I won't link to it, because I'm pretty sure that it's a chunky bit of bait wiggled around for people to get angry about, like a jam sandwich in the middle of a picnic rug, awaiting ants, but Catherine Bennett writes today, somewhere or other, badly, about how it's not fair that anyone should try to stop Rod Liddle from being editor of the Independent, because, oh, something about free speech or something. It's cobblers. Of course it's cobblers. For a better description of why it's cobblers, go and read Sarah Ditum's splendid post over at Paperhouse.
What I want to concentrate on is why there's so much hostility towards Twitter, and other ways for proles, amateurs and riff-raff to have their say about things, and why it particularly comes from the dusty old corduroy world of print journalism, disapprovingly peering over the top of its spectacles at this rabble-rousing nonsense which is, as we read time and time again from people who often write about things so much more banal and dismal, "just about what you had for lunch".*
It's the same with journalists' frequent disdain for blogs, bloggery, bloggers and the blogosphere. Occasionally - or you could even say often - blogs are a source of tedious repetition, infantilism, ranting and poo-chucking; but that's not to say that, in being so, they're any much worse than what you might read from certain columnists. And yet, and yet... there's a sense in which columnists don't like taking potshots at each other, at their 'craft', for fear of denigrating their profession, their beautiful life. And who can blame them? But the trouble is, blogs and Twitter are here. They're here now, and they're getting bigger, and better.
Things like Facebook campaigns over the editorship of a national newspaper show, in fact, that people really do care about their media, and where it comes from. You can, wrongly, think it's playing the man where Liddle is concerned, but the trouble is, it's his own silly fault. If he wants to bring attention to himself by walking the racism tightrope, and quite frequently falling off, that's up to him. But this is not a world as it was a few years ago, where there weren't the opportunities for people to respond to such things and say, do you know what, Liddle, you're not even particularly funny, or good, or clever, and the racism isn't even the worst bit; it's just evidence of a laziness, a shitness, a lack of quality.
Old-style journalists who fear Twitter and Facebook and all those things probably do so because they can see what's happening. They can see that the tide's coming in and it's going to wash their sandcastles away. In order to prevent that from happening, they have to try and man the barricades for as long as possible. Blogs are trivial and banal, they'll say, not accountable, not as good as real proper journalism; Twitter is just a rent-a-mob of people who don't really know what they're talking about, getting whipped up into a frenzy, a baying rabble of people who don't know any better, who are urged into taking certain positions; and Facebook groups can simply be dismissed as the same kind of sheep-like mentality.
To do that, though, dismisses all those people who might quite independently think about things, and decide they want to make their voices heard. No longer should we imagine that it's only the bright little buttons of national newspapers who can achieve those lofty heights; I read five or six articles a day by amateurs which blow the pros away - though there are, of course, writers for national papers who are fun, exciting, interesting and think about things in a way that can be contrarian or provocative, but which can also be insightful. Rod Liddle is not one of them. He is just an arse. I say 'arse' but I mean 'twit'. And it's not impugning anyone's freedom of speech to say, using your own freedom of speech, that you think someone with more intelligence and skill should be editing the Independent. It's fair comment. More fair comment than saying "Fuck off back to where you're from, you Muslims", for example, and slightly less pathetic, I'd say.
The tide is coming in. Where once people could court controversy with their ill-thought-out drivel and there'd be no way of letting them know just how dumb they were being, now there are opportunities. That seems to be the way that things are going. You can either ridicule the entirety of Twitter, and imagine that you're the big clever people who've got the keys to the world, by dint of being slightly better at writing than other people, but the truth is that isn't the case. It's not mob rule. The mob are your readers. The mob are real people, who think for themselves. And if lots of them are saying you stink, it might not be because someone else has told them you stink; it could just be because you stink.
The tide is coming in.
* I had a cornish pasty from Lidl. It was ace. And a can of 29p generic energy drink, which tasted like it might well glow in the dark. There. That's what I had for lunch.