I wasn’t going to do this, because it will mean ad hominem attacks and once you start on the ad hominem you know you have lost the argument. I told myself: oh well, it’s just one lousy thing that I read and no one is really going to notice and anyway what does it matter what I think about it? I shall write a nice domestic goddessy little blog post about homemade lemonade instead (supersecret ingredient: mint. I’m telling you.). But it has been eating at me all week, and now I must spill into print.
It was no great suprise. The mainstream media, as is now traditional on the third Friday of every month, had a go at Twitter. What was surprising was that the attack was mounted by Rod Liddle, roving editor at the Speccie. More surprising still, he chose all the usual arguments, trotted out like perfectly schooled show ponies: narcissism, banality, who the fuck CARES what you are doing for dinner, and on and on until the last syllable of recorded time. It is curious, because Liddle is usually an antic and counterintuitive writer. He gives really good comment because he avoids the why oh why boilerplate school, and you never, ever know which side of an argument he is going to come down on. He is not a set in stone ideologue; I have read his columns for years without having a clue what his politics are. If you put me up against a wall and made me guess, I should say left of centre on a bed of anti-authoritarianism with a libertarian coulis. He likes to laugh in the face of received wisdom and trample over cheap arguments. But this time, he was not only reheating every single tired old line that every single commentator has ever said about Twitter, he was attacking one of the most beloved elements of British life. Rod Liddle was bitch-slapping Stephen Fry.
The arguments about Twitter are easy to counter, because those who mount them have clearly never used it. They log on, go and have a look at a few tweets by someone like Fry or Ashton Kutcher, wander about for a bit, find someone who has written ‘going 2 get latte and bagel. Gr8 morning!!!!’, and conclude that the whole thing is a perfect shower. As anyone who uses Twitter regularly knows, there are, just as in life, the bores and non-bores. There are the ones who bang on about themselves, although, in my little corner of the Twitterverse, they are vanishingly rare. Mostly, the Tweeters are funny and informative and often unexpected. There are people who have TS Eliot quote-offs (Mrs Trefusis and clever Charlie McVeigh, you know who you are), some who swap recipes or songs or helpful household hints (a very nice woman called Julia Ball told me how to restore burnt cooking pots using Coca-Cola), some who do raging satire (the fake Gene Hunt is the king in this regard) and others who bring a shining surreal edge to the quotidian (Belgian Waffling raises this to Olympic level). This very morning on Twitter I have had a small discussion about the merits of DH Lawrence’s poetry versus his prose, revived memories of the sublime singing voice of Karen Carpenter, and been reminded of the wild magnificence of Last Year at Marienbad, a film which obsessed me when I was twenty three.
But when a man who left his wife to go and see his mistress whilst on his honeymoon starts bashing up a national treasure, things have officially Gone Too Far. (You see, I told you it would get ad hominem. I am very sorry. Well, slightly sorry. ) Rod Liddle found a tweet where Stephen Fry said he was going to ‘a dinner’. From this, he extrapolated that not only was Fry banal and narcissistic and self-important, and that he would like to bash Fry’s head in with a spanner for such banality and narcissism and self-importance, but that this one tweet demonstrated conclusively that the generation born between 1955 and 1985 is the most banal, narcissistic and self-important that ever lived. Which is, when you stop to think about it for more than three seconds, the most illogical and stupid generalisation of the year.