My father was a man of high principles. He wouldn’t stand idly aside if something was wrong. It wasn’t in his nature.

He was a strong trade unionist. He believed you had to fight for what you believed in. One day in my youth he took me aside, and gravely imparted the following advice in a one-to-one exchange.

“Always” he said, “Always fight fire with fire”. In due course, he was sacked for this principled stand.

Mind you, he was a fireman.

So, perhaps on this one occasion, they may have had a point.

I love that gag. I like to think I made it up but I’m sure I heard it from someone else. I’ve been telling it for so long I can’t remember. Frankly sounds a bit good for my limited palette. Let me know if it was you and I’ll credit you next week.

It came to mind when I took one of my rare forays onto the Twitter platform this week. Goodness me, there’s some pretty firey exchanges there all right.

To the occasional visitor like myself, it seems like the digital equivalent of strolling into a classic saloon bar punch up in the Wild West. People who had been sitting peaceably side-by-side chatting and drinking just a moment ago suddenly leap to their feet and start smashing chairs over each other’s heads.

Blows reign in randomly, bar stools hurtle across the room, glass flying everywhere, the bar tender grabs the whiskey bottle and brings it smashing down on the head of the unlucky customer who happens to be closest, haymaker punches are actively exchanged, skirmishing and free flow bellicosity runs rampant. Eventually a sole saloon door is left hanging from one hinge amongst the carnage.

You get the picture.

What it is about the digital platform that allows people to become so aggressive, so scathing. Often behind the wall of anonymity. Those are the worst ones. At least if you’ve chosen to be obnoxious, have the decency to own it.

I once gently posted a twitter reply to a friend who had a poetry gig on in town that it was a shame it couldn’t be in a wheelchair accessible venue. I should have known better. What I thought was an innocuous but supportive comment to a friend was suddenly a lightning rod for barbed denunciation. Hell with the lid off is what came back. And some.

It doesn’t particularly help my case for politeness if the leader of the developed world has built a career out of badly spelt twitter venting.

My solution to tame the twitter invective is simple. We quietly install Dad’s Army’s Sgt Wilson into the White House. Just before the President hits send on his latest missive a voice would come over the shoulder, “Do you think that’s wise, sir?”