Monday, 29 July 2013

Jane Austen

When the news first broke, I didn't take much notice. The Bank of England had decided to change the character on a bank note, meaning that there would be no women on UK bank notes. It was a disappointing item, more so because there was only one woman on bank notes to start with. I don't think much of it.

Then some people I knew on twitter (@VickyBeeching for example) who were determined to fight for a change, and to make a difference. I was behind the campaign, especially as it seemed to be gaining some chance of success, and there were some really good arguments for appropriate people to be on the note. The campaign was - quite rightly - being led by women for their right to be acknowledged.

And, of course, that argument was won - and quite right. We still need more women on our bank notes, but Jane Austin is good progress. While the aim was serious and important, the campaign was done with a lighthearted edge, Vicki dressing up as Boudicca for the presentation of the signatures. Good for them, and well done for achieving the aim.

And then, this week, one of the people leading this campaign, Caroline Criado-Perez, was subjected to some of the most horrendous abuse on twitter. I followed her, and read some of the abuse that she re-tweeted - it is not for the faint-hearted. One of those abusing her was arrested and charged, but there are many - hundreds - of others.

In case you assume that this is light-hearted, gentle abuse, people telling her to "calm down" or that she is stupid, don't be fooled. The comments have been threats to rape her, comments that she deserves raping, and she is going to get raped. There have been several twitter accounts deliberately set up for the purpose of sending rape-abuse comments to her.

This has, finally, appalled me. It is unacceptable, it is vile, offensive, sickening behaviour towards anyone (her gender is irrelevant in terms of the abuse - this level of abuse towards anyone is wrong). It makes me ashamed to be male, to be on twitter.

There is something very sickening in all of this. The level of sickness in so many people is enough to make anyone wonder about people. That is, until you also see the level of support that Caroline has. So many of those that I follow express the same level of disgust as I feel. Many many others are also tweeting in support of Caroline, who, on the basis of the tweets today, seems to be holding up well against the onslaught. I wish her all the best. I hope that the social media can find appropriate ways of dealing with this sort of abusive behaviour.

Somewhere, there is a spiritual lesson here. Social media can show the best and worst of people. In this case, it is showing both - showing that the depths of depravity that some people show are quite shocking, and the love and care and support that people can show to someone under attack is also immense.

We should not forget that these depths and these heights are achieveable by everyone. The Christian message is not that all Christians are nice people, but that all people can reach to the heights, as well as sink to the lows.


  1. I have posted less than I would have on Twitter. I do not know Caroline Criado-Perez so have stayed out of the debate, as everything I tried to write sounded condescending in a sort of "not all us men are like that" way.

    The worst abuse I've ever had was from mis-spelling Jane Austen, be warned.

    1. Corrected that. If only it was so easy to correct the other mistakes.

      And yes, I stayed out of the debate for so long because there were women arguing the point better than I could. But the abuse against Caroline goes beyond a gender thing. It is hatred pure and simple, and I wanted to hang my flag on the right flagpole.

      Yes not all men are that bad. But some are. That has shocked me.