One of the great things about the internet is, in my opinion, the fact that it can give us access to open debate in so many different areas. I have joined quite a few forums covering most of the subjects that interest me and I’ve had my battles with people of a different opinion; it’s inevitable. In fact I would say that crossing debating swords with others has been a very important learning experience.
Of course you do come across the trolls, people who just seem to exist to provoke online confrontation, who attack the poster and not the post. They are a regrettable part of going into public forums hosted on the internet. If you have had any experience at all of posting online, either in Facebook or a more specialist group, you will probably have come across at least one example of a troll. It always seems to me that trolls, for some reason, often escape being banned, whether it is because they are clever with the language that they use, which I don’t think they are, or because the people who run forums, the admins and such, actually allow them because it is believed to promote traffic. It certainly can seem like it takes a lot to get a troll banned.
For my part I have never been interested in trolling. I like debating, testing my ideas, trying to find out new things, and that often means accepting that sometimes you are wrong. Internet trolls never admit that they are wrong. No, trolling was not for me, so I was somewhat surprised when I discovered that I had been banned from an internet site after posting a comment?!
Now the site in question is run by the Local World, a large publisher of regional newspapers, and the particular site is for the Hull Daily Mail newspaper. I often used to read this site simply because I am from Hull and I support Hull City Football Club. Many years ago I opened an account with them so that I could comment on stories that interested me, which sometimes led into a kind of debate, especially with other Hull City fans over the Allam family ownership of the football club, but that was not what got me banned. Commenting on this story is what brought down such a heavy censure:
That is, I think you would admit, a pretty grim story to be reporting, but my comment had little to do with the actual story, more to do with the headline; ‘Danny Allen threatened to slit mum’s throat’. When I first read it I inferred that this man had intended to kill his mother! This was wrong, however, the threat was aimed at his former partner or common-law wife; not his mother.
I love the English language, that is probably one reason why I write, I like working with words. Journalists, I had always presumed, like with working with words also and because they are relating factual stories they probably have a sense of getting things right. Okay, I know that that can seem a little naïve in this cynical world but nevertheless even if the story is true I would expect a professional writer to at least construct a sentence properly. The headline is ambiguous, it does not refer to the accused’s mother but to a woman who once lived with him and who is also the mother of his children. It seems to me to be somewhat lazy writing to only be able to reduce a reference to another person in a news story to the fact that they gave birth to children! This woman, who is not named in the story, is someone’s daughter who went to school and harboured dreams and ambitions of her own. She might be a sister to someone, a friend more than likely, even have had work colleagues. In other words she is an individual, a person, and probably a little bit more than just a ‘mum’. I am not suggesting that the status of ‘mum’ is not a worthy one, it is, I had one too and my wife is one to our children, but she’s also a lot more than that, as I think are most women who become mothers.
My crime was to post this opinion in the comments section of the newspaper’s website, albeit in a much briefer way. I simply pointed out that the headline suggested one thing while the story reported another and that clarity should be a consideration in writing about such things. The next time I tried to log onto the website I was met by this:
My account had been disabled and no reason was forthcoming. As my comment had disappeared from the published story, which I could still read, then I presumed that was what had provoked the site admin to ban me. I followed up on their suggestion to contact them for more information but after three attempts that failed to elicit a response I gave up. I did peruse the published guidelines for using the website but the only clue that they gave me was that my comment had upset someone; Simon Bristow, the author of the piece perhaps? I don’t know.
Ultimately this is not a great event, I just find it a little annoying. I believe that if you are going to put something into the public arena, whether it be an article in an online newspaper or a book or a work of art or scholarly piece, then you should be prepared for a certain degree of criticism. As I mentioned earlier I am not into trolling, I do not attack the person, and in this instance I did not, I only commented on the headline of an article, but someone took exception and, despite suggesting otherwise, they will not explain themselves. No, this is just petty but I am glad that I got it out of my system because it was also annoying.