Twitter, the Dead, and Resting in Peace

England Ideas and Issues Social Media


            Pearl River     The Queen is dead.  Long live the King.  I think that’s the way it goes.  Elizabeth II, passed away at 96 after a long 70 year run in the castle.

On this side of the pond, what do we make of it?  A curiosity from another time?  A modern “Game of Thrones”?  Some more atavistic, than modern, even though there are constant royal and imperial pretenders, including one we barely survived in the US, and another running wild in Russia.  In Britain, it’s a contradiction; an artifact wrapped in tradition and for some perhaps nostalgia, but mainly showpieces for special occasions, self-selected fan clubs, and maybe the tabloids that have survived the internet era.

Basically, it’s like the “living” or “style” sections in daily newspapers:  something that we know is there as we flip the papers, but we never read or pay a mind.  That’s reality, except perhaps in the alternate world of something like Twitter.  Mi companera was scrolling through her feed and mentioned where they were chanting loudly, “Lizzie is in a box” in a Dublin soccer stadium.  There was a “time of troubles” there during her seven decades after all.  Something called #BlackTwitter beat her coffin with a stick over the colonial record of concentration camps for the Mau-Mau in Kenya, takeovers in Nigeria, deposing tribal royalty, and more.  The third largest party in South Africa issued a lengthy statement critiquing the British role in that country.

Are these fair shots or foul?  We all know the royal family is rich, but are they powerful?  I doubt it.  Could they have prevented the abuses of British colonialism?  Perhaps not.  Could they have been a voice for better and more moral policies?  Absolutely.

Some said so. A professor at Carnegie Mellon tweeted “I heard the chief monarch of thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating.” She was referencing the land grab from her family in Africa.  The tweet was shared tens of thousands of times.  A former English soccer player tweeted:  “Racism was outlawed in England in the 60’s & 70’s, but it’s been allowed to thrive so why should black and brown mourn!!” An Australian professor took a shot.  Here’s where my beef with Twitter arises again.  In some cases, Twitter deleted the posts because they broke community standards.  In other cases, people played the Twitter-game and went rouge, but then deleted their own posts.  It galls me that people can throw the rock, but hide the hand and get away with it on Twitter.

My take on all of this is simple with roots in high school Latin thanks to the esteemed Dr. Romeo:  De mortuis nihil nisi bonum or roughly, “of the dead, say nothing but good.”  In the early 3rd century, biographer Diogenes Laërtius attributed the phrase “do not speak ill of the dead” to philosopher Chilon of Sparta, so let’s not go all Roman and give a long-gone Greek credit where it was due.   Nonetheless, this internet affliction of hitting people not only when they are down, but when they are dead is not just restricted to big whoops like the late Queen.  The Post notes that which hosts online memorials to regular folks when they pass had to hire 50 monitors as far back as 2006 “to scrub unkind comments” off the site.

Let the historians sort it all out, if there’s something worth sorting in life or legacy.  For all of us, why not make “rest in peace” really mean something for the dead, their families, and friends, be they big or small?