The Ballad of KipperNick

Nick RobinsonIn the run up to the local and European elections, I became increasingly frustrated by the way that the BBC were dealing with them. It wasn’t really something new so much as an accumulation of frustrations over the last few years – the way that, it seemed to me, the BBC had played a pivotal part in the rise of UKIP. Anyway, more of that later. I decided to have a little experiment. I created a Twitter account, @KipperNick – a parody of Nick Robinson, who seemed to be playing the role of cheerleader-in-chief for Nigel Farage and UKIP. The main reason was to vent a little of my anger at the BBC, but I also thought I would have some fun – and I really did. I learned a little bit too…

This was @KipperNick’s first tweet:

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 17.10.40

I followed it with a few along similar lines – I didn’t try to hide the fact that this was a parody account. The name ‘KipperNick’ should have made it pretty obvious for a start, and the bio clearly described it as a parody. Perhaps my humour was a little dark – though I think that darkness was appropriate for the subject matter. Anyway, the little parody was pretty successful from the start – a lot of RTs (as in that case), including a couple with over 200:

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 17.11.02

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 17.11.15All in all, it was fun and a bit strange – I found it surprisingly easy to parrot the kind of language that Nick Robinson uses, and a lot of fun to tease him. I did wonder whether the man himself ever read the tweets – I did @mention him a couple of times – but I doubt it very much. There were, however, a couple of things that happened that surprised me. The first was that within about 10 tweets, the account was briefly suspended – I imagine someone reported me for something. On my main account, I’ve never been suspended – I’ve done over 127,000 tweets with it, and some pretty provocative – but with @KipperNick it took no time at all. I assumed at the time it was a disgruntled UKIPper… they do seem to be a bit trigger happy.

The second thing that surprised me was the number of people who thought I was the real Nick Robinson. As I’ve said, I didn’t exactly disguise the account very well, but I had a lot of people tweet at me as though I was the real Nick. Some thought I was serious about there being interviews with Nigel Farage on the hour every hour on election day. Others were seemingly genuinely angry with the BBC’s obsession with UKIP, and thought my tweets were the real thing. It wasn’t just one or two, but lots.

Screen Shot 2014-06-02 at 17.30.15The trouble was, I don’t think my parody was far from the mark at all. When the BBC really did try to link a report from the French Open tennis to Nigel Farage, it was beyond the level of parody. When I posted this, people didn’t believe it – but it was the one entirely genuine post of the whole story of @KipperNick.

So what does all of this mean? Well, for me, it means that the BBC should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves – and as I listened to David Dimbleby’s increasingly nervous chuckle during the European election broadcast, I think they were beginning to feel a little of that themselves. They’re not stupid – well, I don’t think so.

The idea of putting Nigel Farage on Question Time regularly probably seemed like fun to start with – and the broadcasters do like to shake things up. Mainstream politics IS incredibly dull at the moment, with three main parties pursuing seemingly identical policies in most ways, with candidates looking pretty much identical and sounding pretty much identical. Having a ‘funny’ character like Farage on to spice things up sounds like a great idea – but the more they did it, and without serious criticism, the bigger a hole they were digging. When you add to the equation the huge amounts of xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny in the tabloid press in particular, the momentum starts to build.

The BBC is hardly blameless in other ways – and the rest of the TV industry could be even worse. The amount of ‘poverty porn’ on our screens over the last few years has been part of a larger level of encouragement of a divisive, blame-based approach to our problems. It fosters hate – and the UKIP agenda feeds directly into it. Over the last few weeks the media seems to have realised this a little, and started to scrutinise UKIP a bit more – but until James O’Brien’s interview on LBC mere days before the election, Farage had never been called properly to account either on TV or on radio. The BBC should feel thoroughly ashamed of their role in this – and there should be some serious soul-searching going on.

Mind you, I doubt very much that any is happening at all. Memories seem almost as absent as consciences in the BBC.

