Social Media and the Parody Paradox

It was an interesting Saturday morning on my twitter timeline: having posted my daily review of the day’s play in the 4th test of the Ashes series I received a tweet from a follower that alleged that I had plagiarised the title of my posting from a well known sports site and then had my character assessed by my accuser has having “something seriously wrong” with it.

When I launched a full throated defence of myself (as is my right) and in doing so, I concede, broke what appears to be first rule of twitter (which is: thou shalt not defend one’s self) I found my timeline full of comment about my personality, my genitalia and my sexual preference among other things. Those who had not attacked me had questioned whether I was being a bit precious in my response and I concede that I may have overreacted. That said, as someone who is proud of the writing that I do, whilst acknowledging that I am an amateur, to accuse me of copying someone elses work was something that I was not going to leave undefended.

The spat of Saturday morning would probably not warrant any further comment, save that my accuser was one of the seemingly popular parody accounts that have become more and more prevalent in twitter and the circles I follow thereon. Equally, many of the supporters of my accuser, including the one who suggested that I was devoid of male genitalia, the one who suggested I had had no father figure and the one who suggested that I might enjoy an act of intercourse with 2 English cricketers were also parody accounts.

Therein lies the point for me, and the reason I have chosen to comment further on Saturday’s events, solely because I deigned to defend myself I found myself the object of attack and derision by a group of social media accounts run by people who lack the courage to actually put their own name to their opinions or accusations. I concede that the ideology of a parody account is to make fun of the personality of the person being parodied but the suggestion that just because someone operates a parody account that makes it ok for the operator of said account to “say whatever the f*ck they want” (as was suggested to me on Saturday) both irritates and saddens me.

The fact is that to “parody” is, as defined, to provide a humorous or satirical imitation of a serious piece of literature or writing or to undertake any humorous, satirical, or burlesque imitation, of a person or event. That does not extend, on any reading of the definition of the term, to the undertaker of a parody attacking personally anyone who deigns to respond in a critical way to the parody or one who defends themself from just about as scurrulous an allegation that can be made against a writer, no matter how amateur. There are is nothing humorous or satirical about such conduct.

I, to be honest, had always enjoyed the satirical comments made by the parody accounts I followed particularly with respect to live sport being watched however, just because an account is a “parody” ought not mean that said parody ought show a flagrant disregard for the usual conventions of human interaction and then attack people who push back at them when they do so.

Having opinions and receiving criticism for said opinions is part and parcel of being on social media; indeed social media would be a boring exercise if people did not have opinions. I will no doubt become the object of scorn for being thin-skinned in writing this blog but that is simply indicative of the mindset of those who chose to parody and then attack without putting their own names to their opinion.

So I will finish this post with a challenge: if you operate a parody account and want to have a crack at me for writing this post then how about you unmask yourself, put your real name to your attack and we can have a proper debate. Afterall, that is what social media ought be about shouldn’t it? An exchange of ideas or opinions among people passionate about a particular issue.

I don’t drink: why is that so hard for some people?

I had an interesting experience yesterday afternoon, one which I will concede does not happen often, but one which has given me a moment of pause and more than a little irritation.

For new readers some background: I do not drink alcohol. I do not drink alcohol because I have a problem with alcohol. Aside from one slip nearly 2 years ago I have been sober for 28 months. I used to have a 2 drink “limit” but that imposition did not work so I gave up all together.

Now that background set onto the cause my irritation. Yesterday afternoon I caught up with some friends at a river side bar in beautiful Brisbane for a couple of afternoon beverages and a chat. A mate had been going through a rough time and wanted to catch up with everyone. As is my norm I got the first shout and ordered a large soda water. Back at the table a member of our group I had met for the first time only 10 minutes before posed the usual question I get at that point in proceedings: “Why are you on the waters mate?”. I have chosen an honesty is the best policy approach in the face of that question and replied: “Because I don’t drink”.

90% of people leave it, happily, at that but not my new “friend” who followed up with “Really, that seems strange, you don’t drink at all? Why not?” with a quizzical, almost shocked, expression on his face. Again, following my honesty policy, I answered “No I do not drink at all … I have a problem with alcohol.” Maybe I am wrong here but that really should have been the end of the discussion shouldn’t it? Unfortunately it was not and my new “friend” kept coming back to the topic to express his incredulousness at being in the presence of a mid thirties male who did not deign to drink alcohol. In the end even saying, as I did, “Most people leave it alone after I tell them I have a problem” did not lead to relief from the ongoing enquiry about the reasons why I don’t drink.

