Early Doors

Anger! Outrage! Condemnation!

Early Doors

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Liverpool fans: unhappy with Patrice Evra (AFP)

The internet is an angry place. An angry, unhappy place.

Perhaps the internet's greatest achievement is in allowing us to communicate with each other. Instantly and for free, in ways we could not have dreamed 20 years ago.

What do we do with this gift? We argue and insult each other.

We reach out to our fellow man - and punch him in the face.

Take Saturday's match between Liverpool and Manchester United, which was overtaken by events off the pitch - both alleged and fictional.

Late in the first half, a screen grab taken from TV footage spread across Twitter like wildfire.

It showed a man apparently making a monkey gesture - certainly worth investigating, but conclusive proof of racism? That would surely be for the police and courts to establish.

But those days are over, and the man in the white cardigan was soon the most hated person in Britain.

The public and pundits were lining up to take shots, usually with something along the lines of 'Every #LFC fan must condemn this moron.'

In other words: it is not enough for me to judge this man. Everyone else has to do it as well.

And, by implication, if they don't I'm going to assume they're racist as well.

Never mind that this guy was just one potential pinhead out of 45,000 - every single Liverpool supporter must now clear their name by disowning him.

Then came another story.

Three Manchester United fans had been arrested for spitting on the Hillsborough Memorial.

A fresh wave of outrage, and this time it was Manchester United fans being told to condemn this despicable act of barbarism.

And despicable it would have been, if it had actually happened.

In the old days, a rumour - without evidence - of arrests would have warranted a call to the boys in blue to establish some facts.

No time in the Twitter age - by the time I get through my window for splenetic opinion will have passed. I'll just preface my ill-informed views with 'If this is true' and let rip anyway.

The Daily Mirror's chief football writer Martin Lipton's timeline was particularly good value, as he bounced from one form of fury to another.

He was far from alone in his rush to denounce, but he was a stand-out performer.

Here's one double whammy:

"If reports of spitting on Hillsborough Memorial are correct, I hope every #mufc fan will condemn. 1/2"

"2/2 Likewise, if #lfc fan was caught on camera making monkey gestures, want to hear condemnation from #lfc"

Here was a man desperate to be outraged by something, if only he could work out what it was:

"As said earlier, condemnation required if reports are true. If not, those responsible for making false accusations should be condemned too"

Eventually somebody did call Merseyside Police, who confirmed there had been no arrests for spitting on the Memorial.

Cue yet more anger. How could anybody have made this up? It's disgusting, disgraceful, outrageous!

Far from showing any contrition at unwittingly spreading a lie, Lipton declared himself utterly sickened by the made-up spitting story.

"Deeply angered if the claims about Hillsborough Memorial spitting were completely made up. Hope #lfc fans condemn, too. Outrageous"

Granted, it was contemptible for various reasons:

1- It was a malicious falsehood.

2- It claimed arrests were made - easily disprovable.

3- Most importantly, it was staggeringly disrespectful to victims of the Hillsborough Disaster, dragging them and their memory into a complete fabrication.

But all of this ignores the likelihood that it was made up by some misguided 13-year-old in his bedroom, then took on a life of it's own once the rumour spread (not unlike the Leon Best video).

The Internet is fantastic, but it is full of gossip, hoaxes and lies.

In such a landscape, journalists have an important job sorting the true from the untrue and the relevant from the irrelevant.

Lipton himself said over the weekend: "Twitter is not journalism."

Maybe true. But a journalist on Twitter is still a journalist, and he owes his 21,000-strong following to his status as such.

And a journalist should at least attempt to deal in facts, rather than flying off the handle every time a report of a rumour of an allegation hits their timeline.

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QUOTE OF THE WEEKEND: Crawley boss Steve Evans responds to Hull boss Nick Barmby's accusation of "trying to get my players sent off":

"I think he's grabbing at straws and he shouldn't say these things. Nick Barmby is an altar boy, is he? I don't think so. He's lost the game because we've come here and outplayed his team. I think we were unlucky not to win by four or five. We came here with three strikers and aiming to be very attack-minded. I think if we had got a second, it would have been embarrassing for Hull."

Crawley beat Hull 1-0, and are probably the most unlikeable team ever to reach the FA Cup fifth round.

FOREIGN VIEW: Yesterday's papers were full of reports that Jose Mourinho is going to quit Real Madrid and return to England at the end of the season.

There are no quotes from the Special One himself, but Sunday Times journalist Duncan Castles is well-connected to Mourinho - it's likely that the Portuguese wanted the story out there.

Just one question: Where is he going?

COMING UP: African Cup of Nations action as Group B sorts itself out tonight. We've got Ivory Coast v Angola and Sudan v Burkina Faso both at 18:00. Then at 20:00, action from Spain with Osasuna v Atletico Madrid.

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