14 thoughts on “The Ballad of KipperNick

  1. Quick point re: the early suspension – Twitter does this to new accounts. If you set something up and then try to follow a few people straight away or send a dozen or so tweets in quick succession, they will suspend you as it triggers a ‘suspicious activity’ algorithm; it doesn’t necessarily mean anyone has reported you.

    Was a bit of a latecomer to the account, but your satire has been very sharp as well as funny. It is amusing to see debates over political bias in the BBC. If one limited one’s consumption of BBC material purely to (intended) comedy, then one might just about be able to justify the allegation of a liberal bias, but when it comes to the news and political commentary, the right-wing leanings are beyond dispute.

    1. Oh, I didn’t know that – they didn’t do it when I started my proper account all those years ago…

      …and I do think the BBC is conspicuously right wing these days in current affairs…

  2. Satire and political reality have become ever more intertwined over the last few years. That the BBC have not seriously question UKIP and their policies is of no surprise to me.

      1. The BBC seem to be more of the governments mouthpiece than a realistic reporter of facts theses days. Why hasn’t IDS been hammered for example, after all everything he touches turns to dust.

      2. Well, until recently I would have agreed with you – and certainly IDS needs much closer scrutiny – but over the last year or so, the BBC has been almost as much a UKIP mouthpiece as a government one… a

  3. In the US, medias failure to inform and dig have given rise to the satirists already, so I see no difference here. When the most trusted news sources are people like Jon Stewart and John Oliver, I think it’s indicative of a problem.

    But I didn’t realise you were KipperNick. 😀 I think I even replied to one of them with my own bit of sarcasm.

  4. The most bizarre aspect of the 2014 elections was the reaction from the liberal left. Having daily cheered on hit pieces against UKIP, when that did not work, they went into full role reversal, and starting making formal complaints of ‘bias’ towards UKIP. Kipper Nick is simply a slightly more humorous example of this phenomenon.

    In the run up to May 22, I observed or read very weak, aggressive or downright dishonest hit pieces against UKIP on Channel 4 News, Sky News, The Guardian, Telegraph, The Times, The Daily Mirror, The Sun and the Evening Standard (I tend not to bother with the other papers, so may have missed some). Much of this, as Private Eye has pointed out, can be sourced back to Conservative Central Office, with an agreement to give the Tories an easy ride in return for a steady supply of hit pieces on UKIP.
    So many BBC journalists were using their personal twitter feeds to attack UKIP, the corporation had to warn them off. In the case of the Sun, its a political editor, a close relative of a Lib Dem standing against Roger Helmer in the east Midlands launched a hit piece on Helmer, without declaring his personal interest in damaging him.

    As Peter Oborne put it, this has been the nastiest campaign against a UK political party since the disgraceful attacks on Neil Kinnock in 1992. I would like to think a few fellow academics Paul, in some media studies departments, are picking through this and will produce serious critiques of it in the coming months. Sadly most media studies departments wear ideological blinkers – expect instead a data set about how often Nigel Farage has been on Question Time, or complaints about ‘othering’ on immigration.

    Ever wondered why some people rail against elites, and why the UKIP vote is strongest well away from the centres of liberal and academic influence?

    1. I’ll ask around… but whilst I agree completely about the nastiness in the last few weeks, don’t you think that there was a conspicuous lack of attention in the previous few years? To me, it’s almost as though the media suddenly realised what they had done and then overcompensated – the questions that James O’Brien asked were shocking mainly because they hadn’t been asked before. Very few of the issues were new – from the expenses to the extremists. Why had they never been really asked despite Farage’s multiple TV and radio appearances? If they’d been asked properly over the last few years….

    1. Thanks – I missed that one (was on holiday) but it does fit the pattern. Helmer is pretty objectionable, but so (in many ways) is that kind of journalism. I suspect Paul (Stott) is right that this is driven to a great extent by Tory central office…..

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