So I just ignored the whole incident and pretended to myself that I had been misunderstood, misunderstood, you might even say; that it was obvious to the meanest intelligence that I had never meant to suggest that Poland was complicit in the Holocaust and therefore it would make so sense for me to apologise — it would only perpetuate the culture of offence and apology that is so tedious a feature of our world. Really I was so guilty and angry with myself that I directed the anger outwards, as people will. I am sorry in all directions, and all the more sorry because it is no one’s fault but my own, which always makes it so much worse.
And sorry because I didn’t have the wit, style, grace or guts to apologise at the first opportunity.
I didn’t even really at the time notice the import of what I had said, so gave myself no opportunity instantly to retract the statement. But some mad pixie of pride in my head had got me rather riled by this time.
It was a rubbishy, cheap and offensive remark that I have been regretting ever since. Once the interview had been transmitted I started to receive the odd invitation to talk on Polish radio, explain myself to Polish journalists and make apologies to the Polish people in general. It wasn’t helped by the fact that some of the letters I received were of such a bombastic and dictatorial nature that any spark of apology was extinguished before it was born. It detracted from and devalued my argument, such as it was, and it outraged and offended a large group of people for no very good reason.
Its malice, stupidity, incoherent illogicality and crass insensitivity have been superbly anatomised by many others and besides, too much time has passed, a whole 24 hours at the time of writing and for the online world, which is still a child, a year is a decade and a day a whole month.
If I were to express sympathy for Jan Moir here some of you might think I had gone soft in the head. There are those, there will always be those, who believe that she knew exactly what she was doing and that she is relishing her notoriety, that the sight of her name topping the Twitter trend lists will give her nothing but frissons of pleasure. Yes, I expect that she will, in time, revisit her disaster.
What both cases point to, some would argue, is a shift in the very focus of democracy. The fact that I have been on it for a whole year (ie a decade, see second paragraph above) and have in that time accumulated a fairly large number of followers allows them lazily to go straight to my “Twitter feed” (as they insist on calling it) and either crediting me with being a kind of a Citizen Smith of the Twitting Popular Front, or blaming me for hypocritically claiming to strike blows for press freedom with one hand while trying to censor journalism with the other. I don’t know what business I have wielding influence either.
In the good old days there were Three Estates that held dominion over us. This whole thing has just grown up around me and now I cannot help wondering if, despite my preference for turd-sucking over politics, I have found myself in a new Fifth Estate political assembly, willy-nilly hailed as some sort of tribune by friendly people on one side and being yelled at by unfriendly people on the other. Twitter and Me It all seems rather unfair, he wailed piteously.
Maybe the two twitterstorms of last week point to a new kind of democracy.
L’Affaire Moir followed hard on the heels of a quite horrific attempt to muzzle the press by the lawyers Carter-Ruck.