Liverpool bans The Sun. Victory! Milo whatisname’s book is withdrawn before publication. Victory! Katie Hopkins’ wings are clipped by legal action. Victory! Of course, there’s an easier way to express one’s distaste with all of these ‘offensive’ individuals and institutions that thrive on attention without trying to ban them – ignore ‘em. Loathe as I am to reference Sir Alex Ferguson in the positive, one nugget of wisdom nevertheless emerged from the former Don of Old Trafford when he looked back on the rough ride he was receiving from the media during his difficult early tenure at the helm; his most illustrious predecessor Sir Matt Busby rang to see how things were going; when Ferguson replied the press were on his back, Busby responded with simple logic – ‘Why read ‘em?’ Pity so few today can react the same way.

Following in the footsteps of Lily Allen, Owen Jones is the latest name to flounce off social media in a huff; granted, receiving online abuse is especially unpleasant, but it’s worth remembering that one is not legally obliged to maintain a permanent presence in cyberspace. Back in the day when household names could be inundated with traditional Hate Mail, i.e. coming in the form of a letter delivered by the postman, there was little one could do; having a fixed abode means anyone can reach you via these methods. Unless one decides to seal up the letterbox, that toxic message is going to get to you, however vile. The same doesn’t apply online.

Of course, a man with a media profile, both mainstream and social, cannot just switch off his mobile or avoid the internet when on his laptop; nor can he spurn the invites to ‘Newsnight’ or ‘Question Time’; the publicity drug is too embedded by then. There has to be a grand announcement akin to the one DLT made when he jumped the Radio 1 ship before being pushed; it’s virtually written into the contract that slipping away from social media can’t be undertaken without a press statement. Lest we forget, however, being on Twitter or Facebook isn’t a job; it’s supposed to be a pastime. Somebody whose weekends might consist of going fishing doesn’t need to contact the Daily Mail or the BBC should they decide not to bother anymore.

Social media has a habit of making people feel important in a way that previous pastimes didn’t; in theory, it provides a platform giving a voice to those whose voices had an extremely limited range in the past. It also enables those who already have a prominent voice in more established arenas to extend their reach whilst simultaneously bringing them into contact with audiences whose only point of contact before would have been the radio phone-in or the humble letter; in the latter case, the likelihood of a reply was a rarity, as anyone who has written to a famous name they admire will know only too well.

When said famous names take to Twitter in particular, the guaranteed millions of followers or thousands of ‘likes’ and re-tweets in a matter of days of joining can bolster the ego immeasurably, increasing the recipient’s sense of self-importance and becoming a useful cyber CV when seeking evidence of their significance. Remedying the age-old insecurities of those desperate to be loved is something that can be enhanced by the ‘virtual friends’ they collect online, and it is an undoubtedly effective illusion.

As an example, an absence of comments on one of these here blogs can easily lead one to feel it ain’t worth bothering with anymore; utterly ridiculous, I know, but if one has received a glut of comments on the previous post, it’s unavoidable wondering what one has done wrong this time round. Why is nobody responding to this post when they responded so enthusiastically to the last one? Why don’t they love me anymore?! Such thoughts say more about the author than the reader, but the satisfaction of a dozen positive responses can be cancelled by a solitary negative; like the actor who can only remember his bad reviews, social media in its numerous forms is a dangerous addiction for anyone who masks their fragile ego in the thick skin of the online identity. The level of one’s dependence on it (not to mention the size of the audience) is reflected in how one reacts when it turns sour.

Therefore, I can to an extent understand how those whose followers and re-tweeters far outnumber my own little cult coterie react with such theatrical histrionics when they find a sweet-scented bouquet of relentless praise sometimes contains the odd viper. The shock of someone not only disagreeing with them, but spewing limitless vitriol whilst doing so, can shatter the false premise of the ‘all girls together’ echo chamber that social media generates when everyone tells you how great you are. But, again, it’s not compulsory; you can actually not go online if you want.

I only took a few days off from here because I’d posted for five straight days and I do also have other things to attend to that are not dependent on cyberspace. Unlike the more well-known users of the medium, I am not wired to a mobile, programmed to respond to every tweet every few seconds, incapable of making a move without first checking what’s happening on that little screen. It can be quite liberating not bothering for a few days, and what one can be doing in the meantime – if involving real people – reminds the user that there’s more to life than this. Don’t get me wrong – I do like this or I simply wouldn’t bother; but it helps to have something else as well.

© The Editor


hells-granniesJust over a decade ago, when I was still paying attention, a pair of albums appeared from nowhere that seemed to suggest two new exciting, individual and idiosyncratic voices had arrived to give a much-needed kick up the arse to an increasingly stale music scene. Eleven years later, one of those voices has been silenced and the other appears to spend most of her time digging an online hole that grows deeper with each passing day. I’m talking, of course, about Amy Winehouse and Lily Allen.

