Category Archives: Amanda Platell

Internet Trolling, Twitter and the Daily Mail

The Daily Mail has a long history of attacking Twitter users as sad loners trading insults anonymously with each other and directing their ire at celebrity targets en masse when it suits them – as if Twitter is one giant hive mind. This then seems to contradict with the other articles that the Daily Mail runs, that Twitter is also a site that allows self-important liberals to get all offended all the time and lead ‘campaigns’ against things (like certain Daily Mail articles / writers).

Either way, the Daily Mail enjoys trawling Twitter for easy copy and to generate page hits to the now all-consuming Mail Online website (when it comes to Internet trolling the statistics don’t lie: the Daily Mail is king). There have been a couple of articles that have caught my attention recently. Firstly, the Mail writes some standard guff about how Twitter trolls have been targeting Carol Vorderman – they ‘trade vile insults about her looks‘. Fair enough, but they should perhaps pay more attention to Vorderman’s words:

Speaking to the Mail, Miss Vorderman added she does not let online bullies affect her self-esteem. But she said Twitter abuse should be monitored to protect more vulnerable victims.

Yes, protect vulnerable victims from Internet abuse, I think we can all agree that insulting someone who can fight back is one thing, whilst insulting vulnerable people is generally considered at the very least unsporting. Step forward Daily Mail Reporter and the recent article on Emily Lloyd posted on the Mail Online website. This article is a particularly nasty example of the ‘look at this person, they were beautiful 20 years ago, BUT JUST LOOK AT THE STATE OF THEM NOW!!!’ articles that the Daily Mail delights in (both online and in print). What you need is a little background – which, amazingly in the context of the article, the Mail Online gives:

In 2009 Emily revealed she had been suffering from crippling chronic insomnia and admitted this led to her having more time to analyse her situation during long nights in her bed dwelling on a career that might have been.

For Emily has suffered from mental illness on and off for 20 years and there have been various diagnoses, among them mild schizophrenia, Tourette’s syndrome, obsessive compulsive disorder and attention deficit disorder.

Emily Lloyd is the sort of vulnerable victim that deserves protection from Internet trolling, yet the Daily Mail is happy to print this kind of article (which is now edited, the original having been airbrushed from history as usual by Mail Online). What the Daily Mail never acknowledges is that most Twitter users spray their hate to a handful of followers and occasionally direct it at a celeb who might have thousands of mentions a day; this is a world away from having the platform of being one of the world’s busiest websites and printing trolling articles aimed at vulnerable individuals.

It isn’t the first time Emily Lloyd has come under fire from newspapers playing the ‘look at what celeb X wore to the shops!’ game, and the Mail article acknowledges this as well;

Trademark wit: Emily may not look on form, but three years ago she laughed off critics of a similar photo by asking what attire might have been appropriate – a ball gown and tiara?

Yet, elsewhere in the article: ‘She wore a mismatched outfit as she walked her dog, carrying a few items from a local shop.’

Even though they acknowledge the stupidity of the main thrust of the article, they go ahead and publish it anyway (You can read more about the Emily Lloyd article on the Rethink Mental Illness website).

Elsewhere Amanda Platell attacks Twitter users in her weekly column of increasingly confused and desperate bitterness:

However many loyal fans a celebrity has on Twitter, it has become the underground playground for twisted inadequates who revel in others’ misfortune.

Be it Stephen Fry or Rebecca Adlington, no one is spared their malign attacks.

Twitter allows trolls, under the cloak of assumed identities, to make comments that they would not dare say even to their worst enemy in the pub. Comments that can be fired off in seconds without thought, decency or shame.

And as soon as one troll attacks, others pile in, validated and encouraged in their bravado by each other’s odious spite. The language of hatred becomes a badge of honour for these subterranean internet-obsessed losers.

This from someone employed as a professional troll, working for the most famously hateful newspaper / website in the world. Especially look at the accusation that Twitter users hide ‘under the cloak of assumed identities’ to make comments they don’t want to take responsibility for, isn’t that exactly the same as all the hateful Mail Online articles attributed only to the Daily Mail Reporter?

