The other day, I got flamed on Twitter. I've reproduced the exchange here for your reading pleasure:
celesteh: So, um, Clint Eastwood yelled at a chair? Makes as much sense as anything else the GOP does, I guess.
shellymic: @celesteh It's understandable that all of the concepts would be over your head. Better luck next time.
celesteh: @shellymic Oh, was it conceptual art? I should have read the programme notes!
shellymic: @celesteh That doesn't even make sense...please stop trying, though. It's ok.
celesteh: @shellymic Ah, I'll slow down. See, there is more to art than paintings by Thomas Kinkaide. Sometimes people like to do surrealist theatre.
celesteh: @shellymic Ah nevermind. Even with the free time of recovering from surgery, pointless argument w strangers are too boring. You have fun tho
_markjrussel: @shellymic @celesteh no sense arguing with a liberal. They are not smart enough to understand much.
celesteh: @_markjrussell @shellymic I shall alert my university that my recent degree was granted in error.
celesteh: @_markjrussell @shellymic But seriously, why seek out and insult strangers on the internet? Doesn't it get rather dull?
celesteh: @_markjrussell @shellymic Actually, I poked through your twitter feeds (too much free time, recovering from surgery) and discovered that ...
celesteh: @_markjrussell @shellymic neither of you makes a habit of insulting strangers. I'm kind of curious what's caused you to do so with me?
Sadly, I have received no reply thus far. _markjrussel has since locked his twitter feed.
My question was in earnest, though. When I got the first flame message, I thought that she must have just searched twitter for 'GOP' or 'Eastwood' and flamed indiscriminately. I thought this must be a politics of bullying. If you can find people who are personal tweeters who are not generally political and pile a few flames on them, you might be able to successfully intimidate them into silence and thus further an illusion of greater consensus towards your own point of view, as other views will have been aired publicly less often.
But then I went to verify that hypothesis and found that shellymic had, indeed, searched for tweets about Eastwood. But she had mostly retweeted them. The tweets she selected were terribly regrettable. (I would like to think that being on the left means avoiding hateful stereotypes and ageism or making shaming statements about disabled people, but, alas, in America every political stripe can come together to hate dis-empowered groups.) This is a technique I have often used as a way of illustrating poor political discourse and is fine in and of itself. The only other person she flamed, she first quoted.
Similarly, _markjrussel, while more punchy and loquacious, does not seem to make flaming even a significant minority of his twitter activity, although, obviously, I can't reconfirm this now that he has locked his account.
So really, what gives? Obviously, I want to think it's my stunning good looks and my brilliant wit that have drawn flames to me like literal flames normally draw moths, but I have a feeling that's not it. So I'm putting out some questions for anyone reading this: Have you ever insulted a stranger on Twitter? What motivated you to do it? Is it something you do often? How do you decide who to insult?
I have a emotional sort of gut feeling that it's somewhat appropriate to flame in comment threads or places where discussion is encouraged, but to me, it seems somewhat rude to attack private figures on Twitter. Do you agree or disagree? How do you decide when flaming is appropriate?
I doubt very much that shellymic or _markjrussel will ever vote the same way as me on anything, but I do think it could be helpful in general in America if people of different stripes understood each other better. I don't like to think of my politics as a side in a match, scoring goals against each other. I want a better world where people are free to live and love and pursue their dreams without having to cope with a pervasive fear of falling.
Well, I think I've gotten the only reply I'm going to get:
shellymic: @celesteh @_markjrussell Les, u r an annoying little twit. I didn't read your little blog. I'll just block u. Have a great life.
shellymic has also locked her twitter feed.