Wednesday 30 May 2012

A Look at the Conduct of Graham Linehan and Others on Twitter

(December 2018 update: In the years since I wrote this Linehan's transphobia has grown and grown, and since July of this year he has made the decision to make the attack on a vulnerable minority a full time thing, tweeting his bigotry and lies about the transgender community quite literally ever single day. This obviously makes what's described here trivial by comparison.)

(The follow-up to this piece is here: )

 (For an explanation of why I tweaked the title -  the piece itself is unaltered -  see the update below)

"Twitter made me", says the heading on The Guardian's latest interview with Graham Linehan (much to his consternation), but the question is, what has it made him into, and what kind of monster is it making of media bigshots? 

When I first followed Graham Linehan (@Glinner), we had a nice chat about Clive James, another hero of mine. He talked about his love of James's TV criticism, and I recommended his literary criticism, specifically the pieces on Kingsley Amis and Philip Larkin, and he then followed me back, sending me this: "Looking forward to your tweets." later on, we had another lovely exchange about One Foot in the Grave's placing in the great sitcom canon. I'd already been working on a heartfelt essay about Father Ted for my blog, championing it as the greatest sitcom this side of the Atlantic, and along with Seinfeld the greatest of all time. When I finished, I sent him a link to the piece by private message, and he sent me a warm private message back. That was a sunny day. 

I was excited that someone whose life's work I admired was following me, and paid attention to his tweets. He used Twitter intelligently, spotting good causes, new revelations and cutting through bullshit excuses. His takedown of the vile Toby Young after Young dismissed the Milly Dowler hacking story as "balls" and his campaign to challenge Fox News's lies about the NHS were good reasons for joining twitter in the first place [January 2015 update: the same goes for his other stances against rightwing scum such as Gamergaters or climate change deniers]. 

Around the same time, I noticed his weird attitude towards anyone who sent him a less than reverent tweet. Now, it is true that a flaw with twitter is that the "@" symbol and the word "mention" don't normally denote or even connote sending a message, but even so to send several bad-tempered tweets to a woman who told him he tweeted too much, or "and don't come back, shithead" to someone who put @ before his name in a tweet saying they had decided not to follow him anymore was not the kind of behaviour I joined twitter for. I couldn't imagine any of the other people I followed and interacted with on it (Lauren Beukes, for example, and Anne Billson: I've never seen a mean tweet from either of them) behaving like this. It got worse when I noticed that the hideous phrase "blocked for stupidity" was something of a catchphrase for him. He also wielded a blocking as a threat for anyone merely on the threshold of getting out of line: "hoping for a blocking, you two?" "Gah, gave you a chance. Blocked." "I'll overlook that obvious bit of trolling."

Things got worse when some poor devil - @jezwelshmon - tweeted to him that the films of Woody Allen were overrated: "Even the early films are shit, IMO.'#justsaying" . Glinner retweeted this with the word Blocked clamped over it. The Woody Allen heretic's subsequent tweets were like those of a lot of members of the public that have received public admonishment and blocking from this media figure: bemusement, unease (perhaps mindful of the army of supporters that Glinner has, that will take his side and could send further tweets the heretic's way) before ruefully changing the subject. Another tweeter, @culley25, had the guts to send this:

Grow up Graham for gods sake, blocking someone for having an opinion? Some advocate of free speech you are #hypocrite 

to which Glinner replied:

Only reason not blocking you is because you didn't write #justsayin, but I am going to try out this 'mute' option on tweetlogix

@culley25  pointed out:

He's not God, he doesn't have a divine right to have everything he says agreed with. [...] Also, Graham is not an idiot, he has a sizeable influence and by doing what he did he opens Jeremy [AKA @jezwelshmon] up to a lot of abuse. How rude and unnecessary is that? 

He later told me on Twitter that he hadn't even tweeted to Jeremy before, which increased my suspicion that the public, in sharp contrast to people in who work in the media, don't like bullying.

After sleeping on it, I realised which two people Glinner had begun to remind me of. One was Tommy Boyd, who was a presenter on the horrific TalkSport station in the years when I listened to it in insomniac hours (before the "so bad it's good" effect wore off). Boyd differed from the others in, as far as I remember, not being explicitly political: there was little stuff from him about the brilliance of George W Bush, the evil of Ken Livingstone, the non-existence of Global Warming and the madness of Political Correctness. Instead, Boyd would lose his temper with callers, indiscriminate of age or gender: "You'll probably hear him bullying an old woman in a moment" said my Dad, when he caught me listening to him, and it was this sentence which had come back to haunt me. I realised that scanning Glinner's Twitter feed was like listening to Boyd's show: waiting for an explosion towards a fairly innocuous member of the public.

The other was Ian Levine, a blight on the Doctor Who fan community for decades who violently insults anyone who disagrees with him about a television show. A man who, to use a quote from that very show, is "king of his own little world."

The crisis point came when Giles Coren was sent this tweet by Alice Vincent regarding an article of his:

Columnists basing their opinions around their children. So yawn. Your column today is one step up from a mumsnet blogpost 

Coren replied "Go fuck yourself, you barren old hag." Astonishingly, Glinner and two other media big cheeses - Charlie Brooker and Ben Goldacre - took the view that this was an understandable response to a very rude tweet, and that if one of those tweets was really was more offensive than the other, it wasn't Coren's. Glinner was angry and got angrier:

Looks like she set out to offend and upset him, so she shouldn't be surprised when he got offended and upset [...] that's not criticism, it's an obnoxious bit of trolling. I've no sympathy for trolls. 

Significantly, he pointed out that he too had problems with "trolls": “I just have sympathy for people who get nasty things sent to them on Twitter. Because it happens to me.” The rise of those plebs who wouldn't stop sending him inappropriate sentiments about the quality of Woody Allen's films clearly rankled. As his anger grew, he started to make more ludicrous claims for the integrity of Coren's tweet. He sent the Twitter equivalent of a telegram of congratulations to Coren

Just a quick congrats to @gilescoren for standing up for blogging mums last night. cc @trollsandtheirsupporters 

He now claimed that Alice Vincent had displayed a "casually contemptuous tone [...] towards Blogging mothers" and that Coren's wife and children had been insulted. Oddly enough, as that "cc" makes clear, this was clearly motivated more by spite against those that wouldn't stop Answering Back, hence his solo game of Chinese Whispers regarding Vincent's tweet. Indeed, Glinner pointed out he'd never met Coren. His dislike for those that supported the "blogging about your kids again/so yawn/mumsnet" comments had led him into bed with the devil, or at least a restaurant critic. An odd moment came when someone questioned whether someone who does what Coren does to restaurant proprietors should demand no criticism. Glinner replied: "it's completely different because he doesn't send the restaurant owners the review and ask that they read them." One might point out it's also completely different because Vincent's single tweet won't affect Coren's livelihood. Restaurant owners at the mercy of hacks like Coren are hardly comforted by the fact they don't have to read the paper: their customers will. Would Graham Lineham normally be defending a man like this?

