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Fight Club

Given the amount of squabbling on its timelines, should we just rename Twitter as Bicker?

brunch Updated: Jun 23, 2012 16:29 IST
Seema Goswami

Just a thought. Do you think they should rename Twitter as Bicker? It certainly seems apt given how it has rapidly become a forum for people to squabble about everything in short bursts of 140 characters. Lovers quarrel bitterly; ex-wives and ex-husbands vent venom; new partners give full rein to their jealous rages; and everyone throws insults around in a no-holds-barred fashion. Nothing is private. Nothing is sacred. And nothing is off-limits.

A couple of weeks ago, we watched agog as French politics descended into soap-opera territory via Twitter. President François Hollande looked on helplessly as his current partner, the journalist Valérie Trierweiler targeted his former partner (and mother of his four children), Ségolène Royal, in a vicious tweet that hit Royal just where it hurt the most.

Tweeting sides: Recently, we saw Karan Johar take on Priyanka Chopra for a story she did or did not (depending on whom you believe) plant in the press

Royal, standing for election to a parliamentary seat, was being opposed by a dissident from her own Socialist party. So her former partner and now President of the Republic, François Hollande, sent out a message of support to Royal to bolster her chances at the polls (after all, she had done her best to support his presidential campaign). That was enough to make his current partner (and now the Premier Dame of France), Trierweiler, see red. She allegedly called up Hollande to remonstrate and then said chillingly, “Now you will see what I am capable of.”

And thus went out the now-infamous tweet, motivated by what insiders called Trierweiler’s ‘blind jealousy’. In it, she wished good luck and ‘courage’ to Royal’s opponent in the poll. All of France was appalled, the French Prime Minister publicly rebuked Trierweiler and asked that she be more ‘discreet’ and ‘know her place’. And Royal announced sadly, at an election rally, that she felt ‘wounded’ by the tweet and that she deserved respect as a woman, a politician, and a mother.

But the damage was done. When the votes were counted, Royal had lost the seat, and with it the chances of becoming President of the National Assembly, the third-highest post in the country’s political structure. A bitter Royal quoted Victor Hugo to say that “traitors always pay for their treachery in the end” and her four children, for good measure, stopped speaking to their father’s current partner.

So what started out as a storm in a T-cup ended up taking down the reputations of all the protagonists in the drama. Valérie was exposed as an insecure, vindictive woman who could not control her insane jealousy of her partner’s former lover. Hollande was shown up as a man who could not manage the women in his life (so, how on earth would he manage France, ran the sub-text). And as for poor Royal, her political career imploded in the aftermath of Twittergate and looks extremely unlikely to revive any time soon.

Director/producer Karan Johar

But while nobody in their right mind can condone Trierweiler’s scorched-earth policy on Twitter, there are some political spouses who have gained from their tweet-wars. Most famously, there was Anne Romney who went on Twitter to take on political commentator, Hilary Rosen, who said in a debate on CNN that Mrs Romney “had never worked a day in her life”. Anne Romney was quick to retort, “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work”. Her tweet got her the support of every stay-at-home mom, and many other women besides.

Of late, though, Twitter wars have tended to be increasingly undignified, even downright tawdry at times. Take the current battle royale raging between British multi-millionaire Ben Goldsmith (son of Jimmy and Annabel Goldsmith and brother to Jemima Khan) and his estranged wife, Kate, a Rothschild heiress. Ben called his wife’s behaviour ‘appalling’ on Twitter (because she had called the police on him) while she responded with a series of tweets saying that there were two sides to every break-up. Meanwhile, Kate’s alleged lover, the rapper Jay Electronica (yes, really!) put in his two-bits by tweeting #LoveIsOnTheWay. Yeah, real classy, this lot.

In India, too, we have had our share of Twitter wars. The most famous was the one waged by Lalit Modi against Shashi Tharoor (about the now-defunct Kochi franchise of the IPL) which resulted in Tharoor losing his job as minister and being consigned to political wilderness while Modi lost control of the IPL and was banished from the Indian cricketing scene to languish in exile (in London, though, so it can’t be all that bad).

More recently, we saw Karan Johar take on Priyanka Chopra for a story she did or did not (depending on whom you believe) plant about how some star wives and certain directors who were close to them were giving her a bad time. A livid Johar tweeted about how some people were ‘lame and spineless’ and needed ‘to wake up and smell the koffee’ and not ‘mess with goodness’. Of course, he did not mention Priyanka by name, but the inference was clear – and the Twitter-sphere was abuzz in a matter of seconds.

So, what do you think? Does Bicker work better than Twitter? Or do you have a better idea? All suggestions welcome at my Twitter handle (given below). And may the best name win.

Follow Seema on Twitter at twitter.com/seemagoswami

From HT Brunch, June 24

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