For Fox Sake…

Well, my Boxing Day was relatively quiet – just how I like it. Though not everybody could say the same.

Prominent Remain lawyer Jo Maugham QC was out in his back garden, too-small-satin-kimono-clad, duly dispatching a wild fox that had strayed into his chicken complex (no pun intended).

As per the current penchant for microblogging, with adrenaline still possibly pumping through his learned veins, he rattled the keyboard in earnest in order to update the Twatterati:

Now, you can imagine the furore that followed. Though in truth, it’s more of a stretch to imagine how a top silk like Mr Maugham couldn’t have imagined it himself before hitting <Send>? And then to have published his confession to his 178k followers? It’s somewhat full-on.

Now, I’m not particularly interested in getting into a debate on the rights and wrongs of what this snippet of fox news conveyed. The positions will be as wide-ranging as from ‘murder most foul’ to ‘who gives a toss? ‘, with most not even bothering to consider the context or wider picture. Take it from me, far more extreme brutality unfolds on a daily basis on farms up and down the country. Even with foxhunting, which continues unabated, despite being banned.

What piques my interest is what happened after the fox got popped.

You can’t help feeling that in banging out his tweeticle, m’learned friend neglected to follow a cardinal rule of legal advice – always to say nothing until your lawyer rocks up.

And that’s just to good cop and bad cop within the confines of the interview box-room.

Perhaps he thought that he might adequately have his own legal back. In which case, one might feel that in 17 brief words, he gained himself a fool as a client.

But back to the batty incident itself.

It was of course always a possibility that having been observed exiting the premises, cylindrical implement in hand and proceeding in a south-westerly direction, wearing only a skimpy kimono and a cheeky smile, an admission to totalling a fox might simply have been a distraction tactic.

I mean, the too-small satin kimono and a baseball bat. It does rather sound like the expected attire for the sort of party that a top lawyer might attend prior to a spot of clubbing.

It could even have been a wind-up, though his subsequent tweets suggested otherwise.

Anyway, fast forward about 30 minutes, and a reputation painstakingly built up over two decades was melting down faster than a Fredo bar between a stripper’s cheeks.

Hey presto, one of the dangers of content marketing. Build a substantial following, and your faux pas will crash-land as awkwardly as your good stuff touches down with aplomb.

Of course, great content is different, edgy and controversial. It has to be, in order to stand out from the deluge of bilge that the majority of companies pour forth with gay abandon.

Forget all the bland crap that they enter into industry awards for their glass plaques. That stuff isn’t consumed by anyone. The great work is always risky, and it needs to be in order to hit home. Or hit a home run, whatever the context might be.

But if the message bombs, it bombs big.

So, this tweet was always going to boom boom, shake the room. Not only were the absolutist animal liberation loons going to be demanding their pound of tofu, but all the Remain-hating gammons with chips on their shoulders were going to launch themselves into the melee like the cat being set among the pigeons. Or any other predator happening upon their prey in a confined space, if you get my drift.

So, after a quick round of kimonotherapy, and they were all tearing their hair out. You see, today’s politics are not about destroying the arguments, but the people who espouse them. Playing the man, not the ball is the order of the day.

And once the whole thing catches fire on social media, there’s no shortage of oxygen. Views that are unsupported by logic or context touch every global curve in minutes, all with a view to achieving whatever agenda the loud-hailer-holders happen to hold and hail.

Every gunslinger in town is tweeting from the hip, and bad news will be spreading through subsequent follower-lists at an exponential rate that will make your swede spin.

Of course, in exactly the same way that you hope your great stuff goes viral.

Sadly, the bad stuff always gets more traction because outrage motivates us more than happiness. It’s a fact of the human condition. Satisfaction brings a warm feeling that we enjoy for ourselves. If we’re pissed off, we’ll enthusiastically share it with all and sundry – and frequently while fuelled by emotion. That has consequences in terms of content and delivery of the message. And not welcome ones.

So, while businesses employ experts to help to manage reputations on social media, you can’t stop the wildfires once they are ablaze. Your only hope is to take cover and hope that the oxygen runs out.

So, when it does go tits-up, it’s best not to follow up with any explanatory messages. Nobody will be listening, and the chances are that you’ll be offering up further inadvertent pegs on which your adversaries will seek to hang their 10-gallon hats.

Leave it at the one bomb and take some consolation that while you are unfollowed by some, you may actually gain some audience from other quarters.

I mean, even Rumpole gained a few thousand likes for the missive in question. Every cloud…

So, the lessons to be learned are twofold. Dabbling in social media is like playing with fire. And as we know, fire is a great servant and a bad master.

And take great care with what you ping out there. Remember that your very best tweets and emails are often the ones you never send.

unsplash-logoZdeněk Macháček

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