Things got desperate when Linehan tweeted:

I'm sure his sister and wife will be surprised to hear that he HATES WOMEN 

 As one startled tweeter put it, Glinner was now reduced to the old "how can I hate women: my mum's one" defence. It seems unlikely someone that smart genuinely believes only the unmarried and sisterless ever make misogynistic remarks. Glinner was so determined to put these impudent puppies in their place, he was abandoning his usual reason.

The hideous term "trolls", previously reserved for the kind of racist or neo-Nazi filth people put in YouTube comments sections to get a reaction, was now being used to apply to the phrases "yawn" and "one step up from a mumsnet post". Unfortunately for Glinner, the trolls weren't shutting up. Eventually, he posted a blog account - "Incident at an otherwise enjoyable party", which put paid to any notion that the obnoxiousness of his tweets on this subject was due to the 140 character limit. Here, the closest he could come to condemning Coren's tweet was to say that he wished it had been more Wilde-like. Bizarrely, his attempts to reimagine the incident as if it had occurred at a party in order to make his point actually made his defence of Coren's foul outburst more inexplicable. What has happened to Graham Linehan if he genuinely thinks that if a young woman mocked Coren's latest article at a party and he roared "Go fuck yourself, you barren old hag", the people standing around with drinks would sympathise with Coren rather than either give him a wide berth or remonstrate with him?

Meanwhile, Alice Vincent, who had taken little part in the subsequent argument, had by now been called "shitty" "cowardly" "crap" "dickish" "obnoxious"' "no-class" a "twat" , a "prick" a "moron", a "dope" and a "troll" who had a "lot of growing up to do", all by Graham Linehan on the basis of "so yawn" and "one step up from a mumsnet post". Those that defended her were told to "fuck off", were "blocked for stupidity", were called "morons", "trolls" and "twats", all the time subject to what Glinner called " a spring-clean with the block-button".

Not long afterwards, a tweeter - @hallor - dared to send Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat a tweet that wasn't sycophantic. Moffat had decided to claim that River Song, a character on Doctor Who, was bisexual, and the tweeter raised the point that if her creator has to point this out, is it really much of an advance:

appreciate the thought but I don't understand how River works for bisexual visibility when people need to be told she is bi

Unnerved by these stimulating points, which attempted to complex questions to him rather than praise his work, Moffat replied the only way he could:


Hallor replied:

If people need to be told she's bisexual, she's clearly not contributing to bisexual visibility. How is this hard to grasp?

Moffat replied:

When did I say I thought I was contributing to bisexual visibility?? Please stop being rude to me, you have no reason to be.

Hallor replied:

I've been nothing but polite. Disagreeing with your opinion on something does not automatically mean I'm being rude.

At this point Tom Spilsbury, the editor of Doctor Who Magazine, chipped in with:

The comment that was rude was the 'hard to grasp' one. I know, because I get strangers who talk to me like this too. It is rude.

Yes, "Why is this hard to grasp": it's the new rude. Personally, I'd rather have someone ask me "why is this hard to grasp?" then respond to an interesting point with "?????" (and what else does that denote if not an inability to grasp the point?)

One shudders to think what Moffat's followers then tweeted to @hallor. Heaven forbid that someone should say something heartfelt and interesting to Moffat about his work. If only they'd said "Matt Smith's brilliant! Are the Daleks coming back? Rory's my favourite." This wasn't the first time this had happened, although it was a new low that something so blatantly civil should be termed rude. A while back, someone tweeted Moffat asking if the next series of Doctor Who would feature a plot. Moffat blocked him, then unblocked him and sent him tweets asking him to go away. When several of the tweeter's friends pointed out he was perfectly entitled to express an opinion about his work, Moffat's media chum Caitlin Moran said to her friend: "And you're perfectly entitled to tell them to fuck off." Then faithful Tom Spilsbury sent the Moffat-offender tweets pointing out he had been a little rude: and reminding him that it was awfully stressful for a busy TV showrunner like Moffat having criticism of his work sent to him (One might put to Spilsbury the notion that the exciting thing about writing is stimulating debate, and interacting with people who don't quite see things your way. Or am I being rude?) (But see update below) As with his tweets to @hallor, his overall tone was of a primary school teacher that wasn't angry, wasn't telling you off, but just thought it's something you should have a little think about when you get home.

Goldacre and Brooker played this role in the Coren/Glinner affair. Brooker pointed out that Coren hadn't hit anyone, and suggested that both sides should "have an ice cream". Goldacre heard out the objections to Coren's tweet - all the time arguing that they were mistaken, and that most people would act as Coren had were they so provoked - and finally sent the tweet "cheerio" to four tweeters at once. This wasn't because he had to go: at that moment he continued to tweet to someone else on a different subject. The "cheerio" was a remarkably feudal gesture, half-heartedly disguised as chumminess, a hand raised to dismiss the subjects pleading their case from the throne room.

What's striking here is the sense of hierarchy. Moffat and Glinner at the top, dispensing admonishments to proles who get impudent, their friends Moran, Goldacre and Brooker slightly below, offering support and in Moran's case equal admonishment to those that disrespected their friend, and much further down, those members of the Gentry like Spilsbury or IT Crowd Script Editor Andrew Ellard (who sent a sighing tweet of sympathy to Linehan during the Woody Allen row, complaining that the old free speech argument was being used as an excuse to shove people's opinions down their throats, identical to a tweet of Spilsbury's reflecting on Hallor) who each own a smaller estate. Those with TV shows are annoyed. Those who get to script-edit or run the offical magazine on those TV shows are merely exasperated.

The central problem with Twitter is that we the proles are allowed to freely mingle with the first-class passengers. This causes tension when we fail to know our place. If you send a tweet to Graham Linehan or Steven Moffat, it will show up in his @ list hand-in-hand with those from his friends. This results in panic, and bruised egos. It's significant that the main row with Glinner didn't take place between him and Alice Vincent herself - a Huffington Post journalist - but between a group of non-media people who forgot who they were damn well talking to. "Tell your friends to be civil if they expect civility", Glinner ordered @mary_hannon at one point. A twitter cap-doffing button may have to be installed, or a first-class area to keep us from getting too familiar with the celebs.

