Tag Archives: social media

My Turn

We all know how cruel the press can be. In this age of social media, more information is available than ever before. The turnover of stories is high, and for a busy journalist, there is more temptation than ever before to cut corners.

Corners can be cut in all sorts of places. The research can be paid for with back-handers, rather than waiting for an official announcement. The facts can even be guessed at, if pressed for both time and money. Vague statements can be made, then posted to the internet with the tag: “Details to follow.”

You can cut corners by not checking your facts, by not checking your spelling, by not checking if it ever happened at all.

Stories are needed to fuel the media machine. Preferably, ones that can be summed up in 140 characters or fewer. Quality must be sacrificed in order to provide quantity.

Advertising revenue has its stranglehold on the media, too. If you’re not selling papers, you need to make money another way. So, making mistakes, or missing information the first time a story is published is actually beneficial. The reader must return to see the corrections.

All the time, Twitter dangles the key pieces of information just out of reach.

Your friendly local paper isn’t so friendly any more. It’s a monster, crushing all who stand in its path.

This week, that was me.

This week, a tragedy hit my family. I’m not ready to tell the internet what that was, because frankly it’s personal. However, not so personal that my local paper didn’t think it was absolutely delicious, and jump on the “story”.

My life, and my family’s lives are not stories. Our misfortune is not in the public interest. Still, it didn’t stop me finding out this particular piece of tragedy, not from the police, not from my family, but from Twitter.

A family tragedy. My family’s tragedy. 140 characters or fewer.

I was devastated. A quick glance confirmed that my mother, too, had been informed in the same way.

I can’t put words to that, yet. All kinds of metaphors spring to mind, from being sideswiped by a lorry to falling into a bottomless pit. There was no way I could have seen it coming.

After the shock subsided, what was left was fear. That there are people in this world so callous as to do that to me. This isn’t just someone else’s injustice any more. It’s mine.

So I wrote an email. I wrote to them to tell them exactly what they have done wrong, exactly how cruel they have been. I do not know what good it will be.

I am a mouse standing up to a lion, and I am terrified.

Anyone so cruel as to do that to my family once will have no qualms about doing worse to me. How dare I call them on their behaviour? I’m not a qualified journalist! I’m a tiny, pathetic mouse, and nobody will listen to me.

Please, friends, subscribers, strangers, whoever you may be: I didn’t wake up on Friday morning and think “Today I’ll have an unpleasant confrontation with the press.” It just happened. It could happen to any of us, without warning.

If we don’t stand up to this sort of lazy, callous news-gathering, we put ourselves at risk. If we argue in favour of free speech at the complete abandonment of the freedom to live in peace, we run the risk of finding ourselves a victim of the press.

Our lives are not stories.

Details to follow.

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Get Griffin

Let me just say before I begin that I abhor violence of any kind, and that I do not advocate inflicting any “justice” on anyone, be they Nick Griffin or not. And that is why I am writing this.

Despite some recent incidents with social media, I must say that it is a friend to me. Being white, British, attractive, young and able-bodied means that I fail to incur the wrath of the less savoury components of the internet. My only affliction, then, is perhaps being female, which results in quite a lot of hatred from quite a lot of hateful people.

Speaking of hateful people, Nick Griffin decided it was his place to hand out the home address of a gay couple, accuse them of “heterophobia” and suggest that “a British justice team” would give them “a bit of drama”.

I am not discussing here whether it is right or wrong to sue a B&B owner who doesn’t let unmarried couples share beds for being homophobic. You want my stance on that, ask me in person. No, I just want to point out just how pitiful Griffin has become.

I can’t imagine he led the “British justice team” he talked about. To be honest, I don’t believe there was one.

To give you a sense of the scale of Griffin’s support, he has 19,000 followers on Twitter. Since the tweets, over 44,000 people have signed a petition to kick him off the social networking site.

Tweeters tend to think he’s a comedy character, which, despite his tough talk and drooping baddie face, he is. @RevRichardColes called him on his rhetoric with a tweet of, “Nick Griffin says he is prepared to go to jail for Christians. I accept his kind offer.” @JournoMicky suspects that @nickgriffinmep “must be a parody account”.

His Twitter handle has been bombarded with comments such as “I feel I could punch a kitten to death in front of an orphanage and be better than you” and “the left side of your face gave up on trying to be face”, which I think manages to combine the hurtful and the absurd to produce a really obtuse political comment (he doesn’t like the Left).

This is, of course, a case of the stupid fighting the stupid and we should probably leave them to it.

However, Griffin appears to have done something which violates Twitter regulations, which is to post the address of other members. Whether his Tweet constituted a direct threat of violence is a matter of opinion- no doubt he knows that, and knew that when he wrote it.

He claims that he did not post the full address, but the Twitter guidelines state “street address”, which does not suggest that a full address is necessary.

So, what does Twitter do? Does it allow him to continue, provide him a platform for his “free speech”? Or does it accept that he violated the guidelines, and must be removed in order for them to maintain their integrity?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I hate trolls. I hate people who think they can say what they want just because it’s on the internet. It’s not a free speech issue.

No harm came to the couple, which we have to be grateful for. And so, in honesty, does Nick Griffin.

(Amusing side note: a comment labelling homophobes as cockroaches on the Daily Mail Online was downvoted 582 times. Which gives you some idea of the readership.)