Wednesday 22 May 2013

The Brat - Revisited

One of the most frequently linked to articles here is Type 1 Cyclist Hater - The Brat.

It has perhaps become more relevant over the last few days with the widely reported alleged Tweet and Run incident.

In case you've been living under a rock, someone claimed they'd hit a cyclist on the road in a tweet, justifying this by saying the cyclist doesn't pay road tax. This got a lot of people very upset - and it was reported to the police and widely re-tweeted. Somewhere along the way the police asked her to contact them,  a cyclist who was knocked off in round about the right area by a motorist who drove off appeared, the motorist deleted her twitter account, and a bunch of earlier photos were found in her tweets where she was taking images at the wheel, criticising the drivers in front for being too slow or simply to show off her how far over the speed limit her speedometer proved to be.

The resulting witch hunt on twitter was cruel; many argue that it was cruel but fair. I don't know - I think if you claim to have done something like that in a public place you've earned all of the public criticism you get.  But any witch hunt should really end when you've caught your supposed witch, and that didn't happen here. Whether she's the one who hit the cyclist or not almost doesn't matter in this light - you can't just claim to have done that and think that'll all be cool. It won't. Its in the hands of the Police - its their business. Its not my job to lay it on worse for her.

To my mind this is the rational end point of Brat mentality. If we normalise hate against cyclists, if we just ignore the reams of really very cruel hate hurled at cyclists, we make events like this more common.

I'm not saying one mean tweet is a crime. I'm not saying that one insult leads to an assault - but the comparison we can make with the crass, offensive racial and homophobic humour of the '60s and '70s is easy enough. No one Bernard Manning joke got anyone killed, but the endless tirades of cutting comments from his ilk led some to believe that they can act out their own depraved, violent fantasies with impunity. One use of the 'N' word does't get anyone killed - allowing such terminology to become the norm, sitting back and letting the racists get on with it, we know from history thats a mistake.

It should be taken as read that those who perpetuate what is very simply a form of prejudice are also the least likely to accept thats what this is. This is prejudice 101 - its a bed-time story that sociology teachers would come up with to drum an important moral lesson into their children. This is not controversial or cutting edge psychology, its basic human herd behaviour. People who display prejudice are always 'not a racist but...', or have many 'best friends who are homosexual', or are 'keen cyclists themselves'. 

I guess where I'm leading to with this is that this whole topic matters way more than you'd immediately imagine. Yeah, one teenge brat bragging about winging a cyclist, its not the big picture. But that big picture is made up of a multitude of little events, lots of people mouthing off, abusing, passing too close, threatening, assaulting... We let each one go because individually these events don't seem worth it. The result? Cyclists regularly bullied off the road, punished by motorists using their vehicles as if they're merely a teachers cane, or even assaulted, and failed by the legal system that is stacked against them.

Time to draw a line in the sand? Is that even possible?

No comments:

Post a Comment