THERE is much talk amongst the chattering classes about the ‘harm’ committed by so-called online trolls. Social media, it is claimed (largely if not solely by the media-political class), is awash with hate and abuse. For social media read Twitter. Not Facebook, Instagram etc. Just Twitter. Elon Musk’s Twitter . . .
It’s a narrative driven by the mainstream media, and especially the BBC in the form of its unironically titled ‘disinformation’ reporter Marianna Spring. Indeed, Ms Spring’s woes, of which there are many, have been amplified all over the BBC and mainstream media in recent weeks.
According to Spring, she receives regular abuse on Twitter related to her work, in which she sniffs out what she terms ‘conspiracy theorists’ while ignoring anyone able to articulate a coherent argument. What Spring classes as a conspiracy theorist others may term critics, sceptics, dissidents or just individuals who hold contrary opinions to government diktats and/or the scientific ‘consensus’, whatever that is.
Most recently Spring has been outing what she calls ‘Covid deniers’ and ‘antivaxxers’. Before that it was QAnon believers. However, she has yet to turn her skills to exposing groups such as Antifa, BLM or Extinction Rebellion, well-funded and organised protest groups whose extremist activities, if not openly feted by the BBC, somehow dodge the forensic scrutiny of its ‘disinformation’ team.
Indeed, sensitive to accusations that her work revolves around attacking only certain groups – those opposed to corporate-political hegemony – Spring now routinely starts her reports with some sort of disclaimer in which she acknowledges that some – a tiny minority of lockdown/vaccine protesters – did/do have ‘legitimate concerns’. It’s just that the BBC will not be investigating those concerns. For Marianna Spring’s brief is immutable: the face of BBC disinformation holds the powerless to account, not Pfizer, Bill Gates, Sage, the WHO, the WEF or any other pro-lockdown or vaccine advocate.
To achieve her aims Spring often resorts to subterfuge: ‘You don’t have to lie,’ she explained in a podcast about how she outs non-establishment approved protesters, ‘but you also don’t have to go on to the group and say, “By the way, I’m a BBC journalist” because actually the editorial justification for joining the group is greater than having to reveal who you are.’
Spring is thus engaged in the business of duping ordinary people who have reservations about lockdowns and/or Covid vaccinations and whose lack of media savviness renders them ripe for exploitation. Her aim is to name and shame as dangerous ‘conspiracy theorists’ individuals not conforming to government diktats, to create pariahs who will be shunned by ‘responsible’ citizens and who may lose not only relationships but perhaps their jobs and livelihoods.
It’s hardly the noblest of endeavours. And Spring receives a great deal of pushback, a small percentage of which will no doubt be abusive. Shock. Horror. ‘Welcome to Twitter.’ That’s how many fellow social media users responded to Spring’s latest self-pitying laments. ‘Use the block button like the rest of us.’
So why doesn’t this eternal victim of social media abuse do just that – use the block or mute buttons? This might be because to do so would seriously undermine a long-cherished objective of her employer: social media censorship, more precisely pressuring government into introducing draconian policy aimed at restricting free speech, specifically on Mr Musk’s newly liberated Twitter.
If the broadcaster can bring about an era of social media censorship it will kill two birds with one stone. Firstly, it will help restore the power and prestige of an establishment whose reputation suffers in direct proportion to social media freedom. Secondly, with the critics silenced, BBC personnel such as Ms Spring will be free to promote government-corporate narratives without fear of being called out on public forums such as Twitter. The pre-eminence of the BBC will thus be restored and along with it, that of the establishment.
Perhaps this explains Spring’s bizarre appointment as the corporation’s first disinformation reporter at the tender and inexperienced age of 24. The BBC’s face of right-think has not a single publication to her name in the area in which she is hailed an ‘expert’. In fact, she has no track record at all. Was Spring shocked to land such a high-profile role?
Endorsed at just about every opportunity by her employer ever since, would an old, white, stale male – to use BBC parlance – attract the same kind of sympathy from the chattering classes? Would the broadcaster be able to exploit abuse directed at say, crusty old John Simpson in the same way it does in the case of fresh-faced Marianna Spring?
Method in the broadcaster’s apparent madness, it seems likely that Spring was selected to front this devious BBC campaign for a specific purpose: the more she targets and slanders ordinary people, the greater the pushback. Cherry-picking replies to her very active Twitter account, the BBC can publicise how a young female experiences horrific abuse on Elon Musk’s social media platform; BBC colleagues can duly tweet their sorrow and solidarity: ‘So sorry you have to put up with this’ etc.
And so the BBC narrative takes shape: ‘Since Elon Musk took over its reins, Twitter has become a place that promotes hate and abuse towards the virtuous. Intolerable! Something must surely be done to protect the corporate media and all other “authoritative” sources from hateful online trolls.’Worryingly, the BBC narrative is gaining momentum.
Ministers will be alerted to the Twitter ‘problem’ of sweet, innocent BBC personnel (unwilling to use Twitter block and mute) who find themselves on the receiving end of hate and abuse for ‘just doing their job’.
Nor will the carefully crafted ploy be derailed by inconvenient facts. Certainly, the same broadcaster purporting to be outraged about abuse of women hardly batted an eyelid at the hate and even death threats directed at the likes of Katie Hopkins, Melania Trump and Andrea Jenkyns MP prior to Mr Musk’s Twitter stewardship. If anything, the BBC facilitated and encouraged thatabuse; revelled in it.
‘Sorry,’ tweeted Musk in response to the Spring-inspired pearl-clutching of recent weeks, ‘for turning Twitter from nurturing paradise into a place that has . . . trolls.’ Elon Musk knows a fake narrative when he sees one. Let’s hope the same can be said of the individuals in the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.