I received a feudal tweet myself once. Not long after I joined Twitter, my hero Terry Pratchett had written a magnificent piece on Doctor Who for SFX, which The Guardian had crudely turned into "Pratchett attacks 'ludicrous' Doctor Who", and Cheryl Morgan - an interviewer and convention-organiser - had posted a link to The Guardian's piece. Eager to talk about this, I sent her a tweet saying "He didn't attack it! He wrote reasoned and thoughtful article!" and sat back waiting eager to have a conversation about this collision of two of my interests. I received a very stern tweet indeed: "take it up with the Guardian, not the person RTing the tweet." Bemused by this, and wondering if I'd made a social faux pas due to my Asperger's Syndrome and newness to Twitter, I sent back a tweet so bemused it ended up close to a grovelling apology. After sending it, I found myself hoping that Cheryl might sense my nervousness, realise she'd been a little snappy, and withdraw her comments, but her reply was horribly regal: "understood, but twitter is not best forum for that. Too much scope for misunderstanding." I might have pointed out that I knew what I'd joined Twitter for, thanks, and everyone else had been perfectly friendly to me, but let it go.

I can imagine Tom Spilsbury's response - You were a little rude, you shouldn't have used an exclamation mark. I then saw Morgan chastising some poor fellow who'd also assumed that retweeting something means you're interested in it, and therefore in conversing with a human being about it (this guy didn't even use an exclamation mark, but as Morgan angrily told him, she had already had to deal with this once. Her next tweet announced her "New Pet Hate", which was people who bother you about stuff you merely retweeted ). I unfollowed her (without sending any mean messages: I couldn't tell people they are "blocked for stupidity" in a million years). I've no time for the aristocracy. There are more interesting people on Twitter.

To state the obvious for a moment: it goes without saying that hasn't made Graham Linehan's work any less delightful for me, not should it for anyone else, even if they've actually received a feudal tweet from him. But the reason I can't follow Graham on Twitter any more is simply this: uppity is good. Cheeky is good. Knowing your place, aside from in courtrooms, is always bad. I'd rather talk to ordinary people whose idea of rudeness is "Go fuck yourself, you barren old hag" than to media stars whose idea of it is "that piece was so yawn, one step up from a mumsnet post." One of the most telling moments occurred when Glinner, noting that several people objecting to his defence of Coren were interacting with each other, jeered:

Haha. Do all you people with no class hang around together?

Maybe we should, Graham. Twitter belongs to the people, not the sitcom writers, columnists and script editors (let alone the restaurant critics - now there's a candidate for an underclass). Only tyrants boast of their ability to mute and block.

N.B If you think I'm making this up, below are are some links to the tweets or conversations themselves:

(Update September 4th 2013:)
A number of people have wondered why the piece was called "A Look at the Conduct of Steven Moffat and Graham Linehan on Twitter", when so much of the focus is upon Linehan. The answer is that when I started writing this piece, the Moffat/Hallor exchange had lodged in my mind and I underestimated how much worse Linehan's behaviour was, how much more of it there was, and how central it would turn out to be to the argument. I still stand by my criticism of Moffat's reactions to Hallor but I accept that it's unfair for the title of the piece to tar Moffat with the same brush as Linehan.
It also occurs to me that an alternative interpretation of Moffat's decision to leave twitter later that year might be that he realised the problem on some level and was keen to avoid further clashes. While Linehan (and indeed Goldacre and Ellard) have continued to tweet in this way, it seems only fair to acknowledge that Moffat has not, and therefore it would be overkill to leave his name hext to Linehan's in the title.

I should also mention that Tom Spilsbury - who comes in for rather  a lot of ribbing in this and the "Hey fandom" piece - got in touch with me and was very thoughtful in his responses to this piece. He said he regrets what happened, and that ever since he takes to care to think about how he reacts on twitter.

(Update, October 2012:
Neil from subsequently wrote this fine piece:
It's on a more pressing concern - the danger of telling your followers to insult those with less influence - mentions Graham Linehan only in passing and not as part of the main topic, but led to numerous unpleasant tweets from Glinner. Jonathan M's comment on this blogpage - scroll below - and the replies from myself and Neil, all of them posted before his piece, shed some light on this.
This piece by Edward Champion is superb as well:
This piece is also worth a look:  )


  1. Marvellous piece. The way in which twitter forms a celebrity based hierarchy has fascinated me since I joined it, with celebs' opinions - often based on well meaning but very shaky understandings of complex issues - elevated and occasionally misinterpreted life of Brian style by armies of sycophantic followers, are creating a new form of demagoguery and received truth.

    It's certainly not a level playing field for discussion, and 140 characters doesn't allow room for arguments to be developed: generally even a carefully considered response is ignored or dismissed and ultimately not made, which means that the celeb is in the position of an absolute monarch who is never questioned.

    I've been laughing at Alan Sugar a lot recently. Outside the "boardroom", he comes across as a bit of a cockend, often having blocking sprees of what he refers to as "pondlife" (he has 2M followers, it's astonishing he even looks at his feed) in between bouts of tweets which reveal a boorish and rather unpleasant nature. And yet he still receives requests to touch his metaphorical hem and retweet for anniversaries or to cure sick children. It's fascinating but more than a little ridiculous.

    So sometimes it's trivial and amusing (sorry, Moffat, the last series of Dr Who had plot holes you could drive a Dalek invasion fleet through, and the ending was dreadful, could have been a great story but you fucked it up), but in other ways, particularly around casually retweeted support for Occupy or attacks on GM experiments or just the rather charming notion that retweeting something to the ether "tweet if you want to stop world poverty" style, it's ultimately creating strong strands of populist opinion that work against changing the world for the better because they oversimplify.

    And there is nothing we can do about it, because any politician daring to attempt to explain a complex argument now which differs from the world view of a small section of the famous will find themselves being rapidly thumped back to populism by the celebs and their follower cohorts. Really very depressing.


    1. Agreeing very strongly with both Richard's post and your comment. I'm fascinated by the way many celebs are attempting to have it both ways with Twitter: to treat it as both a 'direct' and 'personal' interface, supposedly revealing the real individual in all their chatty, candid glory, and as a shop-window to promote bother their produce, and their cult-of-identity.

