I am not insane

I have to straighten something out.

On 7th January, I made a remark on Twitter which with hindsight was - unwise. Well, ok, it was worse than unwise, it was stupid. I did not think about the consequences. It never occurred to me that issuing that tweet would lead to three weeks of sustained and vicious personal abuse.

For obvious reasons, I'm not going to repeat it here. All I will say about it is that it concerned the sex attacks in Cologne and other German cities at New Year, and it was part of a long Twitter conversation with several people.

And yes, I know the difference between criticism and abuse. I am not afraid of disagreement. On the contrary, I welcome it. I am known for having heated arguments with people on Twitter. It can be uncomfortable for the onlookers, but I learn from those arguments and I almost always finish on good terms with the person I am arguing with. But obscene comments ("she likes Muslim dick") and disparaging remarks about my appearance (ugly), my age (old), my supposed race (Jewish, or a Muslim man in drag) and my alleged beliefs (Liberal lefty fascist feminist) are not "disagreement", they are personal abuse. Alleging that I approve of criminal behaviour ("@Frances_Coppola loves rape of white girls by Arab men") is not "constructive criticism", it is defamation.  

At the time, I thought what I said was reasonable. But the watchers thought otherwise. They leapt on it like a pack of wolves. The tweet was retweeted, reweeted and retweeted again, with ever more unpleasant comments and criticisms. Most expressed outrage at my suggestion that someone other than refugees might have done this. But often the reasons for the outrage, far from being rational, were along the lines of "Muslims are rapists and you are a rape enabler", or "refugees are rapists and you are a terrible person for protecting them". Some even accused me - bizarrely - of blaming the women concerned.

I tried again and again to explain my point. But my attempts at explanation fell on deaf ears. The Twittermob did not want to know. They were furious and out for blood. Not only this tweet, but others too were screencapped and circulated - a "selection" of my tweets which reinforced the idea that I was some kind of lunatic conspiracy theorist, or worse, someone whose view of justice was so skewed that I regarded protecting refugees as more important than identifying and prosecuting sex attackers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The WHOLE POINT was that I wanted the real perpetrators of this crime brought to justice. Clearly I explained this extraordinarily badly. But when those with agendas can select the comments that can be used to support their case and discard those that do not, it is all too easy for views expressed in a public forum such as Twitter to be fatally twisted.

As the tweet went viral, it attracted the attention of the American far right.

By "far right", I mean those who believe that white people should rule the earth and that other races are inferior. The hardcore racist and Jew-hater Andrew Auernheimer (twitter name @rabite, have a look at the timeline if you have a strong stomach) screenshot my tweet and told me he would make sure it never disappeared from circulation:

He meant it. He repeatedly circulated the tweet to his 29,500 followers.  

Not only that, but he decided to take what he thought was my job, too. He found out that I write for Forbes. Suddenly I became not just "financial writer", but "Forbes journalist". I am not, but no matter, no-one cares about the difference between "journalist" and "contributor". Someone created a standard email complaining about me and demanding my dismissal, which was sent to Forbes by hundreds of people. Fortunately, Forbes - who have always made it clear that contributors do not in any way represent them - ignored the emails.

But incorrect though it is, "Forbes journalist" has become a meme. The Infowars account @Prisonplanet tweeted the screen shot of my tweet with a comment saying "Forbes journalist wins herp derp of 2016 so far.". That went to another 114,000 people, who retweeted it in turn and.....Try as I might, I now cannot convince people that I am not a journalist.

If I WERE a journalist, I might have had rather more protection: the media does try to give its staff some protection from online abuse, and Twitter verification gives journalists some ability to filter out trolls and abusers. But I'm not employed by mainstream media, I don't have legal or management protection, my Twitter account is my own personal account and Twitter does not see fit to verify it. The Twitter community has dubbed me a journalist, but I have none of the privileges of a real journalist. So when the American racist right attacked in force, I had no defence.

Maybe I've led a sheltered life, but I had never before encountered hardcore racism on such a scale. I've encountered racism, of course - dammit, I worked for a while as a housing officer on one of the roughest estates in London. But I'd never seen anything like this. Not only anti-Muslim tweets - though the murderous* term "kebab" was new to me - but also anti-black and anti-Semitic tweets were directed to me, many of them obscene and some of them violent. I was described as a "filthy Jewess", and told to "get gassed, yid" and to "put a gun in my mouth". There were also helpful suggestions that I would benefit from being raped by a Muslim, and - inevitably, since I am neither young nor pretty - the comforting observation that no man would want to rape me.

This last speaks volumes about the attitude of these people to women. Civilised people do not judge women's worth by their attractiveness to rapists. Their outrage had nothing to do with the rights of women - indeed many of them were rabidly anti-feminist. No, it was all about "whitey". They were appalled at the idea that "their" women could be attacked by men from inferior races, and even more appalled that I dared suggest that white men might behave in the same way, even though the obscene language they used suggested that they were only too familiar with such behaviour. These were cavemen, through and through. And they all supported Donald Trump. God help America.

When something like this happens, you find out who your friends really are. And surprisingly, among those who were most vocal in my support were some who had been severely critical of my original tweet. They did not agree with what I had said - they still don't - but they were absolutely going to defend my right to say it. THAT is free speech. Not the faux "you can say whatever you like, but if we don't like it we will silence you" of the self-proclaimed "free speech" supporters who follow the likes of Milo Yannopoulos (@Nero on twitter).

I blocked hundreds of people, I think. I had to block instead of mute, because they were feeding off my timeline, retweeting and screencapping new tweets as I made them. But in a way, blocking made matters worse. They treated being blocked as a trophy, crowing about it and circulating screen prints of the block screen. I became known for blocking people - me, the person who has always hated blocking and feels bad about doing it. I started to receive tweets asking if I was turned on by blocking people (no, I won't repeat here exactly what was said).

Eventually, on the advice of some of my critical but supportive followers, I protected my tweets. I hated doing it: it felt like giving in. And the Twittermob hated it too. They raged about "bitch has protected her tweets!" @PrisonPlanet circulated a screenshot of the protected screen with a comment saying "Forbes journalist retreats to her safe space". Of course, it wasn't all that "safe", since I continued to receive abusive comments. I routinely blocked the originators and reported threatening tweets, and Twitter suspended a few of those accounts for breaking the rules. But at least locking the account stopped them feeding off my timeline: I could talk to my followers without my words being seized upon, twisted and circulated, and I could prevent sockpuppet accounts from following me in order to troll my timeline and harass me. And eventually things started to calm down.

After a week, most of the abuse had stopped and I unlocked my account again. Using a locked account has a cost for anyone who is promoting their own work on their Twitter account, or even just issuing other information: you cannot retweet protected tweets, so items simply don't circulate as they would from an unlocked account. So both I and my followers wanted the account unlocked. When I unlocked it, I was promptly trolled, of course, but it wasn't as bad as before: it was easily dealt with by judicious use of blocking, muting and occasionally reporting. I've continued to receive abusive tweets ever since, as the screenshot of the original tweet has continued to circulate.

