We now all know it as the social media but in reality much of what happens on it is anti-social.

There's nothing the Twitter trolls and the Facebook ferals like more than revelling in someone else's misfortune.

An Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, or an ESTA, is required if you want to transit the United States but unfortunately I had never heard of the requirement - presumably because I have always had a work visa for America, which expired last October, and therefore one wasn't required. So I have to take it on the chin, my two-hour stopover in Los Angeles on the way to London, was rejected because I had been in Iraq three years ago.

Among those taking potshots at my new grounded status are former retired colleagues, mocking "world weary old Bazza" having another senior moment and "losing track of where he was", and the embittered former MP for three parties Tau Henare tweeting "that's what happens when you are" a word rhyming with banker and on Facebook coming more to the point simply calling me a dumb arse.


Clearly missing my flight has stirred up the sort of emotion in others that I felt on the night that my travel authorisation was denied. Feeling sorry for myself? No, just baffled by the outpouring of glee and vitriol at my rejection.

Traffic on other media, like email, has been much more constructive and civilised with many more heartbreaking stories than mine. One in particular, of a young man with a Middle Eastern name, applying last February for an ESTA to speak at a conference in New York last week. The Auckland University academic staffer's documentation included the invitation to speak and supporting letters from those in the US, establishing his credentials.

He was told he could be interviewed at the American consulate in Auckland for his ESTA in May, but when he pointed out the conference would be over by then, he was told his travel plans weren't urgent and the only way he could get in earlier was if an appointment was cancelled. Checking for cancellations every hour for up to four days, one finally came through, three to four weeks before he was due to travel. He's still waiting and they still have his passport, his main form of identification in this country.

His experience at the Consulate disturbed him greatly with a security guard telling some applicants whose first language wasn't English to learn it, otherwise they shouldn't be in the country. The guard then went on to mock some Chinese applicants waiting in line, mimicking their accents. He said if they couldn't speak English, that's okay, he could speak Chinese because he knew Jackie Chan, the actor, and began making up some Chinese-sounding words.

All this in our country but on American diplomatic soil - although that's debatable.