Sports broadcaster and former England striker Stan Collymore knows what it’s like to be in the public eye and the scrutiny and criticism that celebrityhood often entails. But sometimes it goes overboard, and last month a case involving a law student expressing racial hatred towards him on Twitter resulted in a guilty plea by the defendant.
In addition his sports career, Collymore is also a strong supporter of anti-racism campaigns, and like a select number of others on Twitter, has taken to retweeting hateful messages he sees online.
In a series of tweets on March 28, Collymore wrote :
“Some say retweeting encourages them. No one forces them to racially abuse anyone.There is a human at the other end of the keyboard you know who wilfully [sic] wants it known that they think one race is inferior to another. Maybe some would like to ignore it but 2 British Uni students, one a Biologist, one a potential lawyer made the CHOICE to racially abuse. If you are from a group that has never had racial abuse, then you can sit and pontificate all you like about “its only words” etc etc. Try living it daily, and we’d soon see who has a “chip” on their shoulders. I’ll rewet [sic] every damn racist on here if i have to, because it needs dealing with. If racism doesn’t affect you, well done, you are very very lucky indeed.”
Here is how a few people on Twitter responded.
Let’s be clear about one thing, retweeting messages is not the same thing as directly engaging the offending person. The latter is often a futile attempt to get them to change their views and behavior, and frequently spurs them on. But retweeting walks a fine line between exposing the prevalence of online attacks and hate, letting the offenders know they are on notice, and satisfying their and their supporters’ sick desire for attention… and there are no universal rules for where the line should be drawn.
What do you think, should people retweet hateful messages or not?