Today, the narcissists of social media perform the same function. To be honest, I wouldn’t know Olly Murs from Ollie Beak, Pussy Cat Willum’s sidekick on Five O’Clock Club with Muriel Young, Wally Whyton and Bert Weedon — a teatime TV show from my childhood.Why do eight million people feel the need to follow his every utterance? There wasn’t a great deal of Blitz Spirit on parade in London on Friday when a Twitter-inspired mass panic broke out over an alleged terror attack. Armed officers were on the scene in a heartbeat, helicopters hovered overhead and sirens wailed.Thousands of Christmas shoppers and commuters went into full headless chicken mode over reports of explosions and ‘shots fired’ at Oxford Circus Underground station. Department stores, restaurants and pubs locked their doors as those fleeing the scene sought refuge. At 5pm, a pop singer called Olly Murs tweeted his eight million followers: ‘Everyone get out of Selfridges now gun shots!!The purpose of terrorism is to spread fear and despondency, and disrupt the way we go about our daily lives.In World War II, the German bombers were aided and abetted by Lord Haw-Haw’s wireless broadcasts, designed to frighten and unsettle the civilian population.What’s worrying is that a few wild tweets can create such mayhem.
Within minutes, Facebook was alight with photographs of friends and relatives missing, presumed dead — the instant electronic equivalent of this column’s popular Portashrines. By 5.39pm, however, police were able to reassure everyone that there was no evidence of any terrorist activity. Thankfully, apart from a few cuts and bruises, no one was hurt in the stampede. The cost in terms of lost business, wasted police time and human misery is incalculable.
Someone might have thought the IRA had acquired nuclear weapons and the streets of Soho would have resembled Pamplona during the bull run.
The BBC is currently showing a series about the effects of bombing during the Blitz.
The university authorities agreed, describing the event as deplorable and utterly unacceptable.
To the students, it must seem like ancient history, since the dispute was more than a decade before most of them were born.