Now I concede that yesterday’s experience was a rarity for me. In about 90% of functions like the one I attended yesterday afternoon there is no issue at all from anyone about me deciding not to drink. That said, it really got me thinking: why is there such a stigma, in some quarters, against those who chose not to drink alcohol? I mean I choose not smoke cigarettes yet I do not get quizzed about that choice by my friends who smoke. Equally I have never taken drugs in my life but I have never been eviscerated by my friends who I know to have partaken in the odd pharmaceutical from time to time.

Has drinking alcohol become such the societal norm that those who decide not to drink in social settings deserve to become the focus of derision from those who do drink? That might sound like I am overreacting but that is how I felt yesterday when my personal choice became the one part of who I am that one person could not countenance. Maybe the new “friend” from yesterday would have preferred to have met the old me: drunken, forgetful, shout the bar me who would not have remembered anything about yesterday afternoon / last night this morning and who would have spent all day today worrying what I had said to whom? I am sure he would have liked that bloke better.

Here’s the rub of all of this for me: I do not push my not drinking alcohol on anyone I am with when I go out, indeed I go out of my way to have the first shout and stay in a shout despite drinking water, so why is it OK for others to push their drinking agenda on me? Maybe it is time to reassess my whole strategy around going out with people I do not know, either at all or well, because the way I was made to feel yesterday took me back to the dark days when I was tall, skinny, pimply faced kid standing on my own at school dances being laughed at and feeling awkward and I do not like that feeling!

Maybe there is a deal I can strike with the drinkers of the world: I won’t ask you not to drink around me and you don’t ask me to drink and we will live happily ever after. What do you think? Is that a goer or am I just dreaming? The more I think about it maybe I am just dreaming and that is pretty sad isn’t it?

The minute of silence: how hard can it be to show some respect?

To say my blood boiled on Thursday when I heard not once but twice at televised sporting events held to commemorate ANZAC Day that some sports fans could not restrain themselves from making a spectacle of themselves during the minute of silence would be an understatement. I mean: how hard can it be to show some common decency and respect for those that have fallen to protect our way of life and shut your mouth for 60 seconds? I do not care whether these people, I guess I am forced to call them people because maybe calling them scum is too harsh, thought they were being funny or were inebriated or simply were just trying to look hard in front of their mates or a combination of all three there is simply no excuse for such conduct. For the record (assuming you can read): you are not funny, you are not hard and you are a disrespectful idiot if you are one of those who breaks the silence during a minute of silence.

I can not understand what makes someone conduct themselves in such a fashion on the solemnest of days. This is not a “back in my day rant” nor am I going to blame the “younger generation”. Simply put, I am left to wonder whether times have changed so much that a group of people who have come together to commemorate one of our most important days of remembrance simply can not remain quiet during the most important part of said remembrance?

The lack of respect shown by those who hoot and holler during the minute of silence and, indeed, during the silences that form part of the last post and those who reply to them in kind just baffles me. It would be easy to say that the police should simply throw the offenders out but in a crowd of some 40,000 or 90,000 that is never going to be possible. Vigilante action against those who break the silence is not appropriate (no matter how good it might feel) because all that would lead to is an assault charge and an escort from the ground. Are we at the point as a society where we are going to have to decide whether we should hold such sporting commemorations on ANZAC Day?

You can not tell me that those who deigned to denigrate the minute of silence with their shenanigans would have done so at a dawn service or at any other service to commemorate the ANZACs. It seems to me that maybe the answer to ensure that due respect is shown for those who have fallen defending this nation and those who continue to still fight for us is to cease the ANZAC day ceremonial part of the sporting events held on that day. I know this smacks of punishing the many because of the conduct of the few but if people can not show due respect at such events they should not be given the opportunity to ruin it for everyone else.

I confess that I have heard such appalling conduct take place on other occasions when a minute of silence has been sought to commemorate the passing of a dignitary or in memorial after a disaster of some description and whilst I have also been appalled on those occasions I have never really turned my mind to the lack of respect it shows to those being memorialized. I hope we are not at the point where a minute of silence can never be mooted at a sporting event again however the hand wringing that followed the passing of Baroness Thatcher and some proposed minutes of silence suggests that we may very well be already be there.

I have written previously about my disdain for those who do not sing our national anthem nor stand and remove their hat for same ( and I feel similarly strongly about those who conduct themselves in the appalling fashion that we saw on Thursday as must be obvious from the foregoing. I hope one day we can get back to a place and time where a minute of silence can be observed without a “person” showing a callous lack of respect by breaking the silence.