Friday, 6 January 2012

Tweet and Rule

Twitter: I'm not a regular tweeter and nor do I avidly follow the tweets of the rich and supposedly famous-and-interesting. I sometimes tweet stories of interest and I occasionally get a notice that someone would like to follow my tweets. This usually prompts me to go back and see who might be interested, and though I can claim to be on Twitter so as not to sound disconnected, this is about as active as I am :). Perhaps at some point I may join up more of my various on-line activities though my current logic is that I don't want my entire life lived on-line. There have to be some elements to life that can be lived non-digitally. 

... And so perhaps there are moments like now when people like Diane Abbot may wish that too. I guess an MP's life is lived pretty much in the public domain and their choices and their words occupy a public space that makes what they say common property. The furore over Ms Abbot's tweet today, may be over blown and way out of proportion given the more important story of Stephen Lawrence but somehow it is now a big enough news story to have led to a formal apology. So what exactly did Diane Abbot tweet and what has led to this row? Well, apparently, the words ''White people love playing 'divide & rule'" have not gone down well by some media watchers and her fellow Labour politicians. Ms Abbot's party leader, the rather nondescript gentleman Ed Miliband, is reportedly outraged and has issued her a warning.

Perhaps in PC Britain, it is difficult to make a statement like she did and get away with it, but if she is speaking from a from a European colonial historical perspective, is she wrong to say this? And is she being vilified for the guilt that others feel? When it is clear that for too long the police response and the subsequent investigation into Stephen Lawrence's death has been mired with accusations of institutional racism, symptoms of confusion and embarrassment are likely to hang heavily in the public mood. Did Diane Abbot overlook the sensitivities of this or is there a ring of historical truth to her words? Did the timing of her tweet and the guilt and incompetence around the Stephen Lawrence case come together to hit a genuinely public raw nerve? 

Read more about Stephen Lawrence.

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