Move over, John Pilger, let us IT scandal-mongerers stick it to you
Had enough, you fascist, or shall I tweet you some more?
Dabbsy's Guide to Avoiding Digital Scandals
What’s annoying about this slavish line is that it’s easy to prove. Think of some of the great scandals of the modern era, from Abu Ghraib to the revelations of Bradley Manning, or even bland celebrity claptrap such as Tiger Woods’ inability to keep his nine iron sheathed: they were all triggered by wild claims by private individuals artlessly throwing stuff online that was, initially at least, ignored or deliberately avoided by professional reporters working for traditional news media.
SCANDALOUS: This sort of thing makes the mainstream media all the time
The problem is that it’s also very easy to disprove if anyone is prepared to put in the research. For every veritable scandal exposed there are thousands of examples of aimless flaming, vicious trolling and violent harassment by the dangerously insane and the criminally uninhibited. Practically all digital-first political scandals, especially those in the US, are perpetrated by friendless right-wing losers with an agenda to destroy the careers of left-wing politicians by the back-door method of publicising details of their sleazebag sex lives.
Yet The Unleashed Scandal doesn’t see it that way. Giggling teenagers sharing a non-consensual sex video of their classmates are presented as almost heroic figures in this fantasy digital age. At the same time, the authors casually dismiss red-top and scandal-sheet journalists as “gutter press” without any explanation of their arbitrary value system or even an admission of their overt bias.
Ignore all this specious publicity-friendly nonsense, and you ought to get a book that at the very least simply confirms that the speed of social media and the lightweight nature of digital information (Bradley Manning smuggled most of his gear to Wikileaks on a handful of CDs clumsily labelled ‘Lady Gaga’) has revolutionised not just news-gathering but news publishing too.
But I worry that the authors themselves fail not only to understand how traditional journalism works but also how social media operates and self-propagates. Over-exposed, self-aggrandising tossers such as Matt Drudge are given star status within the first chapters of the book, while we have to turn to page 166 before we read the first mention of the concept of a ‘meme’.
Despite all this, The Unleashed Scandal provides an excellent guide to surviving a digitally exposed scandal. So if you are a sporting millionaire with a lingerie model wife but still choose to sext and subsequently pork every woman you meet on the street, take heed of the following 10-point checklist:
1. At the first hint of public scandal, don’t get involved. Don’t be interviewed. Don’t be door-stopped. Don’t admit anything. Don’t deny anything. Just shut the fuck up.
2. Quietly delete as much online evidence as you can without leaving a trail that you were ever there. Don’t send texts to women asking them to delete texts that you sent to women.
3. Leave the scandal to boil. Eventually people will start feeling sorry for you and even the scandal’s participants will begin filling the silence by apologising for making it public in the first place.
4. Suddenly publish a statement of intense regret and unconditional apology.
5. Do not, under any circumstances, hold a press conference. But if you must, make sure Andrew Breitbart is dead before he gets within five feet of a microphone.
6. Take a year off work. Vanish abroad. Refrain from shagging everything that moves. Learn how to look contrite.
7. Return. Look contrite.
8. Allow the media to remark how contrite you look.
9. Your sponsors return.
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. During a recent interview with the sales boss of a cloud-based disaster recovery business, he was asked to describe The Register. Without thinking, he replied: “It’s a scandal-sheet.” Given more time to consider an answer, he would have said: “It’s a scandal-sheet.”