Not to mention that Platell exists purely to spread hate – in fact, she’s so good at her job that the Mail have even had to issue apologies for her articles in the past:

A column by Amanda Platell on 17 September 2011 referred to Sheryl Gascoigne as a ‘gold digger’ and as ‘sleazy and degrading company’ for the other participants in the Leveson Inquiry. We now accept that these allegations are entirely unfounded and went beyond fair comment. We have sincerely apologised to Ms Gascoigne in court for the distress caused and have agreed to pay her substantial damages and costs.

You know you’re spreading some hate when even the ‘only-apologise-when-forced-to-in-a-court-of-law-whilst-paying-damages’ Daily Mail feels that a columnist has gone ‘beyond fair comment’.

Platell does reserve a special hatred for Twitter (maybe it’s that Twitter hate is seen as competition) in the past she has dismissed Twitter as ‘the domain of the inane, the insane and the desperate’ whilst declaring:

In a civilised democracy, the idiots who use Twitter should be banned from voting altogether.

At least Twitter trolls do it for the love of hate, rather than the money.

Amanda Platell on Rory Weal

The Daily Mail is nothing if not predictable. After Nick Clegg made a good impression during the first party leader TV debate Mail writer en masse set about doing their best to smear him – as if they had received orders from on high that they just had to work in some kind of attack even if politics was not their normal topic. To a lesser extent Rory Weal has become a victim of the same kind of attack, which is incredible really given that he is a 16-year-old boy and gave a speech that only lasted a few minutes.

What has been unpleasant is not that Daily Mail writers have taken the time to engage with Rory Weal, but the way in which they have resorted to gross distortions in order to do so. First Melanie Phillips went on a standard rant based on a version of Rory Weal’s family life that existed in her own mind, then others joined in, all claiming that this poor unfortunate Rory Weal was actually quite wealthy and privileged – at least before his family lost everything. This was something that Rory Weal hadn’t hidden, and his point was that any family, irrespective of how secure they might seem, may one day need the safety net afforded by the welfare state. All pretty simplistic stuff.

Yet Amanda Platell still makes the same, dishonest and silly argument in her column today:

Labour found a new hero, Benefits Boy. Sixteen-year-old Rory Weal captivated conference when he attacked the Tories’ benefits reforms.

He said the welfare system had saved his life. It turns out he’s a privately-educated aspiring actor whose father’s a property tycoon. He lives with his mother in a £300,000 house and has ambitions to be Prime Minister.

So, an actor and a fibber with a love of the good life — the perfect heir to Blair.

But the point is, Amanda, that his family did lose everything and needed to be rescued by the welfare state. Wealth before or after this event is completely irrelevant. Calling him a ‘fibber’ is not only dishonest, but it is in itself a lie.

The Daily Mail and its army of writers can always be relied to smear anyone who dares criticise the Conservative world-view; just once it might be nice if the smears were at least factually accurate.

‘A lower standard of person’

I knew one of the Daily Mail’s overpaid columnists wouldn’t be able to miss passing judgement on the vulgar lower classes who dared to attend Ascot: ‘Death of civility and the rise of the vulgarians‘ [istyosty.com link], is the headline for Amanda Platell’s latest brain-vomit. What I find strange is the assumption that the ‘eight men’ brawling just must have been lower class. I’m pretty sure that from a photo of men dressed in suits you cannot really identify their class – unless such suits are just very common when they should be dressed in top hat and tails. Perhaps I’m just showing how lower class and vulgar I am by not being able to engage a proper class radar to determine with any certainty what seems to be so obvious to every Mail hack.

Anyway, Amanda Platell is absolutely certain that such a fight was caused by people who are -irrespective of class she claims – inherently much worse than those with a bit of cash, the trouble is, bemoans Amanda:

The fact is, when you lower your standards, you get a lower standard of person.

I wonder if Amanda might ever wonder about the standards of the tabloid press and the newspaper that she writes for. They have been lowering standards in a race to the bottom for years now in a calculated attempt to get as many of these ‘vulgar’ people as possible to buy their hate-filled propaganda rags. It might seem strange, therefore, for the newspaper that has been appealing to this lower-order through employing ignorant buffoons like Richard Littlejohn and making the Mail website a veritable ode to celebrity-shit-TV-culture to criticise its primary target market. But that’s the great thing about the class system in the UK: we all like to look down on others and we can do this because we consider ourselves a class apart or at least to some extent classless.

