Matthew Steeples commends Mary Beard for her forgiving manner towards those who troll her on Twitter
Those of us who use Twitter have surely encountered online abuse. With nearly 25,000 followers across two accounts (@SteepleTimes and @DaSteepsTweets), I’ve had my fair share and I’m far from alone. Cambridge University classicist professor Mary Beard, however, has had it worse than most but her attitude to her assailants is surprisingly refreshing.
Everyone from BNP and EDL activists to a bitter blogger named Jack Monroe have given me hell on Twitter. I’ve been bombarded with vicious rants from UKIP supporters and Scottish independence campaigners and worst of all, the poet Pam Ayres penned a verse about me to her followers. When I heard that Beard had befriended and is supplying a reference for one Twitter troll who called her a “filthy old slut”, though, I was at first bemused but ultimately impressed.
Forgiveness is a hard thing to find, but Beard, in telling the student –a public school educated youngster from Hale, Greater Manchester named Oliver Rawlings –that she’d take him out for a drink and “smack his bottom” in 2013 showed her humourous side. In now offering this Nottingham University graduate a job reference, she’s gone a stage further.
“Troll slayer” Beard told the New Yorker:
“He is going to find it hard to get a job, because as soon as you Google his name that is what comes up”.
“And although he was a very silly, injudicious, and at that moment not very pleasant young guy, I don’t actually think one tweet should ruin your job prospects”.
More of us should follow Beard’s lead. Don’t feed the trolls: Kill them with kindness.
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