Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sir Tim Hunt FRS Doesn't Know How the Internet Works Either

(An imaginary dialogue.)

—Do you have any comment on the offense your remarks caused this week?
—What remarks?
—You said something about women in science at a luncheon in Korea.
—Yes, I was asked to say a few words. No one was offended, as far as I know.
—Lots of people are offended on the Internet right now. Everyone is talking about it.
—How did it get on the Internet?
—It was reported on Twitter.
—What's Twitter? A newspaper of some kind?
—No, it's a social media site where anyone can say anything they want.
—There's no editorial oversight?
—No. But people can like and retweet what people say there.
—?
—People have followers on Twitter and these followers promote things that are said.
—And someone said I said something and it was promoted and now everyone's offended?
—Yes. That's how it works.
—That sounds frightful. Did they post a recording or transcript of my toast? (I wonder what I said.)
—No, they just quoted a few dozen words. You said you think female scientists cry too much and shouldn't share labs with men.
—That's ridiculous!
—Well, there's not much room for nuance on Twitter.
—Why not?
—You only have 140 characters to work with.
—Well I probably didn't say much more than 140 words, they could've gotten the quote right.
—140 characters.
—WHAT?
—140 characters.
—And why did you call me?
—To get your reaction to the outrage your remarks caused.
—Outrage that anyone can express in 140 characters and which is then promoted by "followers" who "like" it?
—Yes, that's how it works, like I say.
—And then you're going to broadcast my reaction on the radio?
—Yes, this is for the radio.
—And then I take it the people who are outraged will hear that?
—Yes.
—As well as the people who "reported" my original remarks "on Twitter"?
—Sure.
—And they'll report my reaction on Twitter too?
—Probably.
—And then anyone who reads their 140-character reaction to my reaction (now reduced to a few dozen words) will either be satisfied with what I say to you right now, or be outraged even more?
—Yes, that's how it...
—works?
—Yes.
—And then you'll call me for another reaction?
—No, I don't think we'll follow up on it. We'll just sort let the story live it's own life on Twitter after that.
—Thanks. I don't have a comment at this time.

1 comment:

Hermann Steinpilz said...

You shouldn't disparage Twitter. It's the ideal medium for resentful semi-illiterate liars to create maximal damage with minimal effort.