People who think that having free speech means that you're allowed to say whatever you like with no callbacks or consequences will be furious to find out that non-paedophile Lord McAlpine is thinking of sueing everyone who tweeted or retweeted the incorrect accusations that he was a paedophile. I think that's fair enough. It's a bit more of a grey area when people are joking or attempting to make a joke about a subject, but in this instance there was no joke. It was just thousands of people spreading malicious gossip.
However, McAlpine isn't being a dick about it. He's planning to sue the lower profile tweeters just £5, money that he will donate to charity. That's quite reasonable of him. Plus it at least puts the accusation to bed that you have to be a paedophile to do charity work. Which I am relieved about.
But Mcalpine's possibly set the price too low. It seems like quite a good deal. For that money I am thinking about which Tory politician I'd like to falsely accuse. In fact as I am feeling flush and all the money goes to charity I am just going to push the boat out. Have you heard the rumour? Every single Tory MP currently in parliament is a paedophile.
I've had the fun of falsely accusing someone of paedophilia and charity will probably make a couple of grand out of it. Maybe a bit less because of course there is the chance (or likelihood) that some of the Tory MPs I have falsely accused actually are paedophiles and so they won't be able to sue me. In fact this might be a good way to flush out any of the Tory MPs who are paedophiles. If they don't sue me then you will know the truth. Let's not leave it at the Tories. I don't trust those liberals for a second. Let's make it "all current MPs are paedophiles". My maximum payout will be £3250 and I am happy to give that money to a good cause, especially if it means that any actual paedophiles will be arrested and charged. So if you're an MP and you're not a paedophile do email me with the subject heading "I am an MP, but not a paedophile" and give me your constituency name and the name of the charity you'd like me send your money to. I will print your name in my blog, which will serve as a handy reference guide to any TV show or newspaper who wants to accuse a politician of this crime and save them getting sued. I know that none of this would help Lord McAlpine, but I only have enough money to cover current MPs. Maybe some of you out there would like to take up the challenge for the House of Lords, or for ex-politicians or take the safe and cheap option of the Catholic clergy. And then we can finally compile a definitive list for Philip Schofield to show to the Prime Minister.
And then we can get on with doing what Newsnight were originally criticised for - not accusing people of serious crimes until it's been proven in court.
Perhaps more than anyone I have enjoyed the wild west lawless aspect of the internet and said some unpleasant and maybe even libellous things (usually I hope as a joke, but it's hard to remember) and every little thing we write and say on here is catalogued and searchable (our emails and private messages are also accessible, even if we've kept them in the draft folder like that CIA fella). So I don't think it's a bad thing that we're all being made to consider the impact of this new medium for expression. It's probably worth stopping and considering the impact of what we're about to shit out into the ether (though I am aware that my on stage job is often to do the exact opposite of that).
Luckily I am not the kind of person to make wild accusations about 650 rich and influential people with fantastic lawyers.