Vague ramblings

Twitter writes some new rules – for writers

Posted in Business, Fiction, That which is cool by Ian Cundell on 10 October, 2009

Whichever way you measure it, this has been a good week for Twitter, the social networking site for the clinically concise.

First,  libel law firm Carter Ruck tried to suppress reporting of Parliamentary discussion about its client, Trafigura, which had been caught dumping toxic waste in Ivory Coast. Twitter created a furore that made Trafigura more famous that it dared hope, a PR catastrophe for it and Carter Ruck; a coach an horses through the attempted injunction.

Then, in the Daily Mail, Jan Moir wrote a particularly snide and innuendo-laden piece of homophobia, using the death of Stephen Gateley as its hook. It was thoroughly unpleasant and disreputable, even by the Mail‘s standards of bigotry.

Twitter went ballistic and, when magician Derren Brown suggested complaining to the Press Complaints Council, Moir’s bile became the most complained about article ever. Moir was forced to respond and grumbled about a “heavily orchestrated” campaign, betraying a total lack of grasp of what was happening – there were cheerleaders (Brown, Stephen Fry among others) but you simply can’t ‘orchestrate’ something on this scale, this fast. People hated what they saw and acted.

Then for me it got really interesting. Suzanne Moore wrote – in the Mail on Sunday, of all places – a fierce rebuttal of Moir, but without pointing the finger squarely at her. One Twitter post suggested that the article should be linked widely, but I expressed my disappointment at the lack of finger-pointing. Some time later, Moore popped up on Twitter and we discussed it. She was gracious and witty (and tragically resigned to being associated with the expression “fuck me shoes”, but that is a different matter), explaining that she “went a bit diva” to get what was published in the Mail on Sunday and that finger pointing would never have been permitted.

She’s right of course (I hate it, but she is) and that she got that odious rag to bend just a little is eternally to her credit.

But the thing with both stories is that they took off because Twitter is absolutely popping with journalists and writers. If you have heard of or seen the output of a writer there is a good chance that he or she is lurking on Twitter (except Jan Moir, it seems, but there are a couple of fakes). It is highly debatable if anything fundamental has changed – The Mail is still the hateful backer-of-the-blackshirts it always was, and was scarcely hurt by the rumpus,  and Carter Ruck is still a pernicious exploiter of the flaws in English law. But suddenly a new and very fast reacting tool is in the hands of those who might have a mind to do something about it.

I honestly do not know why any writer or hack is not on Twitter. Seriously, there is no excuse.

 

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