I wear two hats when I write this blog of mine. First and foremost, I manage a small charity in a small Scottish town called Dumfries. Ours is a front door that opens onto the darker corners of the crumbling world that is Britain 2015. We hand out 5000 emergency food parcels a year in a town that is home to 50,000 souls. Then, as you can see from all of the book covers above, I am also a thriller writer. If you enjoy the blog, you might just enjoy the books. The link below takes you to the whole library in the Kindle store. They can be had for a couple of quid each.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Thank God Twitter means the days bad stuff being hidden behind closed doors are over

I have to admit that when I set out to write a regular blog in the summer of 2012 I felt more than a little sceptical about the whole thing.

Ditto Twitter.

Those in the know were adamant that this is the way for wannabe authors to make themselves noticed and heard in the new digital world. Well, there was little doubt that my writing career had hit the bricks pretty big style. After twenty years, twenty novels sales and over 100,000 books sold, I was down to five sales a month. So it was basically a case of nowt to lose.

I duly dusted down a half forgotten blog page and bashed out a few hundred words.

Click; Save

Click: Publish

And a week later the statistics zone reported that of the nine billion souls living and breathing on our third rock from the sun, a princely total of eight had logged on to take a look.

The big time!

But if there is one thing you need to learn in the hurry if you want to tread the weary path of writing stuff, it is the art of ignoring endless slaps in the face. If at first you don’t succeed and all that.

And little by little the number of visits to this page started to ease up until one day in the autumn I began to understand what all the fuss was about. Two days before David Cameron got to his feet to finally own up to 23 three years of Hillsborough cover up and lies, I watched an ITV documentary which transported me back to those desperate hours on a sunny afternoon in Sheffield where 96 Liverpool fans died in the cages of the Leppings Lane End. I poured 23 three years of pent up rage into a blog and duly sent it out into the ether. All of a sudden it found wings and within 36 hours over 10,000 people had turned up at my page.

All of us who were there that day saw exactly what happened. And for years and years and years we felt muzzled and ignored. And of course when the traditional media by and large chose to back up the establishment view, then the rest of the world never got the chance to see our side of the story.

It became clear to me that everything had changed as the blog bounced around the world. It was the moment that I finally got it. This whole thing is a means to put the kind of inconvenient truth the establishment loves to keep buried right out into the light for anyone to look at.

No wonder the thousands who took to the streets of Tehran when Ahmadinejad stole their election fell hook, line and sinker for Twitter. After so many years of living in the claustrophobic darkness of a totalitarian state, at last they had been granted the means to show the rest of the world what was going down. For the first time they were able to film the brutality of the regime’s thugs on their mobile phones and send the images out for the rest of us to watch. This came at a time when reporters were camped at the border and denied access to what was happening. The crackdown was being snapped into the place and the Ayatollahs assumed that once again they would make sure their cold brutality would be played out behind closed doors. Of course there would be rumours and whispers, but no hard proof.

Well, the men with the big beards were in for the shock of their lives as jumping videos of the clampdown were beamed across the world care of Twitter and there wasn’t a thing they could do about it.

Imagine if such technology had been available on 9 Novemeber 1938 when Hitler sent his goons out to smash every Jewish face and window they could find. That night, Germany’s pavements were coated in broken glass and Jewish blood.

It was to become known as ‘The night of Broken Glass’: Kristallnacht.

1000 synagogues burned to the ground. 7000 Jewish businesses smashed up. 91 Jews murdered. 30,000 Jews hurled onto back of trucks and packed off to concentration camps.

There were no reporters to record the moment when Hitler revealed his true demonic colours. Kristallnacht was a vicious drama performed behind closed doors. The rest of the world heard rumours and chose to ignore them. It all seemed way too far fetched. We turned a blind eye because it made things easier. There would be no way that a modern day Hitler could get away with their version of Kristallnacht today. Within minutes, Twitter would be awash with videos of the Blackshirts carrying out their pavement beatings.
We could tune in to the hard reality of what it looks like when an old man is hammered with iron bars by two or three fit young men with faces all twisted up in racial hate.
We could tune in to the sight of small groups of policemen standing by sipping their coffees and having a laugh as a tailor and his family are dragged from their burning shop and loaded onto a truck.
And would our leaders dare to try and persuade us that Hitler really isn’t such a bad sort of chap really? I don’t think so.