But the fact that the screenshot of the original tweet is still circulating means it can be used by the press and by writers, even though I deleted the original over two weeks ago. It was quoted by James Delingpole in Breitbart, and misinterpreted (though not quoted) by Deborah Orr in the Guardian. Auernheimer was right: my ill-considered words live on and cannot be forgotten. Have I done my reputation permanent damage? Perhaps. But that is partly because of another mistake that I made yesterday.

Three weeks of constant abuse has left my nerves very frayed. It has also affected my health, since my asthma is triggered by stress: I had to take a few days off work because my breathing was so bad. But the frayed nerves are a much bigger problem. I am over-sensitive and my judgment is impaired. My usual clarity of thought is no longer there. I overreact to things that I should have the sangfroid to let pass. So when a blogger quoted my tweet in a post yesterday, I reacted very badly.

He had used the tweet as an example of temporary "insanity" in a normally rational person caused by a highly emotive event. Had I been thinking straight, I would have seen that this was what he meant. But I'm not thinking straight. I took it as yet another personal attack - an attempt to stir up the whole tweetstorm all over again. I told him to take down the section referring to me or face libel charges.

That was both unfair to him and very foolish. There followed an unpleasant argument on Twitter in which I tried again to explain what the purpose of the original tweet was and he insisted that I did not mean that - all of it watched by a huge crowd who were mostly not on my side. It achieved precisely the opposite of what I wanted: not only did the blogger refuse to amend the piece, the piece ended up being circulated far more widely than it probably would have been, and a new tweetstorm developed, this time expressing outrage at my allegation of libel. I am now receiving personal abuse again, though not on the scale of two weeks ago. I've muted lots of people. But muting doesn't work, really: I still see the comment before I mute. A few hundred nasty tweets and I'm a nervous wreck, whether or not I mute the originators.

My attempt to resolve the situation by leaving a comment on his post and retweeting it myself also appears to have backfired, though it was intended as something of a climbdown. The blogger has now written a very angry post about me. I have to say that although the criticism he levels at me in this post is harsh, it is deserved. I have handled this very badly indeed and am genuinely sorry about the mess I have made. I have left a comment on that post apologising for accusing him of libel. 

But until yesterday, I was not guilty of anything more than stupidity. And heaven knows, people make stupid remarks on Twitter ALL the time. I did not deserve weeks of obscene personal abuse and threats, not only on Twitter but also in comments on my own blog, and even by email. Nor did I deserve to have attempts made to destroy my livelihood. And I am damned if I am going to be hounded off Twitter by what is the online equivalent of a lynch mob. 

This must stop. 


* The term "kebab" is used pejoratively by the American right to mean Middle Eastern Muslims. I have been told that it comes from a music video created by Serb musicians in the Bosnian war. The video was originally entitled "Remove kebab" - an approving reference to the genocide ("ethnic cleansing") of Bosnian Muslims. Hence it is both racist and murderous, not simply anti-Muslim. 


  1. I'm sorry that you've had such a terrible time of it. It may help to realise that most of this attack is social theatre, improv around the prop of the day.

    The reach of social media gives this kind of event a longer tail, with latecomers and 'retro-hipster' types added to the obsessive bullies.

    But it also means that they will be distracted by a new target of opportunity eventually. All those archived links and screenshots will be forgotten about, buried under your output and their latest flame war.

    Mend fences with those that matter, personally and professionally. Remember that they're inflicting pain to get you to respond, to draw you onto ground they control. The only practical response is to give them a bloody nose, if you can, or else ignore them.

    Tough as that is.

  2. What a terrible thing to happen to you. I had a similar thing happen to me, (although on a much smaller scale, because I'm nowhere near as popular as you), and I was shocked by the vitriolic abuse I received and that people would even seek me out on Facebook and send abusive messages there as well. This is an ugly feature of social media and I'm not sure what the answer is.

    I think the majority of social media users are better than this, as the support you received seems to show, but it's terrible that you can have your health affected by these thoroughly unpleasant individuals.

    I just hope we still get to see your generally excellent and informative tweets.

  3. Twitter is perhaps the worst of the internet mediums .
    A soundbite nightmare.

    Most people (including myself) simply do not function very well inside the prison of "progressive capitalism"

    They become increasingly violent to others.
    Its the irrationality of current debate which is driving people to madness.
    For example a new social democrat party in Ireland stated in their election manifesto that they would reduce the cost of living while not reducing taxes !!!!!

    This Weimar mentality always leads to fascism .
    No "political party" is challenging the banks monopoly of credit / rationing system.
    I see empty shops in Corks main street and yet massive traffic movements in Corks lower harbour and the former market town of Midleton (now a burb town in the wider capitalist dystopia)
    This dislocation of the mind and place has grave consequences for human level interaction.
    War and consumer war economies creates bitter shell shocked soldiers.
    It is a logical consequence of our unnatural usury shaped society.


  4. A reminder that the comments policy of this blog remains in place:

    - be polite and refrain from personal attacks on me or others
    - stick to the topic

    Anonymous posts must be signed with your real name.

    I will delete comments that do not comply with these rules.

    1. Are you sure about the "no anonymous" rule? I'm pseudonymous because I don't want people I meet in other realms of life (prospective employers, lovers, muggers, spammers, etc) to be able to google my finance/economics stuff in 10 seconds. I do the same for other unrelated domains. The idea is to use one consistent identity in each domain. Do you think that's unacceptable behaviour? It's your blog and I'm happy to stop commenting here if so, but maybe there's a baby and bathwater issue here?

      One can argue that people are less rude under their own name, and it is likely true to an extent, but the transition from mostly pseudonymous social medias platform of the 80s and 90s (Usenet, myspace, etc) to mostly real name ones like Facebook (and partially Twitter) hasn't really eliminated trolling...

    2. Cig,

      That rule is specifically aimed at people who post as Anonymous, not people who post using a consistent pseudonymous identity as you do.

  5. Dear Frances, it sounds like you have had a really horrible time and I'm sorry that by drawing attention to your Tweet I exposed you to such personal vitriol. It certainly wasn't my intention. Unfortunately, at the time - and even now - there was so much denialism and liberal apologism about the Cologne rape gangs and that tweet of yours, I think you'll probably agree with hindsight, happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. If its any consolation I can tell you from personal experience it will all blow over and that soon it will be as if it never happened. all best James

    1. James, Frances sets out in some detail that she sees now that her tweet was ill-judged:

      "On 7th January, I made a remark on Twitter which with hindsight was - unwise. Well, ok, it was worse than unwise, it was stupid. I did not think about the consequences. It never occurred to me that issuing that tweet would lead to three weeks of sustained and vicious personal abuse."

      By the way, hello from one of the people you have blocked on Twitter for merely disagreeing with you in, at worst, sarcastic language. I KNOW I have never subjected you to anything a thick-skinned free speech proponent could possibly construe as abuse.

    2. This is my England:

      May I gently remind you about rule no.1....

    3. James,

      There was indeed "denialism and liberal apologism" at that time. There was also a sustained hate campaign against "refugees" - in general, not specifically - which is still continuing now. You must surely be aware of the #rapefugees meme? It was too much even for Twitter, which took it down when it started trending.

