Monday, 5 December 2011
Janey Godley describes herself as “a Scottish Stand up Comic, Actor, Journalist, Playwright and Blogger.” She takes pride in being controversial, referring to herself on Twitter as “The most outspoken female stand-up in Britain”.
Janey Godley is very experienced online. At the time of writing she has no fewer than 43,765 tweets to her name. As you read this there will be many more. She tweets every few minutes.
Here are a few recent tweets to give you a flavour of Janey Godley's humour:
"I suggest we take all the guardian APP staff and execute them – that'll show the fuckers"
“A Union Jack in Glasgow means ‘I am mental, I own a dangerous dog and I batter fuck out of my common law wife if Rangers get beat.’”
“McMullan is now telling us anecdotes and 'funny things happened' as if we are his mates- i want the cunts face to fall off”
“So if hunt down Clarkson & shoot the cunt in the face i can say I was influenced by him and just claim insanity? am off (click loads up gun)”
The other protagonists in the story are people who have little online experience but who do good work, some of it paid, a lot of it unpaid, for a couple of charities that help disadvantaged children and their mums.
One of them, a feminist and Twitter follower of Janey Godley, whose outspokenness on social issues appealed, was relaxing one evening when the language Janey was using caught her attention.
So she went on Twitter to ask if the frequency of the word “cunt” in Janey Godley's tweets – over a hundred times in a couple of days – was a feminist statement. “I said that I was interested, that I thought there might be some ideological reason that the word was being used.”
The two of them had a Twitter chat for an hour or so, before Janey Godley ran out of patience and ended the conversation thus:
“i had boy soldiers in my family who fought for my freedom of speech how fucking dare u assume it needs explaining to u”
At this point, if the charities people had more online experience, they’d have walked away. Instead a colleague and friend of the feminist took umbrage at Janey Godley's last tweet and tweeted the following to her:
“Calling yourself a comedienne is an insult to all things funny. Call yourself a children's role model? Hope not.”
She made the mistake of tweeting this from the Twitter account of a small charity for single mums and children that she gives up much of her spare time to work for.
Janey Godley's response was instant and savage. Over the next day or so she tweeted about the charity no fewer than 65 times, drawing the attention of her almost 5000 followers - some of them influential - to what she referred to as “horrific personal abuse”.
That abuse, remember, was to be called “an insult to all things funny”. She has had worse abuse, I am sure.
Janey targeted in particular with her tweets any children's charity funders who follow her.During this cyber bullying onslaught, a worker for a second charity - for disadvantaged children - came to the defence of her friend and tweeted as follows to Janey Godley:
“You are a patron of our children's charity. Would you say these words to our young people?”
Again Janey Godley took offence and tweeted about this second charity 15 times to her followers, drawing attention again to the “abuse” she was being subjected to. The second charity worker tweeted just twice more as follows:
“We never questioned your motives Janey"
“Sorry you are offended Janey.”
The attempt to smooth ruffled feathers came too late. By this time some of Janey Godley's followers had taken up the story and were spreading her “horrific personal abuse” version.
Unaware of the true story and unwilling to trawl through the archives to separate fact from heated emotion, two board members of the second charity resigned at the weekend. Prospective funders may well pull out.
Janey Godley might be short on humour and compassion but, as I said, she has some influence.
The upshot of all this is that a small charity for disadvantaged children in one of the most deprived areas of Scotland - which was being kept afloat by the dedication, long hours, hopes and prayers of the people who work there - is likely to close soon after Christmas.
It is a sad story. And one of the saddest aspects is that all the people involved, including Janey Godley, are supposed to be on the same side – the side of the disadvantaged. But instead of attacking the selfish and uncaring - the corrupt politicians and rapacious bankers - they are sitting at home, over their computers, tearing big lumps out of each other.
And it's the children the charities were helping who will suffer the most.