Saturday 9 May 2020

Getting things into perspective

Cosham, a suburb of Portsmouth, has been trending on Twitter today - and not in a good way. 

It came about after a live report on last night's BBC One News at Six, a report from Duncan Kennedy showing the inhabitants of one of Cosham's UK-flag-festooned avenues enjoying their VE Day street party, and singing war-time songs, and getting it together - at a safe distance. 

I saw wine glasses on walls, and sunshine, and families having fun, and a woman celebrating her 75th birthday that very day.  

But soon metaphorical clouds arrived like frowns, all thanks to the unforgiving medium of Twitter. 

Yes, a backlash was brewing.

A screenshot was shared far and wide. It showed the patriotic street partiers standing behind the BBC's Duncan Kennedy and waving and cheering.

Now, it must be said that they did look rather close together, so...

...Cue uproar on Twitter.

Uproar, of course, quickly translated into the usual mass outpouring of bile, bordering on hatred, all directed against the happy people of Cosham - and also against the BBC for promoting such flagrant disregard for the lockdown guidance. 

Golden rule: Never just believe what you see on Twitter. 

I looked into it (via TV Eyes) and saw the report. The BBC newsreader and the BBC reporter went out of their respective ways to say that everyone in the report was obeying the social-distancing rules - it was said three times in fact - and other camera angles showed precisely that: family groups keeping apart while coming together to mark VE Day and to pose for the BBC's  cameras. 

So, to put it simply, that controversial screenshot was simply a trick of perspective. The whole Twitterstorm wasn't even worth calling a storm in a teacup. It was a fake storm.

As you'd expect from Twitter, not everyone was unaware of that, but, nonetheless, some of the critics who evidently knew as much still carried on regardless - something I put down to them enjoying their latest two-minute hate far too much to just let it go.

Examining the critical tweets, it's clear that many were criticising the folk of Cosham on Piers-Morganite grounds. They'd seen the screengrab, read the outraged tweets, failed to step back and think, and leapt on the bandwagon brandishing their pitchforks against the lockdown deniers. But a large minority went further and displayed an Emily Thornberry-style snobbery, with some even piling in with violent wishes against people they seem to regard with total contempt.

I know next to nothing about the suburbs of Portsmouth, so I looked. Cosham is a Conservative/UKIP/Brexit-Party-voting suburb of the city. I suspect many of the nastier elements commenting on Twitter didn't even check, just assumed from the flags, and the patriotic songs, and the working class voices that these were lockdown-breaking, knuckle-dragging, Brexit-supporting creatures. Hence the added ferocity of their pile-on.

But, as couldn't be clearer these days, Twitter isn't the UK, and I suspect that the vast majority of those watching the actual BBC bulletin, and seeing the footage, and hearing the words, and taking in the point from the BBC newsreader and the BBC reporter that everyone on the street was observing social distancing guidelines, will have taken the people featured in it for what they actually are - people who like their country and their neighbours - and liked them too.

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