The days of evil deeds being carried out in secret behind closed doors are well and truly over. If we there had been mobile phones and Twitter back in April 1989, there is no way in a million years that the Hillsborough cover up would have stuck. There is no way that Kelvin McKenzie would have dared print his filthy lies on the front page of the Sun. The truth would have been out there for everyone to see within minutes. There is an awful lot wrong with the way that our world is turning out at the moment and things promise to get much worse before they look up. However the fact that Twitter ensures that Kristallnacht 2 would be an impossible secret to keep is a thing that we should wholeheartedly celebrate.

So what has any of this got to do with the picture of our volunteer Lesley-Anne and her Lidl carrier bag? Well I refer regular visitors to the site to my blog of last week where I told the story of a Barnados marketing type telling me that it would be inappropriate for their iconic Brand to be associated with our food parcels. Basically they refused to sell us 2500 carrier bags at 9p each because having their name linked to giving food to hungry people would somehow taint their treasured public image. To get the full and tawdry tale, any new visitors can curser down the page.

For some years, the antics of the new super charities have been a constant bug bear to small outfits like ours. They behave like arrogant bullies and they seem to have borrowed their play book from the multinational corporations. They like to have ritzy offices in the heart of London and they pay their swaggering Chief Execs six figure salaries. When they blag themselves a slot on the news, they are always well rehearsed to seem all concerned and caring. Behind closed doors, they are a very different animal. They like to employ sharp suited characters to hang out in the tearooms of Holyrood and Westminster to whisper in the ears of politicians. They drip feed the idea that small charities are well meaning but not really up the mark. They whisper the message that tax payer’s cash should only ever be given to charities which have overflowing admin departments rammed full of filing cabinets filled to bursting with jargon ridden policies on everything from health and safety to how to handle grievances from a member of staff from the disabled, transsexual, asylum seeking community. And slowly but surely, they managed to convince the politicians to keep on raising the bar to a place where small frontline charities wouldn’t stand a chance of ticking all the required boxes to get some tax payer’s cash. For years they have hoovered up most of the cash and small charities have been bled dry. We have been the corner shops and they have been the supermarkets.

And whenever any of us has tried to complain, we have been brushed aside by well oiled PR Departments and Media machines. How dare we? These are beloved institutions! National Treasures! They have Royalty and the Beckhams turning out at their fundraisers.

Well thank God for Twitter. Sometimes a blog finds wings and sometimes a blog makes like a damp squib. Thankfully my blog about my call with the Barnados marketing type grew a pair of wings and within two days I had a reporter from the local paper on the phone.

Can we run the story? You bet you can.

And they did. On page three. And surprise, surprise nobody from Barnados was available for comment.

Last night I was invited to a local church where 25 volunteers turned out on a cold winter's night to see what they could do to help us with our food parcel project. It transpired that every last one of them had read the article in the local paper and they were less than amused at the overbearing attitude shown by Barnado's. This certainly wasn't the Barnado's as described on the tin.

Of course, the insufferable attitude of some woman from Essex representing a charity that has left its roots far, far behind is absolutely nothing when compared to the brutality of the Iranian secret police or the Gestapo. It is nothing when compared to the 23 year cover up put in place by the top brass of the South Yorkshire Police. Of course it isn’t. But the principal is there all the same. Only a few short years ago, this small piece of evidence of a large charity behaving like a swaggering corporation would have stayed firmly behind closed doors. It would have happened and then disappeared without trace.

Instead it ended up on page three of the paper.

Three cheers to that!



  1. Hurrah. Among the many important things you say here is the explanation that social media CAN (and should) be used for important things!!! There's so much navel gazing about whether we should 'promote' this or that or what 'rules' and 'etiquette' we should be adopting when the fact is the WHOLE OPPORTUNITY offered by this new technology is the chance to SAY THINGS that a lot of people DON'T want to hear! Because there are plenty of people who DO want to hear and many more who NEED to hear some of these things. Keep on getting angry. Keep on telling it like it is. Keep on inspiring the rest of us not to succumb to the trivia which is the TRENDING thing in the world of the smug and self satisfied. Social media is for EVERYONE. Now everyone has a voice it's just a bit worrying how trivial so many people's voices are. You stand above that. Respect.

  2. Well done Mark for highlighting this cause and holding the bigger Charities to count. I have in the past helped raise money for this Charity,having worked as a Midwife - well - I love babies!! Though I have since learnt they were not at all Charitable toward babies or children from Catholic families. I was hoping that it would go NATIONAL because it should.

  3. No more time to say anything than thank you, Mark, because I'm dashing out. But it's a BIG thank you. A thoughtful post, and one to generate much thought too.