Last Tuesday, the YUSU Elections Hustings took place. It was a chance for us normal folk to listen to the newest bunch of wannabe politicians talk about what they wanted to do for our university (or, as I suspect, what they thought we wanted to hear). There was much talk of Hes East – because, you know, changes that will heavily affect us in the near future – in addition to talk of ‘Lad Culture’, funding for societies, and Graeme Osborne’s luscious hair.
However, all of this paled in comparison to the highly exciting Tweet Wall that encompassed the candidates as they drivelled on about ‘change in YUSU’. This highly anticipated feature of the night was laden with remarks about Graeme Osborne’s aesthetics, comments about candidates being incredible and loved by all, but more disappointingly, comments of abuse and sexism.
There are, of course, a number of things wrong with the abuse that took place via the Wall; it was distasteful and potentially hurtful to the candidates, it was completely off-topic and had absolutely nothing to do with the candidate’s policies, nor the positions they were running for. It was an abuse of their freedom to tweet at the candidates, and have their tweets read by the world. Sam Maguire commented on his YUSU blog: “We live in a country in which women and Jewish people can run for office and that people need to get over this and see candidates as candidates, critiquing their experience, skills, ideas and policies, not their background, appearance or gender.” I agree with our YUSU President – it is, obviously, wrong for people to treat the candidates in such a manner. However, I do not believe this freedom that was so readily abused should be concealed.
Indeed, the exploitation of the Tweet Wall was, undoubtedly, horrifically stupid and offensive, but that doesn’t mean the Wall itself should exist. Should we censor or monitor the tweets? I don’t think so. If we did that, then we’d be censoring people’s thoughts and people’s freedom to express themselves, no matter how thoughtless and offensive those expressions may be. We might not agree with them, as I and many others on Tuesday night did not, but that doesn’t mean we, or more realistically YUSU, have any right to gag them.
I suppose that, if we look past this abuse, one benefit of the Twitter Wall, if there are any besides it being humorous at times to watch, is that it names-and-shames those who send in offensive comments. If you’re stupid enough to actually send in a sexist or abusive tweet, then you’re due your just desserts when it shows up in large writing for everyone to see. If you post it, it’s your fault.
For the most part, however, the Tweet Wall was fine. The average tweet was just irrelevant nonsense that had absolutely nothing to do with the elections at all, but that’s all it was. Not offensive, not abusive, but just plain stupid. Indeed, it was an attempt for people to proclaim themselves as ‘York’s Wittiest or Banterous Tweeters’. Hey, if that’s your thing, go for it – as Kevin Hart once said, “Do you, boo. Do you.”
Fundamentally, you shouldn’t post hurtful comments to the candidates via the Tweet Wall – but if you do, for some stupid reason, then you shouldn’t be censored. You should be punished, but you shouldn’t be censored.