Monday 22 February 2010

Paranoia, Nazism and nastiness - why I'll be changing my blog reading habits

I've followed a number of political bloggers and Twitter accounts for a little while now. I suppose I use Twitter in the way the prolific bloggers intend me to use it: I follow a couple of hundred people, many of whom blog several times a day. Too many blogs to subscribe to, but enough that I can have a steady stream of chirps emenating from my TweetDeck with some tempting straplines and a link to a blog post. So far, so good - and as a result, I can keep an eye on plenty of blogs that may be some way away from my own particular political views.

As a result, on my "Following" list on Twitter are both Paul Staines aka Guido Fawkes and Tim Ireland aka Bloggerheads (who tweet from @guidofawkes and @bloggerheads respectively). Guido is one of the most heavyweight of the Tory bloggers, and doesn't pull his punches, while Ireland is a militant left-winger whose anti-Daily Mail stance and general sense of morality appealed to me. Both provide insights and leaks that the mainstream media may take days to pick up on if at all.

But as of today, I won't be following either of them any longer. Neither of them would thank me for saying it, but they're like two peas in a pod: they suffer from rabid negativity and paranoia that is simply depressing to read.

Ireland feels the whole world is against him, and writes increasingly delusional rants against...well, quite a list of people actually. He appears to be involved in swathes of libel claims and counter-claims, threats and counter threats, and generally consumes himself in his own outrage. Were he to put his manic energy into something a little more constructive than obsessive diatribes against obscure "terrorism experts", Tory MP Nadine Dorries, and bloggers Guido and Iain Dale, then he might be quite influential in this election and not come across as merely a fruitloop. Both Dale and Dorries describe Ireland as a "stalker" - something which he denies, but the incessant flood of tweets every few minutes asking in outraged tones why Dorries hasn't answered his last question, and torrents of blog posts analysing Dale's activity to every last detail suggest that their claims are hardly wild flights of fancy. He is also paranoid in the extreme. I genuinely have no idea what Ireland's own political views are as his blog and Twitter are too crammed with wild accusations to actually have any positive content. While his abrasive stance is entertaining, and I applaud his mission to hold the muckier tabloids to account, the simple fact of the matter is that my Twitter feed has become dominated by one person who tweets dozens of times a day, and it's just become too much.

On the other hand, Guido Fawkes has the luxury of being considered a "mainstream" commentator. Unfortunately his commentary is restricted to a steady outpouring of anti-Gordon Brown vitriol and negativity which just becomes tedious very quickly. Auther Staines  rarely gives convincing arguments why any reader should be more tempted to vote Tory than Labour; instead one is subjected to endless holier-than-thou tabloidesque snippets of drivel about dodgy Labour comms professionals and moaning about the economy. Yes, the economy is in a catastrophic mess. But I don't need Guido Fawkes to tell me that. The "summary" comments, in red type, are in the style of the Sun, whether intentionally or not. The only appealing aspect of the blog is the comments section, where hordes of Guido-ites trade juvenile anti-Gordon slurs with voracious appetites, only taking time out to nip over to Nick Robinson's blog on the BBC to accuse the Beeb of wholescale bias with amusing predictability. Insightful this blog is not, whatever its influence.

It may seem strange that following Tim Ireland led me to check out Iain Dale's diary - and even stranger that today would be the day I decided to follow Dale's Twitter. This morning he published a cartoon which quite simply and explicitly compares Gordon Brown to Hitler. The artist, Louis Sidolo, provides a typically hopeless (for an artist) piece of English masquerading as a statement, which rather vaguely justifies the comparison by the fact that both Brown and Hitler were once chancellors and "caused huge economic damage". Dale, spectacularly naive, claims that he is merely "reporting" the art without any approving opinion. Pull the other one, Iain; for an influential blog, crammed full of opinion, to simply publish a piece of art without any accompanying text except for the unabridged artist's statement, is as much of an endorsement as you can get. Personally I didn't find the cartoon offensive, I just didn't find it very amusing (whisper it, but I didn't actually recognise the PM).

In spite of that, Dale comes across as both intelligent and articulate, and appears to be "in the thick of things" where the breaking stories are concerned. My early impressions are that he has more than an ounce of humanity about him. So for now, I'll keep half an eye on his Twitter and see what happens.

As I wrote elsewhere, and as others have written in many places, social media could easily tip the balance of the upcoming election. There has been wave upon wave of brilliant satire at Clifford Singer's My David Cameron, both from Singer himself and many other contributors - which became viral and hit mainstream headlines. I've personally had some of my laughs of the year from that site. Finally, some Tory efforts appeared (slightly bizarrely copying a spoof of a Tory poster) at My Labour Poster. Some of the Labourites (and Singer himself) claimed that the Tory efforts lacked humour and were vicious personal attacks; looking at them objectively, I found them no worse and indeed some of them were very funny. Singer, meanwhile, has said that he won't continue the site any further as the satire has run its course and humour could turn to bitterness. This is a dignified decision and the correct one. The original spoofs of the ridiculous airbrushed pictures of Cameron were the best of all - the site has done its work, provided a great many laughs and made the Tory comms team look slightly foolish. Social media is providing British politics with a huge new injection of nastiness and negativity and the less we see of this, the better. So I'll take my chances with Dale, and watch out for Singer's next project with interest.


  1. I hope you'll enjoy my meanderings!

  2. You can't have read much of what I wrote, or you would have realised that it's been established that someone is out to 'get' me, and people like Iain Dale, Nadine Dorries and Paul Staines are only involved at this stage because their past attempts to damage my reputation are being deliberately incorporated into the Wightman/Flowers attacks.

    Dale, Dorries and Staines know this is happening, but they maintain their pretence of ignorance/deniability for reasons that are pretty easy to guess.

    Much of what they have written (some of which has since been deleted but not retracted by Staines and Dale) has been defended by them 'banter' or 'opinion', but they know that it is being repeated against me as if it were fact, often in direct conjunction with my home address; in short; 'here is a nasty stalker of women, and here is his address'

    Even if all three of these people honestly regard me to be a stalker, how they can approve of such actions in their name is beyond me. How Dorries, an MP, can expect to get away with any level of reliance on vigilante attacks boggles the mind.

    The only seemingly credible 'stalking' evidence that any of them can produce, BTW, relates either my failed attempts to have Iain Dale take the current situation seriously, or Iain's earlier intervention* (that he has yet to explain) that made a related attempt to smear me as a convicted paedophile so deeply problematic.

    Pardon me for allowing such claims, and the repeated publication of my home address, to dominate what I publish lately, but I don't have time for much else these days, and I'm still keen on finding a resolution to the problem instead of rolling over and copping it sweet.

    (*Iain still only ever talks about it in private, and I know for a fact that he has lied to people about it when asked privately about this matter. The case he makes is a dishonest one, reliant on lies and distortion. It won't survive daylight, but in the accusation of 'stalking' he has a great excuse for keeping it obscured. He's certainly taken no meaningful steps to involve police or proceed with civil action. Incidentally, Iain Dale is now reprimanding the Prime Minister for bullying while taking no action to curtail or even disown the bullying conducted in his name.)