Friday, 6 January 2012

More twitter ye not - the #blackbusters affair

Well, twitter has exploded today thanks to Labour leader Ed Milliband's extraordinary slip up. It began when Diane Abbot, Labour MP, was having a Twitter conversation in which she tweeted, amongst other things:
White people love playing 'divide & rule' We should not play their game #tacticasoldascolonialism
Predictably, her words were used against her but, as 33Revolutions blogs, accusing her of racism for them doesn't convince in our Universe. The Labour leadership however was keen to get her to apologise; here's Diane in mid-interview about the tweet, taking (so it is said) the phone call from her leader:

So far, so boring. Then Bob Holness, a broadcaster well known in the UK for hosting 80's game show Blockbusters, died, and Milliband tweets:
Sad to hear that Bob Holness has died. A generation will remember him fondly from Blackbusters
Oh dear. Some feel this may have been a deliberate ploy to take the heat off Abbot. Most people view it as a typo, probably by someone who tweets (or used to) on Milliband's behalf. But coming as it does after the Abbot incident, it's a fascinating slip. The Telegraph argues "the slip-up suggests yesterday's 'race row', in which Miliband was compelled to rebuke Diane Abbott, is still weighing on the Labour leader's mind" - or the mind of his tweet-monkey. A reasonable argument given how difficult it is to mistake a for o on the keyboard, even on a phone. Let's try and unpick it a little more. It seems obvious to suggest a relationship with the Abbot controversy, and if that connection holds it does suggest unconscious racism on Milliband's part, having only 24 hours earlier himself 'busted' a well known 'black'. Another factor of interest is that Holness was a white South African, born there, raised in the UK, but returning there to begin his broadcasting career right at the beginning of the apartheid era. Did that obscure fact play into the slip too? #Blackbusters is now a trending topic on twitter, as well as people complaining of a storm in a tea cup. It will be interesting to see how much this damages Milliband in the long term, compared with say Gordon Brown's incident in which he was recorded describing a member of the public as a 'bigoted woman'. Will this embarrassment stick to Milliband, despite the voices of reason and calm? Can he live it down? An interesting test case for public slips.

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