Written by Neil McLeod • Published 11th November 2013
I start this blog by declaring an interest – I actually like Piers Morgan. I especially like him on Twitter. There you go, I’ve said it.
Brash? Yes. Brazen? Yes? Always right? Of course not. But he takes what he dishes out on the chin – both of them.
I once played cricket with Piers. He’s a useful spin bowler, and at least then was playing for his village team in Sussex. When he took a hat-trick of wickets, the fielder who made the catch for the third scalp, told Piers: “I’ve never seen anyone looking so smug.”
“You’ve obviously never seen me on TV then,” was Piers’ instant (and very smug) reply.
Piers is one of Twitter’s loudest and most interesting voices.
His wife, journalist Celia Walden, even refers to his Twitter power as “loathsome”. As she recapped in a recent column, Piers has a massive following of 3.8 million people (meaning he has far more readers than when he was editor of the Daily Mirror) and tweets up to 36 times a day. He ranks just beneath One Direction and David Cameron in terms of “influence”.
Last year, Piers, an Arsenal fan, spent most of the season calling for the Gunners manager Arsene Wenger to be sacked and lambasting midfield player Aaron Ramsey. This year, Wenger’s men are flying high and Ramsey is playing out of his skin. Does Piers eat humble pie? Nope. He takes credit, quite rightly defending his right to use Twitter to vent his football spleen whenever he can.
Recently, his eternal and bitter row with Jeremy Clarkson sprang into life once again on Twitter. Tweet followed tweet like two out-of-shape middle-aged boxers slugging it out in a backstreet gym. Morgan came out on top when he somehow managed to find a picture of a schoolgirl who looked very much like Clarkson in a wig.
Sir Alan Sugar is a common target, as is Michael Owen, Gary Lineker (see above picture), Rio Ferdinand and Robin Van Persie. And of course, Spurs.
He doesn’t always come out on top. Just last week, he tried to mock Manchester United by tweeting a picture of his mug of tea on top of Sir Alex Ferguson’s new autobiography, claiming he’d finally found a good use for it.
One Twitter user had the last laugh when he quipped: “Good idea, if anyone knows how to hold cups it’s definitely Sir Alex.”
But this is all frivolous stuff, so what’s so special about the way Piers uses Twitter?
Piers is now in America, and one thing that has obviously shocked him so greatly is the horrific gun murders the world’s greatest nation suffers, especially the heart-breaking and appalling murders at Sandy Hook. What has shocked him equally is the apparent lunacy of the pro-gun lobby in the States, whose answer to gun murders is to give even more people guns, even suggesting teachers are armed.
Of course, he can and has exposed ranting gun merchants on his show, but he also needs to cover other news.
But through a series of 140-character statements, often instant and emotional, dogged Piers has taken the fight to the right-wing gun groups in America.
It is a controversial battle which questions the modern day interpretation, and indeed relevance, of the 2nd Amendment. Piers argues that when it was inserted into the US Constitution in 1791, the AR-15 Assault Rifle wasn’t in existence.
The campaign has no doubt brought him personal and very serious threats. Some Americans have told him to stay out of their business and get himself back to England. It has even led to appalling accusations on Twitter that his tweets mean he is dancing on the graves of murdered children.
What he is actually doing is using Twitter, which so many others use to promote, amuse, PR or even troll, as a platform for what is so far a highly interesting and important one-man campaign for something he believes in. He believes with his millions of followers, he can influence something which is far more important than Arsenal’s position in the league, or spats with Sugar and Clarkson.
And it shows for the Twitter Luddites out there, or those who have been wronged by social media, the beauty of micro-blogging. It can be a force for good, as well as bad.
The last time I saw Piers was when I took my client Fabrice Muamba to be interviewed by him when CNN visited London for the 2012 Olympics.
As we stood chatting and in a break between him and Fab chatting all-things Arsenal, I asked him how he coped with all the abuse he receives on Twitter.
“I actually love it,” he replied. If anyone’s skin is that thick, it is his. And certainly anyone putting a social conscience into social media would need to have courage to go with their convictions.