      Caitlin Moran is an excellent example. Although she rarely engages in dialogue with any of the non-famous tweeting praise at her (beyond a few random "aww THANK YOU DARLING!" crumbs tossed out, she is assiduous in using Twitter to chatter eagerly with other familiar names, reinforcing the appearance of a desirable elite of famous people candidly and intimately bantering, while the envious plebs are allowed to eavesdrop. Moran also flags up her weekly Times columns and RTs any celeb compliments for those. However, criticising her journalist content on Twitter is, as I discovered, completely forbidden. Her response when I mentioned how poor I'd found a recent article was - within less than a minute of my initial tweet - in turn, to ask me to explain my objections on Twitter (I asked if I could have use of her own column space instead, to develop a reasoned reply), sarcastically ask for my writing credentials, Google my name, find a video of me on YouTube, tell me she was "watching & busily taking notes", tweet details about my job to her 200k+ followers, accuse me of harassing her while she was innocently spending her Saturday at home in her kitchen with her children, and finally insist that the Twitter @ was only to be used when one wanted to talk directly to an individual - not, as I was using it, to identify to my own followers who it was I was criticising in a 140-character tweet.

      Moran revels in her Twitter fame and the almost unanimous praise and adoration she receives from hundreds of @caitlinmoran posts each day, at the same time as going out of her way to attempt to stamp out any less-than-adulatory comments about her with a fascinating mix of classic internet bullying tactics. She shares, with Linehan, Moffat, Sugar and many others, a strange notion that they are able to both exploit Twitter as a publicity medium and also control the flow of information through this most democratic of social media. My own experience with her, and the recent exchanges with Coren and Linehan, has been helpful for me in that it showed me I wasn't by any means alone in finding this celebrity bullying and would-be censorship as ludicrous as it is offensive. If pointing out this kind of hubristic stupidity means I'm labelled a troll by people who've proved in public that they deserve no respect whatsoever, I'm perfectly comfortable with that.


  2. I objected to @Glinner 's use of the word 'spaz' or possibly 'spazzy' and got a reasonable reply although he refused to see it might be offensive. My top feudal moment came from of all people @robinince. He got quite nasty about a very mild complaint from a fellow copywriter who wasn't 100% sycophantic about his set. My questioning of his attitude brought down the wrath of some particularly unpleasant Ince groupies. I was really surprised but at least it's saved me the cost of the Fringe tickets I'd intended to buy.

  3. A very thoughtful piece, Richard. I too am puzzled at the response of some of the Twitterati to tweets. Why do some of these people with a vast following bother to join the Twitter community. Because, as I understand it, the idea is to have a free flowing buzz of interactions with people who you agree with and those you don't. Just running a court of the Sun King populated by sycophants seems to me to waste the opportunities for constructive dialogue.

    I have had many exchanges with both delightful and horrible people but I have never felt the need to resort to abuse to make my point. You need some thought to reduce your contribution to 140 characters and still make sense. To then find it ignored, trivialised or result in a blocking must be hurtful. If the Sun Kings need to control how they are interacted with then they should keep their accounts private and only invite vetted followers. They really deserve pity not respect.

  4. This is indeed a thoughtful piece, and I enjoyed reading it a lot.

    I think the way that comedians have become the Twitterstocracy is because when you first join Twitter you probably don't really know what you're doing, probably don't know who to follow, and just kind of assume that comedians will be the best to start off with, dropping endless amusing one-liners into your timeline 24 hours a day. By 'you' of course I'm generalising and really meaning 'me', but I think it's quite a common experience. I think the 1st person I followed when I signed up to Twitter was Stephen Fry, purely because he's famous for loving Twitter. I rarely am ever interested in what he tweets, and don't think I ever have been. Graham Linehan I find marginally better because he does re-tweet some good links to articles but still, if I didn't know who he was I think I'd find him quite dull. Ditto Moffat.

    The point is, these are people who have stupid amounts of followers because of things other than Tweeting, and they've probably had that experience since the day they joined. Now, I've never been a follower counter of my own account, let alone other peoples', but it does seem silly that these people have become the Twitterstocracy without having to do that much interesting tweeting. Or at least as much interesting tweeting as most people would have to do to get 10s of 1000s of followers. As pointed out in the post, there are countless more interesting tweeters out there than some of the sleb ones!

    There is so much arrogance and egotism needed in order to think it matters. Honestly, who cares enough about someone puts on Twitter that they feel the need to block them? I only block spambots and people who have actually been offensive. Otherwise, why would I care who follows me? I tweet and the more people who can get some pleasure out of it the better! Imagine if a journalist or author tried to dictate who was allowed to read his/her articles or books? I unfollow people if I don't find their tweets interesting, but why should I care who follows me? Or who doesn't follow me? Why?!?

    A brief sidenote, and then I'll shut up. A fascinating book is 'How To Leave Twitter' by Grace Dent, not because it's brilliant (it's not), but because it shows the Twitter experience from a Twitterstocrat's point of view. From what I remember, while some of it is enjoyable in a sub-Caitlin Moran way, about a third of it is fully fledged hating on the kind of people she doesn't like on Twitter, and the mentality is so snobbish it's almost offensive. That section of the book is basically missing the point of social networks as being something open to everyone as opposed to being a private members club. And unlike Linehan or Moffat, Dent can't claim to being much else other than a mildly amusing weekend newspaper columnist. The other bits of the book just about make up for this and she gets away with looking just a little self-important as opposed to being a complete tosser, but it gave me an insight into how some people view the internet - in a very cynical way.

  5. A very good piece indeed and great comments too. Interestingly enough somebody tweeted it to me after we were discussing the hierarchy of the 'liberal twitterati'.

    I'm reminded of a piece I wrote for my own post that nobody will have seen because I'm so far from the online aristocracy that I may as well be writing on a notepad and keeping it in my bedside drawer!

    So I'm shamelessly regurgitating it here, I wrote it soon after joining Twitter and it focuses specifically on the conduct of Simon Pegg, another seemingly insecure Twitter giant. Interestingly it celebrates Brooker, of whom I am a big fan, as I am of Linehan, but it is a shame that of late they seem to be taking too comfortably to their roles of Barons of cyberspace.

    I'm now following you on twitter, cheers!

    A Tale of Two Twitters

    By A.W. Wilson, 13-Dec-2011 17:20:00

    In the past I’ve always poured scorn on Twitter, thinking that it was just people sending pointless drivel back and forth about what they were eating, what gig they were attending etc. But I’m happy to be wrong about that. If you follow the right people you can find out a range of funny, interesting, moving and informative stuff. It allows people to become aware of things that they wouldn’t otherwise have known about, and it allows an interaction between people who otherwise would never meet.

    So I’ve been using it regularly for the last few weeks. Today I saw the good and the bad in twitter and I thought I’d share:

    The good:

    I follow Charlie Brooker (@charltonbrooker) and he’s justifiably proud of his show, Black Mirror so he’s tweeted pretty frequently about it; giving us links to the songs used as well as the twitter names of the actors. I was particularly impressed by Daniel Kaluuya in 15 Million Merits, so I tweeted him to tell him so. I obviously wasn’t the only one, because this morning he tweeted the following:

    “The love I've received for Black Mirror has been flippin Thank You, God Bless you all for watching. Merry Xmas.”

