Personal

How I Made a Twat of Myself on Twitter

22 Aug 2011 at 20:49

It’s never nice to have to acknowledge you’ve made a bit of a dick of yourself. But I did just that last night. And all over a stupid tweet. Yes, my rather idiotic words became the centre of a rather unattractive twitter storm. I suppose it had to happen sooner or later. I even ‘trended’ in Dublin, I’ll have you know. So, what caused this to happen. Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…

Like most of you, I suspect, I was avidly following developments in Libya during the course of the evening. Sky News’s coverage was superb, with Steve Dixon anchoring it in London and the fearless Alex Crawford travelling with the rebels (a la John Simpson) into the centre of Tripoli. Gripping TV. And then I switched over to the BBC News Channel. Oh dear, oh dear. No sense of drama, no reporter embedded with the rebels and appearing totally behind the curve. Lots of people were saying the same thing on Twitter. No one could quite understand how the BBC coverage could be quite so bad. As I said in one tweet…

Sky News is whipping the BBC’s pale white ass at the moment

The BBC didn’t even carry Moussa Ibrahim’s press conference live, yet pretended to. Everyone seemed to agree about the awfulness of the BBC’s coverage, even those who normally have no problem in faulting Sky. A few minutes later, having watched an action packed five minutes with Alex Crawford I switched over to the BBC to find the presenter talking to a reporter in a flak jacket, who was in the Media Hotel in Tripoli. The contrast was stunning. I wondered why he was in the hotel rather than out on the streets like Alex Crawford. That was where I made my big mistake. This is what I the tweeted…

Who is this wimp of a reporter on the BBC wearing a flak jacket in the hotel! Bet he’s been told he can’t go out cos of Elf ’n Safety.

And then the wrath of twitter descended on me. I might as well have said I agreed with slaughtering the first born. But it wasn’t just the usual suspects who were having a right old go – it was journalists I respect.

You can do one of two things in these circumstances. Stick to your guns or issue a rapid apology. I have been in this situation before on my old blog, and I have always taken the view that if you’re in a hole, stop digging. And if you think you’ve gone over the top or just been plain wrong, say so. Acknowledge it. Apologise and put it behind you.

The latter is easier said than done in this case, I suspect, but I withdrew the tweet (although I didn’t delete it, as I would have been accused of hiding) and then issued a total apology and took up a twitter follower’s suggestion and made a donation to the Rory Peck Trust.

I got it very wrong. In short, I fucked up. I didn’t know the circumstances of the Media Hotel and the danger the reporters there were in. I reacted too quickly, and didn’t apply my normal twitter rules.

Many people quite rightly said that if I was so happy to call this reporter a wimp, perhaps I might like to draw their attention to my own war reporting record. Ouch. I have actually been in some very dangerous places – Beirut in 1991 was one, but I freely admit that nothing I have ever done would compare to what has happened in Libya over the last few weeks.

What I did tonight was give those who already think ill of me further ammunition. So be it. They lost no time in dubbing me a cunt, a bellend, a pompous snot, a fuckpiece, a knob head, a dick, a wanker and much worse. Nothing I am not used to every day on Twitter actually and why Duncan Barkes maybe has adopted the right approach.

The thing is, I love twitter. I love its spontaneity. I love that it can make you a hero one minute and a zero the next. And tonight’s experience won’t put me off using it in the future. In general, it is a force for good, but it does have is ugly side.

What have I learned tonight? You’re only ever one tweet away from making a complete twat of yourself.

Still, it could be worse. I could be in the Big Brother house…

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