Out last night to one of the most extraordinary venues I have ever spoken at. A club in Soho which – not that I have ever knowingly been in a Paris brothel – felt like, well, a Paris brothel.
It was all dark and moody, with lots of stairways and rooms of different shapes and sizes going off in odd directions, paintings of nude women on walls and ceilings, some of whom looked like the women working there. Before the speeches we were treated to loud music and a near naked woman performing extraordinary gyrations on a hoop hanging from the ceiling. Sexily dressed, smiling waitresses made sure the drink was flowing under the watchful eye of a woman they called the ‘madame.’ I made my excuses and left around nine, just before the ‘next stage of the performance’ which, I was informed, was ‘much raunchier than the hoop.’ Had I been half my age, and in my drinking phase, I fear I would still be there now, chatting to a red-dressed advertising firm social media operative called Madison who writes a blog called ‘SexShoppingChocolate.’ It was that kind of night, and it is quite a blog- though I can rebut her tweet this morning that she ‘licked’ me (if by that she meant the traditional sense of lick).
The event was part of a series hosted by firm of the moment Twitter. I had prepared a rather serious and earnest analysis of the impact of social media on mainstream journalism, business and politics – which I will also address in my ‘visiting professor’ (no less) role at Cambridge University next week. But, with the drink flowing, the sexual atmospherics building, the lights so low that I could not read my notes, and the realisation that I was the only person there with a tie, the only one over fifty – or maybe even thirty – I decided to dump the notes and wing it when I was called to the stage, sandwiched between advertising man Trevor Beattie and comedian Richard Herring.
So out poured a twitter stream of consciousness – how I trended on twitter after the Mail (loud cheers for attacks on Obergruppenfuhrer Dacre as always) suggested I had broken The Wanted singer Tom Parker’s leg in a football match at Burnley – and used twitter to rebut; how I used twitter to get all those signatures calling on Coward Dacre to debate his evilness (still waiting); my twitter spat with – and belated apology to – Louise Mensch; how I used twitter to sort my visa for Australia; how I used it to get staff at Gatwick to open automatic doors which had got stuck as I came off a plane from Croatia; more seriously how I used twitter for politics, book-promoting, fundraising and mental health campaigns, and how my most retweeted tweet ever was the one about Stephen Fry, when I challenged those asking ‘what does he have to be depressed about?’ by asking if they would ask what he had to be cancerous, diabetic or asthmatic about?
But given yesterday’s news was all about Twitter being floated and its eye-watering value making it one of the big success stories of the Internet age, I also gave a warning (again something I will develop at Cambridge) that the new media giants must not become modern versions of the old media oligarchies. If people sense the Facebook Twitter revolution is all about the money, not about challenging the old corrupt media power structures and giving people a voice, the amazing goodwill on which they are part built could evaporate quite quickly.
My sense was the Twitter guys got that. But when brands start small and get big, as quickly as this one has, anything can happen. The Twitter story is going to be a fascinating one from now on in. I wish them well, but will have a wary eye on how they develop.