This is an archival re-post of something written last summer on the old blog.
Any Questions, one half of BBC Radio 4’s weekly foray into the realm of mindless US-style talk radio bigotry, this week invited a panel of historians, novelists, and journalists to share their poorly considered thoughts on current affairs with the nation. A question regarding the situation in Iran was asked, and after ten minutes of the panelists tediously repeating what they had read that week from real foreign affairs experts, somebody mentioned twitter. I’ll pass on wordsmith Will Self’s clumsy attempt at a joke (“the only circumstances in which I would twitter is if a songbird flew into my mouth”), which somehow prompted screeches of delight from the audience of children and mental subnormals, and go straight to the comments of Rod Liddle.
Rod Liddle, left-of-centre columnist for right-of-centre newsmagazine Spectator and former editor of Radio 4’s flagship Today Programme, joked about the use of twitter by celebrities and politicians being all about what they ate in the restaurant last night (oh, by the way, Rod, I’ve got 2008 on the phone — they said something about wanting their joke back?). Even if that were true, so what? I’ve never read the Spectator, but I learn from their website that if it were my wish to do so, I could enjoy such features and columns as boring woman has lunch — sorry, splendid lunch; some guy gets his hair cut; and painfully arsenumbingly pointless woman pours her heart out over the uniquely middle class problem of “how to start a letter to your sponsored child”. My God, Spectator, don’t you realise? I don’t care. I don’t care about these irksome morons, I don’t care about their lunch, their haircut, or their sponsored child, and I don’t know why you’re telling us about them. You have taken three retards, stapled them together, and are asking people to pay £3 to read this crap.
For God’s sake, traditional media, take a step back and look at what you’re doing. You look ridiculous. Radio 4 is broadcasting Anne Widdecombe’s considered views on designer shoes, and you wonder why we’re all off reading the science minister’s twitter feed? You don’t see the connection between the Spectator‘s bizarre dogmatic belief that the raving troll Melanie Philips somehow has something worth printing, and our mass defection to the blogs of professors? Channel 4 broadcasts Rod Liddle’s spectacularly moronic comments on atheism and eugenics, and you still don’t get why we’ve all gone to watch YouTube and TED talks?
Of course there are some tedious twitterers. Of course there are plenty of people who couldn’t give a crap about my thoughts, or the thoughts of those bloggers and twitterers that I follow religiously. And of course there are plenty of people who, like me, could not care less what Rod Liddle thinks about anything, let alone the catalogue of topics that he mistakenly thinks he is qualified to comment on. This is the nature of broadcast media, and it always has been. And that is not a problem. It doesn’t matter if I am not interested in somebody’s restaurant-related tweets, because I can ignore them. It doesn’t matter if somebody blogs on a topic that I do not care for, because I can scroll on past. It doesn’t matter if Channel 4 makes poorly-researched documentaries , because I can switch channel. It doesn’t matter if my newspaper prints columns on haircuts and sponsored children, because I don’t have to read those if I don’t want to. Just because something is published in a broadcast medium, does not mean that you are the target audience, and the author is seeking your approval. The difference, as I’m sure you will have noticed, is that if nobody wants to read my tweet or blog post, I will have wasted the few seconds or minutes I put into crafting it. If nobody reads your column or listens to your radio programme, your publisher goes bankrupt and you loose your house.
One comment made on twitter is not going to change the situation in Iran. Nor is a comment made by a novelist on Any Questions. The difference is that the twitterers are aware of these facts.