    Okay, so it’s not changing the world, but I thought it was quite heart warming that a young actor can get positive feedback immediately after the broadcast, and then be able to sincerely thank his appreciate audience. Yes I’m a soppy get but I thought it was quite nice. You want to make something of it?

    Now on to the bad:

    The actor Simon Pegg has nearly 2 million followers. Today, someone tweeted the following:

    “For some reason @simonpegg really really annoys me, hot fuzz is good though! He's on my list, and it ain't a good list! #annoying.”

    It’s not the most pleasant thing to say, and perhaps he shouldn't have said it, but it’s not particularly offensive either, and it’s certainly not going to have any negative impact on the life or career of a very successful and wealthy actor. Here was Hollywood star, Simon Pegg’s response (to his nearly 2 million followers, mind):

    “If you're going to bitch about me, at least have the decency to do it behind my back @usernameremoved. Can y'all flame this dick-twitch.”

    For those not in the know, ‘flame’ means to send offensive and threatening messages.

    And what happened? Surprise surprise, the bloke who had the audacity to state that he found Simon Pegg ‘annoying’ was indundated with offensive and threatening messages from Pegg’s legion of followers. Pegg’s response later was to make a joke of the whole thing, as if it was just a bit of fun. But it wasn’t; he literally set his followers on the guy!

    And worse, is that some (not all) of Simon Pegg's followers thought nothing of doing their master’s bidding without question. He-is-famous-so-we-must-do-what-he-says. For want of a better phrase, what’s all that about?

    So critics beware, give Simon Pegg a bad review and he might send some heavies round to break your legs.

    And Daniel Kaluuya, you deserve all the plaudits!

  6. Great post. The feeling I got watching famous men decide that a blatantly misogynist tweet - reducing a woman to her ability to have children, from Coren, of course - was not misogynist at all was one of utter rage. How dare they decide it was not revoltingly sexist, based on the fact that the insult came from a mate of theirs, someone in their luvvie world of mutual backscratches? Coren's follow-up tweets, replete with more sexist slurs, were studiously ignored by his supporters. A disgusting spectacle.

  7. This is an excellent, well-researched and thoroughly-argued piece. However, I feel that it misses a key point: that Twitter should be what you make it. Life is too short to be getting caught up in these needlessly-affecting, circular and ultimately pointless arguments with anyone, "celebrity" tweeters or not, especially in a forum that, by its limitation on characters, leaves itself uniquely open to misunderstanding or misjudgement of mood and intention.

    I use quotes to describe the celebrities because I don't see a distinction between anyone on Twitter. Some people on Twitter are, of course, famous and will as a consequence gain all kinds of followers on that basis alone. But I have found it is much easier to judge each user on their merits, be they famous (either for other things or just for twitter itself) or not. Do they have anything interesting to say? Are they amusing?

    Admittedly, these are the criteria that I myself look for in my little twitter universe. Others may seek cutting-edge debate or current affairs. The possibilities are infinite. However, I think the kind of grandiose behaviour which this post excellently outlines is unwelcome, whatever the circumstance or whatever the need.

    I follow very few celebrities on Twitter. I find the kind of behaviour that you outline here all too common amongst them and, not being someone who feels any need to engage with it, the only likely outcome is that it becomes very boring, very quickly. But the hopes for the proles like us achieving any form of equality in Twitter terms very much depends on more people silently walking away and unfollowing.

    As you demonstrated, the celebrities who take this attitude clearly view each new follow as being a little benediction bestowed upon them from below. With that comes a god-like power to raise up or crush. We are the ones who are granting them this power. The only language that those guilty of this will understand is a steadily dwindling band of followers, silently slipping away. This is how Twitter ends: not with a bang but with a whimper.

  8. A genuinely excellent piece.

    I remember back around the time The IT Crowd first came out, Linehan showed a similarly vicious and hypocritical streak with regards to comments on his blog. When the shows began airing, Linehan was sat on his blog encouraging people to say nice things about him while deleting anything that resembled intelligent criticism. Linehan loves the internet and loves exchanging opinions with fans but if the tone of that engagement moves from uncritical adulation to something more critical then he runs out of patience very quickly indeed. You can track the fall-out from his evening of deletions on this old thread on the comedy website Cookd and Bombd:

    As someone who has operated as a critic for a while, I am very aware of this type of behaviour. There have been several occasions when I have rubbed up against people in the science fiction community only for them to effectively sic their followers on me. I wound up blocking Cheryl Morgan after she tried to get me dog-piled not once but twice for daring to voice an opinion she disagreed with.

    Sadly, this type of thing is quite common, even Samuel L. Jackson encouraged his followers to get a film critic fired over his decision to publish a middling review of Avengers. My problem is not that Linehan does this type of thing, it's that he does this type of thing while presenting himself as the face of Twitter and a staunch defender of social media.

    1. Thanks for that link: I've just read the blog and its comments. Extraordinary: particularly his blogpost a few days later announcing he'd be deleting critical commments, which was illustrated with a big picture of Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons. It also explains a strange, gratituitous tweeet he sent after someone posted a comedy-related link: "Uggh, a cookdandbombd link! They're NOT STILL GOING...?"

    2. Ah, hello Richard. I'm Neil, and run Cook'd and Bomb'd. Did Linehan really say that? Can't seem to find it.

      I actually regret posting criticism on his blog - I was, at the time, unaware that people really only want positive praise on there, and I think that's fair enough. My comments were also a little stringent, and forum-like. As this was five years ago, I figured he might have moved on by now.

      Apparently not, as @Glinner blocked me over the last day or two, despite me passively following him for months, and never once tweeting him.

      I guess either a) he's still sore that I criticised an episode of his show, five years ago, even though he got to delete my comments, then misrepresent them to others, and caricature me on the front page of his blog as a bitter "Comic Book Guy." So annoyed is professional critic Graham Linehan, still, after half a decade, that he can't even bear to see me occasionally retweeted into his timeline.

      Or b) Graham Linehan now blocks people on the presumption of *future* abuse. Like a psychic, paranoid maniac.

    3. FORMER professional critic, sorry. Any chance you could edit that, and take out the very last sentence, please?

    4. Incidentally, I also think you shouldn't really send criticism to people directly on Twitter, and should expect it to be returned if you do. Sadly, Twitter is no place for debate, and it's a waste of time trying to engage about people's work in a negative manner with them directly, no matter how polite you are.

