How “organised” was the Jan Moir campaign?

Was the campaign against Jan Moir that crashed the PCC website “heavily orchestrated”? Jan Moir herself thinks so. Was it “organised”? The deputy editor of the Telegraph said it was.

If this was the case, who was organising this? “The big gay who runs the internet“? Stephen Fry?

And what do they mean by organised?

Let’s start with 3 definitions:

  1. Functioning within a formal structure, as in the coordination and direction of activities.
  2. Affiliated in an organization, especially a union.
  3. Efficient and methodical.

Of the 3 descriptions, the only one that might apply in this case is the third, and here’s the rub. Imagine the Jan Moir fuss in a world without Twitter: here’s how it unfolded:

  1. Some people read the Jan Moir article and are offended; they forward it to their friends to express disgust.
  2. People complain to the PCC. They also complain to advertisers.
  3. After a while the expressions of disgust reach a celebrity, and a columnist.
  4. The celebrity mentions the article during a public appearance; the columnist writes a column about it. The columnist mentions the parts of the Press Complaints Commission code that the article breaks. Politicians pick it up too.
  5. More people complain. They also complain to advertisers.
  6. The ‘offence’ over the article now becomes a story in itself; the celebrity angle is key to selling the story.
  7. More people complain. They also complain to advertisers.

In a world without Twitter the above might unfold over a series of days. The difference in a world with Twitter is that the above process is accelerated beyond the ability of many people to see, and they think Step 4 is where it begins.

But why does it matter if it’s organised?

But of course this isn’t about definitions, but about the discourse of what ‘organised’ means in this context. It means ‘not spontaneous’; it means ‘not genuine’; it means ‘not valid’.

Although different people may have different (oppositional, negotiated) readings I would argue this is the dominant one, where the discourse of ‘organised’ is being used to marginalise the protests. I will make a bet here that the PCC use that discourse in how they deal with the record numbers of complaints.

Stef Lewandowski hit the nail on the head when he said that it sounded “like the argument from design applied to social media”.

Help me investigate this

But what would be really interesting here is to test the hypotheses against some evidence: I want to see just how organised the ‘campaign’ was. How important were the celebrities and the formal organisations?

I’m using Help Me Investigate to see if we can work out what level of organisation there was in the campaign. So far, thanks to Kevin Sablan we have a key part of the evidence: all the #janmoir tweets since October 14. And some suggestions on how to analyse that from Ethan Zuckerman (who’s been here before): “grab all #janmoir tweets, do word freq. analysis esp on RTs, look to see if it’s grassroots or one instigator, amplified…”

If you need an invite, let me know.

And if you have any ideas how you can measure the organisation of a campaign like this, I’d welcome them.


72 thoughts on “How “organised” was the Jan Moir campaign?

  1. Paul Bradshaw

    Footnotes: the first mentions of the PCC and boycotting advertisers came before Stephen Fry tweeted about Jan Moir. Derren Brown’s involvement came when he retweeted Charlie Brooker’s article.

  2. Richard E

    Twitter brought the original article to my attention, and I followed the story as it developed by reading links in the tweets of people I follow, and RTing ones I felt worthy of my followers’ attention.

    I don’t recall ever seeing a Stephen Fry tweet on the topic (I don’t follow him, sorry), let alone retweeting one – where I have often seen his comments on other matters retweeted (and RT’d them myself), such as those on Bletchley Park. I think alleged celebrity involvement in this issue was heavily overrated (pace HuffPost).

    The suggestion that there was an “organised” or “orchestrated” “campaign” is absurd and represents a complete misunderstanding of the way social media work. This was a popular, word-of-mouth feeling of disgust made expressible near-instantaneously by today’s communications technologies.

    There is a significant apparent irony in that in the same week the Twitterverse (or at least /my/ twitterverse) was alive with the Guardian Trafigura gag story. It’s easy to look at this juxtaposition and warn that we are in favour of, or against, “free speech” as it suits us. I think this is a misreading.

    By and large, we use the Twitterverse to share opinions we agree with and disparage those we dislike. Just as we do in general conversation or in our choice of newspapers (where we read the ones we agree with). It’s less about free speech and more about what we, personally, feel is “right”.

