Jan Moir and Nick Griffin: Uniting Twitter

22Oct09

The advent of social networking has exploded the traditional media field. The last week has demonstrated this fact beautifully, proving all the more pointedly that the popular voice can now shout louder than any headline. This has rung true in the case of Jan Moir’s misguided column on the speculated drama surrounding the death of Boyzone’s squeaky clean Stephen Gately, as well as the debate surrounding  BNP leader Nick Griffin’s invitation onto today’s watershed edition of BBC Question Time.

On the eve of Stephen Gately’s funeral, Daily Mail columnist, Jan Moir, published an article which needn’t be repeated but the general gist insinuated that the pop icon’s natural death was allegedly not as such, and the rest of the article reeked of homophobia and presumptuous scandal sniffing. While the country was still reeling from the death of a man whose public persona was take-home-to-meet-your-mother-immaculate and whose good-boy image had never faltered under the long-lenses of the paps, what journalist would ever write something so upsetting without even a moment’s consideration for public opinion? Or indeed the back-handedness of writing an antagonising column about a man who can’t retort?

Nevertheless, the article was published and those more left-of-the-middle of us were blissfully unaware of the poisonous thing until Twitter King Stephen Fry alerted us all:

I gather a repulsive nobody writing in a paper no one of any decency would be seen dead with has written something loathesome and inhumane.12:27 PM Oct 16th from Tweetie

After that post, the internet caught fire and every news outlet wanted a piece of the action. I was tweeting live while this all took place. It was like throwing a chunk of rump steak into a pool of sharks. The Twitter-frenzy that occurred in the hour following the point (and points that superceded) was thrilling to watch and to participate in.

Some critics have speculated that Stephen Fry played a Peid Piper role, maybe so, however Mr Fry does post regularly and never before has one micro-blog of his generated so much interest. And the more interest that accumulated the more the distaste for Jan Moir snowballed. With not a little bit of cunning, Mr Fry reminded us all of the Press Complaints Commission whose website crashed within seconds as the complaints hurtled off keyboards and into inboxes. The incident according to The Guardian has warranted 2,200 complaints and rising, and it would be naive to think that was without a little bit of Twitter hysteria.

There is something so inclusive about joining in with the cyber angry mob. Marching on Parliament Square it ain’t but the invincibility it grants you transforms you into a lap-top activist!

A similar mood is occurring today as the media prepares for Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time. There has been great opposition to the invitation the BBC offered to the leader of the British National Party to appear on the respected political broadcast. Quite rightly, why should the re-branded National Front with the same roots to Nazism and fascism have the privilege of airtime courtesy of the licence payer? The public is divided and I can sympathise with both sides.

However, I do believe were I not a journalist I would be firmly in the outrage camp. Thanks to the little, obnoxious, curiosity bug that journalism implanted in my system, I am interested in watching Griffin squirm under the fire of the public in the audience and of course the panel consisting of Secretary of State for Justice, Jack Straw, Shadow minister for Community Cohesion, Baroness Warsi, Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne and writer Bonnie Greer.

My father is firmly in the outrage camp and is unconvinced that Chair, David Dimbleby will make the debate as tough as possible for Griffin in favour of mediation. My mother the lawyer, quite uncharacteristically, is awaiting the contretemps with a glint of blood-lust in her eye.

Freedom of Speech gives the BNP the right to spout their undeniably racist, prejudiced and backward venom, however many people do not want to see their representatives on their televisions (let alone consider the perks of the green room). There is a fear that the publicity the BNP will receive will attract disenfranchised protest voters, lasso increased support and by putting them alongside mainstream parties validates their organisation. All of these are very real factors to consider. It is also to be noted that many BNP supporters will be in the audience. Regardless, the debate tonight will make history and hopefully the lashes of indignation Griffin will openly suffer will be enough to change the minds of those on the cusp of putting their votes in the hands of fascism. This is surely the point of this remarkable edition of Question Time rather than just a sordid ratings-booster?

As a journalist, I want to see what happens. Twitter is already simmering with anticipation and many, myself included, have resolved to live-action tweet as the show is broadcast live on air.

It’s a beautiful thing when democracy shouts the loudest and Twitter appears to be a lot more powerful than any of the other social networking functions we may or may not subscribe to. Twitter pools public opinion and gives people the chance to say, without fear of being shouted down or refused a right of reply, to express themselves.

Follow me as Rosebiscuit and join in on the debate tonight at 10.35pm as Question Time airs on BBC One. Watch live on BBC iPlayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/

I’d also like to draw your attention to a rather more glamorous writer’s similar blog entry regarding Jan Moir’s unfortunate column. Please visit Ms Coco LaVerne’s blog at http://mscocolaverne.blogspot.com/

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One Response to “Jan Moir and Nick Griffin: Uniting Twitter”

  1. There’s a lot of controversy out there on this issue, but I happen to agree with the poster.  It’s generally a matter of opinion.


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