    4. Genuinely didn't think I was in breach of said rule! Did my best to express with calmness and politeness my surprise that James felt the need to point out something you freely admit in para one of your piece. I tried to take the same approach to expressing surprise at the difference in tone adopted here by James vs. how we sometimes appears to conduct his interactions on Twitter. Perhaps I failed to achieve all this in a manner consistent with sticking to rule 1! Definitely not my intention :)

    5. Heh, you were just sailing a bit close to the wind. Shows how easy it is to do!

    6. Yes indeed :) I do my best, but to err is human...

  6. I am sorry that you have had to suffer from such nasty attacks. I am sure you are already doing anything that can be done.

    I assume that your attackers are anonymous. User anonymity is a curse of the Internet.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Sorry - to confirm - that last post is James as in James Delingpole.

  9. obviously I think you are a talented writer and good analyst of financial matters . otherwise I wouldn't read your stuff .
    however the issue here is whether mass migration , as opposed to controlled limited migration , imposes costs on existing society .
    if those primarily responsible for what occurred in cologne were migrants / refugees , then there is certain evidence here , which those who are opposed to open door immigration are going to use .
    most on the left have decided to quietly moan , or say nothing .
    let the right wing make their point .
    the best statement was that Germany cant afford another cologne .
    new years eve occurs once a year .
    most on the left have decided to let this blow over .
    fight , and you keep cologne in the headlines , and actually endanger the policy [ open door immigration ]
    even today you use the words " real perpetrators " .
    is it possible for this to be misconstrued , as more of the same . no migrants involved etc ?
    your opponent , rabite or something , has posted a very unsavoury video of a young muslim clubbing a young female to the ground , after she challenged him . the response here is that not all muslims do this .
    with the numbers involved in cologne , the response can still be used , but it begins to lose its strength .
    the general issue still remains the same . mass migration has consequences .
    your either engage in cost / benefit analysis , or you say there are no costs .
    saying there are no costs [ to society ] after cologne , or effectively doing so , was bound to enrage people .
    I disagree with forbes role being targeted . as well as being wrong , I actually thought it was a bit bizarre .
    but little point trying to specify exact role .
    those on the other side of the political fence have lost jobs / roles , for non p c tweets . and the left [ who support open door immigration ] supported this , and celebrated it .
    forbes are supporting you .
    surely time to head for exit door on this matter .

    1. Jerred,

      "Real perpetrators" means exactly what it says - the people who committed this crime. I'm not interested in where they come from, what they look like or what their religion is. They can be little green asteroid-worshippers from Mars for all I care.

      My concern is that far too many people - on both sides - jumped to conclusions. As I point out to James above, there was indeed denial that refugees could be involved, but there was also denial that anyone OTHER than refugees could be involved. If we make assumptions about who the perpetrators are, and as a result investigation is inadequate, we let down the women who were attacked. We owe it to them not to pre-judge. That applies both to those who assumed that refugees were not involved at all, AND to those who assumed that the attacks were entirely carried out by refugees. The #rapefugees meme is every bit as poisonous as the cover-up by the German police.

      Let's keep open minds and call for fair, transparent and thorough investigation of this crime.

    2. no one wants innocent people sent to jail . or victims not to get justice .
      if some non migrant crime also took place that night , then police should investigate .
      conclusions were drawn based on initial reports . waiting for a long drawn out investigation obviously takes the political sting out of the issue .
      great for supporters of mass migration .
      not so great for opponents .
      and the authorities have form for suppressing the outcomes of such investigations , to stop the extreme right being given ammunition .
      unfortunately playing for time is such an old political trick , that most are aware of it .
      even if you are not using it , your opponents will think you are .
      mass migration is a huge political issue .
      in the past the r word was used to prevent discussion / debate of any negative consequences .
      its laudable to want justice for those women who were victims of non migrant crime on that evening .
      but the argument is going to be viewed , by some , as an attempt to defend a controversial political policy .
      I think the policy is a fly trap for the left wing .
      no need to be some kind of martyr here .
      stick to banking stuff .

  10. I was shocked by your behaviour towards the blogger, Frances, to be honest; you accused him of deliberate misrepresentation and of libel, both of which are actually libellous and actionable. In any case, and especially with that as the context, I don't think your continued description of his latest reasoned post as very angry is accurate or fair.

    May I also respectfully ask: is your title here still an attempt to pretend that his words must be taken and were intended to be taken literally?

    Despite your behaviour I wish to make clear abuse is abuse and is unacceptable and so I am sorry you too have been a recipient of it.


    1. Tony,

      Since I have apologised to him both here and on his own post, an apology he has accepted, your further criticism of me is unwarranted. He had reason to be angry. I acknowledged that.

      And no, the title is not any attempt to "pretend" anything.

  11. Lizzie Cornish,

    The rules of this blog are clearly stated on the About page, and I have also reminded people about them in the comments above. Your post did not comply with the rules. I have therefore deleted it.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. Yoda@JediEconomist

    The rules of this blog are clearly stated on the About page, and I have also reminded people about them in the comments above. Your post did not comply with the rules. I have therefore deleted it.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. Yoda@JediEconomist

      Your second post did not comply with the rules either. I have therefore deleted it.

  13. Frances,

    I'm a fan of yours, I'm deeply sorry you have been experiencing this. I normally read your Twitter feed on a regular basis, but I've been so closely following the US election season lately that I've been temporarily ignoring Eurozone/UK issues, so I've missed your personal horror show. Some points:

    - Twitter is awful at dealing with abuse. They've publicly admitted this, but haven't done a single damn thing about it.

    - As you note, the abuse problem is much worse for women, non-Christians, and non-whites; but especially for women.

    - Rational and calm explanation don't seem to help in such situations.

    - If you were young and female, instead of middle-aged and female, you'd be getting the same, just with different tropes.

    - I hope your mental health allows you to survive the hate barrage, as I highly value your voice. Good voices have been driven out, which while understandable, is a real loss to the discourse.

    - Welcome to the delightful phenomenon of the hateful nativist US right! The leading GOP Presidential candidate regularly re-tweets literal Neo-Nazis. (Actually true.)

    - Between lousy macro economic conditions, and a perceived attack on their cultural values, these folks seek to fight back at perceived enemies through pure intimidation, should you wish to understand them.

    - These folks have an informal network they quite effective use to amplify their echo chamber of hate and abuse.

    - I wish I had more constructive suggestions, but until Twitter management deals with the issue, which may well be never, I don't.

    - The best I can offer is Keep Calm and Carry On. Don't let the bastards get you down. They're pretty pathetic folks. But I fully know all that's weak tea.

    Very best wishes and support,

    (I'm not leaving my IRL name, as I'm not a professional writer, and have no incentive or desire to have that linked up to me. If you decide not to post this as a result I do understand. But FWIW, I've been consistently posting lefty commentary on the internet under this single pseudonym for over 10 years.)

    1. Heh, Petey, thanks. I understand. I just don't want ppl leaving their posts unsigned or using silly or abusive signatures.

  14. Yoda - wtf?
    Frances made a comment, in semi-real time. Then, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FONN-0uoTHI
    Whatever we feel about someone's perspective, personal attacks such as were directed at Frances are unwarranted. They cause friction and hurt and in many cases are representative of dangerous minds. The reality is she would not have gotten as much or as vitriolic as she did were she male - theres a dreadful misogeny in the hard right which would shame ISIS.
    So best for all, coming to the end of the month, to draw a line.