    I found Jan Moir’s article extremely distasteful. However I would defend to the last her right to express her opinion, however wrong-headed I might find her position. And I’m sure the vast majority of the people I follow on Twitter, and those who follow me, would agree: free speech cuts both ways.

    We should not confuse extreme dislike of someone’s opinions with a desire to shut them up. If we are in favour of free speech, then we must be in favour of freedom to express a full gamut of opinions.

    Indeed, the test of our true belief in free speech is our attitude to the expression of positions we abhor. We may dislike them intensely but we must never seek to stop them being expressed. Though of course, we reserve the right to present forceful counter-arguments.

  3. No name as I'm at work

    The facebook group ‘the Daily Mail should retract Jan Moir’s hateful, homophobic article’ was set up on Friday 16 morning, the day the article came out, and by 10.30am I personally had spoken to Procter and Gamble press office and media buying team, BT and National Express, warning them of the hate content their ad was placed to, the ensuing internet storm and suggesting they contact the mail about the placing of their ads next to brand-damaging, controversial hateful content. I then went on to contact the other advertisers.

    The facebook group now has 25,000+ members.
    It was started by Stella Driscoll on Friday morning. It started asking people to lobby the PCC within an hour of being set up.

    Twitter was already buzzing with the story, not sure when the first call to lobby the pcc came out on twitter.

    Fry’s tweet happened after the fb group was set up and the call to talk to advertisers on twitter happened in the early afternoon – a few hours after the advertisers had already been contacted and spoken to by facebook group members.

  4. No name as I'm at work

    By the way, I’m not gay and nor is Stella.

    I’m a 30 something married woman with a nuce respectable office job who wears M&S undies and shops at Waitrose. The exact target audience of the Mail, in fact, except I can’t stand bigotry, homophobia and crap standards of journalism.

  5. Paul Bradshaw

    It’s also worth noting that the critical comments on the Daily Mail article itself pre-date the trending of #janmoir on Twitter, suggesting that Mail readers were offended, not just non-Mail readers. Another area that would benefit from analysis.

  6. Pingback: Comment: The rise of ’smart’ or ‘not so smart’ internet mobs and their pressure on the media | Editors' Blog

  7. Jessica Good

    I’m 39, female and not gay either. I learned about the article and subsequent facebook campaign from an internet bulletin board first thing that morning (around 9.15am?).I think I was probably one of the first members of the FB group, joining instantly it was set up). I use Twitter so of course I Tweeted it, because I was furious. Ms Moir got it so wrong, You don’t have to be Gay to be offended by this article, just the same as you don’t have to be black to be offended by racism.

  8. Julie

    I read a post on a bulletin board at 9.30am on 16th October with a link to the article. I agreed that the article was vile.

    The poster suggested contacting the advertisers on that page in the same post. when the facebook group was set up and announced on that same bulletin board, I linked to it in my status on facebook. I couldn’t contact advertisers during office hours, but did complain to the PCC when I got home. I also then invited all my facebook friends to join the group.

    People want me to join things on facebook all the time. Most often I don’t. I don’t tweet.

    Also, the poster who linked to the article is not a gay man. The person who set up the facebook group is not a gay man. Nor are these people whose jobs or hobbies are campaigning for gay rights. They were just disgusted and wanted to do something.

  9. Jessica Good

    Just to add: I don’t think any of us are Byozone fans either 😀 . Just disgusted by homophobia and bad journalism.

  10. Kyser

    There was no ‘orchestration’ in this campaign. I first became aware from a thread started on Urban75 (which itself linked to the Mail article, already filled with comments saying how bad it was). Address details for various advertisers marketing departments were posted, many people joined the discussion thread, reporting on twitter comments etc, and around lunchtime the FB group started. People then chose to follow up on twitter, join the FB group etc etc

    Your 7 step process and description of it being condensed into 1 day is pretty accurate.

    I’m not gay, couldn’t stand Boyzone and had no candle to carry for Gately – I was simply deeply offended by the article, as it seems were many thousands of people…

  11. Sarah Trashy

    I’m an admin on the fb group alongside Stella. I can confirm there was nothing orchestrated about the facebook campaign – it happened pretty much as others have outlined above. I don’t think any of us expected quite so many people to join in such a small space of time! What has been particularly amazing to me are the spin off activities that have resulted from people posting on the wall. For example, there is a petition to BA to stop handing out free copies of the Daily Mail – which arose (as far as I can tell) as a direct result of people talking on the original FB group. There are a number of other linked groups and activities – difficult to keep up with them all! This is grassroots organisation facilitated by a social networking site, nothing more sinister than that.

