Saturday, April 10, 2010

The irony is that he meant it

Thanks to DougtheDug on the previous thread for linking to a brief 'profile' of Stuart MacLennan at Edinburgh University Labour Club, presumably self-penned given the now-familiar 'ironic' prose style -

"Stuart is an ageing hack who just won't go away. He's worked on almost every losing by-election campaign in recent history and the few that he's stayed away from have been the ones Labour has won. Maybe he should adopt that policy more often."

Hmmm. Judging from some of the photos I've seen in the papers, Willie Bain probably wishes he had.

Beneath the profile, there are a couple of posts by MacLennan, which includes one particular unintended gem -

"How student’s can get involved in the 2011 manifesto."

By urgently mastering the correct use of apostrophes?

One thing that's been slightly unexpected over the last few hours has been the backlash against the sacking of MacLennan. His defenders fall into two broad camps - one group are adamant that he's been misunderstood, while the other group are concerned about the detrimental effect this could have on politicians' engagement with the public on social networking sites, especially Twitter. The fear (expressed by Toby Young among others) is that instead of being authentic and spontaneous, politicians' tweets will in future become as sanitised and relentlessly on-message as other forms of political communication. That ignores a couple of points - a) most politicians' tweets already fit the latter description rather well, and b) it is actually perfectly possible to 'let your hair down' and show a little personality on the internet without going to MacLennan's extreme of referring to the elderly as "coffin-dodgers" and train passengers as "chavs" (one in particular as "the ugliest old boot I've seen").

As for the other line of defence, yes, I think most people are capable of spotting that these tweets were intended to be seen as 'banter', ie. someone for comic effect adopting the persona of an individual with excessive self-regard, sneering at everything that moves. In fact, the first thing it reminded me of was Spectator journalist Alex Massie's (very funny) tweets during Scotland's semi-final win over Canada at the women's world curling championship a couple of weeks ago -

"Desperate Canucks calling for a measure: that looks like a motherf*****g three beaver-munchers..."
"that last tweet was punctuated poorly. Not 'three beaver-munchers' but 'looks like three, beaver-munchers'"
"Scotland 10 Canada 3. Gold-medal game here we go. Take that, moose-munchers."
"Jennifer Jones may be all silicon, nae tit."
"Bring on the Krauts!"

The problem with the 'tongue-in-cheek' defence for MacLennan, though, is that many of his targets for abuse were political opponents and left-wing Labour MPs, ie. it's suspiciously rather close to the views that you'd expect a typical young New Labour activist to actually hold. And while it may be possible to use phrases like 'coffin-dodger' for genuine comedic effect (indeed it's one of Sir Terry Wogan's favourite phrases) it could hardly be said to be meant affectionately in this context - he's laughing at people rather than with them. MacLennan's brand of humour seems to fulfil a need to escape to a comic-strip world in which he's ten-feet-tall and everyone else is two-feet-tall - not an unusual fantasy, admittedly, but the desire to publicly broadcast it is generally confined to fourteen-year-old boys and posters on Guido Fawkes. So never the ideal choice of candidate for Labour, then, even in this most hopeless of seats for them.

No comments:

Post a Comment