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Opinion

Thick as Mince

18 Dec 2022 6 minute read
Ben Wildsmith and bear

Ben Wildsmith

I’ve been stuck in with Covid this week so Mrs W, who has a less serious variant, is being treated to my insights into current affairs on a 24/7 basis.

The combination of a high fever and a Twitter addiction can produce a fugue state that reaches shamanic proportions with the addition of a little gin, so it’s been nice to offer her a prolonged glimpse of the passionate, socially alert rhetoric that drew her to me in the first place.

‘Perhaps this would be better saved for your column,’ she sometimes sniffles. And that’s the kind of woman she is ‒ always thinking of what’s best for me, even if it impinges on our precious time together.

Today, bless her, she’s put her earphones in to watch a film so I won’t be disturbed while writing. Happy Christmas, honey!

Being at home on Twitter is, I can confirm from personal experience, much the same as being at home on drugs. You spend long periods of time talking bollocks to people you shouldn’t have invited round whilst neglecting personal hygiene and spiritual wellbeing.

Recently, of course, the Trainspottingesque experience has been enlivened by the arrival of Begbie, in the shape of Elon Musk, plonking himself down on the fag-burned sofa and menacingly insisting that he’s your mate.

You’ll be halfway through telling Piers Morgan he’s a cocaine-addled gerbil with an inferiority complex and Elon will crash into your feed to announce he’s banning adverbs because they inhibit the vigour of sentences.

It can only be a matter of time before he installs himself on Tesla’s satnav system and prohibits left turns.

Ubiquitous

There are people whose presence on Twitter is suspiciously ubiquitous.

In the past, these tended to be golly-gosh-the-Tories-are-a-bit-rum style third rate stand-up wannabees whose pro-EU, middle-class simperings greased through the algorithm to win Centrist hearts.

Tweeters like ‘Supertanskiii’ and ‘Russ in Cheshire’ are wholly unknown outside of the app but were so pervasive on it that criticising them was to risk evisceration by thousands of radicalised Waitrose customers.

At one point these two staged a real-life meet-up in an undisclosed pub at which they posted photos of themselves discussing a ‘collab’.

If you’ve ever wondered what a fatal level of smugness is, then wonder no more.

‘Ordinary Britons’

But that was all the way back in September, when Harold Macmillan was Prime Minister and Matt Hancock had never publicly eaten a testicle.

Times change, and with them, the algorithm. In its Muskovite version, there’s no longer much scope for tepid liberals to smarm their way to Patreon incomes and spots on panel shows.

Nowadays, I find my feed flooded with the musings of GB News presenters and fringe Tory politicians. Prominent amongst the former are Darren Grimes and Sophie Corcoran.

If you haven’t had the pleasure, Darren is a spindly young man from the North East of England who first showed up as a cause célèbre for Brexiteers when his activities for BeLeave were investigated by the Electoral Commission.

Since then, he has carved himself out a niche as the authentic voice of working-class Brexiteers who feel disenfranchised in a UK where the last three Prime Ministers have been rabid Brexit supporters, and in which His Majesty’s Opposition concur.

Until a couple of weeks ago when it was cancelled, he had a GB News show called ‘Real Britain’ on which he posited himself as a mouthpiece for the views of ‘ordinary’ Britons who are repulsed by the unpatriotic, woke agenda of the BBC, Sky, and the RNLI.

Darren Grimes on Twitter

Visceral reactions

The title of his show is interesting, I think, and bears some analysis.

I very much doubt that Darren has had time to read Ece Temelkuran’s terrifying book How to Lose a Country on the methods Racip Tayyip Erdogan uses to nullify educated opposition to his agenda, but prime amongst them is instilling the notion that considered opinions are less authentic than visceral reactions.

From there it is simple to project that anybody who holds considered opinions is less authentic than those who rely on gut reaction to form their views and, before you know it, you have a large segment of the population believing that their ignorance is a signifier of authenticity.

Do you live in Real Britain? Not if you’re this far into an article you don’t, so relax and have a soy latte.

The coming star of right-wing twittery, however, is Sophie Corcoran, a Durham University student who has parlayed her Twitter game into a media presence that saw her interviewed about Meghan Markle on US news this week.

Sophie appears to tweet everything that occurs to her during her waking hours, including some things for which she wakes up specifically.

Like Darren, she is at pains to emphasise her working-class credentials, never more so than when explaining that trades unions are betraying working people by asking for them to be paid more.

Sophie Corcoran on Twitter

Complex issues

Her relentless political commentary is interspersed with breezy chit-chat that sometimes seems at odds with the wide-ranging command of complex issues she evinces otherwise.

Sophie Corcoran on complex issues

Peculiar cohesion

Certainly, there is a peculiar cohesion to the political messaging put forward by Darren, Sophie, and a host of others who are connected either to GB News or the think tanks that operate from Tufton Street in London.

A cynic might infer that their pronouncements, rather than being the authentic expression of British youth, were being coordinated centrally.

Here’s a cynic inferring just that:

Rattled

In terms of engagement, though, these people are smashing it out of the park on social media, to the point where they are unavoidable.

Indeed, their style has been adopted by the fustier voices we are more used to hearing promote the same ideas.

Here is John Redwood, who, you might remember, was recently in the frame to be Liz Truss’s Chancellor.

John Redwood on Twitter

Age of information

‘You need to be more authentic John, like when you sang the Welsh anthem. Act thick, it’ll go down well on Twitter…’

In 1997, when I was also a spindly young man, my university lecturer, Professor Pete McLeay used to rail at us that the age of information was coming, and we needed to be very alert to who owned the means of transmission.

A change of ownership can have peculiar effects.

If you’ll excuse me, Mrs. W has removed her headphones and I am keen to have a chat with her about the unusually small turnout in the Tunisian Parliamentary elections.


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The Mad Bat
The Mad Bat
1 month ago

Go easy on the cough mixture, Ben.

Thanks for reminding me why I don’t do Twitter

Cynan again
Cynan again
1 month ago

Great article. Bleak topic. In the age when everyone is lying to you, facts become less relevant than which lie you like best. This is why everyone is constantly screaming at each other on antisocial media.
They say never meet your heroes. Long ago I gave up on the idea of having heroes. They lie to you too. And when “commenters” are not lying to you, you are usually lying to yourself.

Kevin coakley
Kevin coakley
1 month ago

Get well soon brother 😜

Kevin coakley
Kevin coakley
1 month ago

Get well soon Mrs wildsmith.

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