    PS I don’t use Twitter and neither does Stella as far as I know.

  12. James Nee

    I picked up the story via Twitter – Charlie Brooker retwittered a comment by Jon Blyth who has 934 followers, whereas Charlier Brooker has 80,000+, which I’m sure accounted for a huge surge in recognition of the story from around 11am onwards.

    On a micro level, I placed a link to the article from The Mail website on Facebook and I know that’s how a dozen or so friends first came across the article – they then forwarded on/ reposted/ twittered, etc, the story.

    I think the article was always going to provoke a wide response, but it certainly helped that people with such a large online following as Charlie Brooker & Stephen Fry choose to comment on it as well as other respected media commentators and journalists like Charlie Beckett, Sunny Hundal, and Johann Hari, amongst many others.

  13. Stella Driscoll

    I created the FB group at approx 11.50am on Friday 16th October. I don’t use Twitter – I was confident that it would be picked up by other good people who care.

    My undies are also from M&S.

  14. @chennyhen

    I never (ever, ever) read the Daily Mail, so I only heard about the Jan Moir article through Twitter.

    Similarly, most Daily Mail readers didn’t listen to Russell Brand’s radio show and only heard about “that phone call” through the paper.

    If you’re looking for an organised campaign, take the Mail’s response to “Sachsgate”.

  15. No name as I'm at work

    You’ll see, if you go to the offending article, and look on ‘Oldest Comments’ that readers were commenting as early as 1.59am. The first comment reads

    Re Stephen Gately…what are you talking about? Why are you trying to paint a sinister picture where none exists? How Stephen and his partner chose to live their private lives is nothing to do with us. Regardless of who they took home that night and for what reason, his death is just an unexpected tragedy and your article is an ill-disguised attempt to sensationalise and stigmatise the death of much loved young pop star. Leave him alone!

    – Audrey, Scotland, 16/10/2009 1:59

    It has 1227 votes.
    This article didn’t just annoy gay people. It didn’t just annoy liberals. The people who wearily expect bigotry in the Mail and wouldn’t buy it anyway.

    It also managed to infuriate

    a) People who liked Boyzone, which is a big female demographic ranging from teens to 50-somethings and older
    b) People who knew someone who had died suddenly when young of Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, who were livid at the ‘Healthy young men don’t just drop dead’ Moir comments.
    c) People who just don’t think it is appropriate to ‘speak ill of the dead’, especially before the popular, well-liked Mr Gately was decently buried, and as his grieving family, friends and fans were preparing for his funeral

    38% of online users have a facebook account, it’s particularly popular with women.

    This was a really foul-minded, spiteful article that touched a public nerve. It was horribly ill-judged, and it upset a great many people; Moir orchestrated the reaction herself by publishing it in the first place.

  16. Pingback: Jan Moir Meet ‘The Big Gay Who Runs The Internet’ « Jon Bernstein

  17. C Merry

    I had never heard of Boyzone before nor Steven, I saw an article about his death linked from twitter and saw his name more and clicked out of curiosity to see who he was. I think conceptually it was sad that he was on the verge of a huge comeback. The news about many more people mentioning him making it all the more sad when it became obvious his comeback was more than likely going to be huge. He did good things in his life he was very well loved, I felt bad for his friends and family.

    Then his name became linked with another name I never heard of before Jan Moir, I thought oh no did another sad story emerge about another musical comeback star passing away. It was like a slap to see that vicious article unfeeling uncaring like a bitter fan who didn’t get her autograph once and never forgave him. I was going to complain to the News itself then I saw the link on Twitter to lodge complaints directly. I went to the site and read the code and filled the forms out correctly. I hope they do not discount the complaints because of the number (how ignorant!).

    I was not a part of a “campaign” which seems to be her hope of claiming this isn’t real or valid. Anyone ANYONE who bashes a harmless singer or any innocent person because they don’t like who they love would get this response from me. Thankfully the world still has good caring people and if I am in some so-called mob then good, I am not violent I am not lying I am pointing out a fact and a violation.

