LibLink: Christine Jardine: As I grieved my husband, internet trolls attacked

In her Scotsman column, Christine Jardine describes the pain of losing her husband during the election campaign in 2017 – which was then added to by attacks from internet trolls:

Two years ago, at the most difficult time in my personal life, a political activist who thought they were clever decided it was OK to launch a nasty, and untrue attack.

During the 2017 general election campaign, my husband had died from a sudden and unpredicted heart attack.

The circumstances were particularly difficult. We were separated, he was living on his own and, because my name on his list of next of kin was different from his, the police opted for the other person whose name was the same.

It was my daughter who took the call.

The next few days were a blizzard of emotional conversations until we received the results of a post-mortem which detailed how sudden and irretrievable his attack had been.

There were newspaper stories and obituaries to read from journalists and a media he had worked in for 30 years and who were keen to show their respect.

I struggled with the inevitable questions that come from a loved one’s death, exacerbated in this case by the guilt that came from decisions that had set us on different paths after 30 years together.

On the evening of the funeral, the attacks started:

I discovered I was accused on Twitter of breaking the cross-party agreement not to campaign as a mark of respect to the Manchester bombing.

At first I thought it was a mistake, and explained I had been at what I described as “a family funeral”.

Internet trolls started vying to see who could be nastiest about me, while others piled in to try and defend and one or two did send me an apology.

Next day it was all over the papers. There were demands for an apology aimed at the political party whose activist had started it all.

And at the centre of it all my daughter, who was trying to deal with the death of the father she adored, was now dealing with a vicious attack on her mother.

So what’s the way out of all of this?

We should never forget what happened to Jo Cox, and we should also never dismiss the possibility that it could happen again.

The Great Get Together recognises kindness, respect and all we have in common.

But that doesn’t just happen by itself. We have to work at it. We have encourage people to take it on board. What happened to me was tiny in comparison. But it was still unacceptable. Those in public, particularly political leaders, have a duty and responsibility to set an example.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • David Becket 24th Jun '19 - 11:14pm

    You could not publish articles like this in a newspaper. If they were printed the publishers would be in trouble.
    The same law should apply to the internet. The internet providers make the “paper” on which the electronic articles are written. They should edit in the same way that newspapers edit.
    They will cry foul, well it will dent their profits, but it is not stopping free speech, only ensuring that “free” sic speech does no harm.

  • Alex Macfie 25th Jun '19 - 6:16am

    David Becket: “internet providers” is a rather vague term that can mean many different things. If you mean platforms on which content is hosted, then these are the equivalent of printers or distributors, not publishers — a fact that is reflected in imprints on electronically distributed party political campaign literature. There is an argument to be had about how proactive companies like Facebook and Twitter should be in taking down inappropriate content, but treating them as full-blown “publishers” would be equivalent to making a printing firm editorially responsible for the content it prints.

  • John Marriott 25th Jun '19 - 11:19am

    Why DO people get so hypnotised by sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.? I’m sure people say things about me when I write the odd piece for my local paper and its electronic competitor. However, as I don’t do ‘social media’, I don’t know and, quite frankly, I DON’T CARE!

  • Martin 25th Jun ’19 – 8:22am
    David Becket: I think you need to explain yourself. What is wrong with “articles like this”?

    David means the original (and subsequent) false accusations on Twitter.

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