  15. I just cannot believe that Francis is surprised by people twisted by hate.

    It is the usury system that has formed them.

    In a fashion it is rational to hate.
    On a limited level at least it is a effective defence mechanism .

    PS - your support for basic income (financed by the tax system) fails the internal logic test.
    I cannot believe that you are a fool.
    A failure to challenge the banks monopoly of credit raises all sorts of alarm bells in my little head.

  16. Frances, have you read Shamed by Jon Ronson? He explores this phenomenon of the online lynch mob and some others who have fallen foul of it. Given your recent experience you may find it interesting to dip into. Kind regards. Tom McPhail

    1. Hi Tom, I haven't read it but I will do. A couple of other ppl have suggested it too. Thanks.

  17. Screen shots of the "100s" of abuses you have been subjected to can you post, hmmm? Only one screenshot you provide, of someone telling how your tweets are forever.

    Evidence you need or believe you people will not.


    1. Yes, Yoda, I have evidence. Indeed I have just tweeted four examples to Nic Duke, since she is accusing me of making it all up. There are plenty more. I also have the Twitter reports telling me which accounts have been suspended and why.

      However, most people believe what I say. After all, it would be foolish of me to make this up, given how easy it is to view Twitter records.

    2. Yoda, I replied to your previous comment because it complied with the rules. However, I have now had to delete the subsequent one because it did not. I therefore remind you PERSONALLY of the rules:

      1. Be polite and refrain from personal attacks on me and others
      2. Stick to the topic under discussion
      3. If posting anonymously, sign your post.

      The comment I have deleted blatantly broke rule 1. However passionately you feel about this issue, you do NOT have the right to make personal attacks on me or any one else on this site.

    3. Always about you it is, the bigger picture you do not see.

      Stop digging, ignore it. Save you this advice can...


  18. Can I not hate Brian Lucey and the rest of the Central Bankers creatures of the night?

    Do not have I a right to hate?

    Is it not logical to hate someone who wishes to destroy your little world village at every given opportunity?

    We can now be certain that the Cb bank of Ireland had one overriding objective.
    To totally destroy Irish society in the style described by Richard Werner.
    In this it has succeeded in a spectacular fashion.

    Who can now say that Desmond Fennell was not substantially correct in his observations of 1970s / 80s Irish society ( I am referring to his collection of essays, Nice people and Rednecks ( Ironic title)

  19. Bad luck, you have convinced me that when I decided not to sign up to Twitter I made the right decision.

  20. These past 100years we have been exposed to 3 overwhelming fake forces.

    Fake corporate nationalism ( the paint the post office boxes green experiment)
    Fake liberalism of the mid Atlantic Dublin 4 variety.

    And most recently fake internationalism which is simply the movement of people from one field of the plantation to another.

    So we continue to deal with capitalism in its older form albeit using propaganda that would make the ametuer communist operatives blush.

    And you ask people to be polite under such circumstances.!!!!

    You ask too much.

    None of us can afford to become delicate wallflowers.

    Too much is at stake for that.

  21. The on line world has simply turned into a huge school playground where the bullies seem to be gaining control.

    Until twitter, facebook etc are capable of controlling their medium and bringing legally into line with other mediums such as tv, newspapers etc then I believe it should be avoided. It should not be possible to post death threats, rape threats and anything defamatory without consequences, if the words were said on the streets the person/people would be arrested, the same must happen with the online world. Until this happens you are playing with fire if you use these mediums.

    Normal rational people should go "old school" and focus on developing close family, friends, colleagues, neighbours that can be spoken too face to face and a genuine HUMAN relationship fostered.

    Do you really need to converse with so many "strangers" on line about your personnal views, are people actually receiving a sense of satisfaction from these interactions or are they simply causing pressure and making people unhappy.

    If you need to promote your work fine but back in the day you did not find that when you walked into a shop the shop owner would "shout" their personal opinions at you. Work and personal life are two different things, lets return to a time where people do not need to promote their opinion along with their profession. (I am not saying you should not have a personal opinion but that your opinion should be broadcast to the public wisely)

    Our parents, grandparents, great grandparents lived without twitter and survived!

  22. > But until yesterday, I was not guilty of anything more than stupidity.
    > And heaven knows, people make stupid remarks on Twitter ALL the time.

    And yet people get abuse and fired and all of these sorts of things for "stupid remarks on Twitter ALL the time".

    Googling "sacked for tweet" gets you Justine Sacco (Aids comment), Lindsey Stone (Arlington), Emily Thornberry (white van man), Conor Riley (well, okay, not sacked but never got the Cisco job) and, just to show it doesn't only happen to the distaff sex, Rayhan Qadar, Nir Rosen, and even Michael Fabricant (although that might just have been fabricated. Sorry, I just had to do it.)

    People have been "dooced" since 2002 and whatever the Twitter equivalent is since at least 2011.

    >I did not deserve weeks of obscene personal abuse and threats, not only on Twitter
    > but also in comments on my own blog, and even by email.

    Indeed. Nobody does. But you've been around long enough that you've seen that the internet is, frankly, a bear pit, with some awfully vicious inhabitants. That you usually circulate in the most polite areas is fine. That the vicious area reached up and dragged you down for a few weeks is nasty, and you have my sympathy, but you are back up (hopefully) now. But, for example, why I post with a nym.

  23. Brian Lucey in his blog recently claimed that Ireland is not a highly taxed country.
    But this is Tommy Cooper like magic trick. (Was Brian trying to be funny ? , if so I am not a fan of his humour )

    What matters is how it is netted.

    The national accounts make this very clear.
    Over half the tax collected is not re spent inside the jurisdiction.
    Is Brian a fool or a agent of usury ?
    You decide.
    PS - the Irish anti state to my knowledge does not publish remittance flows , funny that.
    The leakage is most probably a combination of usury and tthis international global wage slave market currently empowered by the connected and subsidised international aviation sector.

    Nothing pisses me off more then the fake capitalist liberalism of the above commentators .
    Pretending to be nice when nasty is a God awful trait.

  24. Sorry you had to go through this

  25. The sound bite nature of Twitter almost *enforces* an absence of context. Too easy to twist intentions, too easy to misinform, too easy to abuse.

  26. Frances, popular punditry is analogous to a gerbil wheel - there is constant pressure to provide content and comment, and the more interesting or controversial the more effective it is, up to a point.

    It is quite common for pundits to make an error of judgement either of a technical or common sense nature under those pressures. Unfortunately sectors of the audience are rather different to those you meet at conferences.

    Maybe there is a general trend in the quest for readership and follower metrics that has gone a little too far and maybe everyone should just say a little less. There is an enormous amount of noise about.

    Maybe when Twitter increases its character limit, a smaller number of more focussed broadcasts of ones views might suffice and some of the idiocy brief comments can provoke will subside.


  27. It's unfortunate you had to deal with this. Twitter is designed for short comments issued on-the-fly, which does not readily lend itself to thoughtful discourse. I think this quote best illustrates my point.
    If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now. Woodrow Wilson
    Best of luck in your future communications.

  28. What a terrible experience. Just stick through it and remember that many people appreciate your work.

  29. Sorry you had to go thru so much. Was aware that there is a nasty exchange going on between you and some others but did not know the details.

