Politicians should be wary of the dangers of Twitter

Kelner's View

Related Topics

I would like to start the second week of the new year with a
challenge. Can anyone find me a sentient human being, a person of
sound mind and body, of any race, colour or creed, someone who's
capable of making an argument using a sentence of more than 140
characters, who truly feels offended, insulted or threatened by
Diane Abbott's "racist" tweet?

Ms Abbott's observation, provoked by what she saw as patronising comments about the "black community", that the white elite likes to divide and rule, would surely not have touched the sides in an age less infantile and hysterical than this one. It may have been trite, and – given the propensity for Twitter to turn a spark of controversy into a raging inferno – it may have been ill-judged, but I fail to see how Ms Abbott's aperçu could have caused such widespread offence.

And set against stories about race that really mattered, and revealed much wider truths – like the Stephen Lawrence murder trial, or the Luis Suarez case, or the alleged abuse directed at an Oldham footballer – there is something distasteful about creating a furore over such an innocuous remark. Race has become a touchstone issue already in 2012, and must be a matter for public debate, but in a grown-up, rational way. So let me tell you why I don't think what Dianne Abbott said was offensive, let alone racist. When you belong to a disadvantaged or oppressed minority, it is perfectly reasonable to express anger and resentment if someone makes a derogatory generalisation based on racial grounds.

So if white people were, say, five times more likely than black people to be stopped and searched by police, if there wasn't a single white person who was chief executive of a FTSE 100 company, if white people were under-represented in politics, the judiciary and the media, and if white players were the ones being abused on football fields for their colour, then I think there would be every reason for Ms Abbott to apologise for what she said.

But, when you consider what she actually did say – that the ruling classes like to arrange things so that they maintain their grip on power – it beggars belief that anyone would think this controversial. Isn't this the story since time began? And I'd feel a lot more respect for Ed Miliband if he'd ignored the clamour to censure an MP who, to my mind, has said many more risible things when perched on Andrew Neil's sofa in a TV studio. And once again, it's an example of how Twitter is shaping (and/or perverting) the national discourse.

Dianne Abbott will think twice about engaging in a debate using a medium that doesn't recognise nuance or irony, and brooks little in the way of reasoned argument. Politicians should be especially wary of Twitter. It has already revealed its power to blight careers.

They should use it to promulgate a simple message, or to try and tap into the public mood. This is what Ed M did with his opportunistic tweet about the death of Bob Holness, whom he referred to as the host of "Blackbusters". He simply made himself look a t***. Or should that be twot?



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant - Part Time

£10500 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Part Time Accounts Assistant ...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Assistant

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company supply, install an...

Tradewind Recruitment: Reception Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: An excellent three form entry scho...

The Green Recruitment Company: Commercial Construction Manager

£65000 Per Annum bonus & benefits package: The Green Recruitment Company: The ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
BoJack is the walking embodiment of why-the-long-face  

BoJack Horseman - the most depressing cartoon on TV - is thankfully back for a third Netflix series

Edmund Cuthbert

The world's population has reached 'peak youth'. This should be a wake-up call to world leaders

Perry Maddox
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Attwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'