Retweet Policy for @Drystonesonnet

A few days ago, @PaddyBriggs tweeted directly to me “Why do you RT this rubbish?” It was about 10.30 pm and I am unsure what precisely he was complaining about. It may have been a tweet about lambing. It may have ben a tweet about some comment of Jeremy Corbyn’s that someone had chosen to ridicule; or it may have been a photograph of an apparent act of ISIL barbarity. So I am unsure of the source of Paddy’s ire.

This is a pity because, even though Paddy’s political convictions are very distant from mine, I am rather fond of his tweets and blogs, so I have no deliberate plan to upset him. To his considerable credit, Paddy enjoys life to the full; commenting expertly on cricket from The Oval, rugby from Twickenham, opera at Glyndbourne, and the convoluted subject of pensions. And also sometimes about his support for Jeremy Corbyn. So a fair amount of the content of my own tweets and retweets perhaps irritate him. Fair enough.

But he asked the question – and I feel it was a fair one. So this, my first blog, is a response to Paddy’s enquiry – and anyone else who follows but who may wonder why I bother with twitter at all.

  • Animals, photos or gifs of. I like animals. The really cute pictures of fluffy kittens make me smile. Sometimes the gifs of a dog or cat doing something clever have me howling with laughter. I retweet these because it might make someone else smile too.
  • Animals: sheep, cattle and farming. I really miss farming. Especially lambing time, even though it is 24/7 and absolute hell when it goes wrong and you have a tragedy. I don’t miss the near sleepless nights so much, but the sheer joy of watching a pen full of contented ewes munching hay whilst the lambs whizz about together, richly compensates for the dog-tired weariness.
  • Photographs and art. Usually landscapes. These are a little re-connection with nature for me and maybe other people too.
  • Missing: dogs, people and children. You never know, a retweet might actually help to find someone. I particularly worry about the children and teenagers. One or two of the the latter have seemed troubled, even in the photograph. The others have seemed happy enough, but have still gone missing. I worry particularly about the young girls. There are now stories of them being routinely trafficked around major cities for the use of paedophile and muslim gangs.
  • Politics: The Left (and by extension, the SNP, animal rights and feminism) has started to fascinate me over the last couple of years. In particular, their methods of argument – and the commonality of techniques across the different factions – warrants a study all of its own.
  • Islamism, ISIL and immigration: A 7th Century barbarity is sweeping across the Middle East and now into Europe itself. It took the German media about 7 days to report the wholesale rapes and sexual assaults that took place in Cologne on New Years Eve. It took the BBC about the same time. My twitter timeline had a few mentions of it on the morning of New Years Day. Breitbart had it by lunchtime. Very, very slowly, the rest of the media in the UK caught up with the story over the course of the week. Mainstream media coverage of this and the similar events throughout Germany and Sweden, has been pathetic except for the Daily Mail. Two days ago, I forced myself to watch the beheading of what must have been a teenage boy in a location somewhere within ISIL controlled Syria. Little of this is being reported. Breitbart now has a continuous feed for Islamist inspired terror in Europe. See here for their updates.
  • The countryside and environment: Since a boy, I have lived in the countryside most of the time, apart from a couple of periods in the mid 70s and early 80s when I lived in London. I have always taken an interest in what is around me, whether it is flying, creeping, crawling or just growing. Items which attract my attention are the controversies of flood prevention, rewilding, grouse moor management and other topics – which often coincide with George Monbiot having written yet another outlandish plan for the British countryside without having bothered to stop and consider the consequences. My retweets reflect these interests.

The great joy of twitter is that there is so much there to engage the academic, the political pundit, the commuter, the military commentator and the farmer, as well as the ever present menace of the twitter lynch mob. If you want a fight, you can get one within seconds. And it can last days. If you are in a masochistic mood and want some abuse, just tweet a Unionist message to WingsOverScotland. Alternatively, if you want a little Saturday night craic with two or three like minded people, with a glass in hand, the results can be highly entertaining. On two or three occasions I have identified moth caterpillars from photographs. On another occasion I managed to identify a vole skull found in an owl pellet, from photographs of its dentition. Likewise, other people have directed me to academic papers or websites that I have needed. Isn’t it wonderful that so much information can be passed between two or more distant people (who have never met and are unlikely to meet) within a matter of a few minutes? Crowdsourcing can now be done for the accumulation of information, as well as money for ventures,

The general message is that, having become addicted to twitter, I find it has entertained me far more than television has done for many years. For that reason, I have stopped watching television and rely almost totally on the internet to entertain me. It provides a huge source of academic papers and books to which, even 5 or 6 years ago, I could not have gained access except in a university library. The BBC is no longer thriving as a medium of national expression; and has begun what seems to be a long decline into irrelevance. Its news coverage is pathetic because it seems to be following a policy of censorship by omission. It almost seems as if they have reverted to a quasi wartime role of keeping much information out of the public gaze. But this mid 20th Century model is fast becoming obsolete because the internet is with us. Whilst there is undoubtedly a lot of crap on the internet, it is now the biggest source of current events and is available, mostly free, to everyone with a connection.

So, even if I don’t like, or don’t agree with what is being said in a tweet: if I think it is important in some way and that more people need to know about it, I will retweet it.

Even if it is rubbish, Paddy…..:)

UPDATE 22nd July 2016: Paddy has again complained, or commented, on the awfulness of some of my retweets. He is right. Some of the things I have seen over the last few weeks are stomach churning. One or two have provoked my sheer horror at the barbarity of the human condition – and have left me feeling depressed for days at a time. Perhaps, in some parts of the world, these things have always happened. But it seems that the mainstream media is simply not reporting even a fraction of some of the things which are going on – and which seem to be becoming more prevalent in Europe as well as elsewhere.

There is an argument which suggests that retweeting some of the horrors of, say, Da’esh is giving them the very notoriety that they crave. That it is feeding their war of terror. There is some truth in this of course. But the other side of the same coin is that without knowledge of these events, we are left helpless in our ignorance and without the moral indignation sufficient to want to stop it from happening. There is also the constant refrain, from those on The Left, that these things are misunderstood and that they can be dismissed with a facile argument of moral relativity.

So my argument in favour of retweeting the repulsive and abhorrent is simply that we need to acknowledge the growing threat of what is becoming a war against our whole culture. And the first line of defence against that is that we need the truth.

All of it.

Not just the filtered, anodyne, censored, reassuring tunnel vision that the BBC gives us.

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