    For what it is worth, wanted to let you know that I have been reading your blogs and tweets for some time - it started during the Greek crisis sometime last summer. I don't always agree with all your analysis and opinion but respect your views a lot and find your writing useful.

    There are many who like your work and respect you. For each hater you probably have 100s of well wishers and admirers. Keep writing and ignore the barking dogs.

  30. I missed all this. What a nightmare!

    There are some extraordinary sad-bastards on Twitter. Don't let them get to you. I doubt whether you explained it badly at all. These people are plonkers and bigots.

    I share your concern about free speech but rights come with responsibilities. I would've blocked and reported the lot of them.

    This is just bullying in another form. That often makes people doubt their judgement or sanity. You don't sound even faintly like you're going bonkers to me.

    By the way, isn't it a matter of recorded fact that not all the perpetrators in Cologne were immigrants/refugees?

    Just carry on doing your thing. You're in the right.

  31. I wasn't on your side, but it's decent of you to apologise and admit fault. Obviously you don't deserve obscene attacks for a misjudgement, and never did.

    I think it'd be good to bear in mind that twitter isn't a private forum. Don't tweet angry, and make sure you tweet things you're happy to stand by. Unfortunately accidental attention is a reality we now have to navigate.

    Be old fashioned and phone a close friend for a private rant instead.

  32. Thank you for raising all these questions of opinions, mistakes, slander, abuse, apology, twitter vendettas and so much more. I observe these human doings on twitter, facebook and in online articles comments and think about them a lot. On one hand, I am deeply disturbed by the staggering amount of nastiness, bias, hatred, racism, ignorance, misinformation, on the other hand, I am thankful (if I can even use this word) for the window into lives that I could never have imagined. I constantly question how these individuals 'learnt' to feel and believe such profoundly hurtful, destructive and factually incorrect thoughts. How were they led to such conclusions? This seems to me to be the most important to understand - how to we change education, so that individuals are not solely at the mercy of parents, ideology, religion, nationalism?
    Hope you are slowly recovering from your unpleasant experiences. Unfortunately it was probably not just due to mistakes or nastiness, but to the misunderstandings that arise because we simply cannot express ourselves clearly and transparently.

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  35. Frances, for you to apologize, and conflate the issue even more is absolutely class-less. Why? You supposedly wanted to just drop everything, even apologized on Medium. Now you throw more fuel to the fire?

    Also, I think the reaction to your denialism is quite warranted (not the terrible messages/tweets of course, they weren't even creative or funny in online world), especially how you handled the issue of libel. I genuinely can't understand why the women in this scenario are victim-blamed. This is sickening on so many levels considering all the rape prevalent today. It's nice that it's happen an ocean between, but these women deserve just as much protection and concern.

    Let's say in this scenario it turned out the prepatrators were all the migrants, they were, what then will you say? You guys got lucky in your racist assumptions? Not everyone is a racist, I'm a minority, and just because this is a touchy topic that may involce race , doesn't make anyone talking about it racist.

    The harassment you received was horrible, but being online for the last 20 years that's just normal troll behavior when you do something good/bad/anything. To me it appeared to be the result of your repeated attacks of libel, or just some trolls, who knows--this doesn't excuse what you did, and it doesn't excuse you casually dismissing the events; and portraying your side in a favorable light.

    Had I not seen the medium post, I'd have eaten all of your words wholesale.


    - Amal Chu, California

    1. I refer you to my reply to Jerred Sseiyll in an earlier thread on this comments stream:

      ""Real perpetrators" means exactly what it says - the people who committed this crime. I'm not interested in where they come from, what they look like or what their religion is. They can be little green asteroid-worshippers from Mars for all I care.

      "My concern is that far too many people - on both sides - jumped to conclusions. As I point out to James above, there was indeed denial that refugees could be involved, but there was also denial that anyone OTHER than refugees could be involved. If we make assumptions about who the perpetrators are, and as a result investigation is inadequate, we let down the women who were attacked. We owe it to them not to pre-judge. That applies both to those who assumed that refugees were not involved at all, AND to those who assumed that the attacks were entirely carried out by refugees. The #rapefugees meme is every bit as poisonous as the cover-up by the German police.

      "Let's keep open minds and call for fair, transparent and thorough investigation of this crime."

      I do not have a "side". I did not "casually dismiss" the events. And I have never, EVER, blamed the women. Never.

      There was no justification whatsoever for the abuse I received, and your attempt to blame me for it is, in your words, "classless".

    2. "'Real perpetrators' means exactly what it says - the people who committed this crime. I'm not interested in where they come from, what they look like or what their religion is. They can be little green asteroid-worshippers from Mars for all I care."

      I agree Frances, I could careless about their skin color or origin, but is it a problem if after having done my due diligence/research I've found the perpetrators to be of various characteristics, then I see nothing wrong with speaking about these nuanced issues, what do you fear? I am a minority, I do not fear these discussions; I do not call people racist and shut them down. Discuss these issues head on, there is no other way.

      Absolutely no one was trying to silence you, but you were trying to silence David, and in BAD FAITH.

      I don't know how new you are to the Internet, but it's been around over 20 years now, and in the Internet realm, people typically are a bit more careful about making such outlandish statements, UNLESS they don't care about possible backlash. Understand?

      You forgot that you could face possible backlash, not that it is deserved or warranted, but you must absolutely understand, Twitter is a public realm, it was not the Twitter-sphere's fault that there was attention levied your way when you were originally at fault. You also tried to lie distort the truth ON THE INTERNET, where they can fact check you if they so please. Let that sink in Frances, this is how the Internet works, no one means to harm or distress you, but you brought this on yourself. Just like those girls in Germany "brought it on themselves" because they were "dressed like sluts" and "not at arms length from migrants."

      Based on my observation from the 7th onward, you definitely deserved backlash, but not those random mean disgusting tweets. Those kinds of comments are totally troll comments, you have to stop cherry-picking or else you will be deluding yourself into a false sense of reality.

      While you did apologize sincerely here at the end of this blog post, watching everything unfold from the beginning, and your repeated arbitrary accusations--I can't put very much faith behind your words anymore.

      You attempted to blame whatever you could to see what stuck to the wall, rather than attempt a graceful exit. I'm glad David was level-headed enough to put it all behind you guys, but this blog post is the exact opposite of grace.

      This is my genuine opinion, and mine alone.

      - Amal Chun, California

    3. Amal,

      At the point at which I issued the tweet in question - and the subsequent twitter storm - there was no evidence that refugees were involved. There were eyewitness accounts that men of North African and Arab appearance were involved. But those could be illegal immigrants (Germany does not deport failed asylum seekers), economic migrants and/or people born in Germany (Germany has had a sizeable North African/Arab population for many years). There had been no "due diligence/research" at that time: there was one unsupported report from an unidentified policeman that all the people arrested were refugees, which was not confirmed officially and has since turned out not to be true. At the present time, slightly over half of those arrested are migrants, mostly from Morocco and Algeria: the remainder are from Europe and I have heard that one is a US citizen, though whether this has been officially confirmed I do not know.

      I strongly object to witch hunts against particular groups of people on the basis of no evidence. That was always the point I was making. Those who decided a priori that refugees were entirely to blame do not have the moral high ground. And I'm sorry, but people WERE trying to silence me. That was the entire point of the twitterstorm.

