Tag: social media

Sorry, not sorry

The BBC have managed to splutter an apology, like a mouthful of burnt toast crumbs, for the coverage of the peaceful vigil against the bombing of Syria on the Today programme in December 2015. It reminds me of that time I ate a whole multi-packet of someone else’s Wagon Wheels while watching Murder She Wrote dubbed in Hindi. I wasn’t very sorry then and I don’t think they are now.

Still, it is a big milestone and a massive achievement all thanks to the efforts of local heroes Sue Wheat and Dominic Mandrell who have spent seven months trying to set the record straight.

Think back, back to happier times when we had a Prime Minister almost a quarter of people living in the country had voted for, back to when the pound was worth more than a handful of half melted malteasers and some pocket fluff, and you might remember the Little Hard Left Hate Mob That Wasn’t.

Think back to that evening on the 1st of December when a group of local people walked from Queens Town Road Mosque to the constituency office of our MP and lit some candles while small children wrote messages of support for Syria on post it notes and stuck them on the dark windows of that empty office.

Think back to the morning of the 2nd of December and the few days after when the Guardian, New Statesman, The Sun, The Independent, The Evening Standard, The Mirror, The Daily Mail (‘Hard Left Hate Mob’) The Northern Echo (‘War-like and cruel’) BBC Radio 4 Today programme and World At One, LBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, BBC Breakfast News and Newsnight all covered a story that never happened. Tom Watson even went so far as to claim ‘I have seen those TV images of what went on’. He’d been at the Wagon Wheels I suspect.

Then think back to our MP leaping immediately to our defence and demanding that the story be set straight.

Ha! I got you there, didn’t I?

That was never happened either. In the real world, she left an important debate she would have clearly benefitted from listening to and claimed on Twitter her staff were being harassed, and then unleashed La Mensch who went on to spend the weekend verbally abusing a local artist on Twitter who she’d assumed was a man. She was a woman.

Life can be hard when your MP is one Hello Kitty pencil case short of a pre-teen girl gang but let’s save that peculiar hilarity for another time. I’m thinking of calling that piece When Champagne Socialists become Molotov Moderates.

Yesterday, in one of those coincidences the universe likes to throw up to compensate for the burnt toast always landing rancid butter side down, Katharine Viner – the editor-in-chief of the Guardian – wrote a piece on how social media has made life terribly difficult for journalists to work out what’s true and what isn’t. “In the digital age, it is easier than ever to publish false information, which is quickly shared and taken to be true”.

I did double check to see if Alan Rusbridger was editor-in-chief when they ran with the vigil story but unfortunately Katharine Viner became editor in June 2015. So she was at the helm of a paper that ran with a story that the BBC has admitted “originated from a single Facebook posting which later proved to be misleading (the demonstration’s destination was Ms Creasy’s constituency office, which was unoccupied at the time, not her home, and it was peaceful)”. I think “misleading” might be the new word for “a lie”.  Much in the same way literally now means figuratively because that’s how people use the word.

Viner goes on to say “sometimes rumours like these spread out of panic, sometimes out of malice, and sometimes deliberate manipulation” but doesn’t elaborate on what happened in our case. If you want to hazard a guess you can still read articles about the vigil on the Guardian website.

It’s not true, but it’s still online. There’s something odd about that. Perhaps it is still there because Viner is correct in her suggestion that “publications curated by editors have in many cases been replaced by a stream of information chosen by friends, contacts and family, processed by secret algorithms.”

Is she a robot? Is the article really a cry for help? Skynet, is that you?

Or perhaps it’s still there because no one in the media actually cares. The truth is perhaps like a private life, only available to people who have enough money to win court cases where they’re refered to by three initials and only Scottish or American papers can use their full names. Oh, if only we coud all marry a pop singer or get paid millions to kick a ball round a field at the weekend.

Still, we’ve got an apology. I should be happy, right?


Big lie, tiny apology. For example, Glastonbury festival’s very own Tom Watson MP bombasts that he’s seen TV images of a Hard Left Hate Mob on a BBC programme and is heard by millions worldwide, then mutters his apology on Facebook where this is the coverage he got:

TW stats

Of the Guardian, New Statesman, The Sun, The Independent, The Evening Standard, The Mirror, The Daily Mail, The Northern Echo, BBC Radio 4 Today programme and World At One, LBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, BBC Breakfast News and Newsnight only the BBC have admitted they were reporting something that never happened and only on the Today programme. Good luck finding that apology without the link. If it’s less than four clicks from the home page, do let me know – I’ll buy you a Wagon Wheel. All this when one of the Leveson Inquiry recommendations was that the apologies and corrections should match the profile the story was given.

Ah, Leveson. Again, let’s think back. There were so many recommendations, they went up like emergency flares then disappeared before anyone could launch a single life boat to rescue the truth, and democracy.

Poor democracy, what of her?

As I’ve said before, quoting the mighty and much-missed Terry Pratchett, ‘a lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on’. It turns out that the lie, unlike doping Russian athletes, can win that race, keep the medals and the world records. Still, that’s no reason for us, or the good folk at The Canary, to stop polishing the boots of truth to make sure that they aren’t quite as shit-speckled as everything else is becoming.

