News Heroes and Villains: Anti-Social Media Edition

News Heroes and Villains: Anti-Social Media Edition
The fiery hatred filling up Twitter and Reddit takes on actual fire, and inspiring nation battles even more inspiring nation in this week's news battle.

By Newsworthy Executive Produce Jono Hutchison

The internet is well understood to be an unbridled hostel of hatred. Any perceived misstep is punished with a pile-on reminiscent of the days of putting people in the stocks and throwing fruit at them. That’s not my observation, though -- English journalist Jon Ronson makes the comparison in his recent book about internet opprobrium, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed.

New Zealand Twitter fired up its outrage engines over the weekend after Pebbles Hooper, a columnist for the NZ Herald section called Spy (which, disappointingly, has nothing to do with actual espionage), tweeted something very insensitive about a family who died from carbon monoxide poisoning in Ashburton. It was quite obviously a horrible thing to say, and painfully unfair. But Twitter users love nothing more than to re-state obvious things with their own “take”, and thus the deluge of disgust and hatred was unleashed. The Herald, which does not love apologising for things, apologised very quickly. Pebbles quit her job and deleted her Twitter account.

Also on the Information Superhighway this week: Reddit went into meltdown after getting rid of one of its employees, Victoria Taylor. “You can’t do that!” Reddit’s moderators probably yelled at their screens as they shut down large sections of the site, including the famous Ask Me Anything pages. This was a very effective tactic - it got the world’s attention and even New Zealand’s royal figurehead, Lorde, tweeted a sick burn.

Unfortunately for Reddit, its moderators and its users, the outrage in this case did serious damage to the medium itself. With the site struggling under the weight of its own internecine scrap, Twitter sat on the sideline, hoovering up the hate and allowing people to vent. Twitter wins this round.

By Jenny Suo

This week, Hayden Donnell, David Farrier and I had some pizza that almost ripped our faces off. It was Hell's new Flaming Dragon Pizza - here is a photo of the aftermath:

I imagine the walls of our mouths experienced a similar heat to the walls of the St James Theatre when faulty electrics started a fire in the basement.

The historic and beloved theatre had only recently opened its doors to the public after it was gutted by a different fire in 2007, also caused by an electric fault.

The main auditorium was damaged and the sodden floor will need to be replaced due to water damage from sprinklers.

Poor, poor St James. Shame on you, old fire and new fire.

By contrast, It was the extreme cold that upset many Kiwis this week.

It snowed in Wellington.

In the Auckland newsroom we got out a decades old fan heater and it now smells like someone is barbecuing a cat next to my desk.

It was probably a bit nippy in the South Island too but boy, has it been cold in Auckland!

Yes, the cold snap was a nuisance for commuters - closing roads and leaving people stranded. But snow is glorious! It's magical! That movie Frozen was a mega hit.

The fire at St James on the other hand, was pure evil. It was like pushing over a lovely old man then setting fire to his trouser leg. The pizza was so spicy as well.

Extreme heat wins this round.

By Newsworthy Executive Producer Jono Hutchison

Ah, the eventual meeting of these two furnaces -- one literal, one figurative. The heat of an actual fire versus the rage that burns at the heart of Twitter, a service that attempts to put on a polite face by naming itself after the joyful banter of birds, but which all too often resembles the bloodcurdling screech of a circling vulture. Do vultures screech? I don’t really know, I’ve never seen one.

Something I have seen is the historic and well-loved St James Theatre in Auckland, which this week caught fire once again. It had been closed for eight years after the last blaze, reopening in April and booking gigs, only to ignite -- probably because of faulty wiring.

We reported the St James fire on Newsworthy because the good people of the NZ Fire Service raced down there with 13 appliances, which probably just means fire engines. They controlled the blaze and put it out. Damage done, but at least the heat was over.

There is no effective response when Twitter fires up, though. It cannot be placated or reasoned with. Sometimes it is right and sometimes it is wrong, but always it marches on, indomitable and relentless.

Not too long ago, Twitter’s CEO promised to crack down on cyber-bullying, something that the company has been criticised for years for not taking seriously. Last month he stepped down from his job. Hashtag fail.

By Hayden Donnell

Many of us owe money. Mortgages, hire purchases, drug debts, IOUs and student loans: we spend our lives slaving to pay them off, cent by hard-won cent. This week Greece showed us there’s another way: if your debt gets overwhelming, you can vote not to pay it back.

The first step is to establish a quorum. That’s the easy part. Check that you’re present. Say ‘present’. Now you’re ready to take a referendum. Here you have two options: ‘Pay back debt’ and ‘Not pay back debt’. If you take my advice, you’ll tick ‘Not pay back debt’. If you’ve completed all those steps, you’re free. Hey StudyLink, what’s that bitter taste in your mouth? It’s called democracy, losers.

Balloon Man also tasted freedom this week. Daniel Boria, 26, tied 100 helium balloons to his chair and floated into the sky, away from the dishes piling up by the sink, his stinky flatmates, and the parents always asking when he’s getting married. For a fleeting moment he was liberated. Then the winds changed, he floated toward an airport, and had to parachute to the ground to escape certain death. Now he’s in prison.

Greece wins because it’s still floating free, tethered to the helium balloons of financial independence.

By Hayden Donnell

The carnival that overtook Samoa this week started with a nagging thought in the mind of John Campbell. He didn’t think it was fair that the All Blacks, with all their Samoan greats, had never played a test in Samoa. The resulting campaign to stage an All Blacks test in the island nation was so long, and so relentless, that New Zealand Rugby sent the team there just to shut him up.

It was only proper that he was flown over to report back on one of his greatest triumphs. He smiled a lot, beaming out of virtually every shot he sent back out of Apia. But he was no match for the full force of a nation beaming back at him. John would want it this way. Samoa wins.

By Hayden Donnell (At A Later Date)

I’ve learned some very disturbing things since my earlier emancipation. At first things went pretty well. Then people started saying things like ‘Hey, would you mind paying me back’ and, more uncomfortably, ‘Where is my money?’. The bank has also been upsettingly unaccommodating of my newfound debt freedom.  It sends me letters with words in them like ‘final’, ‘notice’, ‘legal’ and ‘proceedings’. I’m going to keep pressing on but my confidence in Greece is slightly shaken.

Samoa wins because I am changing my name and moving there.