When Twitter works, it is a thing of beauty. For instance, during the leaders' debates, clever people were firing off bons mots about the flannel being spouted as it happened. Yesterday another, wholly different, anti-bon mot caused Twitter's tweets to become screams.
Danny Dyer, the erstwhile "star" of such less than genteel British films as Severance, Malice in Wonderland and the forthcoming Pimp, has another string to his bow, as agony uncle for lads mag Zoo. In the latest edition he advises a reader to cut his ex-girlfriend's face "so no one will want her". This has caused uproar, quite rightly. Playing a hard man on screen is one thing. It's fiction, which Dyer's fans can probably comprehend. Mr Dyer, as himself, inciting violence from the pages of a popular magazine, is quite another.
The incident began "trending" on Twitter almost as soon as the magazine hit the newsstand, with the young folk who use the social networking system to share their opinions calling for Dyer to suffer an unpleasant fate himself, or for Zoo to sort itself out, sharpish. These are the kind of people that Zoo would like to have purchase its publication, and the kind of people film companies would love to have going to see Dead Cert, Devil's Playground, Age of Heroes or any other of Dyer's 14 films currently in production.
So it's a comprehensive "whoops". Bauer, Zoo's publisher, has rushed out an apology, blaming a "production error", but one wonders quite what in the hell would cause such an error. Did the magazine's entire staff forget to read that page, or did they really, truly make the error of thinking it was OK, even funny? The magazine's editor, Tom Etherington, has apologised unreservedly "for any offence the response may have caused". From Mr Dyer, at the time of writing, nothing.
But as one tweeting friend quipped, it might not be his fault because he might not have written it himself. And that's the trouble with celebrity columnists – if they write their own columns, the result could be offensive, or nonsense, which is why many magazines get an accommodating staff member to "talk it out of" the star down the phone and then make it into coherent copy. Sometimes, whisper it, the opinions are entirely concocted. Although, thinking about it, saying stuff like "[insert brand name] sent me a lovely handbag this week" is not really an opinion, is it? Open the pages of most of the weekly celebrity magazines and that's what you'll find under the photo byline of most Wags and Z-list actors masquerading as journalists.
Danny Dyer has made a handsome living from portraying geezers, and now it's backfired spectacularly. Whether he muttered something down a crackly mobile line about "cussing your ex" and it got lost in translation, or he really did advise Alex from Manchester to commit GBH against a young woman, he's got some serious damage limitation to do.
Perhaps a visit to a women's refuge would be a good place to start? And maybe cancelling plans to appear in Gunned Down, and Guns of the Dead (although I'm just guessing about the plotlines)...
And what of Alex from Manchester? Contrary to the commonly held belief (at least within the print media) that most missives published on problem pages are themselves made up, he's a real person. And he is, according to the latest Twitter feed on my computer, planning to claim damages.
So there you have it: within the space of 12 hours a fully complete media story of publication, obfuscation, explanation, compensation. And we have Twitter to thank for it. So back in the world of politics, incoming MPs have much to fear if they step out of line. Retribution is swift, and it sounds like a tweet.
For further reading
Mike Sacks's and Scott Rothman's satirical 'New Yorker' piece on tweeting: tiny.cc/im9xmReuse content