So I'd just got back from doing a shop at Aldi (*) last night when I noticed that in my absence I'd been mentioned in 120 new tweets. "Ulp!" I thought. "What have I gone and done now?" In Twitterland, you see, being mentioned in lots of tweets is usually a sign you've been naughty.
(* Aldi's aged sirloin Aberdeen Angus steak is unsurpassed)
Anyway, it turned out that I had enraged the usual Twitter suspects. Some had chosen to take umbrage over a link I'd put up to another superb piece by Russell Taylor in which he had an entirely justified dig at the ghastly Co Op and its war on lads' mags; others were rising to the defence of publicity-seeking Labour MP Stella Creasy who can't seem quite to make up her mind whether she is a delicate wallflower in need of protective regulation or a feisty, fearless interweb provocatrice. The general verdict was that I was immature, mentally ill, devoid of love, psychologically damaged, inadequate and DEFINITELY NOT FUNNY, let alone worthy of a voice in the national debate.
So, as you do, I had a glance at the self-descriptions of my self-appointed Twitter jury and here are some examples of what I found:
"Labour party activist"; "Middle-aged old style socialist"; "leftie"; "Guardian-reading liberal"; "gig-going lefty"; "Socialist Labour party"; "Local government worker and political activist"; "Labour cllr (Withington)"; "@owenjones84."
Can any of you notice what they have in common? Yes. That's right. These are the kind of people who, if I wrote a 10,000 word panegyric on the beauty and wisdom of their mothers, would focus solely on my abject failure in paragraph 57 to include an exclamation mark after "and her crochet skills are fantastic too?" The kind of chippy malcontents, indeed, who are quite heftily over-represented in the comments section below this blog, busily pointing out stuff like how the spell of nice weather we've had recently makes a total mockery of my evil, Big-Oil funded climate change scepticism, or noting that because I suffer depression I am mentally unstable, or just spitting bile over the fact that they've got worthless degrees in climate "science" from the "University" of East Anglia and all that lovely work they had as advisers in the renewables sector seems to have dried up rather of late. Not normal people in other words. Not neutral voices who've thoughtfully weighed up the pros and cons before chipping in their tuppenny hapenny's worth. But shrill, angry, politically motivated, logic-proof, blinkered, standard issue greeny-lefty trolls.
Why am I telling you this? Because many of you, I know, consider that the goings-on at Twitter this week are beneath your lofty attention. Of course I understand why you think this: Twitter is indeed a bare-knuckle bear pit of a witch hunt frenzy nightmare of bile, invective and round, unvarnished evil. (Though it does have its plus sides too, or I wouldn't waste so much time there). But what some of you appear to be unaware of is its significance in the broader culture wars.
In these culture wars this week's Twitter debate is Leveson is Toby Young's free school is Drummer Lee Rigby and "Islamophobia" is climate change is Christopher Snowdon's "fake charities" is Piers Morgan and gun control is Trayvon Martin. Which is to say that every one of these issues serves as a proxy battleground for a much broader, and much more important conflict which is raging around the world right now and on whose outcome the future of our fragile civilisation depends.
What this war has very, very little to do with is whether nasty Mr Murdoch's wicked henchmen caused Milly Dowler's phone messages to be erased or about whether that idiot's undeniably stupid, offensive and wrongheaded rape threat to Stella Creasy was any more sincere than Paul Chambers's tweet "threat" to blow up Robin Hood airport. You'd never guess this from the way these stories have been gleefully spun by the leftist media ? the BBC and the Guardian especially ? but it just doesn't, it really doesn't.
What all these disparate issues are really about is the things they're always really about: the bitter, ongoing struggle between those on the one hand who cleave ardently to the statist religion of equality, diversity and sustainability in which society's "best interests" are decided by an "enlightened" elite of bureaucrats, technocrats, petty officials, social workers, Local Agenda 21 groupuscules, administrators, UN and EU apparatchiks, Guardian editorial-writers, grandstanding politicians and members of the BBC Trust. And on the other, those of us who have sufficient faith in human nature to take the view that ? barring the odd safety net here and the occasional piece of protective legislation there ? the best route to creating a more fruitful, enjoyable, richer and, yes, fairer world is for us all, pretty much, to be left to live our lives the way we want to live them, unencumbered by confiscatory taxes, Nannyish government edicts and pettifogging regulation which seeks to micromanage every last detail of our daily existence from how many different coloured bags we put our rubbish in to the degree to which we're permitted to be rude towards our enemies on Twitter.
I know which side I'm on. This columnist here seems to be equally sure which side she's on. You can all decide for yourselves where you belong on this ideological battleground. But don't kid yourself that this is a war where you can just sit on the sidelines or where there's a "reasonable middle ground". Ultimately, it's about liberty v tyranny; about freedom of speech v creeping state control; free market capitalism v anti-growth collectivism; personal responsibility v suckling on the teat of the state; optimism v pessimism.