Louise Mensch: Here comes the Twitter lynch mob brandishing pitchforks

Here comes the Twitter lynch mob brandishing pitchforks



22:22 GMT, 3 May 2012

This week it is Louise Mensch’s turn to feel the scorch of internet hatred. The 40-year-old MP for Corby has been the target of Twitter bullies who have bombarded her with abuse.

Her crime Mensch was besieged by the keypad mob after defending Rupert Murdoch on television.

She did what Cue the creak of tumbrils in the streets. See the blazing pitchforks smash into her front lawn.

Bombarded: Conservative MP Louise Mensch was targeted by Twitter bullies who sent her violent and sexual abuse

Bombarded: Conservative MP Louise Mensch was targeted by Twitter bullies who sent her violent and sexual abuse

Although she sat on the culture committee which delivered its report into phone hacking, Mrs Mensch’s sin was to point out that the phone-hacking report’s incendiary ‘not fit and proper’ line had not been discussed between members before release. It was not within the committee’s remit, she pointed out reasonably, to decide whether or not Murdoch was an appropriate person to run a media empire.

Her stance made it clear that the ‘not fit’ line had been shoe-horned into proceedings by committee hardliners such as Tom Watson MP; a man who won’t rest until Rupert Murdoch’s head is on a spike.

Mensch’s fluent intervention diluted the impact of the report and denied the Murdoch-haters the outright victory they craved. For this, she had to be punished. In the thoroughly modern manner. And we all know what that means.

Whoop whoop! Clamp the emergency blue light of bile onto the computer screen. Man the keyboard! Death threats a-go-go.

Let’s see who can be first to type vile-vile-vile a hundred times. Threaten to harm her family in a beautiful and personally crafted message Good one. That should fix the bitch. Fix her good and proper for daring to hold views that do not chime with mine.

The insults directed at Mrs Mensch on Twitter are mostly too explicit to be repeated here, but included references to her appearance and her sexuality. Many of them also threatened criminal violence.

She posted some examples of abuse online so everyone could peer down into the well of slime that passes for comment in the darker corners of the online community.

I certainly recognised the tone and content from my own online skirmishes, as would any woman who has found herself in a similar position.

Under fire: Mrs Mensch had defended media mogul Rupert Murdoch on TV

Under fire: Mrs Mensch had defended media mogul Rupert Murdoch on TV

For, be you a glamorous female MP or an old bag like me, any public utterance or presumption that displeases the pitchforkers will be greeted with a crude declaration, first and foremost, of whether or not they find you sexually attractive.

Once they’ve got that off their troglodyte chest, they move onto the really sophisticated stuff. The stuff that really matters. Which is the fact that you are on the Right of the political spectrum rather than the Left. For them, this is even worse than being a woman. For this, you will be punished even more.

Mensch was called a ‘Tory whore’, a ‘demented Tory bitch’ and worse. Someone posted: ‘Louise Mensch is attractive but makes me want to hit her with a hammer. In the face.’

That neatly encapsulates the blend of misogyny and political tribalism that is so depressingly prevalent today.

There can be no doubt that uninhibited by online anonymity, people are becoming ruder and cruder.

More than this, encouraged by the showy invective of others, they are stimulated into publicly saying what they once thought only privately — and even then, barely dared admit even to themselves.

Bringing attention to the abuse on Twitter by collecting some of the worst tweets under a Feminism tagline, Mensch wrote: ‘Women too often shamed into silence. Sod it.’

I can’t agree with her that anyone is ‘shamed’ into silence. The people who post invective are the ones who should be ashamed, not the recipients.

Surely sometimes it is best just to ignore it, to treat it with the laughable contempt it deserves

After all, it’s the kind of rubbish that was once etched onto lavatory walls, next to a penis painted with a spray-can and a swastika or two.

Neither can I agree that this is some great feminist crusade. Unfortunately for everyone, online forums are also depositories of racist, sexist and homophobic abuse. We need to fight against all of it, and not make a special case just for women.

Still, I take her point.

Of course, the amazing thing is that Louise Mensch is on Twitter in the first place — surely she is everything social media platforms purport to loathe

She is a Conservative, she is a woman, she is a chick-lit author, she is rich and she is — let’s face it — just a little bit annoying. She most definitely is not Left-wing and progressive in a way that the progressive Left-wing who dominate Twitter approve of.

Obsessive Tom Watson (left) demonstrating alongside fellow Labour MP Chris Bryant

Obsessive Tom Watson (left) demonstrating alongside fellow Labour MP Chris Bryant

Mensch was touched by the cross-party support she received — even Harriet Harman sent a nice tweet; things must have been bad — but really, I thought the backing was muted and even grudging in places.

Still, that’s what you get for being a chick who dared to thwart the Murdoch hardliners. That’s what you get for proving that sometimes it is not what is said but who says it that is deemed more important.

And also that under a thin crust of civilisation and the illusion of proper debate, seething, clannish hatreds roar and fester unchecked.

