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Hashtag power

05 January 2018


THE alleged depravities of Harvey Weinstein will no doubt have made it on to most of the year-in-review columns. But it might at least be argued that the campaign #MeToo, on Twitter, has been groundbreaking — if not for the obvious reasons.

In its final edition of the year, Trending (World Service, 22 Decem­ber) took another look at the “move­ment” that swept social media after the Weinstein revelations.

The per­spective was broader than most: we heard from feminist campaigners in Pakistan and China, where issues of female empower­ment are a good deal more pre­carious than in the West; and were reminded that the tag #MeToo has been appropriated from a 2008 campaign by a black social activist, Tarana Burke.

In a hubristic declaration of faith in social media, the presenters Mike Wendling and Anisa Subedar pre­dicted that #MeToo was destined to run and run. But the real story is about the fickle nature of social-media campaigning, and the changing nature of journalism. The campaign #MeToo was the easiest story to write. It required nothing of journalists except a laptop, a WiFi connection, and a Twitter account.

As if to emphasise the futility of it all, Trending invited a professor of psychology to answer the question “Why do men behave badly?” It is in their nature, came the earth-shattering response. And there is no social-media backlash so powerful that it can undo millennia of species evolution.

Having spent my last column of 2017 praising radio drama, it was bound to happen that the next example of the genre which I encoun­tered was going to be a turkey. And The Assassination of Santa (Christ­mas Day, Premier Radio, www.thingsunseen.co.uk) was just that.

The premise — that the Angel Gabriel is on a mission to take out St Nick for monopolising the Christ­mas message — might just have worked; but, when the message has the worthiness of an over-cooked Brussel sprout, you need to work extra hard for the laughs. I was gunning for Santa.

Some of the problem might have been that, by late on Christmas Day, the senses could not cope with any more sugar. It had started ahead of time: Radio 2’s The Sunday Hour (Christmas Eve) featured a song with which this reviewer had until now been blissfully unfamiliar: Whitney Houston’s “Who Would Imagine a King” is not one for those with an insulin imbalance.

It is one of the joys of living in BBC­­ land, however, that the same organisation as is responsible for such a highly calorific sequence of music produces Words and Music (Radio 3, Thursday of last week, repeat), in which Tennyson and Dickens rub shoulders with Hans Werner Henze and Sofia Gubaidu­lina; and can be bothered to include in an otherwise ordinary news show such as 5 Live Breakfast (Radio 5 Live, weekdays) excerpts of letters and diaries by soldiers on the Front in 1917. That these were entirely super­fluous made their appearance that much more surprising and touching.

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