  18. Alan Connock

    I read the article and commented on it the night before. I don’t expect to agree with everything on the Mail website but this (and in particular the initial headline) just seemed beyond the pale. I twittered it to sone friends. I hoped Mr Fry might big it up, bur actually his first comment has no link and doesn’t even mention The Mail.

  19. Linda

    I read the article thanks to a tweet with a link in it from a trusted and respected writer and fellow mum.

    I wasn’t aware of a Facebook group and do not follow Stephen Fry or Derren Brown on Twitter.

    I was struck most of all by a lack of common human decency in the article before my mind registered the homophobic undertones.

    It quite upset me and I tweeted that I was upset by the vile article, I felt that Twitter helped give me a voice in this regard and a few people responded to or retweeted my view on it.

    I then checked a link for the PCC website as supplied in another tweet that was sent my way from someone I didn’t follow.

    I complained and retweeted the link. This was in no way orchestrated or planned on my part, rather a spontaneous expression of my disgust that such a lack of decency and compassion should be shown to a popular young man on the eve of his funeral.

    Some may consider it cheesy that when I think about this chain of events, I was thinking about Stephen Gately’s mum and as I am a mum too, it really did upset me to think she would have to be made aware of such a vile article.

    I couldn’t get my head round the fact that the piece had gone from writer to sub to page and bearing in mind the findings of the coroner, that no-one had questioned the taste, decency or accuracy of stating there was ‘nothing natural about the death’.

    I was also stunned that JM wrote he couldn’t hold a tune. Like others who have commented elsewhere, I don’t possess a single BoyZone track but I had heard him sing and my untrained ear agreed with Andrew Lloyd Webber.

    It was this level of petty bile and the timing of it which also upset me.

    My parents are long-time Mail readers and I have bought it to read on train journeys or at the weekend. I won’t be buying it again and I will be talking to my mum and dad asking them to stop buying it too.

    I think it’s short-sighted and arrogant to respond to such a wave of condemnation by saying this was an ‘orchestrated campaign’ and feel somewhat baffled that anyone working in the media should seek to portray this as some sort of spat between a more liberal ‘twitterati’ and a right wing newspaper.

    There were plenty of parents, of all political persuasions who felt at a very basic level that the unfeeling nature of the piece should be spoken out about. I hope an apology, at least, is forthcoming.

  20. Tom

    I never listened to Boyzone and was most definitely not a fan. However, I am sick of rubbish like Jan Moir’s being printed just to gain her a little bit of controversy and raise her profile. Well, her profile has well and truly been elevated now. She is now in the dubious position of being one of the UKs leading purveyors of ignorance and stupidity. Sure it won’t take her long to bleat about freedom of speech and how she has a right to spread hatred. Of course she does. Just as the 21,000 (so far) people who complained about her have the right to say they disagree with her psychologically disturbed world view

  21. Les Yard

    I read the original post on urban75 at some time before 10.00 and was appalled at the Moir article.
    I had made a phone call or two and sent several emails prior to Stella starting the fb group later in the morning. I then joined the fb group and watched it take off.
    No way at all was there any organised campaign and Moir demonstrates her stupidity and lack of understanding of modern communications.
    I’m a 61 year old straight guy and Moir wound me up- SHE started the campaign.

  22. Norrie

    I think it’s worth mentioning that Jan Moir was the top trending topic before Mr Fry (or any other celeb twitterer) commented.
    It looked like a groundswell to me.

  23. Keren David

    I saw that Jan Moir was a trending topic on Twitter and wondered why. I read her article and was disgusted by it. I posted it on Facebook, and commented on Twitter. Later on I blogged about Jan Moir’s woeful response, and twittered and Facebooked that. I didn’t even see Stephen Fry’s comment – didn’t need to. Lots of people picked up my blog and retweeted it or put it on their FB pages. That’s how the internet works.

  24. Martin Togher

    I can’t remember when I became aware of the Jan Moir story, it was probably a mention on Twitter with a link to the Mail. I thought it was outrageous even for the Mail to put out a story like that, so I tweeted about it. Stephen Fry seems to be getting the blame for orchestrating this, but there was no orchestrating going on, I read about it via people I was following, which was probably the same for anyone on Twitter. I am not gay, and found the article offensive.

