Friday 15 February 2013

Fair Weather Friends

Last night I was idly composing a blog post about Twitter in my head and glanced at Oscar Pistorius' Twitter feed. It's usually entertaining apart from the times when I want teach him how to work the flash on his phone. He had about 450,000 followers. Today after being charged with the alleged murder of Reeva Steenkamp he had about 250,000.

What happened to those 200,000? Did they unfollow him because they think he's guilty? Because they think his career is over whatever the outcome and they therefore have no use for him? Or maybe a few are just depressed about it.

I'm appalled at the muck-raking journalism going on, and I use the word journalism loosely. Many assume he's guilty and that's something I always find offensive. Everyone is entitled to a fair trial no matter what they're accused of. No-one was there at the time so how come all these commentators think they know what happened?

People who didn't know Oscar before somehow think they know him now and engage in character assassination. I must admit that when I read about a house full of weapons and late night sessions at a shooting range - at the time they were originally written - I thought "You need to let your PR company handle your Twitter account, Sonny, and watch what you say to journalists." It didn't make me think he was a potential murderer, it just made me think South Africa must be a dreadful place to live and it wasn't a good idea for an athlete representing his country to give that impression, albeit inadvertently.

The Channel 4 TV report was hopeless. They couldn't even pronounce Reeva's last name properly. How hard is it to call a local news agency and check that? They talked about Oscar in the past tense the whole time which I found rather surreal. Danny Crates had some wise words, just as he did during the Paralympics. He looked sad and said (I'm paraphrasing as I can't stand watching the report again). "There are no winners here. A young lady is dead and if he murdered her his life is over. If he didn't his life is still over and a young lady is dead." Both families are going through a terrible time and they're in my prayers.

The number of Twitter followers will go down and down but friends remain and will support Oscar. He is innocent until proved guilty. In the meantime it's time to give the "hang 'em high" idiots on the internet a wide berth.

Added 17 February

I was beginning to think there were no libel laws in South Africa, there is so much ridiculous junk going around. But of course there are, and a whole lot of people will - I hope - get sued. It's explained well here.