Cyber war! A dystopian nightmare? A plot from Doctor Who? When it was first invented, the internet seemed to have so many possibilities. But then humans got hold of it, and it swiftly re-calibrated around our favourite things – sex and conflict.
Of course, there are many different types of conflict, official categories including ‘personal’, ‘international’, ‘military’ and ‘Trumpian’. Indeed, the 45th President of the United States nearly started World War Three last month with his overzealous tweeting.
So here is a rundown of just some of the ‘best’ wars started or fuelled by that well-known organ of peace, goodwill, constructiveness and grace: Twitter dot com.
Trump and Iran
Remainers were pleased they’d stockpiled all that coffee and Boursin, as finally the Armageddon they’d been hoping for looked like it was coming. In America, Survivalists were loading up their AK47s and heading underground. The rest of us were sifting Youtube for advice on how to survive a Nuclear winter. It seemed Donald Trump had decided, in the wake of his possible impeachment, to destroy the Earth.
Okay, I exaggerate. But for a day or two earlier this month there was some genuine concern, and both social media and actual real life pulsated with talk of war.
Following the death of Qasem Soleimani, national flags were tweeted, first by Trump then by Saeed Jalili of Iran. “The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way…and without hesitation!” the Donald took to twitter to warn.
In the end, the action was limited, and tensions – though still high – seem to be de-escalating. But perhaps we should not be surprised by ‘Papa Don’s’ glibness with his ‘tweet’ button, given his form in the medium…
Trump and ‘Rocket Man’
The braggadocios (yes, that is a word) President regularly used twitter to goad the ‘Little Rocket Man’, better known as Kim Jong-un, the rotund, recalcitrant, reactionary Supreme Leader of The People’s Republic of the North Korea.
It often seemed comic, though tinged with the threat of war. “We’ll do what has to be done,” Trump tweeted on one occasion. And, not long after, in response to a slur from Jong-un, “Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’ Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!” He sounded almost hurt.
Eventually the two men did meet, the first time sitting leaders of either country have sat down togehter. There were vague promises, and a shake of hands. Whether it will lead to any lasting progress has yet to be seen – North Korea currently seems to be continuing just as before.
Britain and the EU
It’s fair to say that relations between the imminently-Sovereign United Kingdom and “our friends and partners” on the continent have been frosty over the past few years. Twitter has certainly not helped that, with Guy Verhofstadt in particular irritating British audiences with his bombastic tweets – usually sent, it has to be noted, after lunch.
References to “paying what’s due” inflamed tensions. Bizarrely disrespectful adumbrations on the Second World War went down similarly poorly, as did his intimation that Brexiteers are “the real traitors”.
But, whilst aggravating, often this gap-toothed apparatchik’s twitter-rants have revealed his true fears – that Britain after Brexit will out-trade and out-compete his beloved EU. We can’t be certain where this year’s trade talks will end up, though the landscape is promising.
But I’ll be fine either way: I’ve stopped buying camembert and switched to English sparkling wine. As the French say, “down ze hatch!”
The Bishops versus the Church
It all started innocently enough. On November 20th 2018, the Bishops Conference of England and Wales tweeted: “Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance and we pray for all people who are ill at ease with their gender, seek to change it, suffer for it and have been persecuted, and also killed. All people are loved by God and valued in their inherent God-given dignity.”
But it sent ripples through the Catholic community. “Transgender Remembrance Day is part of an ‘ideological colonisation’ which Catholics cannot support,” replied Fr Marcus Holden angrily. Despite the backlash, some liberal Catholics urged the Church to liberalise its stance on ‘LGBT’ issues. The incident demonstrated how twitter influences not just political but religious debate too, and how an innocent or ill-considered tweet can snowball.
C’leb Twitter Wars
If there’s one thing Twitter has become famous for it’s c’leb twitter spats. Examples are legion. Calvin Harris and Rita Ora, Nicki Minaj and Lil Kim (nope, I don’t know who they are either). Twitter, of course, is the perfect forum for the ambitious public figure – as with politicians, E-listers can swiftly elevate themselves all the way to D-listers with just a few keenly controversial tweets.
Actor Laurence Fox has found himself at the heart of an ongoing twitter war since he appeared on Question Time a few weeks ago, because he said, to everyone’s shock, some sensible things that ordinary people might actually agree with.
The luvvies were up in arms, naturally, with virtually everybody-that’s-nobody piling into him. The episode ended on a happy note however, with Fox meeting outspoken critic Bonnie Greer for coffee. Even in these febrile times, declarations of war can swiftly dissolve into a ceasefire.
Some, however, were less amenable. When Fox offered to meet professional Woke-warrior Natalie Rowe, she responded, “What’s this! Is this your ‘let’s see how many Black People you can have coffee with’ week?”
I’m sure he can have coffee with as many people as he likes – no need to bring race into it, Nat.
I’m just relieved social media wasn’t around in 1940. “We shall fight them in the twittersphere” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.