      I do absolutely hate the likes of Noel Fielding, though, who explicitly tell their followers/fans to go and bully critics, or the ones who do it by retweeting criticism, as mentioned in your excellent blog. Recently, someone told me that they thought celebrities were being FAIR when they retweeted criticism, and was astonished to learn they were actually tacitly endorsing a wide-scale attack.

      I call Glinner "Twitter policeman Graham Linehan", given his rush to constantly lay out the rules of etiquette for others on Twitter whenever there's an excuse to, but perhaps he should strive to be a little politer and more tolerant himself. Google "jack whitehall graham linehan" if you missed that corker...

    5. Hi Neil: very much agree: it's interesting your own reflections that your comments on glinner's blog were too forum-like are the only criticism he needed to reply with, instead of a picture of Comic Book Guy and a hissy fit. As for the Jack Whitehall slip-up, It's nteresting how mortified glinner was when he realised he'd actually insulted a media figure, rather than one of us proles.

    6. I'll try and find a link to the "they're not still going?" link. As for your "critic" line you wanted fIxed, Blogspot doesn't as far as I can tell let me edit specific parts of the comments, so I guess your best bet would be to do a copy-and paste, fix it and delete the earlier version?

  9. With respect to the Moffat case, you might be interested in a contrasting view expressed here:

  10. A very interesting article, though I admit to feeling a little more sympathy than you towards the celebrity tweeters you discuss here. Some of the offending tweets you quote may not be, strictly speaking, rude, but they are confrontational, so it seems a little disingenuous to claim that the tweeters involves were simply trying to start a conversation. To say to Stephen Moffat "is DW going to have a plot next season" is to imply that it didn't have a plot in the last season and that this was a bad thing, and while these are both entirely true things, it seems extreme to expect Moffat to accept them in a measured fashion and even have a debate with the person saying them. I'm somewhat sympathetic to the notion that a person who approaches anyone - celebrity or nobody - in such a confrontational fashion isn't trying to start a debate so much as they are hurling their opinion like a bomb and just sticking around to see the fallout. Which is sometimes a good thing - sometimes the only reasonable response to an egregious statement is to be confrontational - but it's not reasonable to expect civil debate to follow, or the person whom we have confronted to react in a polite, measured fashion. And when you're dealing with a celebrity who might get several confrontational tweets like this a day, a thin skin is not an unexpected result.

    Which is not to say that responses of the like you quote here are in any way reasonable or acceptable, or for that matter that people who aren't willing to be confronted and able to handle and defuse confrontational situations have any business being on twitter. Your larger point, that celebrity tweeters want the adulation that comes with close contact with their fans, but aren't willing to tolerate the criticism that also accompanies it, is well taken. But I also think you're edging towards the opposite extreme of saying that once a celebrity is on twitter, they are obliged to engage in civil conversation with anyone who doesn't hurl abuse at them, no matter how uncongenial or uninteresting, or how many times they've had that particular conversation, or whether they're simply having a bad day. While, again, there's a huge difference between saying "I don't want to talk to you" and responding with slurs and the siccing of many famous friends, I do think the former should be OK for anyone, no matter how famous or anonymous.

    1. Hi Abigail,
      I'd like to respectfully counter some of your points there. I don't argue anywhere in the piece that any media figure Is foolish or rude for not responding to a tweet: I just say that Coren's horrific response, Glinner's nastiness and Moffat's "siccing" are not justifiable responses (you yourself rightly distinguish between a brush-off to a rude tweet and "slurs and siccing".) I would be the first to advise against someone sending Glinner a tweet saying he tweets too much, but that rudeness Is not strong enough to justify the public chastisement he responds with. Similarly, my problem is not with celebs blocking someone - that's their business and their choice - my problem is them sending them an accompanying tweet like "blocked for Stupidity", which all the celeb's followers can see and potentially join in with. I personally never put the "@" in someone's name if I'm criticising their work, because the "@" is for conversations, but when someone commits that oversight - either intentionally or unintentionally - while, for example, saying they're not following Glinner anymore, I can't see how it can justify sending them "And don't come back shithead."
      I never said that the "how about a plot next time" guy was trying to start a conversation or that Moffat ought to answer him, just that I didn't like the response of Moffat, Moran and Spilsbury. It was actually in Hallor's case that I also defended the original tweet itself as well as condemning the response, because that tweet wasn't rude (ditto the Woody Allen heretic, @Jezwelshmon).
      On the other hand, when someone like @culley25 has the guts to tackle Glinner for behaving badly and worryingly, their language cannot be entirely polite, as these things need saying (are there any euphemisms for "hypocrite?")
      Again, I wouldn't chastise Moffat for not answering someone, but to send a back a tweet consisting of "?????" and twice call them rude, resulting in his follower Spilsbury tweeting about first Hallor's rudeness and then using it to ruminate on the nature of rudeness itself surely comes under the second category you mention.
      A final quibble: the "you don't realise how many rude tweets he has to put up with" argument seems to me to use corruption as an excuse rather than a cause. If someone become more likely to respond unpleasantly to any non-reverent tweets, answer stimulating, troubling or heartfelt points with "?????" or spend a little time each day angrily laying down the law about what you can do to avoid getting blocked, then I would argue the problem is what fame has turned them into rather than what the people on the other end have not yet learned.
      I don't actually disagree with anything in your comment, I just don't think my piece says any of the things you take issue with.
      P.s I enjoyed your little dig about Moffat's plotting there: Might I suggest you have a peek at the "how Moffat ruined doctor who" and "The Doctor is not Chuck Norris" pieces'on this blog? I think you might enjoy them. Feedback always welcome.

  11. It's ego, but you know that.

    I find it amusing to read some of the names in the post and comments, as they are all people I've long since stopped following because they contribute so little to twitter nowadays outside grandiosity.

    It is true that there are a lot of rude people online (try moderating any sports forum!) but life contains its slings and arrows, and I would make a distinction between rude and downright unpleasant, which describes many well-known accounts responding to mild provocation.

    If you have a large number of followers, using them to bully people is inexcusable.

  12. There was an interesting debate on The Review Show on Friday night. In the context of reviewing Punk Britannia Paul Morley said that there was no counter-culture these days and that any oppositional voices were appropriated by the mainstream. Any dissenting voices therefore became nullified. Twitter is still young enough to claim to be a democratic medium but clearly celebrities who have become part of the mainstream establishment will appropriate it for their own ends. No surprise that twitter reflects society or that some celebs are bullies who don't like criticism. This article is part of an important debate about the role of things like Twitter which we are still learning to deal with.
    It is open to be misused by racists; trolls and anyone who forgets its in the public domain. Courtrooms are now dealing with this and it becomes part of a wider debate about free speech....
    lots to think about...

