My declaration of war on vile and abusive Twitter trolls...
SUNDAY, AUGUST 5
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.
MONDAY, AUGUST 6
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