Internet trolls ‘poison our national life’ UK justice minister Chris Grayling declared in October, and ‘should face two years in prison’. But a case proceeding through the courts of Portland, Oregon, highlights the difficulties of a simplistic take on the problem. It shows that sometimes the biggest losers – and biggest targets of hate (on and off-line) – are the haters themselves. Consider these tweets:
• YOU ARE A SICK PANSY AND NEED RE-EDUCATING PRONTO
• try breathing through your nose you sod
• I find that whenever you’re talking I have to turn away. The trouble being your face. Very disappointing. *Very*.
• Stupid trousers
• Remember yesterday? Actually probably best to forget yesterday isn’t it you daft c*nted plop
• Deep yellow piss atoms make your body, you know
• Here – idea: suffer and die in appalling circumstances. try and remember that.
These are seven of a total of more than eight thousand tweets Andrea Bess Jennings, currently facing trial, sent to herself from her ‘drunk account’ – her twitter alter ego her sober self was not aware of. Oregon authorities now face an acute dilemma: enshrining self-hate-speech into criminal law. Legal experts raise the spectre of prison officers force-quenching prisoners with alcohol to meet definitional targets of punishing ‘drunk offenders’, allowing sober non-offenders freedom in daylight hours – an unworkable tangle of chemistry, body-mass, autonomy, deception, memory, nostalgia and physical restraint.
As for Andrea Bess Jennings herself, the researcher in climate communication psychology sees a solution in gene therapy: manipulating the body to feel sick when drunk tweeting – a solution she’s outlined in a short poem: