This week’s hot topic in the quality prints and elsewhere seems to have been mobs – hashmobs, flashmobs, hatemobs, lynch mobs. You can take your pick of the articles, though Dominic Sandbrook, writing in the New Statesman, offered a historical perspective – Mob rule.
I threw in my two pennorth last week – Gately, Moir & Fry. (I see this morning that Mr. Fry is at least considering cutting down on the Twittering, by the way – Fry to nix Twitter? – because of all the “unkindness and aggression”. Wouldn’t blame him one bit).
I thought it might be worth reprinting my own first hand account of how one innocent citizen found himself caught up in a virtual lynch mob. This was one of the first things I wrote on this blog (back in mid-May) and I doubt whether anyone read it at all, so I trust I’m not boring my loyal readership, if any.
I learnt my lesson, incidentally, and have never been near Comment is Free again.
In which I make some amusing remarks and find myself caught up in a lynch mob
Curious experience a couple of nights ago. Tiring slightly of my backwater I decide to venture out into the mainstream (or trickle or torrent, whatever the technical term is) of the blogosphere. I decide to give the world the benefit of my views on a couple of subjects via the medium of one of the better known blogs.
Put soberly and rationally (and I wasn’t perhaps entirely the first of those, at any rate) the point I was intending to make was that I was surpised that the revelations concerning MPs’ expenses had caused quite the furore they have as compared to all the other things that they have done collectively over the last thirty years or so, and how very likely it would always have seemed to me that they would get up to those kinds of tricks.
I first of all try the BBC news website where, as you might imagine, there was already a considerable body of comment on this subject. I make my point (aware as I am doing so that I am wildly exaggerating my strength of feeling on this question) and post it. I then realise that the post won’t be published for several hours, if at all, so decide to head off in the direction of the Guardian’s Comment is Free to try my luck there.
There I see Alexander Chancellor’s article about Stephen Fry’s alleged comments on the matter on Newsnight (which I managed to miss, but it’s fair to say aren’t going down particularly well) so I decide to throw in my two penn’orth there. Having got a taste for it now I look around for another blog to comment on and my eye falls on an article by Polly Toynbee “Brown must go now”, or something along those lines. I find that this has attracted so much comment that it has been closed: I then spot another, newer comment by Toynbee saying that once Brown has gone, in line with her instructions, Alan Johnson must be appointed forthwith. For some reason I find this quite enraging and post a derisive message, in which I say that in 35 years of reading the Guardian I have never managed to finish one of her articles. This cannot possibly be true, although it is true I rarely even begin to read the ones she writes currently (the ones under the cartoon). I then return to my comments re. Chancellor, Fry and the expenses and add an even more provocative comment saying that I think MPs should actually have their expenses increased.
I then go back and read the other comments on Toynbee’s article. These make my jeering sound like a model of sweet reason. She is getting the bird in no uncertain terms. Collectively we make up a virtual lynch mob. I then realise that this article is one that is due to be published in the next day’s paper, and that it has already managed to attract over a hundred hostile comments.
Why is it, precisely, that we are all so angry?
- Some are genuinely angry about the expenses scandal.
- Some are genuinely angry about the way that Nu-Labour has traduced the better traditions of the Labour Party.
- We are mostly frustrated that our various points of view have no effective representation in the mainstream of political life.
- But also, I would guess, we are angry (if only subconsciously) that the much-vaunted democracy of the blogosphere does not mean that our views are given the same prominence as P. Toynbee. If she says that Brown must go, or Johnson must come in then she expects to be taken notice of. If we want to be taken notice of then it is a question of strength in numbers, swarming like angry bees.
Still, feel slightly (very slightly) regretful and atone by leaving a message of thanks to Frank Keating for a nice mini-memoir of Colin Milburn.
Perhaps I’m better off in my backwater after all.