Karl du Fresne continues to confront the shrill bullying of Giovanni Tiso.
Today I revisited Giovanni Tiso’s series ofÂ tweets last week about Jane Clifton’sÂ ListenerÂ column on Nicky Hager’s bookÂ Dirty Politics. Here are some of the words he used: “turgid”, “shit”,Â “supercilious”, “cynical”.
Clifton is a hugelyÂ experienced and well-informed observer of New Zealand politics. She’s alsoÂ astute, even-handed, eloquentÂ and funny, which explains why tens of thousands ofÂ ListenerÂ readers turn to her every week to makeÂ sense of events that would otherwise leave them scratching their heads. I thought her column on theÂ Dirty PoliticsÂ furore was one of her best. But such judgments are subjective and Tiso is entitled to disagree, even if his language is intemperate.
Could his manic attack on Clifton (I counted 35 tweets over a short period, which sounds dangerously close to obsessional) be upheld as fair comment, then? Well, perhaps it could have been, except for a couple of things.
One is that he implies she’s a sociopath. Tiso quotes a line from her column – “They are both advancing a political cause” (a reference to Hager and Cameron Slater) – and thenÂ adds: “And if you think that, you’re a sociopath”. I’ve read this several times and don’t see how it can be construed as meaning anything other than that Clifton is a sociopath, which my dictionary defines as “someone affected by any of various personality disorders characterised by asocial or antisocial behaviour”.
Okay, you could argue that in the Wild West of the twittersphere, even insults like “sociopath” are acceptable. I’m sure Tiso didn’t mean it literally; he was indulging in hyperbole for rhetorical impact.
But hang on. What happened when I took a pokeÂ at Tiso in this blog, using a similarÂ rhetorical device against him? (I said he shouldn’t be allowed out in public without a minder, and suggested someone should adjust his medication.) He howled that I was being cruel – “vile” was his exact word –Â because heÂ had a daughter with an intellectual disability, which he claimed (wrongly)Â I was aware of. Then he had the gallÂ toÂ whimperÂ about people being unpleasant and indulging in ad hominem arguments.Â Well, hello.
Let’s get this straight then: it’s okay for Tiso to call a respected columnistÂ a sociopath because he doesn’t like her take on theÂ Dirty PoliticsÂ affair, but it’s mean and horrid to suggest that he might be a bit doolally himself. That’s taking unfair advantage.
There’s a term in boxing for peopleÂ who love to throw punches but crumple when anyone hits back. They’re called crystal chins.Â Tiso is a crystal chin.