Finding the thread

A Twitter feed is a wonderful thing.

Not always, of course. I can’t unequivocally endorse any source that frequently produces a stream of terrible puns, or results (via retweets) in my having to read anything which Guido Fawkes has to say.

Occasionally though, my feed can help me see patterns with beautiful clarity… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Barely a day goes by without quotes from, or commentary on, the Leveson inquiry reaching me via Twitter. The extent to which the entire hacking scandal and subsequent legal process has gripped those I follow is striking; it’s also a reflection of how gripped I am personally by the whole affair, as I have actively followed some of the more knowledgeable individuals in search of their Leveson insights.

What has inspired this ferocious appetite for information? Well, I won’t retread the details of the hacking scandal in depth; suffice to say that one or more powerful press organisations have crossed a moral and legal line with their conduct, perhaps also trying to evade detection and punishment for these transgressions. The people of the UK, by and large, are pretty unhappy about this.

Last week, a new story began to flood my digital awareness, with the revelation that traders acting for Barclays may have lied to manipulate a hitherto obscure interest rate known as LIBOR; the net effect of this deception may have been a negative impact on the borrowing costs of vast swathes of the UK population, perhaps stretching to other financial markets. The response from Barclays has been relatively tepid: apologies have been issued and the non-executive Chairman has stepped down, leaving the actual decision makers who presided over this shady and damaging activity untouched.

The feelings of financial commentators – and as they wake up to the implications, the wider populace – are significantly less tepid.  The discovery of this incident is seen as a loud, clear indicator that the banking culture in the UK, far from having learned its lessons in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, is still operating under a prevailing, dark amorality. Anger is building amongst a people who have already begun to feel the pain of cuts; they see the organisations they blame for their tightening belts acting as if nothing has changed, continuing to wheel, deal and excessively consume with the support of their tax contributions.

News is emerging that RBS has sacked ten traders in connection with similar practices. As the scope of the scandal widens, a clamour is building for a ‘banking Leveson’ to be established. It’s a demand I believe the Prime Minister, lurching as he does from PR flashpoint to PR flashpoint , will find hard to ignore.

Both of these issues are relatively far-reaching in their connection with the public. Before I come finally to the point, I’d like to illustrate one with a more parochial appeal.

For those familiar with Scottish Football, it will be unsurprising for you to learn that I am interested in the demise of Rangers Football club. If you know nothing about Scotland, Football or the two in tandem, allow me to offer a short synopsis:

  • Rangers FC, one of the two largest clubs in Scotland and the most successful in the history of the Scottish league, has suffered financial meltdown and has been liquidated.
  • The problems at Rangers stem from irresponsible, even reckless management of the club over a number of years, including the operation of an illegal tax evasion scheme for employees which was concealed from the footballing authorities in breach of league rules.
  • In the aftermath of Rangers’ demise, various parties are engaged in a squabble over its assets, emotional legacy and the right to form a ‘successor’ club.

As the plight of this enormous – and potentially highly profitable – club became clear, various figures within the game began to devise plans to somehow keep Rangers FC (or whatever ‘Son of Rangers’ club emerged) in the Scottish Premier League (SPL). When these plans became known, a supporter revolt arose which seriously threatened revenue for all the SPL clubs who would be involved in voting on them. The message from supporters was clear: don’t let cheats off without punishment, or you undermine the whole point of sporting endeavour.

The result of this groundswell of opinion is that, before the vote has even taken place, numerous SPL chairman have publicly committed to refuse the ‘Son of Rangers’ entry into their league. While other desperate attempts are made by the game’s governing powers to give the club a leg up, to prevent them being forced to restart in the lowest professional division, fan opinion remains clear and I expect that fan power will win out, relegating Rangers to Scottish Division 3 before the start of the next season in August.

And so to the point. What is it that Twitter has helped me to understand with respect to these three unsavoury tales?

In each of these cases, powerful and wealthy establishment figures have taken liberties with the rest of society – and subsequently attempted to evade, ignore or cajole their way out of punishment. The reaction of society itself has been incredibly consistent: a wholesale rejection of the behaviour of these toxic organisations and a demand that they be held to account.

It was not so long ago that we in the UK were looking on, in paternalistic fashion, at the struggles of ordinary Egyptians in Tahrir Square and their comrades in the Arab Spring. How terrible it must be, we thought, to live in a country where democracy is a facade and powerful, corrupt interests simply steamroll the average citizen.

Now, with such corruption revealing itself in numerous areas of our public life, we’ve had a taste of that medicine… and if social media is anything to go by, we really, truly don’t like it. The collective feeling that we would like to do something about it continues to grow.

Look upon my Twitter feed, ye mighty and despair…

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