Jim Davidson’s latest YouTube rant is, perhaps more than anything, a sign we might need a “do you really want to post that?” button at this point.

A significant portion of the news today is focused on what’s said by those in the public eye – and at times, the upset, indignation and the very real pain they can cause. Those with the most followers inevitably carry greater responsibility to think about the impact of what they post. When they fail at this, the consequences can be difficult to watch.

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Jim Davidson YouTube rant

Former comedian Jim Davidson has created an unsettling storm through a hostile and at times racist critique of Ashley Banjo and Diversity’s performance on Britain’s Got Talent.

The performance resulted in a series of complaints to OfCom, although the performance was widely commended by viewers. While Davidson’s comments might be unsurprising from someone with a history of such comments, the impact has perhaps been worsened after many news sites republished his insults word for word.

The furore brings to mind a notable episode of The Simpsons from 2016, in which Lisa created an app that gave people an option to rethink their posts by offering predictions of the likely consequences.

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The episode concluded there were benefits to people thinking for themselves and learning from their actions. Yet when the audience is national, even global, there might be more of a case for such filtering.

Many deleted posts are a result of misspellings, silliness, indiscretions or outright confusion. Among these are a tweet in 2012 where Cher posted: “What’s going on with mycareer (sic)?.”

The most regretted posts are inevitably those that are racist, homophobic or prejudiced and offensive in some other way. Such posts can be difficult to erase from the memory.

Previous posts regretted by celebrities include Roseanne Barr, Hartley Sawyer (formerly of The Flash), and Law And Order writer Craig Gore, all of whom were fired from roles for tweets deemed racist.

The more significant the poster’s responsibility to the world, the more upsetting and disappointing it is to see such posts. When this has happened in the case of political figures, the consequences can be extremely distressing as well as weakening rational dialogue.

Would a ‘do you really want to post that?’ button help?

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The world might be spared a great deal of heartache, distress and tension. One of the downsides to this, however, might be the world would be left only with a perfect, polished and varnished impression.

These ‘overheard’ unthinking indiscretions, these snapshots into a moment’s thought provide an unexpected insight. Some choose, understandably, to no longer watch or read them – the worse the insult, the more people make this choice. Much like being able to walk away or question if somebody uttered a racist insult in a bar. Moreover, the effect might be to raise the quality of social media and discussion.

The debate is a complex one, and far from straightforward. Social media has meant we see and hear far more from those in the public gaze than we ever did before.

The good, the bad and, at times, the oh so very ugly. We can only hope the more we see such things, the more we come to expect and demand better.

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