If you were a woman who had suffered a stillbirth how would you feel if you were trolled on social networks? Here is a real life tweet received by the singer Lily Allen: “The baby knew you were going to be such a horrible mother so it decided to go out on its own term (sic).” There was a lot more like this, most from anonymous twitter users. How on earth does anyone get off on this sort of thing?
I like Lily Allen, more for the human being she is rather than her music. I greatly admire the fact that she puts her head above the parapet, in some way representing those who have no voice, like the desperate refugees in Calais. In modern Britain, as we lurch further to the political right, the vicious trolling of individuals and groups has become depressingly common, the rule rather than the exception.
Long before Facebook and twitter came along, trolling was carried out by other methods. For example, I used to write letters to the Bristol Evening Post when it was still a credible, well-read newspaper with a substantial circulation. I would, as a result, receive poison pen letters in odd coloured inks and strange phone calls in the dead of the night. At one point, I contacted the police who told me that, in all probability, threats of violence and damage to property were made just to scare me, which they succeeded in doing. But it would be worth my while being careful. It was a sort of “mind how you go” situation. It wasn’t long before I stopped writing altogether, at least under my own name.
The advent of the internet has been A Good Thing, one of the greatest inventions of my lifetime. But with all good things there are downsides. Most people are, I would say, good people but there are a lot of bad people out there and, frankly, a lot of unthinking idiots. Quite how one would describe someone who tweets abuse to a woman who has suffered a stillbirth, I may never know. If they actually get a kick out of it, then our society is in a bad way.
I do not know how this abuse affects Ms Allen, when she is home alone. Perhaps she has developed an inner strength to counter it, or maybe she is being very brave, standing up for what she believes. In a country, in a world, where it is getting harder for people to have a voice, we need people like Lily Allen to stand up to bullies, even when we don’t like what she has to say.