Thursday, 22 April 2010

Twitter vs the Daily Mail - social media users respond to Nick Clegg slur

Since last week's leadership debate the UK national press have been taking (leader of the third party / Liberal Democrats) Nick Clegg seriously, with Malcolm Coles highlighting the substantial increase in national press coverage that Nick Clegg has been getting (here.)

Today, a number of newspapers have decided to very openly attack Nick Clegg in any way they can think of:

- The Telegraph have a huge splash on a story about Nick Clegg's personal expenses (even though they appear to have been openly claimed and properly declared)

- The Express (as usual) feature immigration on the front page, but this time seek to position Clegg as the illegal immigrants friend

- and The Daily Mail trawl the depths of the gutter by running a front page story that twists a piece that Clegg wrote in the Guardian in 2002 (8 years ago!) into being a 'Nazi slur on Britain' - claiming that this is evidence that his 'views are an insult to war dead.'

Daily Mail Nick Clegg front page personal attack

Anyone who chooses to read the original Clegg article in question (on the Guardian website here) will quickly realise just how much the Daily Mail have manipulated the sentiment of the original piece. The original talks of Clegg's personal sympathy for 2 German workers who were forced to leave their jobs in a UK call centre after being subjected to a 'barrage of anti-German jokes', he talks of his schooldays and the shame he felt watching certain classmates goosestepping in front of their German exchange students and he singles out 'oafish' anti-European tendencies in selected UK boardrooms. In conclusion he tries to explain why this sort of idiocy still persists in certain areas of British society.

He concludes:

'Even New Labour ministers, Gordon Brown in particular, crow about comparative British economic success with more than a hint of condescension towards Germany and the rest of the EU. They all blithely overlook that Germany's wealth per head remains a full 6% higher than in the UK. That German workers are 29% more productive than their British counterparts. That German trade with other EU countries has shot up in recent years, while Britain's trade with the euro zone stagnates. That Germany has engineered one of the world's most ambitious economic transformations in the former East Germany. Not even the most blinkered British visitor to Germany's prosperous towns and cities, to its schools, hospitals and its transport system, could pretend that our quality of life is comparable to German standards.'

Clegg puts this down to (as the Daily Mail chose to quote) a British 'misplaced sense of superiority, sustained by delusions of grandeur.' I think it's actually a well written and thoughtful article in the Guardian and thanks to the Daily Mail's highlighting of it, Mr. Clegg has actually gone UP in my estimations.

However, whilst in past elections there was no real way of responding to (ridiculously) personal attacks, the social world we now live in enables people to respond at scale. The article in the Mail has prompted a backlash on Twitter. The link to the original Guardian article has been repeatedly highlighted, 'Nick Clegg' has been a trending topic all morning and this has all been alongside sarcastic responses tagged with '#nickcleggsfault.'

Twitter Trends showing 'Nick Clegg' and '#nickcleggsfault' trending this morning

Twitter users have been tweeting every kind of outrage they can think of and attaching Nick Clegg's name to them through use of the #nickcleggsfault hashtag label.

One Twitter user blamed Nick Clegg for running 'out of milk.' Another Twitter user put forward the idea that he wouldn't be surprised if tomorrow's front pages try to associate Nick Clegg with the Diana crash and an oft repeated tweet this morning blamed Nick Clegg for the volcano(!):

Nick Clegg volcano tweet - #nickcleggsfault

UK newspapers still have licence to print the sort of stories that they ran this morning, but the response from the public has been a reminder that people can (and will) respond to the sort of nonsense that has been served up on the front pages today. The irony is that today's stories, and the following Twitter backlash, may actually create sympathy and more support for the LibDems - and I hope it stops publishers from this sort of smear reporting in the remaining part of the campaign. Don't mess with Twitter!

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2 comments:

Dan said...

Good post!

See also this 'I agree with Nick' group on Facebook, set up after last week's Leaders' Debate:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=102060906503745&ref=ts

Promotional Products said...

Very interesting twist by the media. Should anything shock us much anymore?