Britain's Great 140 Character Crisis; as Social Media Makes Every Event a National Emergency, May Must Learn How to Face Down the Twitter Mob and End

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), January 7, 2018 | Go to article overview

Britain's Great 140 Character Crisis; as Social Media Makes Every Event a National Emergency, May Must Learn How to Face Down the Twitter Mob and End


Byline: DAN HODGES Incendiary. Incisive. In the corridors of power

LAST week the NHS collapsed. So did the national rail network, and the police service. This was preceded by an explosion in homelessness, and before that an implosion of the judicial and penal system. The year is seven days old. And, if you believe the reports, the country is already on its knees.

Except it isn't. What we're actually experiencing is life in the age of the 140 Character Crisis. And unless Theresa May and her Government get to grips with it, it will ultimately lead to a genuine national calamity that will subsume us all.

This phenomenon first appeared with the 2015 winter floods. Fuelled by social media, and the 24-hour news cycle, seasonal rainfall became an existential threat to Britain and David Cameron's government. Lack of flood-defence investment laid bare the inhumanity of austerity. That the worst flooding was in Cumbria, Lancashire and Yorkshire exposed the widening chasm between North and South. Tackling the issue was now an urgent national priority.

Then a week later it wasn't. The residents of the affected areas were left to mop up and chase their insurance payments. But we, as a nation, had moved on.

There was a time when Britain's motto was Keep Calm And Carry On. Today it's Take To Twitter And Start A Moral Panic. Over the past five years - the lifetime of a typical parliament - we have experienced an energy-pricing crisis, annual winter-beds crises, a social-care crisis, a pensions crisis, a policing crisis, a crisis over cladding, sprinklers and overall tower-block safety, a housing crisis, a tuition-fees crisis, a rough-sleeping crisis, an amphibious-assault-ship crisis, a rail-overcrowding crisis, a rail-fares crisis, a food-bank crisis, a universal-credit crisis and an immigration crisis.

As far as I'm aware, none of these crises has actually been solved. Instead they have simply slid from the national consciousness, to be temporarily replaced by the next crisis on the rank.

As ever, part of this phenomenon is fuelled by the rise of social media. This week we have seen doctors - or people claiming to be doctors - tweeting they have been performing 'battlefield medicine' and providing 'third world health care'. Which is hysterical nonsense. But as Donald Trump has successfully demonstrated, a tweet is half way round the world before the truth has its boots on.

Another problem is that, in the era of instant analysis, policy planning has become an almost exclusively reactive process. The police have faced deserved criticism recently. But they've also faced demands they channel resources towards everything from the terror threat and knife crime, through online abuse, white-collar crime, reckless driving towards cyclists and the hunt for Madeleine McCann.

But there is a much more fundamental reason for our 140 Character Crisis epidemic. Half the British political class are fuelling it. And the other half are too scared to challenge it.

There is a popular perception that our politicians always ingratiate their way into office with seductive promises of bread and roses. But in 1979 Margaret Thatcher secured power by pledging monetary discipline, a smaller State, and a reduction in public-sector borrowing. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

Britain's Great 140 Character Crisis; as Social Media Makes Every Event a National Emergency, May Must Learn How to Face Down the Twitter Mob and End
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.