    I buy my underwear from M&S mainly.

  25. Phil Gahan

    Have the general public not got a mind of their own, to decide when an article is overtly wrong…i think they do.

    Gay people, relatives of gay people are sick of being knocked by certain media stables given every and any opportunity to do so.

    Its time the groups behind The Mail, The Sun etc move with the times and get some modern thinking and accept Gay people are no different to straight people fundamentally and what goes on in the privacy of their own homes is just that, Private.

    1. paspd

      Each one has a right to have whatever ideology they may see fit. Respect others just as others respect your opinions, no matter how rightfully disgusted by them they are

  26. Richard Lawson

    Of course it wasn’t organised, it was wildfire, a chain reaction effect. Moir would have done better to accuse it of being anarchic opposition, thus evoking the image of be-cloaked terrorists carrying bombs with fizzing fuses. Perhaps she will tomorrow, because the prerogaive of her Glenda Slagg type journalism is that consistency is not required, only shock value.

  27. Phil Gahan

    Also i’d like to add that she wrote in similar style the week following the death of Princess Diana

    “The sugar coating on this fatality is so saccharine-thick that it obscures whatever bitter truth lies beneath. Healthy and fit 36-year-old women do not just climb into chauffeur driven cars, and conveniently “forget” to put on their seatbelts.”

    Sound familiar? Thats from 1997.

  28. Dave Cross

    “It’s also worth noting that the critical comments on the Daily Mail article itself pre-date the trending of #janmoir on Twitter, suggesting that Mail readers were offended, not just non-Mail readers.”

    I’m not sure you can justify that conclusion. The comments (and the votes on the comments) on the Daily Mail web site are often at odds with what you’d expect from the typical Daily Mail reader.

    I strongly suspect that a large proportion of the Mail’s online readership is people like me who would never consider buying a copy of the paper and who read the online version to get confirmation of just how much they hate the Daily Mail.

  29. Bobby Trollop

    This was most definitely picked up much later by twitter and as far as I can remember by that time the original headline had been changed.
    The facebook page however seemed to be the only place still linking to the original headline and article outside of the Daily Mail.
    Sure it was helped along massively once Stephen Fry was notified but if I remember rightly attempts had been made to contact him earlier in the morning to get it started on twitter but he was in a meeting not tweeting

    I am also not gay or a boyzone fan and had read the article much earlier in the morning and was outraged by the lack od respect for his family and that a dead man who could not defend himself was being attacked just before his funeral.

    The facebook page and forums outrage started much earlier than the Stephen Fry twittering though from what I can remember it was early morning .

  30. mark

    Moir, like other bigots, thinks she is saying what everyone else is thinking. She leveled the accusation of “organisation” against the flood of complaints that the PCC received, but obviously there is nothing sinister about organisation itself – the implication is that maybe these people were not really offended but actually just showing how much they love Stephen Fry or Charlie Brooker. She commits this conceit so that her brain doesn’t explode from the realisation that maybe she isn’t the figure she thought she was. But isn’t it a funny thing to hear a representative of the Mail implying that organised outrage is sinister? It’s not like that’s how they sell papers or anything…….

  31. Ed

    I found out through a friend on twitter who included the #JanMoir hash-tag so I was up to speed in no time. For me, the most disgusting thing was accusing a stranger, a grieving mother, of conspiring to lie about her child’s death.

    Now, here;s a suggestion for testing the paranoid, conspiracy theory. Identify a cluster of hash-tags that #JanMoir is a member of. Do a factor-analysis statistical test to see how closely they are linked, and then look at all the users using those to see if a consistent cluster of users emerges. All clear?

  32. Catherine

    Having googled “Stephen Gately” (yes, a radio 4 listener and an admirer of his), I managed -Jan – to find this tacky article all by myself and immediately wished I hadn’t. I felt sullied and debased as if by reading it I was somehow colluding with the extremely tasteless comments. Ms Moir may also be surprised to know that I complained to the PPC without any prompting and, again, managed without a link provided by somebody else. I actually feel rather sorry for Jan Moir – she is obviously an undeveloped individual (can’t say “human” being)who can only get attention by being offensive. Nevertheless, she should be sacked – not up to the job – and sent back to school, and the editor should stand down for having given her a job.

