Queen's Elastoplast dress

A Credit Crunch is just some kind of half-arsed pudding. We’re going to get through it by enjoying g

Aaah, the French. I know, I know, I haven’t blogged for a bit, Christmas and the New Year have passed, the telly was rubbish, the weather was cold enough to snap dogs… but first I was with the French. They threw me off beam, got me all relaxed.

It’s ages since I’ve met the French and I’d missed them. I’d missed looking at Paris after dark – which was about the only time I could look at it because I was working all the daylight hours for my very lovely French publishers. Very shiny. That’s Paris – not the publishers – they were simply generous with nuclear strength French coffee and macaroons, which is almost as good as being shiny.

I’d also missed the ridiculously attractive Parisian gentlemen, the flirting and the hand-waving conversations and even the irregular verbs. Get me caffeined up enough and arcane usages of venir and questions which expect the answer “No”. (Are there any other kinds ?) are all magically rendered simple. (At least in my head.) And I’d missed their food – all of it, even their sandwiches – and their ability to manage the run up to Christmas in a controlled way that doesn’t make you want to beat reindeer to death with strangled elves by the 2nd of December.

Of course Christmas did inevitably arrive with the Queen telling us all – rather incongruously, I thought – about the way that having no money can make you happy and how she joins with us during the Credit Crunch in appreciating acts of generosity… all this delivered from her own personal palace.

But she was wearing a dress which was apparently made of recycled Elastoplasts, so a nod to economising there. And she was almost the television highlight of the season. Without Wallace and Gromit and the Doctor (and the new Doctor – what is the official title for Matt Smith at the moment: the Locum? - Jeeze, they span that out for long enough…) there would have been no reason to turn the hideous device on.

We can now rest easy in the knowledge that plasticine can emote much more beautifully that Rupert Penry-Jones - who knew The 39 Steps could be that dull? I’d rather have watched him sweep them - and eight year olds all over the country will watch the next set of Dr Who specials in a weird kind of bereaved/excited pre-decease/rebirth wince, which will probably do them no end of psychological good.

Not that I spent the holidays lolling and ambling towards the remote control. I was mainly locked upstairs in a frenzy of typing, because I had to produce three hours of overdue radio drama for a German broadcaster. I had chosen – I no longer recall why – to set the whole thing aboard a schooner and much looking-up of nautical terms and the proper names of bits and widgets ensued. I now know more about gaff rigging than I ever wished to.

And now it’s 2009, the New Year having passed and been modestly celebrated with pie and ice cream, black bun and mackerel pate. (It’s not traditional yet, but we’re working on it.) I do always wonder why we choose to make a big fuss about passing from one arbitrary collection of 365 days into another. And it’s odd, but perhaps not surprising, that we Scots have appropriated the UK’s one big pointless/pagan festival of joy and despair. The joy comes with the dancing, singing, drinking and promising ourselves that we will be entirely different people as soon as midnight has struck. The despair comes with the dancing, singing, drinking, realising – at ten past twelve – that we are exactly the same and then experiencing that sudden Hogmanay inrush of all the negative events and thoughts we have ever had, before we retire to a darkened corner and weep until dawn. New Year – it’s the Bi-Polar Holiday.

And the New Year shindig does take our minds off the dark and the cold and the oncoming Depression. (Yes, that’s Depression - or if you like, Recession – not the Credit Crunch. A Credit Crunch is just some kind of half-arsed pudding. We’re not going to get through this by reverting to baby talk. We’re going to get through it by enjoying generosity and sharing simple pleasures, just like the good old Queen said. Or by punching each other in the throat over scraps and boiling toddlers for food.) And celebrating distracts us from the notion that bombing civilians around Christmas always seems to go relatively unnoticed in the wider world. Or, at least, in the Oval Office – which seems to be the only place that counts.