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  14. Great post. I'm still not sure what I think about it all. On the one hand I think there's a difference between fair criticism of a writer/celeb/comedian's work and a mean dig. If I was getting snarky little comments about how I made my living every day I might start getting sensitive too.

    But on the other hand, seeing all these Twitter incidents compiled together on your post does indeed paint a picture of a group of people who've gotten too defensive and quick to snap back. They can't seem to tell the difference between fair criticism and snark any more and they don't seem to realise that a public put down from them has different consequences from a public pit down from Joe Average.

  15. I'm not a Graham Linehan fan but only read the odd tweet of his that is retweeted by people who follow him and haven't read anything really rude from him, giles coren or steven moffat (both of whom i do follow).

    I have however been blocked by an ordinary member of the British public with whom i connected via a specific TV programme that we are both fans of but when I expressed my opinions of Big Brother (arse water of the worst kind) this did not sit well with her and I was blocked.
    The problem appears to be that to have one's own opinion is now a crime in the world of twitter...


  16. Really good to see this analysis getting the wider RT and endorsement it deserves. Some tweeters have put forward an interesting rebuttal stating that celebrities are understandably - rightly - offended by strangers using their @-name in tweets that are hostile or critical of them or their work, with the example given that "you would expect people to react with hostility if you walked up to them at a party and shouted that abuse in their faces".

    As a justification for celeb bullying and attempts to censor, this would only make sense to me if the Twitterati in question were only using their @name accounts in a strictly personal sense, the way most tweeters do: for following accounts they were interested in and for conversations with their friends. Most of the parties I go to don't have strangers standing on tables every five minutes shouting at everyone else in the room to read their great new column or watch their marvellous new TV show, which may just be me going to the wrong parties. But if that happened, I can't imagine a scenario where other party-goers would not be entirely within their rights to tell them to shut up, or to critique the merits of the content being promoted, just as loudly and to the rest of the room.

    The Twitter-as-a-great-party analogy is nonsense. Twitter is the market-square of a virtual town of global proportions. People use it for many reasons, including to socialise and chat to friends, to find out the latest news and gossip, to gawk at the town's elites strolling about or holding forth, to get on the soapbox and hold forth about their favourite obsessions... and as in any popular marketplace, to sell their produce.

    Most non-famous people seem to understand the difference between their personal identities and their professional ones, and segregate the two - either by keeping the commercial side of their lives out of their personal tweets altogether, or by creating separate 'brand' tweet accounts for their working identities. Those who mix their business interests with their personal tweeting are, in my experience, pragmatic about the fact that they might get direct criticism on that one all-purpose account for the things they are promoting for commercial reasons, and it's down to them whether they ignore it or treat is as valuable business intel. After all, it might be something they should address to make sure their product is less stale or unappealing, or can be improved to sell better in future.

    The lifestyle journalists, writers and comedians who seem to be the worst repeat offenders when it comes to thuggish behaviour on Twitter are all enthusiastic promoters, of their own work and that of their friends. Their
    @names are both their personal identity and their commercial brand. Other tweeters who use those names when tweeting may be doing so to try to speak directly to them - but they may just as well be using them exactly as most of us use corporate @names, as a succinct way to tell our friends as well as the rest of the marketplace that @ThosePhonePeople are reneging on their contract T&Cs, or @ThatShop's cheese tastes like a mattress. The analogy, for the Corens, Linehans, Moffats and Morans of twitter, is not that of a rude stranger randomly lunging into their personal party space, or shouting abuse through the letterbox of their private residence. They have chosen to live in the middle of the marketplace, and to use their kitchen windows as shop-fronts and put their name up over the door they're trading from. Which means, while they're sitting at home listening out for the compliments and rhapsodies over their latest window displays, they have no legitimate reason to object when they also hear people outside the window pointing out to anyone in hearing distance that their merchandise is - in their opinion - worthless crap.


  17. I once pulled Graham up on a really horrible comment he made about a female celeb. After a brief exchange he deleted the tweet and then went on to justify his reasons for posting it in several follow-up tweets, thus triggering a wave of comments from followers that backed up his original sentiment. It's like the bully apologising and returning with his mates three hours later to kick your head in.

    He's not the only male celeb I've seen do this. Iain Lee has, and - perhaps not a celeb - but Rob Manuel once set his followers on me after I commented on a horrible misogynistic tweet. I'm disappointed in Charlie Brooker for joining the boy's club.

    A friend of mine posted a link to this blog and Graham responded with such a nasty little rant I can only assume she touched a nerve.

  18. "People with no class hanging around together"? Hey, isn't that how a movement begins?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Yay! (I inadvertently deleted my original "Yay!" in reply to your comment, Klepsie, so this is a replacement "Yay!")

  19. Interesting and thoughtful blog as well as comments. That's what a blog is good for...

    I would second the comment that Twitter, and indeed all social media, is what one makes of it. Social media allows anyone to say just about anything to anyone with pratically no worries how those words affect peolple...and they obviously can.

    Personally, I use twitter as a source of information. I follow newspapers, journals, and even good fansites for updates to their pages. Only two of my friends are currently on twitter and I only follow one actress because I happen to think her tweets are hilarious and actually interesting. I used to follow another, but when I began to become uninterested and not like his tweets I decided to quit. He probably had no idea I was following his tweets, and therefore wouldn't noticed I stopped. The point is, I make it a personal rule to enjoy whatever famous tweeters decide to put out to the public and when i stop enjoying it, like I had with the second, I simply unfollow. Isn't that better than verbal spars of 140 characters?

    What interesting things twitter can lead one to. I actually found the post via twitter.

  20. The problem with text is that it doesn't convey tone... and this can lead to misunderstanding and a strong emotional response to a sleight that doesn't exist. This is something that is compounded by only having 140 characters with which to express yourself.

    Also the fast pace of Twitter makes it very easy for debate to generate into mud slinging, mud slinging into stone throwing and stone throwing into mutually assured destruction. It is a very public form of discussion and each of us have to make the choice whether it is better to lose face or ratchet up the tension. Sadly it seems many people fall on the wrong side of that line.

    The trouble is once a discussion gets heated, how do you put the brakes on? How can we resist the urge to perpetuate something or read when someone is perhaps taking something a bit too hard?

    I myself was once blocked by a girl over a disagreement about the film The Time Travellers Wife. There was no aggressive posturing, no name calling or abuse... just a relentless exchange of opinions that were not going to change on either side. If the stakes were higher it would have been "the kind of conversation that could only end in a gunshot", because each of us were not going to budge.

    Godwin's Law comes into effect when a debate becomes a runaway... when people lose control of the momentum of a debate and it takes on a life of its own.

