Here is the bad news: social media have devolved into a vile cesspit of hatred, Nazis and lies. Here is the best news: Melania Trump is on the case. On Monday, the first lady of the US hosted a cyberbullying summit, where she called for more kindness on the internet. Combatting cyberbullying and teaching kids positive online behaviour is a key part of her Be Best initiative, launched in May.
You don’t have to be Alanis Morissette to see the irony in Trump, the wife of the world’s most infamous internet bully, preaching about the fact social media can be “harmful when used incorrectly”. This was impossible to ignore, particularly as the president spent Monday tweeting insults about his critics. He called the former CIA director John Brennan a “political ‘hack’” and suggested that the justice department official Bruce Ohr should be fired.
If Trump felt the irony of her position, she did not mention it during her speech, which lasted little more than a minute. However, this has not stopped some commentators from speculating that her public commitment to combatting cyberbullying may constitute an act of resistance. CNN’s Chris Cillizza, for example, asked: “Is Melania Trump trolling her husband with her anti-bullying agenda?”
The answer to that question is surely an emphatic “no”. It is far more likely that she is trolling us. The first lady may be the most devious, and least understood, troll in the Trump family. While her husband’s Twitter technique has been analysed to within an inch of its life, she does not get nearly enough credit for the subtle ways in which she uses social media to gaslight the US. So, I have taken it upon myself to Be Proactive: I have put together a guide on how to Be Best at winning frowns and infuriating people online.
First, if you want to madden socialist media, you should start by EMBRACING CAPITALISM. The president has an affinity with the caps lock key and his wife seems to share it. The first lady’s Twitter account, @MELANIATRUMP, has her name and her handle in upper case. She also styles Be Best in capital letters. Nothing BE SUBTLE about that.
Second, take frequent breaks from social media. Not only is it healthy, but it also helps start feverish conspiracy theories about the possibility that you have gone missing. You should also eschew the concept of hypocrisy. This allows your parents to become US citizens through the “chain migration” system your husband has publicly derided without you feeling the slightest pang of shame.
Finally, it has become a convention that social media climbers take up the white Instagrammer’s burden and make a trip to Africa, so they can snap photos of themselves surrounded by scores of smiling, nameless black children. As it happens, Trump has just announced that she will be travelling to several countries in Africa this autumn, her first big solo trip since she became first lady. As any Caucasian fule kno, nothing rakes in the social media likes like a picture of you bonding with natives of “shithole countries”. Politically correct types may take umbrage at this. However, as Melania herself might put it: I really don’t care. Do U?
The media owe Sinéad O’Connor an apology
In 1992, Sinéad O’Connor ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live in a protest against child abuse in the Roman Catholic church. It was a bold, almost career-ending, move. “She’s lucky it wasn’t my show,” said the actor Joe Pesci when he hosted SNL the next week. “I would have gave her such a smack.”
Pesci may not have smacked O’Connor, but she got a thorough roughing-up by the establishment. “She needs some professional help,” said a spokesman for a bishop in New York, echoing a widespread view that O’Connor was essentially insane. SNL mocked the singer in a skit called Sinéad’s Plea.
Shortly after her SNL appearance, O’Connor sent a letter to the media. “My story is the story of countless millions of children whose families and nations were torn apart in the name of Jesus Christ,” she wrote. (O’Connor spent some of her teenage years in a church-sponsored Magdalene laundry.) Her deeply personal words were treated with condescension.
“It’s very understandable that the American people did not know what I was going on about,” O’Connor said in a 2002 interview, magnanimously, that touched on her assertions 10 years before. That may be the case, but it is shocking that journalists did not do more to investigate her complaints. There was no effort to hear out O’Connor; she was dismissed as a hysterical, attention-seeking woman.
Now, of course, O’Connor has been vindicated. The abuse in the church is front-page news that nobody can ignore. Indeed, the pope published an unprecedented letter this week, acknowledging the failure of the church to address sexual abuse by priests. But it is not just the church that is to blame. The media ought to interrogate themselves and apologise to O’Connor. The singer spoke truth to power many decades ago; journalists, of all people, ought to have listened. It is a crying shame that O’Connor’s bravery was met with derision.
Doctor, doctor, the internet was right after all …
Cyberchondriacs of the world, unite! (If you are feeling well enough, that is.) It turns out that Googling every ache doesn’t make you a pain in the neck – it is actually a healthy habit. New research, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, has found that consulting Dr Google before heading to a hospital “had a positive impact on the doctor-patient interaction”. This was a surprise to me. Over the years, I have Google-diagnosed myself with several rare terminal illnesses, but I have refrained from sharing my findings with doctors for fear of mockery. I can’t wait to inform the medical establishment that I am, in fact, a medical miracle.