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  • Everyone… let’s join the Twitter mob!

    by Sunny
    28th June, 2011 at 11:26 pm    

    If you spend long enough on Twitter, sooner or later you see, get involved in or are in the centre of a “Twitter storm”. If you’re not that well known, it might not even be a storm… but if you’re as well known as Johann Hari - it goes international.

    I was involved in a minor one a few years ago, when I off-handedly tweeted that I welcomed that right-wing demagogue Rush Limbaugh ended up in hospital. Immediately, Conservative Home and Iain Dale were furiously trying to whip up outrage against me. No one outside their circle took the bait and the pitchfork mob never came. I survived.

    But it usually works like this: (group 1) there are some sensible people who make valid criticism. In the case of Johann Hari, there were some journalists and professors who thought it was unethical. Fair enough. (I thought what he did was wrong but the “scandal” had gotten out of hand by noon… it was still going strong at 6pm).

    (group 2) Then there are other prominent tweeters who just like to get on the bandwagon and offer their opinion on the issue. The bandwagon starts to roll apace. (Group 3) Then there are people who really hate the person in question. Hari has a legion of haters out there who think he’s too much of a softy liberal. Their politics isn’t necessarily leftist, they’re just nihilists. They rage at anyone and pretty much everyone. Twitter is there for them to rage at, and if they can join a mob to rage with, all the better. They love the opportunity to point out how principled they are.

    (group 4) Then there are the right-wingers. They usually want the bandwagon to gather pace before dipping their toes, partly because they’ve complained about lefty Twitter mobs in the past. But they don’t like missing opportunities to lay into political enemies. So when Harry Cole, Iain Dale and Toby Young start to become sanctimonious about journalistic ethics - it’s an unstoppable bandwagon with every man and his dog on it. I’m surprised YouGov didn’t do an instant poll.

    The whole Hari hate-fest became an unedifying spectacle of immense proportion that took up most of the day. Before anyone accuses me of being biased - I’ve objected in the past when some tweeters were raging against a writer at the Daily Mail complaining how difficult life was for the middle class. That became really unedifying too.

    I was accused of leading a Twitter mob against Rod Liddle too, but that was just Catherine Bennett complaining that I’d blogged about his racist crap a few times on Libcon. (I stupidly used the line “I’m part of the mob and I’m proud of it” at the end of that article - not again).

    We all make mistakes and sooner or later I’ll say something stupid on Twitter too. This will not doubt be used by people who hate me (I also have legions, possibly even more than Johann has because I’ve been blogging for six years) to whip up a Twitter storm. Today brought me a step closer to deleting my Twitter account. Some things are not worth the hassle.

    All I’m saying is this. If you’re one of those people who gleefully participated with your pitchfork today - just hope it never happens to you.

                  Post to

    Filed in: Media

    34 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. sunny hundal

      Blogged: : Everyone… let's join the Twitter mob!

    2. Dan

      ahahaha. hundal seems to have picked up on COMBAT LIBERALISM? <-

    3. Rooftop Jaxx

      Apostacy!!! Obv not the gospel according to @sunny_hundal
      Blogged: : Everyone… let's join the Twitter mob!

    4. Mel Gomes

      Blogged: : Everyone… let's join the Twitter mob!

    5. Eleanor Brown

      Blogged: : Everyone… let's join the Twitter mob!

    6. Kay Gee (initially)


    7. soul amplified

      Blogged: : Everyone… let's join the Twitter mob!

    8. DeterritorialSupport

      @brianwhelanhack are you a journalist or a nihilist? We can't place ourselves here…

    9. Esma Levendoglu

      Blogged: : Everyone… let's join the Twitter mob!

    10. sunny hundal

      Oh yeah…."let's join the Twitter mob!" - my post last night on the Johann Hari controversy

    11. Chris Paul

      Oh yeah…."let's join the Twitter mob!" - my post last night on the Johann Hari controversy

    12. Owen Blacker

      Excellent piece. MT @sunny_hundal "let's join the Twitter mob!" - my post last night on the Johann Hari controversy

    13. Ellie Mae O'Hagan

      Nice post @sunny_hundal, and I'm glad you didn't delete your account

    14. Adam Bell

      Good grief. The tone of @sunny_hundal 's blog piece is 'How DARE prominent people be subject to popular opinion?'

    15. Caspar Aremi

      Excellent piece. MT @sunny_hundal "let's join the Twitter mob!" - my post last night on the Johann Hari controversy

    16. Broken OfBritain

      Pickled Politics » Everyone… let’s join the Twitter mob!

