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Moral Maze on Twitter and mob rule

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Steve Bowbrick Steve Bowbrick 09:33, Wednesday, 4 November 2009

flash mob

This evening starting at 2000, the disputatious crew of the good ship Moral Maze will be debating 'Twitter and mob rule'. Guests are regulars Melanie Philips and Clifford Longley plus Kenan Malik and James Panton. The programme's billing says:

This week the Moral Maze asks "when does a popular and spontaneous protest become mob rule?" Fans of Twitter, the micro blogging site, have chalked up a couple of notable victories of late. Followers helped to expose a legal injunction against the Guardian and Twitter led protests generated tens of thousands of complaints against Jan Moir when she wrote a column using the death of Stephen Gately to criticise gay marriage. Is this net based protest a valuable tool to demonstrate popular opinion or are we sacrificing traditional political engagement for the instant gratification direct action?

Since I expect the Twittersphere will be humming loudly during the programme (it's already started), let's keep track of the conversation using a hashtag.

If you're listening this evening and you feel like Tweeting about the programme or its theme, use the hash tag #moralmaze. That way everyone who's listening will be able to see each other's contributions. Use a search tool like Ice Rocket or Twitter's own. Or use a real-time display gadget like Twitterfall. There's a comprehensive list of Twitter clients and services on Wikipedia. Just follow the hashtag #moralmaze.

I'll be there, listening and tweeting on the @Radio4blog account as will other Radio 4 people. Guests Kenan Malik (a regular presenter of Analysis) and James Panton (an Oxford academic) are on Twitter and they've both mentioned their appearances on tonight's programme already.

Steve Bowbrick is editor of the Radio 4 blog


  • Comment number 1.

    Tweet about this page, with hashtag

    Come on Auntie, it is time to Twitter to the "Bookmark with: " bit!

  • Comment number 2.

    Some time ago whilst listening to the Today programme I realised just how powerful radio could become in the future. The potential for listening to a stream whilst watching images (for instance maps) meant that the listener could be so much more involved in a broadcast than you could with TV. I could see the branches of discovery learning opening up before my eyes as radio became a streamed interactive experience - so much more so than TV which can really only be at best a push medium with the potential for a bit of collaborative activity on the side.

    Now with twitter added (or any other collaborative tool for that matter, ie CoverItLive), the public has a real way of inter-acting with the broadcaster as well as being a discovery learner; becoming part of the broadcast, and a contributor to the learning process.

    Looking forward to tonight. Hope it all goes well. Are you going to mention the Somerton Councillors and the role of Muck&Brass? I have some concerns for the future of Local Democracy in a social media savvy world.

  • Comment number 3.

    I note that on the programme page it says that:

    Nick Cohen, author and Observer kournalist

    I don't think Nick Cohen is Indian...

  • Comment number 4.

    Once again, the Moral Maze features a RCP/LM double act, this time Kenan Malik and James Panton (of Pro-test fame/infamy). This makes a change from the usual dishonest double act of Malik and Claire "Her Masters Voice" Fox, but is no more welcome. Odds are good that Malik, Panton and Fox will all appear together in a future prog, so the RCP/LM will have 75% of the interrogators.

    The MM producers will know what the RCP/LM is, and who's in it, so they can't be ignorant of the backgrounds of Malik, Fox and Panton. They really should answer publicly the question as to why they allow two people from the same organisation (with the same parrotted party line) on a programme which is supposed to showcase opinions across the political spectrum. If any MMserfs are reading this, then a comment would be welcome. Mercy buckets.

    As a starter for 10 on the RCP/LM, see:


  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    One of your commentators on the Moral Maze stated that twitterers are not "the mob", there being onlly 5 million of them. They may not be the mob, the vulgar crowd of this commentator's imagining, but they can certainly be a mob and behave like any mob, vulgar or elite.

  • Comment number 7.

    tried so hard to tweet that i never listened to the programme as carefull as i normally do but got most of it in one ear at least .
    The point about the relevance of tweeting and it engaging those that may not normally get involved is true because we are all living (in on way or another)by the herd mentality and it has good sides to it as well as bad,but this tweet used as an example ie' Fry's was more to do with being Homosexual than anything else ,and i would have used another example to discuss the point .
    A old clche anything that gets the word out to the masses (as long as it is a fact)can't be that' morally bad.

  • Comment number 8.

    The difference between "Mob Rule" and the 3 recent twitterstorms is this: the mob go to lynch the minority, the different, the weak. And the twitterati? A columnist on a national newspaper, an arrogant celebrity who boasted of killing a primate for the giggle, and an oil company for goodness sake.
    Jan Moir is hardly without voice to answer her critics, should she feel she has a rational point to make. The torch-wielding lynch mob are more likely to be reading The Daily Mail.

  • Comment number 9.

    A Twitter Storm is more like flocking behaviour than mob behaviour, which is kinda apt. A flock of tweets.

  • Comment number 10.

    Where do you find these people? For a fact I know that there are plenty at the BBC who get the phenomena and yet you persist in dragging out the media dinosaurs to roar about being the guardians of integrity.

    In fact there was a panel where the BBC was represented earlier this year at the Media140 conference from whom you could have picked someone with a bit more nouse into at the least the basics of how twitter is even used.

  • Comment number 11.

    Another BBC person who knows a bit about it..


    #moralmaze This is an exercise in Not Getting It. It's like listening to High Court judges discussing pop music.

    #moralmaze Am I ACTUALLY hearing MELANIE F---ING PHILLIPS calling someone ELSE judgmental?! *headexplodes*

  • Comment number 12.

    This "mob rule" stuff is going on all over the internet,
    the main thing that makes this supposedly worthy of discussion, is the "old" media's obsession with twitter.

    Just because politics is discussed on twitter, it doesn't make twitter a new political force.

  • Comment number 13.

    As a follow-up to yesterday's comment, on listening to the start of the MM on listen again, the first guest was only Brendan O'Neill of Spiked, which came out of the ashes of the demise of LM magazine. So not only are two panellists in the organisation, their first witness is another member, and a big cheese at that. None of them acknowledge each other, even though Panton has a number of articles published on Spiked Online (search www.spiked-online.com for "Panton") and undoubtedly knows O'Neill.

    Is that acceptable? The RCP makes good controversial radio but surely the MM producers should be concerned about what constitutes semi-hegemony of the organisation over the programme. Perhaps you should just rename it The RCP Show and have done with it.

  • Comment number 14.

    Would it not be possible, in order to refresh a worn format, to replace Melanie Phillips with Mr Nick Griffin? They share a similar universe and Mr Griffin is often articulate.

  • Comment number 15.

    Well, the Radio POV boards have gone, so there appears nowhere else to post a message about the ending of Leading Edge next week. Geoff Watts said at the end of last night's edition that next week's will be the last ever Leading Edge - no explanation and no mention of it on the Leading edge web pages. What's going on?


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