Usually we would never dream of entering into the murky world of politics. The media is unpredictable enough, without getting bogged down in the administrative corridors of Britain. But then along comes a story that impacts on everything from democratic voting to social media policy.
Like every other PR agency in Manchester, or indeed most of the world, yesterday we learnt of Margaret Thatcher’s death. The UK’s only ever female Prime Minister, and the longest serving of the 20th Century certainly knew how to leave a legacy behind, albeit one that divides the nation. Having once famously said “The lady’s not for turning”, few politicians have been so cut and dry when it comes to stating their opinions (see also “No, no, no”), but understanding the relationship between her and the people she helped govern isn’t so simple.
To some she’s a hero responsible for modernising Britain, and dragging what could have been a decaying economic corpse into the new business age. From another perspective, she played an integral role in policy making directly linked to the collapse and virtual de-commissioning of numerous industries. The creator of lost generations, who cared more for competitive free markets than individualism and social mobility. Whichever perspective you agree with, we’re still living with the impact of her 11-year spell in Number 10.
Unsurprisingly then her death was greeted with mixed feelings. Anyone who heard Radio 4’s World At One yesterday will be only too aware of the outpouring of emotion, messages of condolence, and respectful odes (even from some Labour representatives) that formed the show’s special edition. Meanwhile, if you paid attention to The Telegraph’s online comments and Twitter feed the anger and macabre jubilation many people felt was only too pronounced, and then there were near-riots in Bristol and London.
All of which brings us to the real question, so far as our media minds go. After abusive messages began to clog up the newspaper’s online communities- with members of the public targeting this specific publication because of its ties to the Tories (former Conservative cabinet minister Bill Deedes was Editor for seven years whilst Lady Thatcher was in power)- a decision was made to shut the system down, as it were, and block further unsolicited obscenities and negative proclamations from being made on all stories surrounding the former-PM’s passing. In an age wherein freedom of speech and social media publishing are hot topics, this brings about several important quandaries.
Firstly- was it right to close down comments in the first place? Needless to say, supporters of rival titles with alternative stances (mentioning no names) have already used this as a weapon with which to attack the Daily T on grounds of biased censorship. In the most extreme way of looking at things this rings true- just because some people abuse the soapbox doesn’t mean it should be removed altogether. But then, technically speaking, malice can land publishers in very hot water indeed, so profane diatribes with little-to-no real argument don’t have a place in a national title- whether that’s written by a journalist or ‘reader’. As such, whether the lines of communication were cut to save face- or due to genuine concerns surrounding what was being said, standards, ethics and etiquette- surely the latter provides a reasonable rationale for what happened? A moral maze, kind of, any thoughts on the matter would be more than welcomed…
Image credit: @suttonnick