    17. Stella K

      RT @sunny_hundal: Everyone… let's join the Twitter mob!

    18. Ali B

      Oh yeah…."let's join the Twitter mob!" - my post last night on the Johann Hari controversy

    1. Martin Belam — on 28th June, 2011 at 11:39 pm  

      I think some of the stuff actually aimed at Johann’s account was distasteful, but I thought the hashtag was funny and creative rather than aggresive,. Twitter is a terrible echo chamber if you only follow political/media types, and there are much more robust and offensive things said on the leading hashtags every single day on Twitter.

    2. Rosie — on 28th June, 2011 at 11:43 pm  

      Completely agree. I hate twitter mobs and while I think it’s right that Mr Hari be called on these concerns, people are just being vindictive.

      However, I seem to remember Johann Hari being a driving force behind the twitter mob on Gareth Compton, which again, independently of the rights and wrongs of that situation, was unpleasant in the extreme.

      Frankly, he is getting a taste of his own medicine. I wish he wasn’t. I wish the British public were less damn uncharitable.

    3. Karl Hungus — on 28th June, 2011 at 11:50 pm  

      The vast majority of the comments were harmless (and often pretty funny) pisstaking. The vast majority were just killing time at work and have no perspective on Hari’s politics from left or right. He has simply been caught looking like a fool, and has had it ripped out of him, but it’ll all be forgotten in a couple of weeks. It doesn’t detract from the fact that he’s a pretty sound guy with a good insight into things (which in turn doesn’t mean he can go around behaving like Scott Templeman from the Wire). Boris Johnson has previous for making up quotes while working as a journalist so it’s unlikely to be the end for Hari.

      If this level of scrutiny from readers makes the British media behave in a slightly more responsible fashion that’s probably a good thing, particularly for the political left. also, these ‘twitter storms’ are more often than not likely to benefit leftists as 1) right wingers are more likely to do the sort of cretinous things that provoke popular outrage, even if the mainstream media sanction their idiocy and 2) left wing people are much wittier and more creative in their responses than the likes of Harry Cole and James Delingpole (even though the latter is not afraid to SWEAR!!!)

    4. LizzieMc — on 29th June, 2011 at 12:03 am  

      Are only journalists and professors allowed to have an opinion? Twitter is horrible in many ways, but I actually think that a lot of the criticism of Johann Hari was good natured and creative. His practice is rightly open to criticism - yes, it wasn’t plagiarism but it was tricksy and dodgy and rather patronising towards his readers. I also think that some people (who don’t fit into any of your categories) maybe resent the lovey aspect of twitter, the sense of cosiness that doesn’t respect criticism outside of some close network and your article is part of this, suggesting that criticism from the hoi polloi is beyond the pale and essentially malicious. Johann Hari is a remarkable journalist, and I think that a lot of response has been because of a huge disappointment, not only that he wrote as he did, but, at least for me, that he defended it in the way he did, which seemed to suggest that he was distanced from a wider audience and a sense of what is acceptable. I think that Johann Hari is robust and can and does dish out criticism where it is deserved and I think he’ll be robust enough to deal with this in his own way without the kind of slight browbeating you seem to be using here. He is privileged enough to be able to answer his critics and deal with it all in a column tomorrow and I look forward to his response.

    5. Sunny — on 29th June, 2011 at 12:14 am  

      Yeah I don’t dubt some of the hashtag stuff was funny. There were other people raging about it as if he’d killed and eaten kittens.

      And there were some piling in because they were happy (and they admitted this!) he was being attacked by others because they had always thought he was racist or something. I mean FFS.

    6. paul bassett davies — on 29th June, 2011 at 12:19 am  

      Either you believe in free speech or you don’t. Some journalists and professional pundits still don’t get it: on Twitter everyone can say what they want and you can’t tell people how they should or shouldn’t use the medium. If you have an opinion about mobs or bullying or hysteria, that’s just another opinion, not a set of rules that you can impose on a completely open forum. Sometimes the old school commentators, who still feel, instinctively, that they have more right than other people to determine the context and direction of the discourse, end up sounding like the prosecution barrister at the Chatterly trial whose argument to the gentlemen of the jury was that as men of the world they could be trusted with the book but it wouldn’t do for it to be read by their wives or servants. You may not like it and it may sometimes get ugly but this is what equality and freedom of expression look like.

