It was a revelation this month to discover that calling for tougher curbs on smoking, made me a Nazi. Strike that, it was a surprise when my (admittedly provocative) Huffington Post article received a slew of 'she's a Nazi' comments, when my twitter account was inundated with trolls, when I received hate E-mail...
Last week a colleague of mine wrote an article on a book written by Vincent Vinturi, who wrote a book called: LMR Expose: How To Overcome Her Last Minute Resistance To Sex, Turn 'No' Into 'Yes' And Get the Lay. Amazon pulled the book from its online store. My colleague has since received obscene and disgusting threats on Twitter...
Usually the month of August is referred to as the silly season. The political exploitation of 14-year-old schoolgirl Hannah Smith's suicide by both tabloid and broadsheet newspapers suggests we might have to rechristen it the sinister season. Even for a press like ours, with its many well-known moral lapses, the shroud-waving over Hannah's death marks a new low.
If you receive a malicious phone call, would you demand that the phone company be banned? If you receive a malicious or threatening letter, would you demand that the postal service be shut down? The problem in cases like this isn't always the medium which is used, but the horrid and twisted people who carry out these disgusting acts.
Almost straightaway the negative reactions began. While there is always a valuable place for disagreement and the sort of comment that can develop an article's argument or add to it, this eleven-year-old's writing incited such descriptions as "feminist bull-shit" and ambiguous statements that the author belonged "to a certain tribe."
While good grooming is not necessarily an indication of the immediate sexualisation of particular women, it does seem to be essential to a lot of people before we will listen to what they have to say. Women themselves are contributing to this, with hundreds a day taking to criticising others for their choice of outfit, when in actual fact they simply disagree with a point being made.
Virtually every woman who publicly contributes to a political debate is subjected to virulent and largely anonymous online invective, or "trolling". But it is far more than simply readers' feedback. Trolling is intended to make women shut up - and to remind them their primary purpose is to be there for male sexual pleasure. Or not to be in public life at all.
The anonymity of the internet at large brings with it the exciting positives of more discussion, more openness and, maybe most importantly, more honesty. The audience, hiding comfortably behind their online avatars, have no reason to feel mitigated or restrained. Increasingly, this leads to internet comment sections being used as a depositary for public anger and frustration.