The Press and Pundit Establishment loves to tell the world how terrible social media can be, and especially Twitter, which they all use, while denouncing the platform as some kind of dystopian sewer of unpleasantness. And what they all hate is being made the subject of a pile-on from all those ghastly people out there, especially the Rotten Lefties (tm).
It's That Bird Again
Those within the media class who decide to leave Twitter are routinely described as having been “hounded out”, as in the case of former Downing Street spinner Nick Timothy, even though he wasn’t. But we never, but never, find out about a pile-on working the other way.
All of which brings us to Jo Phillips, who is a Labour Party member and a keen writer and Tweeter. She openly admits to having clinical depression and anxiety disorder, has to get by for the present on ESA, and yesterday responded to a Tweet by Spectator associate editor Isabel Hardman, following which all hell broke loose.
Ms Hardman told “Starting today, I’m doing a mini series on @BBCRadio4’s Broadcasting House on the great outdoors and mental health. This week’s item is on how horses have helped me with my own illness”. To this, Ms Phillips replied “Glad horses help you Isabel. Might be good too to look at what people on benefits can do to access the outdoors in a consistently engaging way?” No, I still can’t see the problem in that reply.
But it upset Ms Hardman: “That’s what I’m doing. I’m literally writing 90,000 words on this yet you home in on one bit of my own story. I also paid for my own therapy as I could afford it. I suppose that further delegitimises me from speaking out. Better if I just shut up?”
We all get caught at a bad moment. The problem now was that Ms Phillips was cast as the villain, and attacked as a “Vociferous cockwomble”, a “Troll”, “Dross”, a “Bigot”, and more.
Then came John Woodcock, the semi-detached Labour MP who is Ms Hardman’s partner, who could have calmed the situation. Instead, he went in with both feet - and the smearing iron. “Isabel has the courage to talk publicly about what helped her when she felt suicidal and you pop up to tell her she is ‘winding people up’ and make her feel terrible for the rest of the day. I just don’t know why people are so casually cruel in this way”.
Ms Phillips did not say Ms Hardman was “winding people up”. She did not even suggest such a thing. But she did find herself on the end of one of those pile-ons that are only supposed to affect the media class. All that happened is that two people had one of those regrettable misunderstandings. But Ms Phillips is the one who has had to apologise. And she is the one left alone to sort things out after the media class has moved right along.
As she later said, “Take my advice. Never, never, ever try to discuss an article that somebody writes about their experience of mental health to draw wider conclusions on provision and poverty. Especially if you live alone and have no famous and powerful pals … Yesterday gave me a really interesting insight into a few things. How little genuinely some people understand the interconnections between illness, recovery and poverty. How furiously powerful voices guard their platforms. How excluded some voices are”.
What you will not hear from our media class. I’ll just leave that one there.