A hearing is taking place today after the Mayor of Barnet, Brian Coleman, described a blogger, Roger Tichborne, as ‘poisonous’. According to The Guardian, Coleman wrote to Tichborne, stating: “You are an obsessive, poisonous individual and Labour party member whose blog is full of lies, half truths and misinformation, do not email me again. The leader of the council is totally right."
The aforementioned leader of the council, Mike Freer, had previously referred to some blogging critics as “nutters”, before making an unusual suggestion that they are also onanists so obsessed with constant self-abuse they must type "one-handed".
Nice. While the Tories chuckled to themselves about the fact one of them nearly said the word “wanker”, Tichborne described Coleman, variously, as "Barnet's favourite numpty", and "addicted to cash and hospitality".
Coleman must now answer charges of breach of code of conduct after Tichborne, perhaps rather cannily, complained about the tirade he had received.
This story comes in the same week former BBC and Evening Standard hack Andrew Gilligan broke the shock news he had offended somebody.
Giving the right-minded reader cause to say ‘more stories should begin like this’, Gilligan wrote on his blog:
You had me at “Somerfield”... But Gilligan continues:
The potty-mouthed abuser in question was Greenwich restaurateur and businessman Frank Dowling. Read more here.
Both cases flag the problem people have in dealing with bloggers during this paradigm shift from publication to citizen journalism.
Blogging is more personal, the mainstream more balanced. So does that mean responses to bloggers should be more personal and unbalanced?
Certainly not, because the worst thing you could do when somebody is giving you a kicking is hand them some hobnail boots and remind them to go for the crotch.
Annoyingly for the brands out there – or even the individuals such as Dowling and Coleman – social media can also be far more damaging than the mainstream press.
Humour and the empathy that can only be engendered by an individual giving a personal account, on a platform of their own toil, makes a terrifying arsenal, far more likely to spread and resonate than more negativity in a newspaper, though a definitive tipping point is yet to be universally recognised beyond the fact social media is fiercely, almost violently self-referential.