Liz Jones in Somalia: ‘haters’ give generously
Anger at Mail columnist’s ‘crass’ famine trip has been harnessed on Twitter for East Africa charity
A jaunt to famine-stricken Somalia by controversial fashion writer and confessional columnist Liz Jones this week has sparked outrage, with reactions ranging from "inappropriate" to "grotesque". But instead of just making snide comments about the rationale of sending a lifelong anorexic to cover a famine, Jones's legions of internet 'haters' have harnessed their anger for good, raising almost £15,000 for East Africa in less than 24 hours via a spoof Twitter account.
Since Jones flew out to Somalia @LizJonesSomalia has been reporting "her plight" on Twitter, complaining that she is starving and lamenting the lack of shops. The account is a send-up of her narcissistic weekly column for the Mail on Sunday, which has previously charted her £13,500 facelift, obsession with dieting and the indignity of moving to Somerset.
The anonymous instigator of the spoof Twitter feed, @DMReporter, says the aim is to highlight the Mail on Sunday's "staggering crassness" in sending Jones – "someone with such fundamental first world problems" – to cover the famine, while raising money for it.
"All week we've all had a laugh, we've made fun of Liz Jones and criticised the hell out of her - and we can now make this experience about something more than just a snarky Twitter feed and save some lives, and in the process stick it to a newspaper that thinks Twitter is just for telling people what you had for breakfast."
Earlier this week the news that the Mail on Sunday was sending their egotistical columnist to cover the famine was greeted with amazement and derision. Jones, wrote the Guardian's Ros Coward, was "the most inappropriate journalist you could think of to send to cover the famine in Somalia". It was "grotesque", she said, "to send someone who represents the worst excesses of the western fashion industry's obsession with dieting and appearance into situations where people are struggling to survive".
Jones has reported on places of suffering before but she is always centre stage. Last year her visit to Bangladesh to report on child labour pictured her grinning and posing like a model with her subjects.
Nor did it bode well that Jones's column last Sunday, in which she announced she was off to Somalia, focused on her troubles with the NHS. She complained that her GP surgery would not allow her to get her immunisations without an appointment – despite the fact that it was an "emergency". As Coward put it, the NHS staff "failed to realise the fate of the starving Somalians rested on Jones being able to queue jump".
It remains to be seen how Jones's report on the famine will turn out. But, in the meantime, thousands of pounds have been raised for the Disasters Emergency Committee's East Africa Crisis Appeal.
The account's snowballing success has shown "social media at its best", says its founder, @DMReporter. "Isn't there something perversely brilliant about Liz Jones being sent to Somalia inspiring a charity drive in opposition to her? If that doesn't send her a message about her value as a journalist then nothing will." ·
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