General consensus amongst pundits, politicos and journalists is that Twitter in the hands of politicians is dynamite.
Many have lost their reputations, jobs, and self-esteem for postings on Twitter.
Self-appointed McCarthyite commissars look out for offenders.
Like vigilantes, they have nothing else to do but “out” and embarrass people they don’t like.
Such narrow-mindedness in the age of information technology and global communications is simply backward.
Social media is a scientific advance in the field of media and communication.
To quote Erik Qualman: “We don’t have a choice whether we do social media: the question is how well we do it.”
Self-regulation rather than censorship should be encouraged. Self-censorship is toxic and soon no one will share ideas for fear of being “stoned” in the public sphere.
Truth be told, reactions to social media are no different to people’s reactions to the discovery of the press, radio and television.
All media were, and remain, conduits for racism, discrimination, hate speech, news, and entertainment – or for misinterpretations of those.
During the dark days of apartheid, I was thrown off a beach reserved for white people.
I wrote a letter to complain about this and it was published in a newspaper, claiming that white people spend a lot of time sun-tanning in order to look like me – but when the “genuine article” comes along, she gets hounded off the beach.
Needless to say, next day there was a letter in the mail threatening me, post-scripted with slogans “Keep SA clean, kill a k****r a day.”
The letter looked like it came directly from state security. Needless to say, I was terrified.
In other words, responses from those who wanted to harm me were almost as swift as responses from social media, reminding me that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, plus a social media over-reaction.”
That is exactly what happened in response to Helen Zille’s tweet.
Apart from the innocuous content of the tweet, many intelligent journalists had written reams of pseudo-intellectual invective to get at Zille for some reason, other than what the tweet said.
Using their interpretations as the standard by which she should be judged, they crucified her with a self-serving relish that borders on madness.
My defence of her has elicited all manner of responses: that “I am close to her”; that I am a DA member; worse, that I am right-wing.
To be simply motivated by the desire to protect free speech is not enough for the McCarthyites.
They want Zille crucified regardless of her track record and in the process, discredit me.
Firstly, although I am Zille’s friend, I am known for attacking her in public, in the media and also on Twitter.
She likes Obama, I don’t; she supported Hillary Clinton and the American Democratic Party, whereas I think they are the pits.
Second, I have never been a DA member. Third, to be called right-wing for standing up to self-righteousness is a badge of honour against those self-acclaimed lefties who love shutting down debate.
Public stoning has the same effect as racial slurs and such accusations emanate mostly from those who lack arguing logically.
Challenges for social media users are to use it responsibly, for our own sakes, especially in a Stalinist culture that does not give a hoot whether you lose your job or not.
Brand damage can be rather lethal, reminds Jay Baer: “Content is fire, social media is gasoline.”