Up until now I’ve resisted Twitter. I’ve never wanted to become a member of the ‘Twittersphere’, ‘Twitterati’ or whatever made-up twit-word you care to use, because while Twitter could be argued to give everyone the opportunity to have their say, it’s too easy, too instant, too disposable and too shallow. And then there’s the 140 character limit, which is far too short to contribute anything meaningful to an involved debate. I’ve always thought it was for those who, to quote David Mitchell (not the Cloud Atlas one – the other one) ‘may not know much but probably reckon plenty’. And then there’s that stupid name, and the stupid logo, neither of which can have been dreamt up by someone of my generation – someone who remembers ‘The Birdie Song’ (and is most likely still suffering from the trauma). A word of warning; whatever you do, don’t listen to the You Tube clip below.
But yesterday, in a fit of anger, I signed up to twitter. I am now, officially, a ‘Twit’. It’s the National Secular Society’s fault. I’m a member (as well as a twit) and they send me their news letter every week. Last week there was an article/blog post about a street preacher who was arrested and is being prosecuted for ‘religiously aggravated harassment’ and ‘using threatening words’ for his abusive rants against homosexuality. The article criticised his prosecution and supported the aforementioned fruit cake’s right to freedom of speech and repeated the often mentioned idea that no-one has the right never to be offended. This is not what I expect from the NSS. I wanted to comment. Up until about a year ago you could write a reply, send it to the NSS, and they’d publish it in the next issue, in the letters section. Not any more. It looks like the only way to comment now is via the dreaded Twitter. That’s democracy for you. So, in my angered state, I signed up to Twitter. It was a traumatic experience, and I only narrowly avoided ticking the box to ‘follow’ a random selection of 40 vacuous celebrities (including Jeremy Clarkson). But it seemed as though I had no choice if I wanted to ‘have a voice’. And so, freshly armed with the facility to go out into the world and right wrongs (i.e. a Twitter account) I donned my superhero costume and set about making a comment.
I wanted to make the point that someone’s sexual orientation is on a par with skin colour and gender, in that you’re born with it, it’s difficult, if not impossible to change, and logic and scientific knowledge assure us that one type is in no way inferior to another. I wanted to make the point that it’s all very well to have opinions, but another thing entirely to create a situation where gay people can’t pop down to the local high street to buy a litre of milk and a packet of Liquorice Allsorts without the risk of some nutter shouting homophobic abuse at them. That’s not offence, it’s abuse. I wanted to say; substitute ‘black people’ or ‘women’ for ‘homosexuals’ and ask yourself if you would still consider the preacher had simply been exercising freedom of speech and that it’s unreasonable of anyone not to accept that they might have to be offended now and then. I wanted to say all this and more, but try putting all that into just 140 characters! I’m a writer, I value language. Twitter destroys language. I did a ‘tweet’ anyway. But just to complete my misery, my tweet isn’t showing up amongst all the other ‘reckonings’ that show when I click on the Twitter button attached to the article. Maybe I did something wrong. I’d try tweeting it again, but if my first attempt suddenly appears it’s going to make me look computer illiterate and I worry I might become the laughing stock of the twittersphere. To think I used to be a computer programmer. Maybe I’m old, but I just don’t get modern software (or ‘apps’ as we’re expected to call them). Computers are supposed to be intuitive, but ‘apps’ like Twitter and Facebook are counter intuitive.
After this debacle I’m thinking of cancelling my subscription to the NSS. Maybe I’ll set up a rival organisation. I’ve got some ideas. It would have to be a full-on atheist group, rather than just secularist. If I do get it set up, would you join it?