      Your opinion of what happened between me and David is irrelevant. David has accepted my apology, and that is all that matters. The subject is now closed.

      I reject absolutely your accusation that I attempted to "lie distort" the truth. I told the truth as I saw it. You may choose to interpret things differently. That is your prerogative, but you do not have the right to accuse me of dishonesty.

      I have never said those girls in Germany brought the attacks on themselves. Never. Nor would I. What was done was a crime. I have never said otherwise.
      And similarly, I did not "bring on myself" disgusting obscene abuse.

      The obscene and violent tweets were not "random troll tweets". They were directly connected to the original tweet that I issued. Your attempt to minimise and excuse them is way out of order.

      I've allowed your comment to stand, but I reject completely what it says.

    4. Frances, you're doing it again, you just don't understand the Internet and what "trolls" really are. It is apparent that you just don't understand the Internet culture as well as you think you do.

      Please understand Frances, had I not found this blogpost, I'd have believed your apology, whole-heartedly, from David's post hidden in the comments at the bottom. This blog post is just making that apology look flimsy. The dishonesty comes from these connections and from the events from Jan7 onward.

      I'm not excusing the tweets, do not attempt to slander me in this way. I'm a woman, a minoirty, I understand RAPE, HARASSMENT, RACISM. What you faced were trolls that were around your area (twitter-area).

      I lack the ability to explain to you exactly what you are dealing with as it's been normal for 20 years. Ignore those vile tweets, the focus was on you and david. Yes he did accept your apology, and he's STILL defending your apology, in light of the conflation and and association of the vile tweets with your terrible interaction with David.

      Again, you have to understand that I sympathize that those tweets are gross, idiotic, and childish, but they are TROLLS Frances! I don’t know how else to express this to get you to comprehend what it is you think you are dealing with.

      As you can see, your interactions here have gone a lot better without random Trolls inserting vile comments, do you understand now? Certain mediums have certain trolls, certain trolls exists on blogs as well. This is apart of the Internet that you kind of learn overtime. This abuse isn't just accepted by Internet users, people that understand it just ignore it. Yes, I know you have to read some of the things before you get to block/mute, but this is just the Internet. Luckily you can choose to block/mute but those don’t mean you are off of the Twitter-sphere.
      Enough about the Trolls, it's something you have a very difficult time grasping. It looks to me like you’re about to reconsider Twitter as a medium of choice for you, and I’d like to know why? If it’s because you don’t want your opinions challenged then that’s silly, you should not silence yourself because of trolls. If it’s because Twitter is in reality a TERRIBLE tool for social interactions, then yes I agree. I think there are many better ways to interact, share, and discuss ideas than 140 characters. I heard they are upping to 10k words, but by then the users might have all left.

      Take care, Frances--don’t get trolled.

      -Amal Chun, California

    5. "I've allowed your comment to stand, but I reject completely what it says."

      These days Frances, just having the opportunity to talk and discuss rather than be silenced/banned/muted/blocked or called racist/bigot/homophobe/etc is a blessing.

      We don't agree with each other, and that's okay--I came here to discuss and talk, thanks for allowing that.

      -Amal Chun

    6. Amal,

      It is not me who misunderstands. It is you.

      My response to David was ENTIRELY BECAUSE of the preceding abuse. Completely. Because of the effect it had on my mental state. I was on edge and oversensitive. I'm not excusing my behaviour: I'm merely explaining. I would not have overreacted to his post had I not endured three weeks of abuse. I frequently get picked apart in blogposts, and I usually ignore it, or perhaps post a considered reply on my own site. I am only too aware that accusations of libel are themselves libellous, and had I been thinking straight I would never have responded like that to David's considered post.

      And I'm sorry, Amal, but you have not seen what was thrown at me and you don't know what you are talking about. What David posted are small samples of the exchanges from early on in the twitterstorm. It got far worse after that, and it was all directly connected to the deliberate circulating of the tweet by the American racist right. I don't care how experienced an internet user you are: to suggest that this was random abuse by passing trolls is just wrong. I've been using the Internet for a long time and am a heavy Twitter user with a large number of followers. I'm very used to random trolling, and I know how to deal with it. But I have never before encountered anything like this.

      You are perhaps unaware that the comments on here have actually been trolled by someone who has screenscraped copies and posted them on Twitter with some pretty unpleasant comments.

      There is no intentional dishonesty in my post. You may choose to believe otherwise. I can't do anything about that.

      No, I am not reconsidering Twitter as a medium of choice. I am reconsidering how I use Twitter. You really don't know much about me if you think I "don't want my opinions challenged". I welcome and encourage debate. The reason I am reconsidering how I use Twitter is because as my account becomes more high profile, debate becomes more difficult and abuse both more common and more unpleasant. The effect is that I can no longer speak or debate freely, even in start-tagged conversations with followers. That is a serious loss.

    7. And thank you for your gracious response above. It is indeed a rare blessing these days to be able to have a civilised conversation with someone who disagrees with me.

    8. I saw the gross Tweets, Frances. They were on twitter for us to see. I understand very well those ugly tweets you received, and how to deal with them.

      Do you know what Twitch.tv is? It's live-streaming platform for ANYTHING from gaming, education, & entertainment. Millions and millions of users are on it, and they interact with each other in much-more real time fashion than twitter.

      On there you have a chat system that is even more vile than Twitter, because anyone can load chat with any random thing they want. It's a free-for-all. Do people get offended by one random comment from some idiot in the chat? No, because that is the Internet, you don't give those trolls any attention, and you just move along.

      I've used so many different platforms in my 20 years on the net, that I understand VERY well what you faced. Almost anything I have to say on the matter will look as if I'm dismissing those ugly tweets, I'm not Frances.

      Those tweets were GROSS! I cannot overstate that, but those are just idiots on the Internet. We disagree on what these are, as we have different proficiency in online discourse.

      There are others that have commented that also highlight your conduct after apologizing to David and then your words in this blog post which do not align with the apology.

      "No, I am not reconsidering Twitter as a medium of choice. I am reconsidering how I use Twitter. You really don't know much about me if you think I "don't want my opinions challenged". I welcome and encourage debate. The reason I am reconsidering how I use Twitter is because as my account becomes more high profile, debate becomes more difficult and abuse both more common and more unpleasant. The effect is that I can no longer speak or debate freely, even in start-tagged conversations with followers. That is a serious loss."

      Because you think you can no longer speak or debate freely tells me you don't understand the Internet. Saying things on the Internet means people are allowed to fact-check you, and should be prepared to be offended by someone that may have taken offense to your words. It's just how the Internet works. If your views/opinions/words are out in the open, they may be discussed and tested. Speak with confidence, and if you meet resistance?

      Use facts, trolls don't have facts. With David, rather than use facts, you double-down on your accusations. That was the OPPOSITE of how you handle things online. Facts, always. When it was proved factually that he did not commit libel, you lost because facts win.

      Use facts.

      -Amal Chun

    9. Amal,

      With respect, unless you followed the entire storm, you did NOT see the tweets. You only see a very small proportion of all the tweets sent on Twitter. And you do not know who was sending them.

