Yesterday, my Twitter timeline was awash with stories about Boris Johnson and a supposed trip to Perugia. The lovely city in Italy’s Umbria region had become the centre of a story that many people who should have known better swore would “bring down Boris”. It came from a story in Italian newspaper La Repubblica about Luis Suarez, the footballer. Our prime minister supposedly landed at Perugia airport on September 11th at 2 pm. Only, it turned out the whole story was false. Someone had confused Boris Johnson with Tony Blair.
Some of the people tweeting about Perugia yesterday make their living as investigative journalists. Most of those have deleted the tweets in question; some have not. I bring all this up for several reasons.
One is that if your worldview is deeply shaped by the idea that your political opposition cheat and lie, peddling fake news to cement their position, going ahead and peddling fake news yourself is not a great look. And I’m willing to have a modicum of sympathy on occasion for journalists who get sucked into a false story. But one, this smelled of fake news instantly – the Tony Blair idea was there from the beginning, for a start. Two, before you go and screech on Twitter that this will be the downfall of Boris Johnson, perhaps be absolutely sure the story is for real first.
An excuse some journalists in the UK used for spreading the story was that came from “a reputable Italian newspaper”. Chaps, the media in Italy is infamous for liking to stir the shit; their readers like gossip and the proprietors are mostly happy to oblige. What I found interesting as well about this whole saga is that it involved people who accuse their political enemies of engaging in British exceptionalism demonstrating their own unconscious belief in the exceptionalism of our island; that the Italians would unquestionably take Boris jaunting to Perugia as a serious political story, as opposed to perhaps seeing it as “Look at what this clown with the funny hair is up to now”.
The worst thing about Perugia-gate, however, is that I don’t understand why journalists and other public figures who don’t like Boris Johnson feel the need to propagate what are at the very least extremely questionable stories when the actual stuff you can pin to the bloke does the job already. What I’m saying is you don’t need to make weird shit up about Boris – he supplies all the negatives in reality already. I mean, seriously, I sometimes wonder whether it’s Dominic Cummings who is behind these ludicrous stories; they do his job for him perfectly in terms of both making his opponents seem like the very conspiracy nuts they claim to be fighting while making any attack on Boris seem unfair as a result.
To summarise: just stop it. When you see a story about how Boris Johnson was somewhere that sounds strange, or read something about how his baby is fake, just ignore it and move on with your life. If it’s a real story, that will come out; most likely spreading it around will make you look like a nutter.
I have a book out now called “Politics is Murder”. It follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. There is also a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters thrown into the mix while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.