I am shocked – shocked I tell you – that a 14-year-old might say something stupid on Twitter.
Paris Brown, the 17-year-old who was appointed “youth police and crime commissioner” in Kent last week, has resigned, a few days after it was discovered that over the course of the last three years she has said various things on Twitter that aren’t entirely in keeping with public office. I won’t horrify you with the details, but they revealed – avert your eyes if you’re of a nervous disposition – that teenagers might be familiar with drinking, drugs and even sex.
Among the pearl-clutching Victorian maiden aunts who promptly called for her resignation was the saintly Keith Vaz, who gasped as he fanned his face with a lace kerchief: “This individual must be removed from their post immediately. Public money should never be given to anyone who refers to violence, sex, drunkenness and other anti-social behaviour in this offensive manner.”
Admittedly, it’s bizarre that the Kent PCC Ann Barnes gave her the job, or, more specifically, that the job exists at all. I don’t fully understand what a “youth police and crime commissioner” does, but I have a horrible feeling it’s about “keeping the police up to date on youth culture” or somesuch, which could easily be done by checking Reddit every couple of days rather than by paying a 17-year-old fifteen grand a year. The whole thing smacks of the stupid PR tokenism and obsession with youth that infected government two or three decades ago and which is creeping into policing; what Barnes thought she’d get out of it beyond a couple of pointless headlines I don’t know.
But that’s done, that’s over. Pointless job is made, and so pointless job must be given to first available teenager. The situation is what it is. What’s pathetic is the pretend shock – like Captain Renault in the casino in Casablanca – that said teenager might have acted like a teenager at some stage in the last three years.
One of the little ironies of Twitter that people don’t talk about that much is that, despite its famously ephemeral nature, it’s also as good as chiselling things in stone: if someone has the patience, they can find exactly what you said five years ago, and use it against you. I am incredibly lucky, because the stupid things I did, said and thought in my Stupid Years, roughly 1995 to 1999, were not recorded for eternity like that. If social networks has existed then, they would have been, because one symptom of being stupid is being too stupid not to boast about the stupid things you’re doing. There would have been permanent records of things I do not want to admit to, penned in my own hand. Most of us would get caught the same way, I expect. I’m sure Keith Vaz has never done anything stupid in his life, but the rest of us would be in trouble.
Those of us in the newspapers writing about it, and those commenting on it from Parliament, aren’t teenagers, though. So our stupid things that we did haven’t been recorded like that. Keith Vaz and I were free to make our stupid mistakes without being sprayed, years later, with manufactured rage from self-righteous bores. I feel we were the lucky ones.