Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: KEITH HANN

ILIKE to see things in black and white. For there to be a right and a wrong answer to every question.

How frustrating, then, to find that so many issues in the news dissolve into more than 50 shades of grey.

These reflections were prompted by listening to Radio 4 on Monday morning, experiencing mounting irritation as some pundit droned on about internet trolls.

Only he insisted on pronouncing the word to rhyme with "dole" instead of "doll".

Imagine how deflated I felt when I looked it up in search of vindication and found that either pronunciation is considered correct. I shall have to confine myself to being annoyed with those who continue to mispronounce my surname, and the name of the village where I live, even after I have politely put them right.

So let us move on from pronunciation to consider the issue of trolling in general.

Clearly writing disobliging things about other people is not a nice or kind thing to do, whether one does it on the internet or by painting abusive graffiti on their walls.

It is made even less appealing when judgements are passed on named individuals by those not in full possession of the facts, who almost always hide within the comfortable shadow of a pseudonym.

On the other hand (for this is not a black and white issue), how offended can anyone reasonably be by comments about them on Twitter, particularly if they do not actually use Twitter? How far must freedom of speech be constrained to protect the right not to be offended by people who reflexively take umbrage on behalf of others? Often on Twitter I read amongst the tsunami of outrage about some controversial post or other, a still small voice saying (in 140 characters or fewer) "actually I am gay / black / disabled / dyslexic / a war veteran / whatever and I thought that was quite a good joke".

A recent TV documentary on motorways belatedly introduced me to the fact that there is officially no longer any such thing as a "road traffic accident". We now have "road traffic collisions" because nothing happens by accident: "someone is always to blame". …

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