My dec­la­ra­tion of war on vile and abu­sive Twit­ter trolls...

The Irish Mail on Sunday - TV Week - - NEWS -


An­other day, an­other hor­rific gun shoot­ing in Amer­ica. This time, a white su­prem­a­cist en­tered a Sikh tem­ple in Wis­con­sin and mur­dered six wor­ship­pers, wound­ing three other peo­ple — in­clud­ing a po­lice­man. Three weeks ago, a young stu­dent dressed as the Joker went on the ram­page in a Colorado cinema, shoot­ing 70 peo­ple in the coun­try’s worst ever gun-re­lated mas­sacre.

In my first month at CNN, in Jan­uary, 2011, a con­gress­woman was shot in the head at an out­door meet­ing in Ari­zona but mirac­u­lously sur­vived. Six oth­ers were killed, 13 more wounded.

To me, the most dis­turb­ing as­pect link­ing all these ter­ri­ble crimes is that each of the gun­men bought his guns per­fectly legally — yet, in­cred­i­bly, very few Amer­i­cans I know have a prob­lem with this.

The right to bear arms is so deeply in­grained into the cul­ture in the US that all these out­rages get ex­plained away as ‘a few cra­zies do­ing crazy things’ and no proper de­bate on new gun con­trol laws ever hap­pens, let alone ac­tual changes to the law. It all comes down to the pre­cise word­ing of the Sec­ond Amend­ment to the Amer­i­can Con­sti­tu­tion, which reads: ‘A well reg­u­lated mili­tia, be­ing nec­es­sary to the se­cu­rity of a free state, the right of the peo­ple to keep and bear arms, shall not be in­fringed.’

The pro-gun lobby, one of the most pow­er­ful and noisy forces in Amer­i­can so­ci­ety, ar­gues that this amend­ment au­tho­rises ev­ery Amer­i­can to own and use guns.

The anti-gun lobby ar­gues that the ex­act place­ment of the com­mas shows that the Found­ing Fathers in­tended the ‘right to bear arms’ only to ap­ply to mem­bers of a mili­tia — which, in the 18th cen­tury meant an army com­posed of or­di­nary cit­i­zens, not pro­fes­sional sol­diers. Those com­mas have thus be­come the most deadly, ex­pen­sive and con­tro­ver­sial punc­tu­a­tion marks in the his­tory of lan­guage.

What­ever your view, the idea that what Thomas Jef­fer­son and his co­horts had in mind when they wrote the Con­sti­tu­tion was de­fend­ing the rights of the men­tally un­sta­ble or vi­o­lent racists to legally, and eas­ily, buy high- pow­ered as­sault weapons to murder other Amer­i­cans is plainly ridicu­lous.

The big ques­tion for Amer­ica, where there are an av­er­age 11,000 gun mur­ders a year, is whether, af­ter the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion on Novem­ber 6, Barack Obama or Mitt Rom­ney will have the guts to

‘I am not go­ing to quit Twit­ter. I am go­ing to war with these trolls – I’ll seek them out, ex­pose them, and get them closed down’

stand up, say so, and do some­thing about it. Don’t hold your breath.


Gary Bar­low’s wife, Dawn, has lost the baby they were ex­pect­ing next month. A lit­tle girl, who they named Poppy, was still­born. As some­one who last year be­came a fa­ther to a baby girl for the first time my­self, I can’t even be­gin to imag­ine the ap­palling grief they must be en­dur­ing at this dread­ful loss.

I’ve known Gary since be­fore Take That were fa­mous and met Dawn re­cently at my Life Sto­ries show record­ing with Ja­son Dono­van (the Bar­lows and Dono­vans are friends). Both are de­light­fully down-to-earth peo­ple.

As with all such tragedies these days, so­cial me­dia blew up to­day with peo­ple (celebri­ties and fans) of­fer­ing their sup­port. Re­pul­sively, though, it also blew up with in­ter­net trolls, led by some vile for­mer Big Brother con­tes­tant called Ken­neth Tong, mak­ing sick jokes about Poppy’s death and even di­rectly abus­ing the Bar­lows. It takes a spe­cial kind of warped mind to do some­thing like that, doesn’t it?

Yet, it’s no iso­lated thing. Ev­ery fa­mous per­son I know who uses Twit­ter reels from some of the shock­ing, hor­rific things that some peo­ple say on it to them. I get it ev­ery day, and though I have a thick skin and en­joy a bit of good-na­tured ‘ban­ter’ my­self, when the abuse ex­tends to my fam­ily, even I get up­set by it.

It’s driv­ing many celebri­ties away — Anne Kirk­bride from Coro­na­tion Street be­came the lat­est to say she couldn’t stomach it any more, quit­ting Twit­ter af­ter peo­ple mocked her for hav­ing a ‘saggy neck’, when ev­ery­one knows she had can­cer in her neck.

I’m not go­ing to quit. I have too much fun with the vast ma­jor­ity of de­cent peo­ple on Twit­ter and find it too in­valu­able as a break­ing-news source.

But what I am go­ing to do is go to war with these trolls. I’m go­ing to seek them out, ex­pose them and, if I can, get them

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