    7. Adam Bell — on 29th June, 2011 at 9:39 am  

      LizzieMc has it absolutely right:

      “Are only journalists and professors allowed to have an opinion?”

      The tone of the response of several left-wingers yesterday was very much along these lines, and this piece only reinforces that view. People not in the eye of the media also have opinions, and are allowed to express them. They can do so regardless of whether they’re ‘led’ by someone in the media eye.

      The crucial point is that the pitchforkers are right. This is a form of accountability for figures in the public eye that is missing elsewhere. You appear to resent the fact that you’re accountable for your opinions. I suggest you aim to be less successful at promoting them in future.

    8. ATS — on 29th June, 2011 at 9:44 am  

      I’m with you 100% percent on this Sunny. As I tweeted yesterday it was a sad and ugly day for twitter. After some reflection I hope the mob using the hari hashtag as funny as some of the tweets may have been to some people will look back ashamed at the w*nkfest being played out. The shame for me is that some of the perpetrators of this are people I would have expected better from. Yes, hold JH up to scrutiny, what he did was wrong, but the mob-happy twitter response yesterday was worse.

    9. am — on 29th June, 2011 at 9:50 am  

      The people taking part in the #interviewswithhari (or whatever it was) hashtag yesterday were not a mob, there are no pitchforks, no one hates him. He’s just being an arrogant idiot who hasn’t been doing his job, so people take the mick out of him. Some mockery will do him good. If anything it might teach him to respect his readers a bit more.

    10. damon — on 29th June, 2011 at 10:28 am  

      I’ve never understood this twitter thing. Are people checking their i-phones every two minutes all day? How annoying that must be for people who are around them.
      If this was Andrew Gilligan not Johann Hari it would change everyone’s view of ‘pitchfork mobs’ I guess. I don’t know anyone at all who is the slighetest bit concerned about what Hari did, because they don’t know about this rarefied world of highbrow interviews and who wouldn’t know who Gideon Levy even is.
      It sounds like a bit of a storm in a tea cup.

    11. Rumbold — on 29th June, 2011 at 10:46 am  

      I normally am a big fan of Hari, and I don’t like mob rule, but he did lie, and he did plagarise. Plagarism is passing someone else’s work off as your own, and that is what he did, by claiming that certain people said certain things to him. Since he never made this clear in any of his interviews, he can’t claim this is some sort of reasonable technique.

    12. Kulvinder — on 29th June, 2011 at 12:41 pm  

      I agree with LizzieMc; i don’t think the ‘twitter storm’ amounted to much - it was over in half a day and twitter like the average secondary school thrives on short spasms of intense drama before everything is suddenly forgotten (does anyone care about injunctions anymore?).

      Regarding his journalism Esther Addley tweeted it best

      ‘no desire to pick a fight, I admire your work. But will mistrust it in future I’m sorry to say’

      I think Hari is a very good writer and commentator but i don’t think hes the best journalist or as we’ve found out interviewer.

      #interviewsbyhari award goes to Simon Pegg

      “After discussing my evidence with him. he stroked his thick beard, looked up, and then loudly exclaimed ‘GORDON’S ALIVE’?”

    13. ukliberty — on 29th June, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    14. Don — on 29th June, 2011 at 6:40 pm  


      I also like Hari and consider him one of the good guys and this habit he seems to have slipped into smacks of laziness and perhaps a lack of respect for his readership. But I wouldn’t say it was plagiarism. He is attributing words to the person who used them and while he may have been guilty of a cavalier conflation of contexts (and has been rightly pulled up on it) I don’t see how there was any intent to misrepresent or deceive.

      I don’t do twitter, but glanced at some of the comments linked to from the sidebar here and a lot of them seem to be mere persiflage. And often funny without malice. The more vicious come from those who hate Hari for his political stance and can be dismissed.

      To label him a plagiarist and liar over this is seriously over-egging it.


      That was good, but I prefered the one about starting out in local journalism. ‘It was The Bicester Times, it was the Worcester Times.’

    15. Richard — on 29th June, 2011 at 11:54 pm  

      “Before anyone accuses me of being biased – I’ve objected in the past when some tweeters were raging against a writer at the Daily Mail complaining how difficult life was for the middle class.”

      Good for you, but alas I fear that had this been a Mail writer e.g. the infamous Miss Phillips, the self-righteous Left would have gone mental.

    16. damon — on 2nd July, 2011 at 10:27 am  

      A warning for anyone using twitter.

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