In a recent blog post Stephen Fry relates, in compelling detail, several “Twitter firestorms” he has inadvertently set off. He begins:
Every now and again, what with me being what I am (a human), I find myself hurled into the teeth of some sort of twitterstorm. Either I get a bit cross with someone ( or “throw my toys out of the pram” and “have a hissy fit” as some would prefer to put it) or I tweet an opinion or experience that for some reason turns into a “story” with all the distortions, Chinese whispers, misunderstandings and embarrassments that “stories” generate.
This afternoon I’m experiencing my own version thereof, admitedly a much smaller one.
A couple of days ago I began to see tweets in my stream, hash tag #bringQtopei, advocating for the CBC Radio One program Q to visit Prince Edward Island.
I am nothing if not a cynical bastard, and among my great aversions are pandering and civic boosterism. I’m also not a fan of the wheel-and-spoke nature of the CBC that divides the country into Toronto and “the regions.” And so I’m averse to anything that seeks to enhance and celebrate that — like anthropological Royal Visits of CBC personalities out to the periphery to eat lobsters, heap praise on the local band of the moment, and then hop on the plane back to HQ.
Hence the tweet:
What’s the hash tag to use to ensure that @jianghomeshi is prevented from ever visiting Prince Edward Island?
To which Jian Ghomeshi, host of Q, good-naturedly replied, 15 minutes later:
@ruk ha. well played, sir. but two decades too late. my fam would make summer trips to PEI when i was a kid. and i loved it. (sorry!)
Touché, thought I. And then I went on with my life.
This afternoon, however, something happened: my iPad started lighting up with @reply notifications every couple of seconds, and as my original tweet spiralled further and further into the viralsphere, I became an ass, a goon, a hater, and an idiot. All of which only got worse when Jian himself tweeted:
Ouch. #StayAwayPersianBoy ? RT @ruk What’s the hashtag to use to ensure @jianghomeshi is prevented from ever visiting Prince Edward Island?
Which others misread as coming from me. And so I also became a racist.
As Stephen Fry summarizes: “Well, what does that all that tell us or teach us? Not so very much really.”
What an interesting day.