“Was last week a watershed week in terms of unsubstantiated online gossip?” Andrew Neil asked Richard Bacon on the BBC current affairs programme ‘This Week’ last week.
On Twitter, as @richardpbacon, Bacon describes himself as a ‘minor celebrity’ (and we all know how much I admire celebrity) but, following his brave battle against internet trolls, Bacon needs to be taken seriously on this issue.
“Yes” said Bacon. “From people with only a small number of followers, (Lord McAlpine) is asking for an apology and a token £5 (to Children in Need) and … it has turned it into a watershed moment. People’s attitudes about tweeting and, more crucially, re-tweeting libellous comments will change as a result of this.”
I am sure we all admired the rolling brilliance of Barack Obama’s oration when, in his Presidential acceptance speech, he said:
“If you are willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, or what you look like, or where you love*. It doesn’t matter whether you are black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, abled, disabled, gay or straight you can make it here in America if you are willing to try.”
Please read them carefully because these words represent a defining moment in the history of America – just as I felt the Olympics were for Great Britain:
When I was at school, we had a visiting preacher in Chapel who told us there were three things in his sermon that we would never forget. And I haven’t. They were:
Don’t poison Socrates.
Don’t crucify Christ.
Stand up and be counted.
At times in my life, I have thought of these three mantras, particularly the last one in which I have my own little track record.
I have thought about it while watching and listening to pious celebrities pontificating about the perverted behaviour of that famous celebrity Jimmy Savile.
Last week Labour leader Ed Miliband spent over an hour telling us two things: that he wants us to be ‘one nation’ and that he went to comprehensive school.
I quite like the ‘one nation’ thing building, as it does, on our Olympic success and burying, as it should, Labour’s bigoted tribal heritage.
But isn’t there a contradiction in Miliband’s exposition of ‘one nation’ and, in the same speech, his need to remind us of his comprehensive schooling? If we are to be ‘one nation’ why drive an educational wedge between us?
And haven’t these people read what I told them last week?!
In Britain, the question is did Andrew Mitchell call the Downing Street police ‘plebs’?
Elsewhere it is ‘who on earth is Andrew Mitchell?’ I suspect, at the time of the incident, the police did not know who he was either: which may be why they asked him to exit Downing Street by the little gate at the side rather than the big gate in the middle.
Andrew Mitchell is the Conservative MP for Sutton Coldfield. In the recent Cabinet reshuffle, he was appointed government Chief Whip and Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury. Not for long methinks.
The police record of the incident is revealing:
‘Ideas don’t make you rich. The correct execution of ideas does’. So said Felix Dennis in his book ‘How To Get Rich’. He’s worth over £500 million, so I think we can believe him.
As it happens, last week, I got really excited about one of my big ideas:
I saw my doctor yesterday. Sensitive, intelligent, considerate, thoughtful and understanding, he is as kind a man as any I have met.
But I have a problem with him.
So kind, sensitive, intelligent, considerate, thoughtful and understanding is he that he always runs over time. While he attends to the patient he is tending, the patients in the waiting room wait and wait and wait. This can be most annoying.
In this way, what pleases me most about my brilliant doctor is what annoys me most.
This summer I have been listening to the audiobook ‘Life Beyond Measure‘ written and read by Sidney Poitier although, when I say ‘read’, I should really say ‘performed’ so brilliant is Poitier’s delivery.
Good actors have a wonderful talent of bringing the written word to life which is why I prefer to listen to, rather than read, books of this genre. Leslie Phillips’ autobiography ‘Hello‘ was infinitely better in the listening than the reading. Who can say ‘hello’ like Leslie Phillips let alone read ‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ by Edward Lear like this?
The subject of my first blog, over three years ago, was ‘Convergence and Divergence’. It discussed an observation made, over twenty years ago, at an international business conference by a heavy-hitting American banker, a breed we respected at the time. He said:
‘Over time, convergence is more likely than divergence’.
Watching the Olympics, I have asked myself time after time, lap after lap, if he was right. And I have concluded that no, I don’t think he was. It seems both have happened. We have converged and we have diverged.
Sitting, lounging, reading books – as I am now – by a swimming pool overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, it is natural to absorb more sunshine than news. But the full horror of the Denver Dark Knight killings has penetrated this tranquil state and destroyed the lives of hundreds of innocent people oceans away from here.
No doubt thousands of commentators have written millions of pages about this crime (not many of which, frankly, have I read).
But how many people were reading – as I was last week – the seminal American novel ‘Freedom’, by Jonathan Franzen, on the very day the news from Denver came through? In the book, Franzen writes this: