I posted this on Liberal Conspiracy yesterday. Happy to say it got a lot of RTs.
The pathetic and desperate hatchet job on Nick Clegg, by our friends at the Daily Mail, was pretty much instantly rebutted last night, in just 140 characters.
Merely linking to the article that was the basis for Tim Shipman’s front-page piece shows the real context, debunks the Mail‘s outrage, and exposes their highly partisan agenda. Iain Dale is right: this will backfire on the Conservatives (regardless of whether they actually had a hand in placing the smears), and further highlight The Slow Death of the British Newspaper As We Know It.
Alongside the online rebuttals and link-sharing, we see the rise of the satirical #hashtag, in this case #NickCleggsFault (seeded by Justin McKeating, I believe), and Chris Applegate has updated his seminal Daily Mail Headline Generator to capture the Zeitgeist:
WILL NICK CLEGG GIVE YOUR HOUSE SWINE FLU?
A few questions present themselves. The first is the obvious perennial: how deep does this sort of ridicule penetrate into the national conversation? Are these jokes just a distraction for a insular blogosphere, the “Twitterati”, or does the meme spread out enough to properly counter the spin being spread by the Mail?
Social marketers will spend all election trying to answer this question… but whatever the level of influence right now, I think it is safe to say that it grows on a daily basis. Meanwhile, the tabloids diminish in stature. This is now a given.
But what I really want to know, is this: What do the journalists at these outlets really think about the satirical attacks on their paper? I can well imagine a bunker mentality affecting the editorial team at the Mail, or the Express, or the Telegraph – these are intense and high-stakes positions, after all.
But does this attitude extend to, say, a young journalist working on the news desk? Or the sub-editors? Or the music reviewers? Or the poor chap (or chapess) who has to moderate all the angry comments!? What do they think when they see the Daily Mail Headline Generator and the #NickCleggsFault hastag cluttering up their screens? Just as the Mail’s readership is not a monolith, we know that their staff cannot be either.
I would love to know their reaction to these kinds of online surges – and not out of any sense of schadenfreude, fly-on-the-wall, Downfall-type snigger. I think it would be a genuinely useful insight into how major media operations operate in the second decade of the 21st Century.
Any pseudonomynous contributions in the comments would be gratefully received.