In the wake of Alistair McAlpine’s decision to take legal action against the BBC and ITV, plus an apparently open ended number of Twitter users, over the erroneous association of his name with the North Wales child abuse scandal, the punditry has seized on one thing, and one alone: Twitter is The One Wot Did It. This alone is held to be responsible for all that is bad about social media.
Still neither fair nor balanced
And no pundit is more sure of their ground on this one than Melanie “not just Barking but halfway to Upminster” Phillips, who has asserted that the McAlpine action is “A watershed moment as the sadistic mob who rampage across the web are finally taught a lesson”. Yes, “Twitter and the net have become weapons of mass intimidation”, she continues. How so?
“With single Tweets sometimes reaching thousands or even tens of thousands of people, someone’s character can be falsely assassinated and their reputation shredded across the world in a matter of seconds ... Such fabrications, fantasies and falsehoods take on a life of their own and can come to represent a settled view which, despite being without any foundation whatever, starts to supplant reality”.
Tens of thousands of people? That, to quote London’s occasional Mayor Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, is mere “chicken feed”. There are web platforms out there that can reach not just tens of thousands, but millions of readers. And one of those is the online version of the Daily Mail. Yes, Mel, that would be the same paper which is carrying your rants, two of the most memorable of which appeared last year.
More specifically, these were published during the Labour Party conference that year after a 16 year old called Rory Weal spoke to the gathering about the suddenly reduced circumstances in which his mother and her children had found themselves after his father had gone bust and his parents separated. He eloquently spoke in favour of the welfare safety net and against its erosion.
For this heinous crime, Rory Weal found himself on the receiving end of, yes, a sadistic mob, one which published story after story of smears, abuse and whatever other character assassination could be dredged up. And, after the first wave of abuse came the following day’s gloating, which was equally sadistic. You can see my observations of the Weal affair HERE and HERE.
And one pundit was involved in both days’ attacks, the copy being among the most sadistic, hateful and gloating: no prizes for guessing that the name in the frame is Mad Mel herself. The difference between her and the average Twitter user is that her ranting reaches millions of readers, and is given the gloss of credibility because it’s carried by a national newspaper. That’s the crucial difference.
Otherwise, it’s just more Melanie Phillips hypocrisy. No change there, then.