Some interesting stats for social media-savvy types appeared in the most recent edition of ‘Private Eye’; they related to the disproportionate nature of online outrage generally arising from the latest one-day wonder on Twitter. According to these stats, the best Twitter can manage in terms of active daily users is around 134 million; compare this to Facebook, boasting an estimated 1.5 billion, and it’s blatantly obvious that Twitter isn’t quite the be-all-and-end-all arbiter of social mores its most prominent users – ‘young, highly educated and having higher incomes than average’ – give the impression of it being. The same quoted study claimed that 80% of Twitter’s tweets emanate from just 10% of its most prolific practitioners. Twitter’s high proportion of usage amongst mainstream media figureheads and zero-hour intern journos (for whom Twitter is the contemporary cyber equivalent of the old-school snout) is undeniably disproportionate, but Fleet Street’s desperate reliance on Twitter as a source of non-serious news has undeniably amplified its importance.
As with all other online platform pies I personally have a finger in – Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Amazon, Vimeo and a couple of blogs – Twitter for me is merely a promotional tool; others randomly air their thoughts and they’re welcome to do so; that’s not my bag, but I don’t dispute the right of anyone else to use Twitter as a vehicle for railing against The Man if that’s what they regard Twitter as. When it comes to prominent names on Twitter, a guaranteed million-plus ‘likes’ is a given, whether their tweet is a response to a headline or a personal portrayal of domestic dullness. The medium’s isolation from traditional print propaganda or terrestrial TV means relenting from the customary fawning over the House of Windsor – which those arcane outlets pretend is a reflection of public feeling – can easily provoke the mortification of the Ancien Régime if an individual user doesn’t play ball.
Danny Baker’s ‘controversial’ tweet of a fully-clothed chimpanzee in the style of the PG Tips commercials that featured on British TV ad breaks for a good thirty years or more is the latest missive to spark outrage of a duration that has probably been and gone by the time this post appears. So be it. That perhaps says more about the here today/gone tomorrow timespan of social media than it does about my own motivation to respond to the current hysteria with an allegedly measured perspective. Such is the sensitivity surrounding the mixed-race parentage of yet another sprog to pop out of the regal vagina that an additional layer of tiptoeing has been grafted onto the archaic deference reserved for Her Majesty’s descendents, making it even more impossible to issue an observation that doesn’t adhere to the Nicholas Witchell manual without the anticipated ‘off with his head’ cries echoing in the ears of the treasonous.
On one hand, it’s possible to regard Danny Baker’s tweet as a disgruntled reaction to the current flood of OTT middle-class brownnosing from that rarity in British media these days, the working-class; no doubt many who aren’t employed to set aside twenty-odd pages of the Mail for this ‘story’ expressed little more than a shoulder-shrugging ‘meh’ to the latest rush of Diana-esque coverage where an oblivious babe-in-arms is concerned. An inversion of this blanket exposure was given a few months ago to the birth of Shamima Begum’s third child, an unfortunate cherub whose future was less secure and whose life has already been sadly extinguished.
The naive idea that the birth of a blue-blood baby would somehow ‘bring the nation together’ at a time when the nation has never been more fragmented along lines of class, region and religion is, of course, quite daft – and maybe one more indication of just how out of touch our media masters truly are. Around three or four years back, I was exposed to a genuine voice when scanning the newspaper rack in Sainsbury’s as an old lady turned to me when confronted by front pages declaring how William & Kate would struggle to deal with a newborn and growled – ‘As if either of them will have to change a bloody nappy in the middle of the night.’ Funny how neither the Mail nor Express nor BBC1, ITV or Sky ever seem to point their microphones in the direction of a member of the public expressing such an opinion; much easier to stick to the jolly groupies camped outside London hospitals for days when looking for pliable plebs.
Prior to Danny Baker’s intervention, my own gut reaction was ‘Ah, another privileged parasite sucking on the taxpayer’s tit’, and then – realising that made me sound like some demented old communist – I reverted to ‘meh’. My reaction was the same as any to a photograph depicting an aged couple I’m not related to being officially introduced to another great-grandchild: yeah, great for them, but who’s really bothered other than them?
One difference between me and Danny Baker is that he is accustomed to tweeting thoughts, opinions and reactions in a jokey manner whenever news of this nature breaks; and he did so again when being bombarded with excessive media ejaculations over the addition of another name to the Civil List (or whatever they call it these days). I don’t blame him for that, but the ill-advised choice of photograph to illustrate his indifference was bound to provoke outrage from those who see racism in everything in the same way Mary Whitehouse used to see sex in everything. And in an era in which the BBC responds to any threat to its ‘diversity’ agenda by instantly taking the positive discrimination axe to any employee who risks tarnishing the brand, it was inevitable Baker would be dismissed.
I’ve no idea if Danny Baker tweeted the same image to accompany the last (non-mixed race) royal birth, but maybe this particular immaculate conception pushed him into a ‘God, not this again’ mindset and he opted for said photo without considering the racial connotations that were bound to be evoked. I’m prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, as I’ve never detected any BNP-like leanings in anything he’s been involved in – and I’ve read the first two volumes of his entertaining autobiography as well as watching the fictional TV depiction of his 1970s youth, ‘Cradle to Grave’. But it’s all-too easy today for any tongue-in-cheek critique of the establishment to be labelled as beyond-the-pale, and Danny Baker’s track record of not giving a shit when confronted by the weight of that establishment was reflected in his casual employment of an image that the more cautious would have baulked at posting. It was silly and misplaced, yes; but where we are now means it was destined to result in an instant P45 as much as if he’d posted a Photoshopped snapshot of Oswald Mosley fronting the Black & White Minstrels. He should have second-guessed that, really.
© The Editor