Thursday, August 29, 2013

A small example of Twitter tyranny

Edinburgh teacher Clare Kelly was bitching about her job one day.  While I've never been known to do this myself, I have heard rumours that this is not as uncommon as one might suppose.  The only problem with Ms Kelly was she chose to do this on Twitter.  Her tweets were picked up by a rapper who calls himself 'Professor Green'. He has strong opinions on 'why schools are failing'.  While this obviously doesn't distinguish him from anyone else with an internet connection, the problem for Ms Kelly was that as well as the usual pub-bore views, he also has by virtue of his status as a 'hot property on the British urban music scene' nearly two million followers.  Cue unwanted publicity, the need to confess, the disciplinary action and the inevitable deletion of the offending Twitter account.

The case highlights a thing or three about modern British culture I absolutely hate:

1) The cult of celebrity.  Certainly the teacher in question was unwise to ventilate on social media but it is unlikely that it would have come to anyone's attention had it not been for the fact that some 'celeb' had retweeted it.  The subsequent commentary had to do with what form the public repentance of Ms Kelly should take, rather than asking what qualifies this tattooed 'urban artist' who was educated in Tottenham to comment on how someone working in Edinburgh is doing her job in a school he is completely unacquainted with.

2) To paraphrase Orwell, these days it is not enough to do your job, you must love it.  One would have thought the notion that there's even a correlation between enjoyment and being good at something is self-evidently absurd.  This relates to the previous point.  Dreadful though it may be, does the X-Factor not teach us something about this?  All these enthusiasts full of self-belief who just love to sing because they were born to sing.  It is their destiny.  Unfortunately many are also completely tone-deaf and suffer from a tragic lack of self-awareness.  

Contrast with Andre Agassi who confessed to taking crystal meth, not to enhance his sporting performance but because he was going through a personal meltdown.  I don't know why I remembered this story but I was struck by the way his loathing of what he did was driven by the way absolutely everything in his life - how long he slept, what he ate, how he moved - always related back to tennis.  Yet he was rather good at it, if memory serves.

The notion that it is not enough to do your job, that you have to be the very incarnation of it, is perhaps the inevitable consequence of a culture that finds the notion of duty, of playing a role, uncomfortable.  But in any event, we don't even know if Ms Kelly feels like this all the time or was merely having an off-day, which brings me to the final point:

3) Excepting the truly outrageous, scandalous or disgraceful - can we take it as a broad rule of thumb that making an off-hand remark on social meeja once shouldn't necessarily invite professional ruin?  Because otherwise, it's a rather precarious and intolerant world we're living in.

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