    Sadly it seems on Twitter this is exacerbated.

    Yet Twitter for these faults is a wonderful thing... and is still a relatively new and growing forum for discussion. It may take some time to work out the bugs (both technically and in terms of interpersonal etiquette).

    We just need to learn not to shoot the meesenger a lot better.


  22. No ones perfect mate. What on earth were you expecting?

  23. I agree with much of this but not all and wrote this in response:
    Basically tl;dr - "ah, the internet. Turning otherwise nice people into wankers since 1982".

  24. A very interesting post - thanks!

    Frankly, I think you "get" Twitter better than Linehan, Coren et al. Perhaps their (raised) egos are faster to bruise...!

  25. I find Twitter endlessly fascinating; the challenge of being coherent in such a short space can undo many. But it's not too surprising that phenomenon we see in F2F interactions continue online: bullies being bullies, celebrities feeling above us little folk, men being misogynist then passing it off as a "joke" ha ha. I'm grateful for the people who have found fame yet continue to treat people with graciousness and politeness. It would seem the human thing to do, but alas -- we know it's not. Keeping the third agreement in mind today: Don't take anything personally. Clearly the angry blindside I got from Morgan is just par for the course. Thanks for sharing the link.

  26. I also think it is worth noting that a person sent a rude message to Moffat and Hallor (so Hallor's name was at the front of the tweet even though they hadn't tweeted it), Stephen Moffat then retweeted this, yet claimed total ignorance of this when asked why he retweeted what was (in this case) a rude troll without adding a comment of his own. To me it was so that his followers would see stupid hate and then see Hallors name and assume it came from Hallor (which it didn't). After this Hallor did get an increase in hate and abuse on twitter I believe. There are still screencaps of the incident around. To me it was a deliberate attempt to bully and discredit Hallor, if Moffat had admitted he didn't realise it wasn't from Hallor or explained why he had reblogged it, I might give him more of a chance, but his lying and refusal to admit that he had retweeted it makes me more inclined to believe it was a deliberate attempt to bully and discredit the insightful tweets of Hallor.

  27. I agree so strongly. I have a lot of problems with the way Steven Moffat not only represents women, but talks about us. ("Women are needy," "we live in a female-dominated society..." SERIOUSLY?!)

    After the incident with @Hallor, (or possibly before) he updated his profile to read, "...and I block rude people."

    I told him, "I'm not a rude person. I'm a woman who wants fair representation in a show I enjoy."

    He blocked me, too. :/

    It's a combination of privilege, massive ego, and, I suspect, just plain human stupidity. There's no way I can respect him, or anyone like him.

    Also, sorry, this page is not letting me sign in.


    1. Well that's interesting - it's worth noting that Tom Spilsbury's reads "I also block rude people." Added swiftly afterwards, no doubt...?

    2. Moffat's lucky I've given up so far on Dr Who that I can't even be bothered engaging with him about it if he thinks some examples here are rude. My oldest sister did a wonderful fanvid to the song Living Doll about the Doctor's relationships with women and girls - they always seem to end up being kept in boxes (literal or metaphorical) for his convenience. We checked his wikipedia page out of curiosity and were not shocked at all to find his first wife left him for another man, his abandonment issues are all over the place.

  28. Brilliant article, your research and analysis are great. I don't think I shall be joining Twitter any time soon! No doubt 90% of the famous-people-Tweets are at least innocuous, at best hilarious. But something about this short-form interaction does seem to lend itself to the sort of interaction I reject everywhere else - thoughtless, attention grabbing, hierachical. I prefer Tumblr which feels democratised by the flexibility of the post form and length. It;s not without problems, but it lends itself to an ongoing discussion of issues rather than the kind of boorish swaggering you get on Twitter.

  29. The 'hard to grasp' comment is rude, even if by the inference that the person it is directed towards lacks intelligence to understand the point being made.
    I'm sure if anyone questioned my lack of intellect that I, too, would be offended.

    Excellent and thought provoking blog-post - the study of language and etiquette on Twitter appears to be something of an emerging art-form that I'm sure Grice would have a field day covering under his maxims of conversation.

  30. "Why is this hard to grasp" is clearly and obviously confrontational. Except when you tweet it at someone famous and/or important, in which case it's perfectly polite, and even if it wasn't, they fucking deserve it because they're famous. Pricks.

    1. If I ever use five question marks (five!) you can justifiably infer that I haven't grasped your point. Who would use 5 question marks if they grasped something?

  31. "The central problem with Twitter is that we the proles are allowed to freely mingle with the first-class passengers. This causes tension when we fail to know our place." Spot on. It's created a almost feudal society of the 'celebs', the peasants who kiss their feet and are rewarded with adoring feigned kindness, and those who object to their treatment who are perceived as throwing muck.

  32. I can't even remember why I came here but enjoyed reading this just for the hell of it. I take it all with a pinch of salt of course because I know It's a struggle when you have a large amount of either ignore everybody (e.g james corden, alan davies, jimmy carr), you block everyone (e.g frankie boyle) or you keep your wits about you (ricky gevais) - However I've often seen ricky gervais struggling with 5 million followers - he can be hilarious on a sunday morning with a hangover.

  33. It's funny, as I actually interpreted Moffat's question-mark-tweet differently. I saw it as "I don't understand what 'bisexual visibility' is," and I think this interpretation is supported by Moffat's later tweet questioning why the term was brought up at all.
    So when I read the response of "Why is this hard to grasp?" I will admit even I felt it a little rude, as all the tweet literally did was restate the original tweet without clarification and then imply Moffat not comprehending the tweet is either slowness or, should the tweet be taken as snide, an attack.

    Now, I feel I should condition this comment with a firm assurance that I actually detest Steven Moffat as a showrunner and normally jump at the chance to read evidence further supporting my views of him. This is just an instance where I kinda think he wasn't entirely in the wrong. I don't think he's entirely in the right, of course-- he could have at least worded his question-mark tweet as something like "What's 'bisexual visibility?'" But it did taint my reading of your own otherwise-absolutely-fantastic piece to see this possibility hadn't even been considered and that it was just Steven Moffat being a dick.

    ...note that if the reason this interpretation was not considered is because there's context to the tweets I'm unaware of, completely disregard this comment.

    1. Well, I think 'Why is this hard to grasp' is a bit rude, but it's in response to a tweet that reads '???????'

      I mean, if I asked a perfectly legitimate question and got a bunch of question marks tweeted back to me, I'd feel like I had the right to be a bit snippy, yeah?

  34. Bit late to this article i guess! Thank you for writing it :)

  35. This article has aged like fine wine. Very well written and even more necessary a decade after publishing. Good work, Richard.