Clashing with journalist Mike Graham on Twitter – Does he seriously have nothing better to do than bully me?

For a man who is apparently against “personal attacks” in political arguments (or enjoys them when they signify his victory), veteran political journalist and TV presenter Mike Graham sure knows how to make things personal very quickly. More on him later. I know it might be contradictory to devote a post to attacks from one man in an article against personal attacks in place of information, but I think today I can justify it, because this was a stunning example of immaturity at my expense.

On January 10th 2019, Fiona Bruce presented her first episode of Question Time, a live political show which had been presented by veteran television presenter David Dimbleby from 1994-2018. Question Time has often caused controversy with its choices of guests (such as the BNP’s Nick Griffin, and irrelevant comedians) and accusations of bias, especially amongst the raucous that the studio has often become when audience members ask political figures questions.

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James Cleverly, Fiona Bruce, Emily Thornberry and Nish Kumar (L-R). Image from BBC.

The host’s choice of who to allow to speak, and who is told to quieten down has been highly provocative. However, it attempts to counter this to a degree, as the location of the show moves around the country, to places of varying political opinion, and to some very novel venues (such as prisons and army barracks).

The episode was bound to attract a lot of attention so to see how well Bruce could take over from Dimbleby. By my personal opinion, she did a very good job. Regardless of political opinion, everything was kept under control. However, I do think that she had a golden opportunity this week, because subject matter was comparatively very simple.

The Conservatives had faced a particularly embarrassing week having been limited on tax changes in the event of a no-deal Brexit. It seemed that Theresa May’s “Plan A” would be voted against in parliament. Theresa May no longer seemed to have time to put together a “Plan B”, as her deadline was dramatically shortened. No matter what, the MP there to speak on behalf of the Conservatives, in this case James Cleverly, was going to be thrown to the fire. They are in power, and their bridges had been burnt. As they are running the country, they need to lay straight what they intend to do. Unfortunately, for the aforementioned reasons, Cleverly had no answers, and had little to respond with beyond arguing against Labour’s policy. Labour’s Emily Thornberry faced a grilling too, as they seem more focused on a snap general election than they are a new Brexit plan. Fiona Bruce briefly gave him the Jeremy Paxman treatment of asking him the same question multiple times, before the audience audibly conceded that he had no answer.

A brief coherent monologue from a Remainer in the audience followed by rapturous applause from the audience was the final nail in the coffin. In short, unless they had decided to ignore Brexit entirely, this week Conservatives were doomed. We will have to see in the coming weeks whether or not the show will be more pressing on Labour MPs as circumstances change, but given the subject matter, Fiona Bruce did the best job she possibly could.

So, what has this got to do with me?

That night, I looked on Twitter to nose around the opinions of other people, as the show was trending. For the most part, people were agreeing. However, some were far angrier about the show. The tweet that caught my eye was one from veteran journalist and Talkradio presenter Mike Graham. After one episode, he had concluded that Question Time was over. I felt it would be responsible to investigate what had been so terrible that it spelt the end of such a long running institution. I’m a journalist, am I not?

Graham did actually answer this in a later tweet, but not directed at me. I admit that at the time, I hadn’t seen this. Not that it really mattered, because I wasn’t going on a political rampage anyway. I only thought that he drew his conclusions too soon.

He could have ignored me. It should have been over, but it turned out that he had a bit of spare time on his hands. He took the time to reply not with a justification for his upset about the show itself, but more to run me into the ground. For a man who wants Question Time redeemed, he sure doesn’t like questions.

I guess I’m not a journalist after all. To see that I am labelled on my Twitter feed as a ‘media journalist’, he had to have gone on my page. He could have ignored me, and sure I could have ignored him, but let’s face it. I had his attention, and within two tweets had resorted to insults. Personal attacks in politics had been the talk of the nation, and I was bizarrely the subject. I wasn’t going to run away because he was being so fickle. He kept going with a tweet that seemed to signify that he was done for the day.

Jeez. I only asked. Of course, this was gleefully liked by a few of his followers, who I presume took a great liking to the ‘fact’ that he had shut me up.  Twitter tradition followed though when the followers joined in. That would be perfectly understandable, but what shocked me (although it really shouldn’t have) was the fact that they were then retweeted by Graham.

And things only got more bizarre when he shared this creepy comment.

So how much time and effort would he devote to talking me down? Quite a bit as it turns out.

Here was where the conversation, at least as of this post, seemed to end with spectacular irony.

I replied with the following (I don’t know how to post two tweets in a row without what I’m replying to).

“I recently graduated from MA Multimedia Journalism & have been limited (due to disability and subsequent inability to travel) to freelance articles for Portsmouth News and music publications for now. I am therefore a multimedia journalist and would like to promote myself as such.”

“As you’re an industry veteran, I’m sure you understand the issues that those in my position face, and aren’t intending to laugh down at my inexperience by comparison.”

I assume that he read this, even though he didn’t directly reply, because the retweets continued. Even though I mentioned medical difficulty (which admittedly I try and avoid for the sake of self-promotion, as well as not wanting to come across as a weak victim), he took a liking to this.

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It’s upsetting, because while such people may exist, I don’t really have a choice. Oh well. There are no two ways about it. This was just immature bullying, and it’s sobering to see how easy it is to gang up on a single victim on Twitter. I can only conclude that he was pandering to the cult of Mike Graham, having a giggle at my expense for his fans to join in. I can’t think of any other reason why he would devote so much time to me unless he is so immature to think that “tease the millennial” is this era’s Minesweeper.

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