While trolls and idiots are best ignored, there can be value in seeking to genuinely understand those who disagree with us
What is the difference between frank debate, bullying, abuse and a pile-on, and what are the appropriate responses to each?
Let’s start with Mary Beard, who has responded very differently to very different types of online provocation in ways that feel to me to be vaguely instructive. I am a big fan of the Cambridge historian, who for a while there was the poster child for how to deal with online abuse, famously shaming the trolls by trying to connect with them and, in one instance, messaging the teenager who had sent her sexually explicit abuse with kindness and an offer of lunch. Eventually, she reduced him – and others – to pathetic, blubbing balls of apology.