Simon Chapman, Professor of Public Health at the University of Sydney, penned an article on The Conversation blog this week. Going by the title “Why I block trolls on Twitter”, he continues the whine begun by Martin McKee, John Ashton and Stanton Glantz.
“My first column last week was quickly trolled by a small group of mostly UK-based vaping activists,” he wrote. “I saw some of these (posts) before they were removed and noted some were from one-track trolls I have long blocked from my Twitter account.”
He believes that “I’m targeted because, along with many others in public health, I support regulation of e-cigarettes and have written “hasten slowly” commentaries trying to temper some of the often commercially driven hype in circulation about these products. Anything less than doctrinaire enthusiasm for almost complete lack of regulatory oversight will not be tolerated, apparently.”
He conveniently forgets that ad hominem insults to vaping advocates and tweeting about the spectre of vaping devices being used by children for cannabis consumption may, in some way, be provoking the responses he finds so objectionable.
Through writing: “Obsessed vapers, like golf, dope or wine bores, apparently cannot understand why anyone would not want to share their preoccupation and not engage in the endless back-and-forths evident in their feeds with each other,” Chapman manages to both insult and miss the point. As a public health official he makes statements on how vaping should be governed but belittles the opinions of those the legislation will impact upon.
“In Australia, there is a highly civil dialogue about e-cigarettes that is well advanced between colleagues in research and public health who might be described as either highly optimistic or sceptical and cautious about the potential key benefits and risks. There is much common ground. There is also zero tolerance of the sort of infantile name-calling that infests much social media advocacy on vaping.”
This dialogue doesn’t include Australian vapers though, and the opinion of many is summed up by a forum post saying “looking at Chapman's tweets was giving me a migrane :/”.
Another Australian forum member said: “(My post) got removed too. There was nothing abusive in it, just a bit of sarcasm. Much like the sarcasm Chapman indulges in any time vapers come up.”
In much the same way as Martin McKee uses his Twitter feed, when it comes to vaping these professionals seem to be going out of their way to insult and antagonise. It begs the question: exactly who is being the troll here?