Hive mind

While I agree with Graham Linehan's sentiments about the Express / Dunblane gutter-scraping story, there's a part of me that feels uncomfortable with the Facebook groups and petitions. I didn't see the original story because I, in a revelation which may surprise none of you, don't read the Sunday Express. And I cannot help but remember the way in which liberal souls decried the Daily Mail whipping up a frenzy over the Ross-Brand-Sachs affair, escalating the number of complaints from people who hadn't heard the orginal broadcast but were persuaded that they'd certainly have been offended if they had. From what Linehan says and what I read at Chicken Yoghurt, this story appears to be a despicable, underhand piece of 'journalism' that displays a shocking lack of moral fibre from everyone involved. But I'm not going to read the original, because I know I'm being sent there with the intention of being outraged. Like the Daily Mail readers who watched the videos and listened to the audio after reading about how disgusting it was and, by golly, they saw that it was so. It's too late now for me to form an opinion that I would comfortably believe to be my own so I'm keeping away from the groups and the exhortations to complain. Which is a shame, because some things are worth getting worked up about, but not if the hive mind moves grass-roots campaigning into the same pot as mindless knee-jerkism.

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9 responses to “Hive mind

  1. Marie March 19, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Not sure if I agree with you here Rachel. A piece of journalism in this internet-savvy age is there for anyone to read for all posterity, not like a passing piece on a radio broadcast which will never be heard again, and for which all reactions must perforce be reconstructed by those who haven’t heard it. I read the original piece after hearing about it and my disgust was genuine – the Sunday Express should be ashamed of themselves for having published it. It’s an outrageous attack on blameless teenagers whose privacy has been invaded to sell a few newspapers. I was entirely comfortable signing a petition demanding an apology, and I don’t feel remotely as if I’ve been told by somebody else what my reaction should be.

  2. Marie March 19, 2009 at 8:53 am

    Also: isn’t all news reaction after the event? We’re always being taken somewhere we weren’t and shown something we missed and being asked to have some sort of response to it. I don’t think ‘I won’t comment unless I was there’ is a useful response to the world.

  3. Rachel March 19, 2009 at 9:27 am

    Good points; and another reason why I’m struggling with it. This is a far ‘worthier’ issue than some dumb-ass phone calls and creates far more issues about privacy and journalistic integrity and sheer decency. But I also know that I wouldn’t have ever read it off my own bat because it’s so vile, so for me (and it’s me I’m talking about) to be outraged seems a bit… weird.
    I think (?) the Sunday Express took the article down soon after; it’s now surviving because the hive mind has taken it and reproduced it for our outrage. I’m now thinking about the Ben Goldacre / LBC thing, where audio of a stupid MMR segment was posted. That created hive mind rallying not because of the content (which Goldacre invited us to make up our own minds about) but because of LBC’s reaction. If the Sunday Express had started an ill-advised fightback, then I’d have no problem with the interwebs rising as one.
    And now far more people have read the article than would ever have on a ‘normal’ basis. Names have been removed from Graham Linehan’s version but the words and accusations are still reaching more people than they would have. I know people are doing it with the best of intentions, of exposing vileness, but I can’t shake the feeling that just because it’s our cause, we’re not just using the methods of the knuckle-dragging mob we hate so much.
    But, as I say, this is just me šŸ™‚

  4. Amy March 19, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Linehan get so close towards hitting the point and then veers away at the end. Surely the point is not about petitions ‘shaming’ the Express… what’s done is done after all, it’s out there after all… but the point is THE PCC IS USELESS! A petition for a regulatory body with teeth to prevent this happening in the first place would be far more constructive, IMHO.

  5. Nick March 20, 2009 at 10:03 am

    I’d like to see a PCC like the ASA. Transparent and effective. It is incredible actually how many adverts have to withdrawn or modified due to complaints.

  6. Nick March 20, 2009 at 10:04 am

    I should add actually that it is the complaints drawing attention to a breach of code rather than the complaints themselves that get an advert withdrawn.

  7. Kate March 20, 2009 at 4:44 pm

    The ASA is useless though because the ads usually have to go live before action can be taken.
    Think of those ‘LONGER LASTING SEX??????’ billboards which were around for a while, before the ASA canned them – they didn’t have the power to stop them beforehand (or so it says in my copy of Private Eye …)

  8. Marie March 20, 2009 at 10:58 pm

    You can’t have a body which stops journalism beforehand, it simply isn’t workable – imagine having to run every single article in front of an independent body before it went to print. So there’s not much that can be done to “prevent this happening in the first place.” Articles likely to be slanderous, dangerous, or breach privacy etc can already be stopped with a court injunction. But with something like this, all you can really do is complain about it afterwards. Quite aside form anything, this piece doesn’t break the PCC code, so the only recourse is to complain directly, and shame the paper into an apology.

  9. Kate March 23, 2009 at 11:08 am

    I’d say it breaches sections 1, 3 and quite possibly 10.

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