Jan Moir: how the Twitter backlash started


When Jan Moir wrote an allegedly homophobic article in today’s Daily Mail, she little expected that – within nine or ten hours – her name would become the number one trending topic on the Twitter social network; that the Mail would change the title on her online article; that firms including Marks and Spencer would demand to have their adverts removed from the same web page; and that she would have to make a statement and apology for what had happened.

Oh, and I bet she didn’t guess that she’d have to open a Twitter account in an ill-advised attempt to clear her name.

Moir’s article was about the death of Boyzone star, Stephen Gately. The musician was gay, and Moir’s article claimed that, rather than dying of natural causes, there was ‘nothing natural’ about Gately’s death. The section of her article that caused particular offence was this:

The sugar coating on this fatality is so saccharine-thick that it obscures whatever bitter truth lies beneath. Healthy and fit 33-year-old men do not just climb into their pyjamas and go to sleep on the sofa, never to wake up again.

Whatever the cause of death is, it is not, by any yardstick, a natural one. Let us be absolutely clear about this. All that has been established so far is that Stephen Gately was not murdered.
And I think if we are going to be honest, we would have to admit that the circumstances surrounding his death are more than a little sleazy.

The first I knew of the article was this morning, when I checked my Twitter feed. I saw that the publisher Scott Pack had posted:

“Vile piece of ‘journalism’ about Stephen Gately by some evil cow called Jan Moir (via @Petronella)”

I read it, and I agreed. My reply was simply:

“@meandmybigmouth Yes, that’s a disgraceful article.”

And I would probably have thought no more of it, bar popping out to buy a copy of the Daily Mail to light my fire with, had Scott not then tweeted:

“RT @meandmybigmouth: Can we get #janmoir trending? Her vile piece will make you want to RT her f*cking arse off.

I retweeted it, and so did quite a number of Scott’s followers. And within a couple of hours, both ‘Jan Moir’ and #janmoir were indeed trending topics.

That’s how simple it is to start a Twitter trend – and personally, I think Scott Pack is to be commended for having the idea and putting it into action. Yes, the sight of a Twitter wave of anger can be distasteful, and more than one person has objected to it on the grounds of ‘bullying’ or ‘mass hysteria’. But I disagree, and I think the best summary came from London Assembly Member Andrew Boff:

#janmoir I admit, I orchestrated the campaign, along with a few tens of thousands of other people who have a shred of decency.”

To paraphrase another Twitterer, columnists like Moir no longer have to tell themselves what their readership thinks – their readership now has the power to do it for themselves. In my opinion, that’s got to be good for democracy.

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