Jeremy Wilson gives a light-hearted overview of the most irritating people in the British social media landscape. They’re not all ‘trolls’ in the conventional sense, but they could certainly use a light muzzling.
10. Old Holborn
“Anyone can be Old Holborn. Anyone,” declares @Old_Holborn‘s profile. Not quite anyone: I have it on good authority he is a middle-aged white man with a double chin and too much time on his hands.
Old Holborn is a libertarian, thus his profile picture is of someone in a Guy Fawkes mask. Because nothing says “edgy” like donning the regalia of a misunderstood teenage ninety-nine percenter. While it is true you should never trust someone without a libertarian streak, it is likewise best to avoid the foamy-eyed types who never get around to growing up.
While most sane people would applaud the targets of Old Holborn’s ire: big government, state surveillance, loony lefties and so on, and there’s no doubt he’s one of the most wickedly funny people on the internet, there are only so many times someone can shout “Fuck the Police” before they start to get on your nerves.
Old Holborn’s outpourings are a spectacular mash-up of guy down the pub and taxi driver shouting in your ear. All. Day. Long.
9. Tim Fenton
Tim Fenton, otherwise known as @Zelo_Street, is a dreary Left-wing blogger who writes dreary blog posts about dreary things. Though, in 2011 totalpolitics ranked the Zelo Street site as the 135th best UK politics blog, so perhaps I shouldn’t mock his earnestness.
He’s not fussy about who he argues with, but generally for our Tim the bigger the Twitter profile the better. His strategy is to incessantly drop the handles of much more successful and usually Right-wing bloggers into the middle of tweets. Begging for attention is Fenton’s raison d’être.
Getting into a Twitter spat is simply a means to an end for the intrepid Fenton: while his blog may purport to be about politics, it is in fact, of course, all about him. And to write about himself he needs a good reason. Being mentioned in a tweet by someone more popular than he is is apparently justification enough.
Once a blog post is up, his tweets turn from baiting to self-promotion. Tweeting a link to the same posts in as many different ways as possible is a skill of sorts – one Fenton has certainly mastered.
If he had been born at any other point in history, Tim Fenton would have spent his life alone, crying and wanking in a dark corner. The wonders of the internet have allowed him to spend his life alone in a corner, crying and wanking in front of TweetDeck.
8. Daniel Knowles
On the journalist Daniel Knowles’ blog, “Just another middle class wanker”, he describes his writing as: “Pretentious, self indulgent preening from a semi-intellectual.” Whether it is these qualifications or his self-deprecating charm that landed the baby-faced Knowles jobs at City A.M., the Telegraph and now the Economist is up for debate.
As you might expect given his resume, the missives that flow from Daniel’s account are fairly sound. In fact, as a one-stop shop for circumspect contemplation of world affairs, @dlknowles is hard to beat. He refreshingly steers clear of political tribalism and buttresses his musings with facts. Unfortunately, it is herein that the problem lies.
Because Knowles likes facts, knows a lot of them and is just a little over-keen to share them. Almost single-handedly, he has invented the art of fact-bombing. If your tweet lacks supporting evidence or could be refuted with an obscure statistic or 2003 Bloomberg story, Knowles is on hand to helpfully fact slam you.
Harmless enough you might think, but it rather spoils the whole ethos of inane chatter on social media. After all, that’s what the internet is for, isn’t it?
7. Tim Ireland
@bloggerheads, otherwise known as Tim Ireland, is yet another earnest Left-wing blogger gagging for attention. Though with a Twitter profile proclaiming his prowess in “SEO kung fu”, this is probably the least of his sins.
Tim puts his self-declared genius in social media and viral marketing to good use. Reaching the audience he deserves won’t just come about by through the quality of his blog’s content, after all: he need to generate a “buzz”.
On the occasions Ireland’s sleuthing uncovers politicians’ and journalists’ fibs (done in his spare time, when not working his SEO magic), he writes a post in his unique TV remote instruction manual style… then unleashes the Twitter fu.
Do you have lots of followers? Are you involved in politics or the media? @bloggerheads will tweet you and tweet you and maybe, if you’re really lucky, retweet you.
6. Piers Morgan
Piers Morgan likes himself. A lot. Fortunately for the rest of us, Morgan isn’t selfish and has dedicated his life to sharing his unique personalitya nd his high opinion of it with the world at large.
Aside from the poor attempts at banter with people he would like to be friends with, Morgan throws caution to wind with his account and drums up feuds with anyone willing to take the bait. The more famous, the better.
It’d be possible to mistake this recklessness for a begrudging realisation that he may not be as universally loved as he thinks, but in reality Piers is casting himself in the role of loud-mouth anti-hero. Unfortunately for him, the jokers of Twitter simply aren’t evil enough. At least until Sean Penn gets involved.
