not only did the over-sensitivity arguably precipitate the right-wing backlash in the first place, but now, so many are fed up with all the political polarisation and bickering, they've switched off. They've had enough. Which in turn has allowed right-wing prejudice and bigotry to run rampant on social media.
Decent people who've hung on on social media to oppose it, are likewise demonised as 'boring', 'too political', 'Corbynistas', 'conspiracy theorists' etc. Those who shout loudly from the left tend to end up ostracised by the very friends and people whose rights they're shouting for. Not to mention, daring to speak out has major repercussions for employment prospects nowadays (as I've found out once or twice the hard way). It’s somehow seen as opposition to enterprise, and a potential headache.
But speaking out really does have a purpose. The whole point is that social media has made politicians and businesses accountable in ways they weren't before. It's just the whole sphere has now also become very unpleasant and noisy, and generally been taken over by polarised morons. Swings and roundabouts.
Though Twitter (and social media generally) can be a pain, it's worth reflecting that before the Internet, #Mueller could have been sacked and the whole thing buried. That said, without Twitter & Facebook, Trump would still be a game show host ranking corporate psychopaths— Will Black (@WillBlackWriter) 5 March 2018
Yep... social media. The bane of so soooo many lives, in so many ways, that has quite literally laid waste to many aspects of our social structures and very existence as human beings. Some scientists argue it's irreversibly changed us as a species. It's made the world cold, distant, and unaccountable - hiding from behind a computer screen. Combined with massive geopolitical events like Brexit, and the election of Donald Trump, eg: the normalisation of oppressive and nationalist attitudes, it's opened a Pandora's Box I think we'll struggle to get shut again now.
So what am I suggesting? For us to ditch mobile phones? Scrap the internet? Outlaw interactive social media??? I don't know. But the latter idea, however draconian it might at first seem, could force human beings to be nice and respectful to one another once again, and/or actually interact like human beings again. For the first time, I am genuinely wondering whether perhaps social commentary should again be reserved for vocational writers, those who actually have a sense of responsibility, and/or know what they're talking about. I similarly don't know how the hell we'd police that without allowing huge propensity for abuse - it's quite literally how we've ended up in this mess (eg: only a handful of billionaires controlling what half the population think), but all the hatred is becoming intolerable.
For the sake of my daughter, and the world her generation shall inherit, I think we perhaps need to rein back in social media now. Somehow.
(Any parents in doubt about that, might want to read THIS. Disturbing to say the least.)