A Liddle Bit Of Good News

An image search for "Rod Liddle" brings up macros with a much more robust choice of language than this...

Columnist Rod Liddle now looks unlikely to be offered the position of editor at the Independent, following a groundswell of disapproval from staff and readers. This should universally be considered A Good Thing. Liddle would be a rotten fit for the paper. His views on women and minorities are well-known, thoroughly documented and utterly reprehensible. However, because the reader response was organised through Facebook and the campaign site 38 Degrees, some opinionistas in the press have taken the opportunity to tag public disapproval of the potential appointment as mob rule.
This is disingenuous, to put it mildly. So I won’t. It’s flipping ridiculous. Mob rule is a loaded and highly evocative phrase, which leads the reader to imagine that Liddle had been dragged out of town after being tarred and feathered (pause for a moment just to savour that image…) What actually happened was somewhat less dramatic. A highly paid journalist has not been ushered into an even more highly paid job, thanks in part to the efforts of concerned readers of the paper concerned. That’s it. It’s hardly bloody Salem, is it?
I will immediately state my interest in the affair. I joined the Facebook group, and signed the 38 Degrees petition. I don’t want an unmitigated shit like Liddle running a newspaper for which I have some measure of respect and affection. It is my right to inform the potential owner of that paper of my opinion. Did I gather with hundreds of other worried readers at the doors of the Independent’s offices, flaming torch in hand? Did I help to string up a gibbet at the door to Liddle’s flat? Have I in any way affected Liddle’s future earnings or his professional reputation?
No. No, I did not. I put my name to an internet petition and fired off an email to Simon Kelner and Alexander Lebedev. That’s all I have done. The fact that I was not alone in doing this seems to be the problem, and something that opinionistas are finding increasingly difficult to cope with. The idea that people can respond in their thousands to an article or story that they find objectionable, that somehow they can be held accountable for the things they write must scare them stool-less.
The angry letter to the editor is no longer the only option. The readership of our daily papers are more and more aware of their power, and ready to exercise it. If the chattering loudmouths that clog the opinion pages don’t like it, well, la-di-tough-shit. Guess what, passive consumption is a thing of the past, and about time. It’s easy now to show our disapproval of the badly-thought out, quickly dashed-off, lazily executed rubbish that passes as opinion in every paper on the news-stand.
In the face of public disapproval, all they can do, it seems, is call us either the thoughtless automatons of a liberal elite orchestrating our every move on Twitter (the Indie campaign was started by a reader, by the way, not a celebrity) or at worst a howling mob. Neither portrayal is likely to endear us to the writers that spawn this bollocks.
Liddle, as a columnist for the Times and The New Statesman, is just the latest and most obnoxious example of the problem. It’s interesting to note that as the campaign has unfolded, his complaints about social networking have become more hysterical. While trying not to paint himself as a victim, he has resorted to using ever more tenuous links to other, unrelated or outdated news stories to have a pop. It would be funny if it wasn’t so… oh, who am I kidding? It’s HILARIOUS.
To sum up, then. It would seem that public opinion becomes mob rule only when it isn’t working in your favour. And we are watching, opinionistas. Watching, and ready to call you out on your bullshit.


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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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