      I have told you that the question of my behaviour in relation to David is now closed. I'm not accepting any more criticism from you.

      Nor am I ignorant of the internet. I do not need you patronising me, thank you. My use of Twitter HAS had to change as I've become better known, and I don't think the change is for the better. That is my considered opinion based on my experience, which is different from yours. Respect that, please.

      I'm not prepared to discuss with you any more. You are now acting like a troll yourself. What a pity.

  36. Frances
    Sorry about your asthma. Medically, inflammation can be a menace when it is rogue as in asthma (and not just in asthma). It is not surprising there is a biological connection with emotional assault. I wish you well.

    Trump is a clever guy - immigration is a theme he will increasingly target. It does not matter that US immigration is different and only involves war and famine refugees in a minor way; Merkel is a useful target. (With specific exceptions of course, migration within EU until recently has been more, perhaps mostly, about changes in employment prospects of different demographics / classes, age-groups, in the face of removal of internal boundaries.

    The whole EU has to deal with as it were a massive 're-unification' project. It has seen a gut reaction in the UK, for example, which is not surprising as we are still suffering from the effects of de-industrialisation. A lot of sentiment until recently was mostly directed against Polish workers.)

    Trump is using Merkel in a big way! "Merkel is mad. Germans will revolt and get rid of her" - I paraphrase a bit perhaps but I understand he is on the record for saying suuch.

    very best
    Phil (non-Twitter - wrong age-group - don't need it)

  37. Wikipedia describes an internet troll as a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory or off-topic messages in an online community with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal discussion, often for their own amusement.

    Suggesting that a political group who support border controls organised over 1000 men to sexually assault and rape women resulting in over 500 police complaints was inflammatory. It doesn't mean you deserve nasty threatening tweets back.

    I agree with Amal, this blog post conflating or associating your appalling treatment of David Paxton with the nasty tweets you received is very unfair to a man who has accepted your apology buried in the comments on his blog (and not here) very gracefully considering the allegations you made.

    I support free speech and would go to the wall to defend your and anyone's right to say inflammatory outrageous things but when you do that you must accept that people have the right to say things that may offend you in return.

    1. I accidentally deleted my reply to your comment. This reproduces the substance of that reply.

      Making a controversial comment in a start-tagged tweet to a follower in the course of a conversation cannot in any sense be considered "trolling". It would be a sad state of affairs if I had to censor what I say in discussion with a follower because of possible negative reactions from people to whom the tweet was not addressed.

      In effect, you are saying that it is reasonable for people to issue obscene and violent responses to comments of which they disapprove, even if those comments are not addressed to them. I'm afraid I don't regard this as supporting "free speech", since it makes Twitter an unsafe place to speak freely. Threats and abuse designed to intimidate are a denial of free speech. This is why I apologised to David. He had the right to say what he did, and I was out of order in trying to stop him. But those who sent me vile and threatening tweets, comments and emails were equally out of order. Where is their apology?

      I apologised on this post as well as David's:

      "I have to say that although the criticism he levels at me in this post is harsh, it is deserved. I have handled this very badly indeed and am genuinely sorry about the mess I have made. I have left a comment on that post apologising for accusing him of libel."

    2. I see you have changed your answer some 4 days later. It is your blog and your right but I will not engage in further debate on this basis.

    3. I accidentally deleted my original reply when I cleared out my spam folder. It is because the copy of your comment that I posted was not the one to which I had replied. I am unable to recover my original comment so have posted the substance of it as I recall it.

      But believe whatever you please.

    4. I'm sorry, as my comment is not timely. Let me start by mentioning how much I like your elegant Google blogspot blog. The web developer shows skill and design originality, whomever she or he may be.

      I am a middle-aged Jewish woman and financial economist in the USA, specifically doing bank model validation and governance. I read your posts on Forbes for years. Until 2013, I had assumed you were film director Francis Ford Coppola's brilliant young spouse. You've probably heard that before!

      On 30 Jan 2016 at 15:47, you said your tweet about the Cologne rapes was "in a start-tagged tweet to a follower in the course of a conversation" on your public Twitter account. I agree with you unequivocally that "it is unreasonable for people to issue obscene and violent responses to comments of which they disapprove." Twitter is much better now at enforcing its Terms of Service, which disallow such behavior.

      This is also true, sad as it is: "It would be a sad state of affairs if I had to censor what I say in discussion with a follower because of possible negative reactions from people to whom the tweet was not addressed." Amal Chun obliquely addressed this. Be aware that it is legal and easy to use Twitter's search feature, as well as Google's, to find tweets with content mentioning any words or expressions, e.g. rape, immigrant, Cologne, New Year's Eve. Your tweet would be a search result even if the person searching had never heard of you. Keep that in mind. I do, which is why my Twitter account is private now. I would prefer it not to be, but the potential consequences are too great a downside risk for me.
      Sorry if this is a duplicate comment.

  38. I think we disagree about the impact of your tweets.
    I do support your right to say it in public whether you tag someone or everyone.
    Long live trolls

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. Amal Chun,

      Your comment has been removed because it contravenes the rules of this blogsite. Your previous comments arguably did too, but I allowed them to stand in the interests of balance. But I do not tolerate personal attacks on me or any one else on this blogsite.

    3. I respect your decision, but I disagree that the things I said were personal attacks against you.

      If you feel that way, I apologize.

      - Amal Chun

  39. Extraordinary that you reply to my comment publicly but delete my comment so no one can read it.

    Hardly free speech is it?

    1. I did not delete your comment. I don't know why it has disappeared. I will re-post it.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. The comment had been filtered out as spam by Blogger. Along with 13 identical copies of it. I don't know if you intended to post the same comment multiple times, but that is spamming and Blogger correctly filtered it out. I have posted ONE copy of your comment. The rest remain in the spam folder.

    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

    5. The "far right" can hardly be blamed for using abusive language given that the political left has been doing just that for decades. In Guardian articles, anyone with doubts about the alleged wonders of immigration or multiculturalism are routinely described as "racist", "xenophobic", "bigots" and so on. I've never once seen so much as the beginnings of an attempt justify that sort of foul language. For that reason, I quite often use abusive language in reference to lefties: I take it they're impressed.

      As for the idea that the political left disapproves of the "far right", that's a joke. If you're into killing authors and cartoonists, beheadings, desecrating 2,000 year old architectural gems, the political left will leap to your defence or make excuses for you often as not - long as you've got a brown face, not a white one. Islam is about ten miles to the right of the BNP.

    6. Thank you for putting my comment back. It kept saying it was posted then disappearing so kept trying to repost.

    7. Martha, I don't know why Blogger put your original comment in the spam folder. It does strange things sometimes. My apologies for the confusion.

  40. Personally, I very much enjoy and learn from your commentary. Please keep up the good work.----Not a Trump supporter

    1. Interesting you raise Trump.
      That we can allow the likes of Anjem Choudary to spout hate speech on the streets of Britain and then try to ban Donald Trump from the UK is embarrassing.
      I think Donald Trump is offensive, no doubt many do here, but free speech means that we risk being offended. It means Frances can post outrageous tweets if she wants, and not be bullied into retracting them if that's what she thought at the time.
      Unless the speech contains a threat as in "I am going to come to your house and rape you" or "I am going to sue you if you don't do xxx" then we should be free to express opinions.
      Allowing that means we all need thicker skins.

