Beware of the angry mob

What would you do if your provincial hometown became the subject of a rather ugly article by a national newspaper journalist? Or what about if your region featured in a film that highlighted everything that’s supposedly wrong with the UK? Or worse still – a posh politician refers to swathes of your homeland as “desolate”.

Seeing red, maybe you’d take to Twitter and fire off an impassioned defence, write to your local newspaper calling for your neighbours to join you in arms, or maybe you’d hold the swines to account in a vitriolic blog post.

After all, you live there, you’re proud of your roots and you’re working hard to maintain a successful business in this place – how dare some know-nothing outsider take a pop and set you back years.

In Cool Blue’s native North East, this sort of thing has been happening. In the last few years examples include The Guardian asking if the region is “Britain’s Detroit”, The New York Times colouring Sunderland and Washington as something out of a “time warp” and, to a certain extent, the filming of brutal social commentary film, I, Daniel Blake in and around Newcastle. These examples could happen, and have happened, in other places.

Events like these tend to whip social media mobs – those who see themselves as defenders of the realm – into a largely toothless frenzy. Regional media titles retort and pundits weigh in with counter facts about the sunnier side of the story. But is it wise for places to police how the media portraits them?

With a PR head on, it feels like the answer is no. Hysteria, indignation and outrage are never good looks – even when they’re justified. And thinking about audiences, overreacting can deny vast numbers of people who live in these places a voice they might agree with or at least recognise.

The answer, by the way, isn’t to let it all wash over us and erode civic pride. In some part it’s got to be about taking criticism intelligently, and meeting problems with solutions.

The trouble is, we’ve learned from some of the best. Many politicians don’t acknowledge problems, they say “I don’t recognise that”. Think how refreshing it is to hear from a politician who doesn’t use catchphrases and instead offers acknowledgement and solutions (actually, I’m scratching my head too).

Don’t get angry, and don’t get even. We can be proud of our hometowns without burying our heads in the sand.