Visibility brings all manner of consequences: profile, notoriety, interest, hopefully popularity, maybe even a glimpse of fame. It can also bring jealousy, dismissiveness, smears, abuse, and even vindictiveness. All of those came the way of the Tweeter known as Rachael Swindon, whose support of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and her social media reach, made her the target of the right-wing press.
It got worse: she even attracted at least one stalker, and a host of obsessives. These sad individuals persuaded papers like the Mail and Sun to doorstep her, but to no effect, as neither paper wrote up a story. It also led hacks without the full set of investigative skills to make fools of themselves claiming that Rachael was in fact a man Tweeting as a woman. The most foolish was Jane Merrick. Will she now apologise? Don’t bet on it.
So there was only one credible course of action, as anyone who has had the press pack bearing down on them will know - choose the most rational and, hopefully, sympathetic media outlet and give them the story. So it was that Rachael Cousins and husband Jon invited BuzzFeed News into their council house on the outskirts of Swindon.
Unfortunately, Mark di Stefano’s article had to have the obligatory eye-catching headline “Here’s The Woman Behind Britain’s Most Divisive Twitter Account”, although Ms Cousins is not looking to “divide” anyone - she’s just a passionate Labour and Corbyn supporter.
But we do learn that she “had joined Twitter in 2014 ‘to tweet about Peter Andre and EastEnders’”. It was the Tories voting for benefit cuts that set her on her current path (Zelo Street had no real cause célèbre until the phone hacking story broke in 2009; one event can pique the interest and set a future course all on its own).
Di Stefano puts the reality of Ms Cousins’ situation directly: “Cousins said her husband is living with fibromyalgia, a painful long-term condition causing extreme pain and fatigue. She has osteoarthritis in her legs. Neither are working at the moment, and while they now live on unemployment benefits, documents back up their claim that they’re currently locked in a battle with the Department for Work and Pensions over his disability payments”.
So much for all the obsessives whinging about “benefit cheats”. Ms Cousins is one of many in the UK who finds herself in straitened circumstances. Far too many pundits and social media obsessives believe that such people should just know their place and keep quiet, and in days gone by, that is what would have happened. Not now.
She is one of many reasons that Labour under Corbyn’s leadership, while not being immune to the incessant barrage of press abuse, has not subsided in the opinion polls, and indeed was able to claw back most of a 16-point deficit in the run-up to last year’s General Election. Yet still there are journalists who don’t get it.
That’s why Jane Merrick was not alone in sneering at the Rachael Swindon Twitter phenomenon. Michael Deacon of the increasingly desperate and downmarket Telegraph was another. Hugo Rifkind also weighed in to criticise her. They all got it wrong.
Rachael Cousins is not only a real person, she is one of thousands actively backing Jezza and Labour who have cut out the mainstream press. I’ll just leave that one there.
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