Bristow was wrong – and gave too many people the chance to be outraged

Eric Bristow, eh? A dinosaur, from another era, who has got himself into trouble over social media comments.

While the comments he has made are reprehensible, there can be no doubt that Bristow is a victim of social media.

And I don’t just mean his own social media accounts.

I know this is a sport blog apparently, and there is obviously a sporting angle, but this time I’m going to let off some steam about something I am increasingly becoming frustrated with.

Fifteen years ago, Bristow could have held the same views as he does now. He probably did. But he had no outlet for them, short of going out of his way to appear on TV to discuss it, and had this abhorrent story about abuse to young footballers had broken back then, I’m pretty sure Bristow’s name would not have been on the list of possible guests to discuss it.

But now, at 9.24pm on a Monday night in November, Bristow can let more than 100,000 people directly know what he is thinking. And it probably only takes one person to be outraged and it’s all over the web. A tweet, which takes seconds to compose, can stitch you right up.

Again – and I do feel the need to point this out – Bristow was wrong. What Bristow said was outrageous, ridiculous and simply put plain stupid. Let’s add in “ignorant” as well. Completely indefensible.

But what can be said, is that social media has given everyone a voice. It’s played a massive part in the downfall of journalism as well – I’ve long said that now everyone thinks they are a journalist, and the immediacy of social media means that speed of information is more important than quality.

It does also give people a platform. Would anyone care about Katie Hopkins or Piers Morgan if they couldn’t idly inflict their views on us? The newspapers, the desperate ones that still remain, make it even worse. They promote their drivel in an attempt to get people riled up. Quality doesn’t matter to them any more either, it’s all about the click rate. They scour social media looking for outrage responses. They used Twitter comments as their TV reviewers in many cases.

Hell, I’ve seen today a paper that I used to work for mocking their readers for criticising the fact they wrote a story about a supermarket running out of sandwiches. How I’ve not sworn in this paragraph is a miracle. I’m not linking to it any more because it’s already had too many clicks – I know this because I’ve read it once. That’s one more click than that pointless, gutter, non-journalism deserves.

I’m on Twitter a lot. It’s part of my job. But some of the stuff I see on it is pathetic. It gives everyone equal chance to share their views, and while in so many aspects that is brilliant, it also gives morons a voice I’m not sure we want to hear. Like the woman – hypocritically living in France – who this week has proudly shared her racist letter of complaint to John Lewis over their advert featuring a black family.

Perhaps it was altogether better when no-one actually cared about your views and the only platform to share them was face-to-face, where you could be challenged and those who weren’t interested could just walk away.

Because you can rest assured, I see hundreds of things a day that I really wish I hadn’t on social media. Clickbait, filthy horrible clickbait. You can almost picture it now in these scuzzy offices (not calling them newsrooms), the sort of place where a plane crash wipes out a football team and your first thought is how to get your interpretation of tragedy read the most.

It’s not journalism, it’s not respectable and frankly – pardon my French – it can fuck right off.

 

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