The Mysterious Case of “Lucy Allan MP”

In the last week or so the world of politics, and wider society, seems to have slipped the noose of reality and entered a world not dissimilar to the one Alice encountered through the looking glass where everything is the opposite way round. The truth and lies being, as usual, the first in the firing line. But they are not the only casualty. Another tragic victim of this frightening flip fantasia is tragic Telford MP Lucy Allan.

You may remember Lucy Allan as the MP who, in fit of jealousy after seeing the attention that other MPS, such as Stella ‘Noble Defender of Her Constituents’ Creasy, were getting from the media, decided to fabricate a death threat.



This seems like quite a big thing, no? Then join me for a moment as I wonder why Channel Four, to pick just one mainstream media channel, described this as a ‘non-story’. The BBC, bless them, tried to cover it. If giving her a platform to excuse herself is covering it. But they gave it a go and that’s the main thing. They tried.

Rest assured that we will shine a light on it here.

I think to truly rummage around in the bloody guts of this non-story we need to look at it in the context of the society we now live in. A world where an unsubstantiated post on Facebook is an impeccable journalistic source and post-it notes are weapons of mass destruction. A world where everything is uncertain and confusing.

One thing we can be sure of in these difficult times is that Twitter knows who is real and who isn’t. They communicate this by adding a pleasing blue tick next to the usernames of Real People. Like Ryan Reynolds. He’s real. Andy Murray? Real. David Cameron, sadly, also seems to be real. Lucy Allan? Not real. No blue tick.

I did want to get an image of this for you, as I believe in evidence, but Lucy Allan seems to have deleted her Twitter account:


And her Facebook account


Let’s not be deterred though, that’s what she wants. She wants us to forget all about this because she’s sitting on a majority of 1.8%. Sitting on a tiny majority is a leading cause of piles you know.

In my yard, Walthamstow, we have experience of sock puppets causing problems on social media. I’m looking at you Paul S Jakubovic, or should I call you Paul Jakubovic or should I call you….? Oh, never mind. And it’s not without the realms of possibility that Lucy Allan MP is another sock puppet. A very convincing one. I think she’s some kind of sophisticated android. I put in a pretend-call to PricewaterhouseCoopers, where she worked from 1987 to 1994, and they confirmed that she did work there, but she was actually a calculator. One of those scientific ones that can do trigonometry, but still.

I suspect that now her social media accounts have been suspended her power is weak. She probably only has enough strength to manifest as one of those little robot hoovers and is currently going back and forth, back and forth as she tries to get out from the back of the bin in the kitchen. At this point she is only able to enslave dogs but we must not be complacent.  Her Wikipedia page is still live and she will be drawing strength from it every day.

Just as an aside that page features this strange paragraph:


Um, OK. Glad you cleared that up.

Not long after this story – sorry, I mean non-story – broke Lucy Allan tweeted that it wasn’t her fault, it was Labour supporters that were targeting Tory MPs in former Labour seats with death threats and yet more vile abuse. I wish I could show you this tweet, it was very funny. She is, of course, almost right. As an MP, or “MP” as we should actually call her, Lucy Allan – sorry, I mean “Lucy Allan” – doesn’t get sent emails, people don’t post on her Facebook page or tweet her. They target her. And I suspect this is a co-ordinated effort as she suggested. But not by Labour supporters. My pretend-investigations are starting to uncover a team working within the Labour Party and, having irredeemably damaged their political careers in one way or another, they have accepted a secret mission. Their mission is to distract the electorate so that the government can get away with whatever they want. They are not Labour supporters. They are the Suicide Squad, soon to feature in their very own documentary:


The Suicide Squad (l-r): Tristram Hunt, Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes, Simon Danczuk, Tom Watson

We should also consider another serious issue. Once upon a time I suffered a three month freelance contract in a digital team in the Department of Work and Pensions. You could write everything that civil servants understand about anything related to computers on the back of a stamp and still have room to write a detailed essay entitled ‘This isn’t a democracy, it’s a travesty’. On the postive side, it was always hilarious sitting in meetings with them:

If “Lucy Allan” has started to develop IT skills we should all be concerned. Now one of them can cut and paste it’s only a matter of decades before the rest of them become capable enough to actually introduce such madcap IT-reliant projects as ID cards and then it’s National Databases as far as the eye can see. Then they really will be able to get into your computer and see what you’re doing. Then they’ll be able to pretend you’ve done things you haven’t without anyone being able to prove otherwise. And once they work out how to that, we’ll need more than a disreputable band of Labour MPs with a grudge.

Further reading

I have been super-busy. That means I’ve been very busy but I’ve been wearing a funny costume with a cape. I’m trying to finish the final draft of The Replacement. Well, I’m not trying to, I am finishing it. And I’m doing some social media…um…stuff. And some promotional…stuff too. Here, I summarise for you:

You can follow me on twitter, I’m @squintarium

You can like my Facebook page, where these posts also appear in a handy all in one place kind of a way.

You can read a review of The Vanguard by the good folk at The Book Bag. They wear capes.

You can find out more about the book and maybe even go so far as to buy your very own copy on Amazon. Cape not included, sorry.

There’s also an interview coming up (with me!) and a competition to win a signed copy of The Vanguard but I can’t tell you about that because it hasn’t happened yet.

That is all. Thank you.