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Inside the mind of Conspiracy Queen Marianna


Among the Trolls: My Journey Through Conspiracyland  is a book by Marianna Spring who, in 2020, became the BBC’s first disinformation and social media correspondent. Here, we imagine the content . .

I HAD always respected Mummy. She looked after me very well and gave me nice meals and clothes and toys. I always thought of her as clever and trustworthy. Little did I know how wrong I was.

It was a chilly December morning. I was walking to school with my friend Alice. I casually remarked that I was looking forward to Father Christmas coming and had written to him asking for a new tennis racquet. To my shock, Alice suddenly stopped and laughed at me. ‘Surely you don’t believe in Father Christmas? You’re 15, for Heaven’s sake!’

Taken aback by Alice’s ridicule, I stuttered something about making a joke or pretending to be silly, but her revelation came like a bolt out of the blue. When I got home I immediately looked at the BBC website and learnt that my friend was indeed correct: Father Christmas did not exist.

The awful truth dawned on me. Mummy and Daddy were conspiracy theorists. From that moment the existence or otherwise of Father Christmas was never mentioned at family gatherings.

The discovery changed my life. I gave up my dream of becoming a Wimbledon champion. From that moment I decided that all that mattered was the truth and that the only place to find the truth was the BBC.

I had always loved the BBC. There was chunky Huw Edwards with his soothing voice, Emily Maitlis with her withering gaze, and chubby little Ian Hislop who was always able to raise my spirits as he rolled his eyes and exhibited a condescending smirk.

To my amazement, by the time I was 24, my dream of working at the BBC had come true. I became the person in charge of exposing disinformation on social media. I was particularly amazed because the BBC had not appointed a disabled person of colour to the post.

In no time at all I began to shed light on the truth. Each morning the BBC’s editorial team would send me a list of true things. When an untrue story appeared I was the person to tell viewers what they should think.

Naturally, I was soon under attack. I received thousands of horrid messages. It was jolly unfair.

I decided to investigate one of these beastly conspiracy theorists. I call them ‘Trolls’. I arranged to meet this person whom I shall call ‘Norman’ in a council flat in Dudley. The walls of his shabby abode were covered with posters from the many ‘Anti-vax’ demos he had attended. I actually felt a bit sorry for ‘Norman’. He lives on his own with only a terrapin for company. 

For over 30 minutes he spoke drivel as he droned on about excess deaths, untested injections and malicious pharmaceutical companies. I quickly deduced that ‘Norman’ was in need of psychiatric help. When he moved on to start telling me about the ‘global warming scam’ I decided that I had heard more nonsense than I could take and I made the excuse that I had to leave for an urgent meeting with the wonderful Jeremy Vine about bicycle pumps.

I attribute the ignorance of ‘Norman’ to his not having a television.

Being a brilliant disinformation specialist has not been easy. However, I am supported by the fantastic ‘Verify’ team at the BBC. Outside work, life does have its lighter moments. Last weekend I lost a tooth. Although this was not a pleasant experience I have put it under my pillow and any day now the tooth fairy is going to arrive with a lovely reward.

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John Ellwood
John Ellwood
John is the father of four beautiful girls. He is, thankfully, not knowingly related to Tobias Ellwood. ‘My Dear Friends . . . ’ a compilation of many of John’s contributions to TCW Defending Freedom is available in paperback and on Kindle.

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