John Dixon’s post has captured your imaginations. Read the South Wales Echo’s coverage of Councillor’s Dixon’s exclusive post for Cardiff East. Your Cardiff reports that Councillor Dixon will appear before Cardiff Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee in September.
In a post written exclusively for CARDIFF EAST Councillor John Dixon reflects on the week he became the centre of a national media story. The Liberal Democrat Councillor for Adamsdown first elected to Cardiff Council in 1999, sits on the Council’s Executive and is responsible for Health, Social and Wellbeing.
This week I feel like I now know what it’s like for a star to go nova – for my life to suddenly explode (generating a lot of heat, and hopefully some light too), before gradually returning to normal again.
This week I learned the power of social media, and possibly glimpsed the future democratisation of news.”
It started fairly normally – a Monday like any other. During the day, David James called from the Echo. I guess it was a fairly slow news day, as he wanted to chat to me about a rather old complaint which the Ombudsman was investigating – a Tweet I posted while in London last May on Tottenham Court Road, which said “I didn’t know the Scientologists had a ‘church’ on Tottenham Court Road. Just hurried past in case the stupid rubs off.”
I gave him the details but, because the case hadn’t yet been heard by the Council’s Standards and Ethics Committee, at the time, thought it best not to comment. What can I say? I like a quiet life.
My first weird moment came the following morning. I checked Twitter and noticed that Tom Harris MP had retweeted my post. I thought he must have just stumbled across it, and found it funny.”
Then I noticed that other people had done the same. Quite a lot of people. And that there was a hashtag – #stupidscientology – that was trending on Twitter. At that point the day job kicked in and I had to get to a meeting in Barry at 11am.
I can honestly say that I didn’t really understand what was happening. I don’t think I did until we finished at about 1pm and I found 500 emails notifying me that people had started following my Twitter account, and I had about a dozen missed messages, from various news services of the BBC, ITV, the Telegraph and Guardian. And that’s the point when I realised something was up.
Looking at what was happening on Twitter, it was a bit like finding yourself watching some elemental force of nature – compelling, a bit scary, and completely uncontrollable.”
Later I found out it had all been started by someone who I’d been following for over a year – a blogger called Jack of Kent, who was involved in defending Simon Singh from the British Chiropractic Association. He’d been emailed the link to the story on the Wales Online website, did a little cross-checking, and sent the original #stupidscientology Tweets.
I thought Newsnight – who asked for me to agree to talk to them exclusively (something I regret in hindsight) – then completely missed the main point of the story when I appeared. My case, and my circumstances, while obviously important to me, had only warranted a quarter page in the Echo, yet there I was talking to Kirsty Wark.”
I was appearing there, not because my story was thought particularly important by their editors by comparison with other events of the day, I was there because Twitter users had made it important.
Ten years ago, it just wouldn’t have happened. Five years ago it wouldn’t have happened. A story about a minor complaint made about a local councillor in Cardiff would have just stayed inside the pages of the the local daily. On the day that, surely, was the story?”
And now Twitter has moved on. Life is gradually returning to normal, apart from a few Skeptics in the Pub events (including the inaugural WalesSITP meeting) on the horizon. And I’ve got a dinner party story that’s going to be hard to top.
One of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked is “Do I regret it?”
Well, I’ve got to talk with Jack of Kent, one of the toppest blokes drawing breath today. I now know that I’m not the only one who can’t understand why the complaint has got as far as it has. And, according to Ed Walker from Media Wales, their web page with the story on got sort of traffic normally reserved for stories about Charlotte Church.
But mostly a lot of people had the chance to talk about what Mr Justice Latey described as a “corrupt, sinister and dangerous” organisation and free speech.
What’s to regret about that?
Read a guest post by Councillor Dixon on the #stupidscientology saga at the Humanist & Secularist Liberal Democrats site.
Read Jack of Kent’s explanation of the meaning of #StupidScientology.
Comedian David Mitchell references Councillor John Dixon in his weekly column for the Observer.
Guardian Cardiff’s coverage of ‘Stupidgate’ – “Councillor faces inquiry over tweet calling Church of Scientology ‘stupid'”
Your Cardiff’s coverage of ‘Stupidgate’ – “Comedians join debate about councillor’s Scientology tweet” & “Look before you tweet…”