Did Twitter do for @Joey7Barton?Posted on
In 2004 David Beckham was ridiculed and labeled stupid when he admitted in a TV interview, after he picked up a booking against Wales, that he had done it deliberately to get a suspension out of the way after picking up an injury. Beckham said:
“I am sure some people think that I have not got the brains to be that clever, but I do have the brains … I could feel the injury. So I fouled Thatcher. It was deliberate. I knew straight away I had broken my ribs. I have done it before. I knew I will be out for a few weeks, so I thought: ‘Let’s get the yellow card out of the way’.”
Beckham has never quoted Nietsche, but in making that comment he believed he was changing perceptions about himself. He was unfortunately doing the opposite.
Just like television interviews, Tweets are instant and permanent. One difference is that the level of direct access that Twitter gives fans (and the streams of inevitable abuse) mean that a kneejerk defence or response can be very tempting. Therefore when Barton admitted on Twitter that his assaults on Sergio Aguero and Vincent Kompany were premeditated (“Still don’t think it’s a sending off. Tried to take one of their players with me … The head was never gone at any stage, once I’d been sent off, one of our players suggested I should try to take one of theirs with me”) he guaranteed that the FA would look even less favourably upon him.
Like Beckham, Barton was desperate to disprove a public perception. In Beckham’s case, that he was unintelligent, in Barton’s case, that he cannot maintain control of his tempet.
Last year I appeared on a panel at the Professional Players Federation conference alongside Barton. During the conference he said that Twitter enabled him to control the media message about him and talk directly to his fans. This is only true to a very minor extent. It is naïve to believe that what is said on Twitter exists in a vacuum. For a well-known individual making a comment on Twitter you are simply “feeding the beast” – putting out a statement for public consumption which will inevitably (quite often in Barton’s case) be used, quoted and misquoted in the press. The number of fans you directly influence are tiny in comparison to the general public who consumes mainstream media. The Sun reported Barton’s comments with the headline “Joey Barton: I tried to get Man City player sent off”.
It’s a mistake to believe that everyone that follows you on Twitter is your friend. Unfortunately for Barton, many are undoubtedly far from that.
If Barton had taken time, put down the iPhone, and taken advice from those close to him, he would inevitably have realised that bickering online would not prove that he doesn’t have an anger management issue. The PFA generously offered to intervene through their Chairman Clarke Carlisle. It may have only saved him a few games in terms of suspension but those few games may have been enough to salvage his QPR career.
Following the release of the FA’s written reasons for Barton’s suspensions the manner in which he and his legal team dealt with his Twitter outburst is interesting.
The Commission stated as follows:
“With regard to the Tweets he admitted that he made inaccurate statements regarding the sending off and he appreciated now that he should not have tweeted to his one and a half million twitter followers as he did and which contained lies”
His position is that his original Tweets were lies, which may come as a disappointment to some of his 1.5m followers. In an article he wrote for the Times on 31 January 2012 Barton said (under the headline “Last year I realised no journalist was going to tell my tale truthfully. So I’m doing it myself”) that he was “[taking] control of [his] own output to become master of [his] own destiny” and that “I’ve been successful because I’ve been honest” and “kept my integrity”.
Not only was the episode at the Etihad (and beyond) a blow to Barton’s playing career, it has also given his microblogging career a knock.