  33. Pingback: Fast Tuesday links « sarahsly

  34. Jane

    I was browsing the papers online at 8am, read this article with my jaw dropping around my knees then went on to Digital Spy later to see if anyone found it as appallingly bigoted and spiteful as I did.
    I tried to make a complaint, but the website had crashed. I’d seen the link to the Facebook group in a post on Digital Spy so joined that instead.
    I’m not gay or a Boyzone fan – though I was impressed by their response to their friend’s death. I simply couldn’t believe that the Mail would print this just before a young man’s funeral and wanted to object to it.

  35. Martin Togher

    I suspect that the BBC is rather pleased about this, having suffered themselves, when the Mail whipped up controversy for a radio show that very few people had actually heard.(Sachgate) You might say the Mail orchestrated this. Revenge tastes good eh Auntie Beeb?

  36. Kirsty

    I read the article while doing me daily review of the papers early in the morning on Friday. Saw the article and could not believe my eyes! I was able to complain to the PCC without anyone having to point me in their direction! I also posted a comment on the article itself. It was only much later in the day I logged on to twitter and saw it was trending. I did tweet a few friends with links to the article, but left them to make their own minds up about it.

  37. Pingback: Was Jan Moir Twitter outcry ‘orchestrated’? | Twitter News -

  38. Pingback: The rise of ’smart’ or ‘not so smart’ internet mobs and their pressure on the media « CU Today

  39. janeejane

    I saw a tweet from a friend first then Stephen fry’s. I then went back to the friends tweet which had the url. I tweeted myself after reading the article without a url as i didn’t want to fund the daily mail’s ad coffers.

    I take offense that i was ‘organised’ I don’t tend to tweet about everything I read.
    I never used the hashtag. the piece was appalling and there are alot of people who don’t like the Daily Mail

  40. Pingback: Evening Standard lowers itself to a bully’s station « 853

  41. Barb

    I’m an American and even I was aware of the outrage before I saw Stephen’s tweet. He does have a lot of followers and I’m sure they made up a good percentage of the outraged but he’s not the only one spreading the news. I saw quite a few articles/blogs/message board posts about it. But I agree, what difference does it make? No one is going to go to the bother to ring anyone up if they don’t find it offensive even if Mr Fry tells them to.

  42. Rapscallion

    I think many commentators are missing the point.

    I complained to the PCbloodyC, not because someone told me to on Twitter or Facebook.

    What I wanted and what I wrote to the
    PCbloodyC was for them to record the breadth and depth of feeling against the article. Because homophobia, like racism should be challenged.

    But did I think it would change the Ms Moir/DM’s views? No.

    Did I think it would force some kind of apology? No.

    Did I think the PCbloodyC would even look at my complaint. No. (Of course I knew before even putting finger to keypad that the PCbloodyC does not consider complaints unless you are directly affected by the story – just don’t even get me started on the uselessness of the PCbloodyC!!)

    Did I by submitting a complaint want to prevent the freedom of Ms Moir (I bet she hates “Ms”) to express such views? No.

    Did I think that all the time I was venting my fury to the PCbloodyC that the DM was absolutely loving this and even as I furiously typed away, Ms Moir was being hauled before her lord and master (and BTW PCbloodyC member) Paul Dacre not to be censured for such folly but for him to congratulate her on a rabble-rousing-job-well-done, and “here, have a bonus this month”. Abso-kin-lutely.

  43. Pingback: Back to Basics « The view across the bar.

  44. Pingback: What’s your problem with the internet? A crib sheet for news exec speeches

  45. Pingback: Traditional Biggotry vs Twitter Conspiricy – who wins, you decide ? « Scribbleology's Blog

  46. Pingback: The Brits are restless – 3 incidents of people power – RAAK

  47. paspd

    It’s horrifying to see how much the Internet can help those who seek to spread lies and hate. In a few hours you get thousands of people spewing hatred against one human being who dared to go against the mainstream opinion, many of them reccurring to personal insult while advocating tolerance (it appears now tolerance is just for those you like), some of them already making threats


Leave a Reply to Sepian Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.