  41. Hi Frances,

    You might dismiss this as "letting the terrorists win," but using Twitter to promte your work is only worth it if it is promoting your work. When it stops doing that, whether because of something you said or because of something others are saying, time to stop tweeting. Give it a rest. The vultures will move on to feed elsewhere.

    Also, for what it is worth, I had almost the same thoughts as you regarding forces behind the events that started all this chatter (but actually suspect ISIS and its fellow travelers as organizers) -- and have tweeted those thoughts several times, and will not retract them. I am expecting to vindicated. SOMEBODY organised what happened to SOME purpose. It is no insult to the victims to talk about the possible motives and culprits.

    Anyway, nobody has come after me on Twitter yet, but that's because very few people take any interest at all in what I tweet. As you know, you wouldn't have become the target of so much venom if you weren't attracting a fascinated readership who views you as influential. Liike others, I am surprised you were unaware of the amount of insane effort many people who are addicted to social media put into villifying other people on social media. It's their lives! So now you know. I don't expect it to change, so that is another reason to think about whether you have the kind of temperment that allows you to be on social media and not be damaged by it. There are many writers writing who are getting read in places where it matters who are not tweeting a thing. It's not essential, and if you want to promote your work via Twitter you can always ask friends with lots of followers to do it for you.

    Sign me,

    Remaining Anonymous Because I Tweet Politically Incorrect Things About Who Might Be Responsible For Organizing Organized Events

    1. Hah, I should delete your comment, really....

      But I understand why you have chosen to remain anonymous. And I can choose to break my rules if I want. So I'm allowing your comment to stand as I think it makes important points.

      You should not have to hide. It should be ok for people to say controversial things without having to hide behind a cloak of anonymity. Sadly, that is not the reality of the internet today.

      Interestingly, I also suggested that ISIS might be responsible. Rape is a weapon of war, and ISIS regard themselves as at war with the West. You will find what I said about this in the selection of tweets reported by David Paxton, link in my post at the words "very angry post". But this was dismissed as simply another lunatic conspiracy theory. Too many people had already made up their minds.

      I'm considering my position with regard to Twitter. My account used to be an open forum for serious and not-so-serious debate, plus virtual tea and biscuits, banter and light-hearted satire. But as I become more widely known, my account becomes less and less a place where I can hang out and more and more a minefield where I have to watch my step or get blown up. While the account was locked, it was like "old" Twitter: I could have fun, friendly conversations with followers. But as I said in the post, locking has a price. Maybe it is time to admit that @Frances_Coppola is no longer "me" - it has become a brand, and what goes out on that account is marketing.

    2. Thanks for not deleting my response, but mainly it was just written for you to see, and I knew you would, even if you deleted it!

      As a writer, you need not just to protect not just your twitter account, freedom of speech, and your reputation, you also need to protect the mental space you need to write and think. Social media can be very -- shall we say -- problematic for that, and the more sensitive the mind, the more the vulnerability. Not good for writers to become insensitive or less vulnerable if they are to think creatively.

      Not telling you what to do, and glad you are so firm on the side of free speech for everybody but pointing out self-preservation is honorable.

      Still Anonymous Because Sometimes Anonymity Is The Right Way To Fight For Free Speech

      (By the way, when Salman Rushdie had the "fatwah" put against him, he pointed out that everybody who wrote used to be anonymous -- partly because most of them were mere scribes taking dictation for illiterates -- until authorities wanted to be able to fix responsibility for ideas that were circulating and punish people! I am hoping someday we will have the internet technologdy to automatically assign random numbers to everything post, tweet and "comment" made on the internet, so nobody really can tell who has written what and just has to deal with what was said, true or not true. )

    3. Back again to pass along some words I thought you might find quite useful, these from Emily Dickinson:

      A coward will remain, Sir,
      Until the fight is done;
      But an immortal hero
      Will take his hat, and run!

      The whole poem is worth reading on this occasion, if you never have:


      Emily was a fan of being nobody, if not exactly anonymous

  42. Kelly Jessop,

    The rules of this blogsite are clearly stated on the About This Blog page. I also reminded people of them in an earlier comment on this post. Your comment did not comply with the rules. I have therefore deleted it.

  43. F

    When in doubt, much the best Twitter way to deal with something you really don't like or even something that has a go at you is to deploy unrelenting 'light touch' and quizzical interest. That gives you space to explore what if anything is going on about you without sounding immediately cross/belligerent.

    If that fails, drop a quiet email to someone and make contact in a positive way. It's so easy for people even with good intentions to get the wrong end of a stick or see something out of context and then start furiously feuding in public. Once that starts the nutters pile in and it ends up as you describe

    Have a look at this: http://punditwire.com/2013/08/31/how-to-deal-with-abuse-always-agree-with-it/ Doesn't always work but it's not obviously worse than the alternatives..!



    1. Dear Frances, my heart goes out to you for the suffering which has been inflicted on you by the loudmouthed racists and Islamophobes of the internet. As a specialist in migration, and formerly a rapporteur for the European Commission on racism and xenophobia, I have in the not-too-distant past made the error of posting in my real name. Most certainly I will have nothing to do with Twitter -- which is populated by fools and obnoxious types.

      The only thing I can say that may be of comfort, is that the racists want to silence civilised speech, and humiliate those who promote human decency on the web. There is no protection for any other than the very rich and powerful -- and look at the venom spat out by some of those. You should not regret your actions, unless they clearly were foolish thoughts (something I really doubt). But do reconsider how much has to be stated in your personal name: that is the vulnerability that these scum exploit.

    2. Thank you. I should really delete your comment (rules is rules!), but I appreciate your kind words. I have a feeling we have met before, anyway - did you previously post under a pseudonym that meant "stranger"?

    3. In answer to your question: yes.

  44. Techdirt have written a good article about your twitter experience and the legalities surrounding tweets

    1. Thanks Martha. Someone's just sent it to me on Twitter too. It's a good balanced piece.

  45. I found this this quite educational so in my modest way gave it publicity down under.

  46. It's very saddening to see this happen to you, Frances, and more depressing still that such online pillorying no longer surprises. It seems to me that you have been rather foolish but you were in no way deserving of the abuse that followed.

    You are a valued voice, by me amongst so many others, but you are under no obligation to present yourself as a target to the malign. By all means block the abusers and cut yourself off. If it’s affecting your health and peace of mind please consider taking a break...but do come back.

  47. They let anyone on the internet these days.

  48. At least Forbes didn't cave in. Your story reminded me of this:


    1. I have indeed been fortunate. Forbes not only ignored the emails, my editor sent me a supportive email when I was forced to lock my account. And the FT - which was also contacted - openly supported me by linking this post on FT Alphaville. I know others have fared far worse.

    2. I don't know what your original tweet was but I thought the whole incident or series of incidents in Germany were way overblown and jumped upon by racists to prove a point that is, at best, tenuous.

      At least one of the rape allegations, which were unconnected with the mass robbery in Cologne at any rate, has turned out to be a hoax.

      Hardly a mention in the media though.

      It's just as well I don't have a high profile and I don't tweet. I'd be besieged, I suspect.

      Stick to your guns Frances.


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