So, the poor people who save up their pennies to buy the Mail (or read it for free online) will be looking at these pictures and pointing out that money cannot buy you class. Whilst the middle and upper classes will be looking down and saying isn’t it disgraceful. The readership will not identify with these pictures anymore than they would identify with the obscenely wealthy celebrities that the Mail is so obsessed with, or the council-house single mums with 8 children by 100 different fathers. It’s all just some kind of Victorian freakshow where the audience screams abuse or roars with laughter whilst somehow never catching a reflection of their own lives as they look on.

Stop blaming teachers

It’s my own fault that I’m sat here typing this, I know I shouldn’t ever read anything by Amanda Platell because she’s just a typically simplistic Daily Mail writer to whom everything is easily explained away with a few right-wing cliches. She starts with Jamie Oliver’s Dream School and explains that all of the kids behaved badly because they are the ‘the victims of the liberal educationalists whose obsession with ‘child-centred -learning’ has destroyed their futures’.

Like most right-wing journalists she considers this to be an absolute truth and therefore feels no need to provide any evidence or indeed explanation as to how exactly this is the case. It never seems to occur to people like Platell that child-centred-learning was created to tackle ongoing attainment problems in schools, not to create them. The education system has always failed a certain amount of children – the only real debate has been whom to blame, the school or the parents. Teaching methods have evolved (for the better in my opinion) but better teaching is only half of the problem: you cannot teach when the class does not want to learn and makes teaching impossible.

Platell kind of addresses this point, but only in a typically tabloid-shallow way:

they respect no one and nothing.

They know no boundaries, because no teacher or parent has ever tried to impose them.

I get incredibly frustrated when teachers are accused – as a homogeneous group – as never having tried to impose discipline in the classroom. Not all teachers have great classroom management skills (it is something that is difficult to learn during teacher training), some teachers are not great at setting boundaries and sticking to them and some teachers are overly aggressive which creates just as many problems as being overly lenient. Managing a classroom is a balancing act, especially when you have 30 students of differing abilities, attitudes and backgrounds all vying for different kinds of attention. Remember, you might have started teaching because you had a passion for your subject that you wanted to impart to others, not because you wanted to win constant battles with varied groups of students. However, all schools have clear rules which are enforced as much as realistically possible, but given that you cannot use force to make children comply there will always be occasions when it is impossible to control a child who does not want to behave. The accusation that no teachers have ever tried to impose boundaries is not just utterly wrong, but insulting.

From a sociological point of view it is the role of parents to instill basic social skills into children. Functionalism suggests that every human being is a mere resource that is raised to perform a certain function in society. The school is the institution which divides the children into different sets based on ability which directs them into different job roles in adult life, it is also the place where children learn to obey those in authority without question – it is the first situation in which children learn that the many should always obey the few in power. However, the schools cannot perform this function unless the child has already learnt basic socialisation skills from its family and immediate peers. It is these role models that teach (or fail to teach) manners, respect and basic obedience – it is the parent’s role in a functionalist society. If a child is not taught these behaviours then they immediately encounter problems entering and functioning in a more social environment – and teachers for example have trouble controlling them – after all, if a child has no respect for their own parents / family, then what chance does a teacher responsible for 30 children in a classroom stand of instilling such behaviours in the child?

Behaviours are something we learn, they are not something we are born with. A child cannot be blamed for being raised in a family that fails to instill socially acceptable behaviours, anymore than a child can be blamed for being born into a family of extreme privilege. It is time to stop blaming the education system and realising that society as a whole needs to come to terms with an underclass of families who are trapped in vicious circles of bad parenting. You don’t give a chef a pile of rotting vegetables and expect them to make a Michelin star dish, but for some reason the right-wing press expects schools to take any given child and achieve the same positive outcomes. It’s impossible.

Anyway, I had never even meant to talk about that aspect of her drivel, I had wanted to talk about her little aside on multiculturalism. There is nothing more depressing than someone in the right-wing media repeating the lie that BNP support is driven by ‘uncontrolled immigration’ and the pressures this supposedly places on social services and employment. I’ve covered this before, so, having written the above I won’t repeat it here, so if you want a rebuttal of this, you can read it here.