I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Married to the Mob

Married to the Mob

David McKechnie
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, by Jon Ronson, Picador, 288 pp, £14.99, ISBN: 978-0330492287 Brenda Leyland was better known by the alliterative sobriquet “Twitter troll”. If you had watched Sky News on certain days in late 2014 you might even have thought this was her real name: Mrs T Troll. Leyland, sixty-three and from Leicestershire, was strongly of the opinion that the parents of missing English girl Madeleine McCann – Kate and Gerry – had questions to answer over the child’s disappearance in Portugal in 2007. Using the Twitter handle @sweepyface, Leyland had made this opinion known in 424 tweets or retweets that mentioned the McCanns over the course of less than a year – until Sky News came knocking. The Twitter troll was doorstepped outside her home by Sky’s crime correspondent, Martin Brunt. “Well, I’m just about to go out,” she says pleasantly as he introduces himself. Brunt asks her to explain her tweets about the McCanns (Sky did not name Leyland), and says that police are looking into them. Shocked, Leyland defends herself half-heartedly, then says, “That’s fair enough.” She didn’t really think it was fair enough. Two days later, her body was found in a hotel room in Leicester after she took her own life. Last month, at an inquest into Leyland’s death, a statement by her younger son, Ben, was read out in which he described her as a loving mother, a proud and stubborn woman who “could not bear to think she could be disliked by those in her community”. Leyland, whose apparent gentleness in person belied the tough and judgmental tone @sweepyface had used in baiting the McCanns, had been destroyed by her shaming in front of the nation. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t quite end there. As Jon Ronson points out in his absorbing and frightening new book, contemporary shamings are not generally conducted by “them” – Sky News in the Leyland case. They are driven by “us”. The moral compass of traditional media appears quaint when the vigilante democracy of Twitter is unleashed. In the hours after the Twitter troll report was aired on Sky, @sweepyface was subjected to a campaign of death threats and mysogyny many times more extreme than anything she had directed at the McCanns. @sweepyface, we’re coming for you … Do you feel us?? The decent kind folk who pray for this family and their sad loss … You…

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