Sometimes, it takes a troll to know one
Ray Hadley ... called Julia Gillard an ''imbecile'' and a ''vitriolic, bitter, condescending, arrogant facade of a Prime Minister''. Photo: Peter Rae
How blessed we are The Daily Telegraph has launched a campaign to protect us from beastly comments on Twitter.
That such a rational Murdoch organ is on the warpath against abusive negativity is a huge comfort.
Others are also concerned, including 2GB personality Ray Hadley. He says there ought to be regulations against it.
illustration: Simon Letch
Interestingly, Ray only in the past week or so settled a defamation case against him brought by Channel Nine NRL caller Andrew Voss.
Voss had the temerity to criticise a statue of yet another sports commentator, Ray Warren, whereupon Hadley on air called him a ''grub of the highest order''.
''Raining on Rabbits' parade'' is something unforgivable.
It's not easy to work out precisely where the #StopTheTrolls campaign is heading. The main objective is to dig up minor celebs about whom rotten remarks have been posted and to have public figures pat the paper on the back for such a ''worthwhile initiative''.
Meanwhile Ray and the Tele don't want to be regulated in what they say.
It's important for Hadley to call Julia Gillard an ''imbecile'' and a ''vitriolic, bitter, condescending, arrogant facade of a Prime Minister''.
As for his stablemate Alan Jones, his contribution to elevated public debate has been inestimable, what with the PM in the chaff bag and being ''a horrible mouth on legs'' and so on and so on, ad nauseam.
Free speech and all that.
Just the other day we had the delicious discovery that trolled NRL star Robbie Farah was himself once a troll. There's a sort of inevitability about this.
Farah wants tougher laws to stop trolls after some awful comments about his dead mother were posted on Twitter.
As if we needed reminding about the long reach of the electronic fingerprint some clever person dug up a Tweet of Farah's a year ago in which he suggested the Prime Minister should be given ''a noose'' for her birthday.
Those who objected at the time were told to ''lighten up''. Now he is full of ''sincere apologies''.
Meantime, in other provinces of the Murdoch kingdom the campaign goes on unabated against a takeovers and mergers public interest test for the media and the Finkelstein proposals for protecting journalistic standards.
The local satrap, Kim Williams, says Finkelstein is a threat to press freedom and having fit and proper people in charge would threaten ''the economic value of our media assets''.
That's the trouble. It's now not only the people in possession of the old world megaphones who can make self-interested pronouncements, but opinions and abuse are now democratised.
Everyone can be or is now a publisher, including moronic people and the emotionally vulnerable.
The zeitgeist was captured perfectly by one of Mitt Romney's operatives who said: ''We're not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.''
What we are seeing is a magnificent tension between the old information world and the new.
The old wants to impose restraints on the chaotic new entrant while continuing unrestrained itself.
It is a caprice that fools no one.
All of this comes after a few days of contemplation about Malcolm Turnbull's lecture on the lack of civility in public life.
Appropriately, his sentiments were largely endorsed by former treasurer Peter Costello.
For those who have been on the receiving end of one of the younger Turnbull's telephonic, expletive-laden tirades, this was indeed an amusing moment.
What we are discovering is that some of the people with blue ribbon awards for abuse are ideally placed to issue edicts about the need for new laws and for everyone to pull up their socks when it comes to public discourse.
Possibly the real issue is that the quality of insults has declined. Churchill and Lady Astor ('' … at least I'll be sober in the morning'' and ''if I were your husband I'd drink it''), Gladstone and Disraeli (''it depends whether I embrace your principles or your mistress''), Dorothy Parker and Clare Booth Luce (''pearls before swine''), and Paul Keating (''unrepresentative swill'') showed that at least put downs could be stylish or funny.
There's also a cultural component. Ten minutes listening to a debate in the House of Commons shows up the quality of the drones that populate our parliamentary system.
The nasty edge is still there, but so much better expressed than, ''The bloody stupid dangerous women in the top job'' (Hadley).
Part of it is ratings driven. This inflammatory language fulfils the dual function of simultaneously dividing and building audiences.
No matter how repellant the low-grade insults of Kyle Sandilands (''fat slag''), the more listeners he manages to attract, at least according to the latest radio ratings.
Why wouldn't these characters be vile when that is the pathway to economic triumph?
One of the reasons it got so nasty is that people can be anonymous on (un)social media platforms. There's nothing quite like the posturing incentive of anonymity.
The Twitter and Facebook people in California seem unconcerned about this and show no inclination to make it easy to peel off the masks.
It's a mystery why people just don't filter out what they don't find worthwhile. Turning off the noise is relatively easy. Or as Ray Hadley would put it: ''Wake up to yourself, you grub.''