Editor’s Note: Poynton has written to the author of this post to apologise for this behaviour and remarks. He says: “I profusely apologise for upsetting you … I literally had zero idea of what had happened to you.”
You don’t expect those with professions requiring extreme sensitivity and kindness to have double lives as sadistic, pseudonymous internet trolls. But social media has a habit of creating villains from heroes.
Step forward Tom Poynton, 34, a Steiner-method teacher from Bristol. Poynton works at St Christopher’s, a school for autistic children. According to the school’s website, its guiding values “seek to honour the uniqueness and integrity of each individual human being”.
Yet Mr Poynton, who teaches at the school, apparently finds homosexual domestic violence a suitable subject for cruel humour, and he publishes jokes about it on public social media platforms.
I know this because I am Mr Poynton’s latest victim. A couple of days ago, I tweeted to express my sympathy for R&B singer Rihanna. I explained that I had been in a similar relationship and that I believed I understood what it was that made women – and men – go back to abusive partners.
A slap, I said, can be a strange sort of comfort for a disorientated young woman. (I said woman, but I meant me.) It can be predictable, in a world without constants. Sometimes you even talk yourself into believing you deserve it. The dynamics of abuse can be subtle and complex.
But I should have known better than to make such honest disclosures on social media, shouldn’t I. Because admitting you were the victim of domestic violence in a prior relationship is apparently acceptable grounds for abuse and ridicule on Twitter.
Here’s a sample of the tweets Poynton directed at me the following day, part of a larger conversation mocking my confession:
Since I challenged him to delete his remarks or apologise, Poynton changed his username and photo on Twitter, effectively anonymising his account, and set his Twitter feed to “private”, meaning only pre-approved friends can read what he publishes.
He now tweets as @moomism. [Editor’s note: this account now appears to have been deleted.]
Well, I think that’s a bit cowardly, don’t you? Poynton is clearly in need of some social media therapy, so, in order to help him come to terms with his problem, I am publicly naming and shaming him today.
You see, it isn’t much more difficult to find out details about a person on the internet, whether they try to stay anonymous or not, than it is to fire off venom on Twitter. For example…
Camera-shy Poynton – the picture above was garnered from his Twitter account before he changed his avatar to an abstract image – supports Manchester City and describes himself as a photographer and “lover of trees”. He trained at WESTT, the West of England Steiner Teacher Training centre.
He is also an internet obsessive. He has a staggeringly long comment history at the Guardian’s website: 58 pages of it, in fact. His screen name there, Hemulen, is a disarmingly innocent reference to Scandinavian children’s characters the Moomins (later immortalised in a Polish cartoon of the same name), as is the username given to his Flickr account, which confirms his love of nature.
Poynton maintains multiple profiles on several other social networks. Profiles of his are generally accompanied by extensive and feverish activity spanning, in some cases, many years. His posts are often ill-tempered and sometimes highly offensive.
Obviously I won’t publish his home address or date of birth, both of which, like the other details we reprint here, are available online. Every item of personal information we reproduce here was uploaded to the internet and publicly published by Poynton himself.
Poynton wasn’t the only person involved in the carousel of abuse last night, but he was the most vicious and unrepentant. I am revealing his identity in the hope that others will think twice before treating their fellow man with hatred and contempt.
Poynton has, it turns out, been abusive to me before on Twitter. A mutual acquaintance who has still access to Poynton’s published status updates said this morning: “Judging from his past tweets, he has a weird fascination with you.”
This is scant comfort to one on the receiving end of Poynton’s hurtful invective. Perhaps the last word should be left to nomadic Moomin character Snufkin, who is best remembered for the following wise words: “One can never be entirely free, if one admires someone else too much.”
St. Christopher’s School did not return a request for comment.