Conspiracy or Democracy?

A hasty change of headline. But the original one's still visi... on TwitpicThe Daily Mail’s Jan Moir wrote a column on 16th October about the untimely death of Stephen Gateley of the band Boyzone. The column was originally entitled “Why there was nothing ‘natural’ about Stephen Gateley’s death”, although it has subsequently been retitled.

A lot of people found the content of the article offensive, and a storm began to brew on Twitter, with a lot of tweeting and retweeting, some of it offensive in its turn to Ms Moir.  In her response to the furore, Ms Moir described the Twitter response as “clearly a heavily orchestrated internet campaign”.

To suggest that it is possible to orchestrate a campaign about anything on Twitter, or other social media, is a bit silly. Ms Moir said things in her column that offended a lot of people sufficiently for them to start talking about it. The more they talked, the more other people heard them, and some clearly felt strongly enough to begin talking themselves. The social media aspect has hugely accelerated and magnified an otherwise ordinary word of mouth process, but that’s all.

Instead of seeking to blame imaginary conspiracy theories, Ms Moir should exercise her empathy, and try to re-examine her column from the perspective of someone who is gay, or someone whose brother or sister or cousin or son or daughter has unexpectedly died at a young age. That might help her to understand that this strong expression of feeling is a consequence of the fact that the Internet provides a lot of “ordinary” people a platform in aggregate that is in some ways just as powerful as the one that she has in her newspaper column.  It’s not a conspiracy, rather it is democracy.

Columnists like Ms Moir need to understand that if they are going to use their platform to publish controversial content, then we might equally use ours to object.

It’s only fair, after all.