Whereas ‘Back To Black’ was an unexpectedly dark diversion into classic soul that brilliantly scuppered Winehouse’s potential membership of the Radio 2 Easy Listening Jazz Club alongside the likes of Jamie Cullum, ‘Alright, Still’ was a cut-and-paste mosaic of vintage Ska and Reggae shot through with the kind of original lyrical wit sorely lacking from the vapid nursery rhymes of most female pop stars. Indeed, Allen was compared more to The Streets’ Mike Skinner than she was to the male-controlled marionettes or winsome singer-songwriters sharing the charts with her; image-wise, she also offered a refreshing alternative to the lap-dancer look that had become obligatory for so many of her contemporaries.

Allen quickly developed a reputation for a sharp tongue, and it was perhaps inevitable that music alone wouldn’t be enough of an outlet when it came to her evident talent for opening her mouth and not merely singing. After the initial praise and success that her debut album and its accompanying singles (particularly her chart-topping debut, ‘Smile’) brought, Allen then took a disappointing albeit prophetic turn by temporarily becoming a chat-show host on the frankly crap BBC3 series, ‘Lily Allen and Friends’; it looked as if she was in danger of turning into the middle-aged Cilla Black thirty years too early.

However, in 2008 she returned to the studio and produced her second album, ‘It’s Not Me, It’s You’, a far slicker musical outing than her first. Although her lyrics retained their ability to challenge conservative pop conventions, there were moments, such as the anti-Dubya ‘Fuck You’, when she seemed to be settling for complacent name-calling. The album’s lead single, ‘The Fear’, was a prescient, barbed comment on celebrity culture, though she simultaneously appeared to be part of what she was attacking.

Music has regularly taken a periodical backseat in her career, often due to unhappy personal experiences such as a miscarriage, a stillbirth and being pursued by a stalker for seven years, something that eventually climaxed with a conviction, despite the inaction of the Met. Having led the way by utilising nascent social media (particularly MySpace) to build a fan-base before she launched her professional recording career, Allen was a natural Twitter user from the off, and it currently seems the Twittersphere is the location into which Lily Allen appears to divert the majority of her energy.

At one time, the music press would serve as the mouthpiece for rent-a-quote musicians, with everyone from John Lennon and John Lydon to Morrissey and Noel Gallagher using it to issue statements about their fellow performers and the world in general, sparking debate and division amongst music fans. Now that the music press no longer exists, social media fulfils the same function for their outspoken successors, and Lily Allen has continued to use it while her career seems to be undergoing yet another Sabbatical.

Like many famous faces in the heated post-Brexit climate, Lily Allen’s opinions on Twitter have dragged her into endless online arguments of the kind even unlikely agitators such as chairperson of the ‘Harry Potter’ industry, JK Rowling, and ex-footballer and crisp salesman Gary Lineker have set themselves up for over the past few months. She was notably vocal with regards to the migrant crisis when it occupied the headlines last year and now she is under-fire again following her lazy demonisation of Britain’s elderly population, adopting the same petulant attitude as another hereditary celebrity, Giles Coren. According to Lily Allen – and I quote – ‘Can’t you see this country is being taken over by hate extremist pensioners?’ I can’t say I’d noticed myself, but the images evoked by the prospect seem oddly reminiscent of Python’s ‘Hell’s Grannies’ sketch.

Apparently, Allen posted a poll asking which social demographic posed the greater threat to the UK – Muslims or the aforementioned senile delinquents – a blatantly obvious own-goal gift to serial trolls and Twitter mischief-makers; when the results of said poll didn’t go the way she anticipated, Allen momentarily stormed off Twitter in a huff. She hired a friend to take over in her absence and attend to ‘a hate blocking spree’, which basically means deleting anyone who disagrees with or questions our Lily’s pronouncements. The sensible option would surely have been to simply give Twitter a rest for a bit, but it would appear an online presence is today required 24/7 or everyone assumes you’re dead.

Twitter to me is the same as YouTube or Facebook; I use it as a PR platform for my work. I’ve never once used it to air an opinion on anything that can’t be expressed in a blog or a video. Lily Allen is more than capable of making her feelings felt via the medium of music; that she is choosing to spurn what she does best in favour of locking horns with others who also can’t live outside of cyberspace is surrendering to an argument you can never win. These people do it for a living, Lily; you don’t. They’ve got nothing else going on in their lives; you have. Why not capitalise on that and rise above the pit instead of languishing in it? Otherwise, there’s little to distinguish them from you.

© The Editor