Perhaps I am being tribal myself by suggesting that if anyone is worthy of ridicule in this whole sorry affair it is surely obsessive Tom Watson, not Louise Mensch.

Yet no one is threatening to hit Tom with a hammer or make love to him (cough, cough, polite euphemism) until he can’t walk. It hardly seems fair.

Leave Kate alone, she's still a Wuthering wonder

Kate Bush has hidden away from the public for almost 15 years. No wonder. The second the 53-year-old slipped briefly into the spotlight this week, out popped the cloven hooves. Bush was in London to receive a South Bank Award for her album 50 Words For Snow — beating rivals Adele and P.J. Harvey to the gong.

Still wonderful: Kate makes a rare public appearance to collect a South Bank Arts award for her album 50 Words For Snow

Still wonderful: Kate makes a rare public appearance to collect a South Bank Arts award for her album 50 Words For Snow

Yet despite her talent and endless genius, critics were quick to suggest she was some kind of mad old lady recluse who breakfasted on babies and flew to the shops in a monogrammed helicopter.

It was also slyly remarked upon that — shriek — Kate was no longer the size 8 teenage ingnue who belted out hits such as Wuthering Heights and Babushka at the height of her fame. So what Give her a break. Bush never enjoyed being a star and retired from public life after the birth of her son — an event which made her life complete. Indeed, in an interview, she said being a mother was ‘the best thing I’ve ever done’.

Bush’s precocious talent was spotted in her early teens. She was hot-housed and nurtured until the release of Wuthering Heights in 1978, which catapulted her to stardom.

Since then, she seems to have organised her life with amazing astuteness. She is one of the few solo teenage stars from that era to have survived and thrived. A blast of talent, a family, an enjoyable semi-retirement

Well done that girl. Today, she is still writing those whirling, ethereal songs, still capturing imaginations. Her last single was about having sex with a snowman. No jokes about icicles, please, but still. What a legend.

Where Auntie hides her gems

I don’t quite know what I would do without BBC4. The brilliance just keeps on comin’, no week is complete without their peerless output. Recent highlights have included a gripping documentary about the rock group Queen, which detailed their triumphs, their lows and the collaborative nature of their work.

We also saw not just how brave Freddie Mercury was at the end of his life — but how much the rest of the band loved him, too.

Last week there was a spellbinding collection of live television performances from Frank Sinatra over the decades. After this display of artless genius, the screechers on BBC1’s The Voice felt more threadbare and forced than usual. And, of course, BBC4 has been host to all my favourite Scanda-dramas, from Wallander to The Killing.

However, I’m still not convinced by The Bridge, their latest Danish-Swedish crime thriller, currently showing on Saturday nights. Yes, it’s creepy and multi-layered — but sensitive viewers may never recover from the traumatic sight of bloodcurdling actor Magnus Krepper rubbing some sort of moisturiser cream into his thighs. What was all that about

And why does he look so uncannily like hairdresser Nicky Clarke It’s hard to know who is the most nightmarish, but none of it is good.

Perfect dish for the day

Never mind all that depressing, badly designed Olympic tat that none of us is going to buy anyway. Instead, feast your peepers on some of the charming souvenir memorabilia being produced, issued and minted for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

The official royal gift shops have a surprisingly tasteful range — but independent manufacturers are doing their bit, too. Kirstie Allsopp loves this sweet plate (15) from Burleigh, a family pottery established in Stoke in 1851 with a tremendous range of covetable British crockery.

She’s right — it’s perfect. And not just because it was made in Britain by British craftsmen from British clay dug up in Cornwall and Devon.

How many Olympic trinkets and teacups can boast the same patriotic credentials

Naomi always sets an example, unfortunately

Oh dear. If anything was destined to end in big, salty tears, it is the prospect of Naomi Campbell making her TV debut in a new U.S. modelling show called The Face.

Ill-starred Naomi Campbell is making her TV debut in a new U.S. modelling show called The Face

Ill-starred Naomi Campbell is making her TV debut in a new U.S. modelling show called The Face

Campbell will be one of three judges helping to find and mentor the new face of a ‘major national brand’.

You may well laugh at the idea of tempestuous Naomi giving advice to anyone, let alone an impressionable colt-legged 14-year-old from Smalltown, America, who is desperate to make it in the big, bad modelling world.

But you can’t deny that the 41-year-old from Streatham in South London has been around. And how!

Throughout her 26-year career, she must have garnered some excellent tips to pass on.

Certainly, Naomi can advise youngsters on exactly what to do when a strange man comes a-knocking on your hotel door in the middle of the night with a bag of diamonds in his hands — just say no. Or you could end up embroiled in a pesky war crimes trial, just like Naomi! So annoying. Especially when you’ve got manicure appointments to keep.

Other lessons could include how to throw a tantrum, how to throw a phone, and how to nearly throw it all away by being a selfish, self-obsessed diva.

Yes, girls. Naomi always sets an example. The problem is, it’s never a very good one.