In conclusion, dear reader, let’s hope that you spend the next year being exactly who you would like, let’s hope that I get through all the work I have lined up and let’s hope that humanity, just every now and then, manages to do something other than murder, maim, steal, screw up and generally disappoint

John Moore
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The man who created the fake Tube sign explains why he did it

"We need to consider the fact that fake news isn't always fake news at the source," says John Moore.

"I wrote that at 8 o'clock on the evening and before midday the next day it had been read out in the Houses of Parliament."

John Moore, a 44-year-old doctor from Windsor, is describing the whirlwind process by which his social media response to Wednesday's Westminster attack became national news.

Moore used a Tube-sign generator on the evening after the attack to create a sign on a TfL Service Announcement board that read: "All terrorists are politely reminded that THIS IS LONDON and whatever you do to us we will drink tea and jolly well carry on thank you." Within three hours, it had just fifty shares. By the morning, it had accumulated 200. Yet by the afternoon, over 30,000 people had shared Moore's post, which was then read aloud on BBC Radio 4 and called a "wonderful tribute" by prime minister Theresa May, who at the time believed it was a genuine Underground sign. 

"I think you have to be very mindful of how powerful the internet is," says Moore, whose viral post was quickly debunked by social media users and then national newspapers such as the Guardian and the Sun. On Thursday, the online world split into two camps: those spreading the word that the sign was "fake news" and urging people not to share it, and those who said that it didn't matter that it was fake - the sentiment was what was important. 

Moore agrees with the latter camp. "I never claimed it was a real tube sign, I never claimed that at all," he says. "In my opinion the only fake news about that sign is that it has been reported as fake news. It was literally just how I was feeling at the time."

Moore was motivated to create and post the sign when he was struck by the "very British response" to the Westminster attack. "There was no sort of knee-jerk Islamaphobia, there was no dramatisation, it was all pretty much, I thought, very calm reporting," he says. "So my initial thought at the time was just a bit of pride in how London had reacted really." Though he saw other, real Tube signs online, he wanted to create his own in order to create a tribute that specifically epitomised the "very London" response. 

Yet though Moore insists he never claimed the sign was real, his caption on the image - which now has 100,800 shares - is arguably misleading. "Quintessentially British..." Moore wrote on his Facebook post, and agrees now that this was ambiguous. "It was meant to relate to the reaction that I saw in London in that day which I just thought was very calm and measured. What the sign was trying to do was capture the spirit I'd seen, so that's what I was actually talking about."

Not only did Moore not mean to mislead, he is actually shocked that anyone thought the sign was real. 

"I'm reasonably digitally savvy and I was extremely shocked that anyone thought it was real," he says, explaining that he thought everyone would be able to spot a fake after a "You ain't no muslim bruv" sign went viral after the Leytonstone Tube attack in 2015. "I thought this is an internet meme that people know isn't true and it's fine to do because this is a digital thing in a digital world."

Yet despite his intentions, Moore's sign has become the centre of debate about whether "nice" fake news is as problematic as that which was notoriously spread during the 2016 United States Presidential elections. Though Moore can understand this perspective, he ultimately feels as though the sentiment behind the sign makes it acceptable. 

"I use the word fake in inverted commas because I think fake implies the intention to deceive and there wasn't [any]... I think if the sentiment is ok then I think it is ok. I think if you were trying to be divisive and you were trying to stir up controversy or influence people's behaviour then perhaps I wouldn't have chosen that forum but I think when you're only expressing your own emotion, I think it's ok.

"The fact that it became so-called fake news was down to other people's interpretation and not down to the actual intention... So in many interesting ways you can see that fake news doesn't even have to originate from the source of the news."

Though Moore was initially "extremely shocked" at the reponse to his post, he says that on reflection he is "pretty proud". 

"I'm glad that other people, even the powers that be, found it an appropriate phrase to use," he says. "I also think social media is often denigrated as a source of evil and bad things in the world, but on occasion I think it can be used for very positive things. I think the vast majority of people who shared my post and liked my post have actually found the phrase and the sentiment useful to them, so I think we have to give social media a fair judgement at times and respect the fact it can be a source for good."

Amelia Tait is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman.