Monday, 16 January 2012


This week I was on a train to Brighton that braked sharply at Gatwick where we sat waiting for 45 minutes with no announcement. Eventually the driver said: “I’m so sorry about the delay. The reason is someone forced open a carriage door on the wrong side of the train and then ran off. We had to fix the door. We’ve done so now and we’ll leave very shortly. Thanks for your patience.” A guy behind me said “he’s lying”. I asked why he thought that and he replied he’d been on Twitter and “someone” had tweeted that a person had opened the door on the “right side” and run off down the platform. “So there you are. The driver is a liar”. Let me get this straight. The driver (who also wanted to get home) told his story - credentials? A trained, experienced employee into whose hands we’d trusted our lives. But he was worsted by someone we don’t know and can’t see yet whose credibility is he tweets and claims to be an eye-witness. Imagine if Twitter had existed when Kennedy was shot or when Princess Diana’s car crashed. Caroline Flint MP said recently that she “lived on Twitter.” Why would you? What makes Twitter better than real people and real conversation? In a week where Dianne Abbott was incautious and nearly lost her job by tweeting with a “racial bias”….what a palaver that was….and in which Ed Miliband who on Twitter (a bit like a mini-Tesco at present because Ed can’t put a foot right) described the late Bob Holness’ show as “Blackbusters” we need to examine what this medium is doing to us all. Ed says he’s on it to show people the “real Ed”. The trouble is it makes him look a bit boring, trivial and self-obsessed. It would be far better for him to spend the time on his presentational skills instead. We live in a strange world where the use of e-mail is rapidly reducing, where I’ve seen it claimed that “no-one reads anymore” and where Waterstone’s (for whom such an assertion is bad news) changes its name to Waterstones because “in a digital world of URLs and e-mail addresses, a more versatile and practical spelling (is needed)” … viz. no apostrophe.
In fact it’s, anyway, a long hard word which could be better abbreviated to WastoBosto – ie. Waterstone’s Book Stores. I must tweet someone about that and say James Daunt (CEO) is seriously thinking of doing this. After all, everyone would believe me, the tweeter, and not him, the man in charge, and his denials.

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