The common clay of the new social media. You know…

The initial social media response to my Listener cover article was intriguing. It mostly riffed from snap judgement of the cover and headline without reading the actual content. Alas, being ignorant of what I’d said didn’t stop commenters from judging what they imagined I wrote, sight unseen.

Click to go through to the web-page.
Click to go through to the web-page.

If I judge something, I have to know the content first. It’s axiomatic. But apparently social media doesn’t need facts.

I wasn’t being singled out. A ‘design historian’ (who insisted he HAD read the article) called my material a ‘spectacularly asinine understanding of history’, then within a few hours also abused The Guardian, name-called Sir James Dyson (who he called a ‘Tory jerk’) and so on. I was just one of many passing targets for this online school-bully style jeering. I suppose I should have been flattered, but somehow I wasn’t.

From others who hadn’t read my article I learned I was a ‘noted opponent’ of the Waitangi Tribunal, ‘among other things’, which was news – last dealings I had with their senior historian ended in him telling me they’d offer me a contract if one came along.


The point of the article, of course, was to explore what the professional historical and archaeological community say about somebody other than Abel Tasman being the ‘first’ European to meet Maori. And yes, you do need to check it out. Click on the magazine cover.

A photo I took of the Wairau Bar, late one winter's afternoon.
A photo I took of the Wairau Bar, late one winter’s afternoon.

As an aperitif, the science is clear about who first arrived here. Polynesians. There were no humans here before the Polynesian arrival. We know where they landed – the Wairau river bar, where the latest work indicates an arrival early in the 1300s. That made New Zealand the last large habitable land mass on the planet reached by humans. Maori, whose culture emerged from the Polynesian colonies, are therefore indigenous to New Zealand.

Europe arrived later. How much later? Click on the cover to check it out – and be aware it’s a commercial magazine and there’s a paywall.

If you want to check out one of my books on the possibility, it’s on Kindle.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2016



5 thoughts on “The common clay of the new social media. You know…

  1. FaceBook has shown up a few shortcomings on folk who are keen to make snap judgments but disinclined to actually read the material before whipping out the poison pen, but I think that is fading. I guess we have all seen stunning levels of ignorance from folk who think they are expressing the exact opposite especially when they pretend to have a scientific view that looks more like pseudoscience. The abusive nature already undermines their credibility.

    My general approach these days is to respond to the first post pointing out the problems with their claim, leaving their comment up so folk can see the abusive nature of that person. After that, unless something intelligent turns up, I leave off the discussion. Generally the facts are never going to move these people so the aim is to destroy their argument for those just glancing at my page. Subsequent posts that are abusive (and they invariably are) are simply deleted.

    The good news is that as the platform matures, so has the usage of FaceBook. After many red faces, it seems folk are finally learning that you need a common sense filter when sharing and/or commenting. Some are even going as far as to look for confirmation from credible sources. 😉

    I think the future is looking brighter but I have to concede I’m a “glass half full” kinda guy.

    By the way, I think it’s a good idea to call out these folk publicly. Eventually folk will discount the aggressive bully boy tactics as soon as they see it.

    1. This one was all on Twitter, which seems to lend itself to inarticulate snark even more than Facebook. A friend of mine once suggested that ‘anonymity’ plus ‘online’ was seen by many as a license for ‘asshole behaviour’. These days, based on some of the stuff I have seen, some people aren’t even bothering with the anonymity.

      1. Twitter has certainly set the bar high for bad behaviour. On a related issue I used to consume TED Talks on YouTube but eventually I couldn’t stand the bitching. Any time a woman gave a presentation the fragile male egos seemed to be trying to out do each other in being obnoxious. The surprise to me was it was done without anonymity. It seems some folk celebrate their ignorance.

  2. I read the article and I think your take on the subject was extremely well balanced. It is unfortunate that some on social media were quick to take a stab, likely without bothering to even read the content they were criticizing. It takes a lot of work to research, write and share unique content but it only takes a few seconds to have a go at the efforts of others.

    Your article is well timed. The pseudo-history mob are out in force at the moment and unfortunately many members of the public are taking the bait and taking some of these theories seriously.

    It is a shame that the debate over a possible visit by a Portuguese or Spanish vessel has been tainted by the ridiculous notion that Phoenician, Celtic, Viking, Chinese and Atlantean explorers discovered New Zealand before Polynesians. The ancient New Zealand these conspiracy theorists believe in must’ve been an extraordinarily busy place! I’m open-minded about the possibility of a Portuguese or Spanish visitor though – yes it is a romantic notion but I do hope that one day somebody uncovers proof of a visit.

    1. Thanks – glad you liked the piece! It’s been wonderfully presented by the Listener and the cover they developed for it is brilliant. Yes, we were clearly some sort of ancient highway! Of course, the REAL pre-everybody arrivals to New Zealand came from Venus, disguised as boy scouts. I know this because Elvis told me (he lives in Wibble…).

      Joking aside it’s been worrisome to see the rise of woo – particularly when our actual history is so much more fascinating and amazing. I mean, who knew 50 years ago that the Wairau bar was the place where the human journey from the Rift Valley came to its final conclusion – putting us in every habitable land mass on the planet? I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a general anti-woo book of some kind. Maybe I should pitch one to a publisher.

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