This is not a comment on the racial implications of Diane Abbott’s ‘divide and rule’ tweet. A lot of other people seem to be doing that and their comments are invariably agenda-ridden. What has infuriated me about this business is the business of context. As a clumsy example, the next, single sentence paragraph will be absurd, untrue and entirely contrary to my beliefs.
I hate black people and think they should all be shot.
If you wanted to quote only that sentence from this post you could. And the shallow, reactionary nature a lot of the internet would let that be the only thing they would take in on the subject.,
If the tweet is part of a wider conversation (as it is claimed) it should of course be taken a such. The current towards political point-scoring and calls for resignation, as opposed to addressing and having a (God-forbid contentious) debate on the issue is a time-wasting exercise that undermines the concept of government at its root. Those who deal in it should be ashamed of themselves, particularly when they themselves are in government. Your job is not to get/stay elected. Your job is to represent yourselves and the people having been so elected.
I hope that in the fullness of time those guilty of such clumsy manipulation will be outed as idiots before the impact of their idiocy is felt.
There are many people comfortable in saying that ‘Yes, Abbott should have been more judicious and not posted it in the first place.”. This is also a waste of time and serves only to blur both the original idea being expressed and the issue of the fuss that follows. It is not the responsibility of the writer, or poster or whomever to make sure that every single sentence, or post or tweet stand alone as an innocuous summary of the full argument being made. All they need be responsible for is the clarity of the argument and their own confidence to stand behind it. It is the responsibility of the reader and the subsequent user for how they choose to use it. If they misunderstand the point or, worse, are happy to corrupt the point then they should be judged.
The story does bring to mind the question of whether there is a separate requirement to explicitly direct a reader to context on Twitter. It takes place in conversations on Twitter in the form of the @ reply. Those tweets are linked and can be viewed as a thread. The # implies topic but is not entirely effective in ensuring context between connected tweets (though it could and should). Perhaps it is worth ensuring that a tweet that is a direct continuation of a former or part of a longer conversation begins or ends with ellipsis. That way there could be no doubt that the tweet cannot and should not be read without the former or the latter.
That way we can get down to the important business of being properly racist*. I welcome comments on this post.
*There used to be a punctuation mark denoting sarcasm. For now, take this footnote as the context.