Despite his lack of worthy adversaries, Morgan’s head-to-heads with other notorious gobshites do have some entertainment value. When two twats twit at each, other nobody loses – though whether those rubbernecking the online tiff win anything is another matter.
Unlike some people on this list, Morgan’s Twitter rows actually make the newspapers. Which, in turn, means people will be reminded that Piers exists. That, after all, is the oxygen he craves.
Moronwatch is the self-appointed scourge of morons. With the world not lacking morons and @moronwatch not being particularly entrenched in any specific political ideology, the ingredients are all there for a swashbuckling online hero. Unfortunately, Moronwatch regularly lets us down, and not just because antagonising crazy people soon becomes a little tiresome.
At first it’s hard to pin down why the Moronwatch account grates so much. Then it hits you: Moronwatch, despite its name, completely lacks a sense of humour. No wit, no irony, just an endless tirade against stupid people. Moronwatch doesn’t go after ignoramuses to expose bigots and racists. It just has nothing better to do than pick on the intellectually underprivileged.
If the Zerohedge website is anything to go by, @zerohedge should be a cracking follow. The site has a track record of rooting out the best stories from the world of finance and a first glance the Twitter account indeed looks promising. As source for enlightening tidbits on world news and finance it is unparalleled, but things soon go awry for a variety of reasons.
First, intertwined with the main content are short, rapid fire inside baseball tweets. Even with a decent grasp of world news and finance, the constant battering is hard to take.
Second, “that” picture of Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden in Fight Club. It wouldn’t be so bad if Zerohedge tweeted at a normal pace, but they don’t. Following Zero swamps your Twitter stream with reminder after reminder of Brad Pitt’s perfectly preened abs. After a while, it just doesn’t make you happy about yourself.
Zerohedge earns a place on this list thanks to his pervasive influence across the City of London.
3. Guido Fawkes
Paul Staines is the UK’s top political blogger, thus chasing attention isn’t a necessity for him. Instead, Twitter serves Guido as the platform for playing his favourite sport: baiting the loony Left. That the number of lefties happy to submit to a Guido kicking in return for the attention are high shouldn’t detract from Paul’s pathological aptitude for agitating the Twitter shark pool.
Guido is also not adverse to some old fashion twitter hounding. Entertaining as this all is to watch, it is all rather circle-jerky: one big amphitheatre with Guido, the master of ceremonies, in the centre.
But despite his mastery of the tactical nuclear warhead, Staines can sit no higher on this list thanks to the fact that he and his blog are unmitigated crusaders for truth and justice against the corrupt establishment. Trolling might occasionally be his method, but Paul is fighting the good fight.
2. Obo The Clown
As we well know, the internet allows you to get away with being endlessly vile and offensive. Obnoxio The Clown is the embodiment of this freedom. By virtue of some eloquence with his cussing and being consistently obnoxious, @obotheclown has built up a bit of a following.
All sound like fun? Surely the world needs shaking from its lethargy by brave provocateurs, daring to reveal uncomfortable truths – by a modern day court jester? Maybe so, but Obo fails, despite his obvious intelligence, to rise above the monotony of schoolyard potty-mouth. A constant reminder that life was so much better before the internet.
1. Mo Ansar
It is a tragic truism of the social media age that calling yourself anything you like in your profile can eventually turn you into that person. Declare yourself an authority on badgers, tweet incessantly about badgers and there is a good chance that you will be drafted in as a talking head to discuss badgers on the telly. Following which you will find yourself installed as HuffPo’s badger commentator, naturally.
Mo Ansar‘s profile calls him a “Muslim Political & Social Commentator and a Legal & Civil Rights Advocate”. Thus he has become a spokesperson for Muslims and civil rights. And has a HuffPo column.
He is very keen to impart sagacity on those who wish to be enlightened – and on those who don’t. Mo was one of those who attacked Tom Holland for the crime of including historical facts in his documentary Islam: The Untold Story. Such an attack is understandable given Mo’s recent assertion on Twitter that the mild mannered historian is “a white man supporting pillage of Muslim majority nations, imperialism, who undermines Islam daily”.
Additionally, our Mo (not his real name) suffers from a worse case of persecution complex than a hunkered down Tennessee redneck awaiting the marching jackboots of Barack Obama’s private army. Muslims the world over are under constant attack from the imperialists and Mo wants you to know about it. Even the efforts to remove “Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb” from Mali are a return to colonial exceptionalism.
Reading through his Twitter feed can get quite disorientating, like peering into the mind of jammed record. Mo’s modus operandi is to invite debate, then when challenged scream ISLAMOPHOBIA! to silence his opponents. Those who argue are accused of being defamatory, labelled a troll then blocked. (I must remember to send him a link to this article.)
The ability to out-parody your own parody account is a very special skill indeed.