You Only Get What You Give, David? Really?

Why the rubbish music played at party conferences matters.

"Dealers keep dealin', thieves keep thievin', whores keep whorin', junkies keep scorin'." Not exactly the musical accompaniment you'd expect Home Secretary Theresa May to choose to soundtrack her speech at the Conservative Party Conference.

And it wasn't.

As much as Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie, allegedly a card-carrying member of the Socialist Workers Party, might want to give the Tories a kicking, it was actually Dandy Warhols' Bohemian Like You that sounded out as May left the stage.

That isn't really any better, however. The song featured on a Vodafone TV advert for years, and I'm pretty sure the Tories wouldn't want to remind everyone about the £6billion-tax-bill-sized ball they dropped with that one.

David Cameron didn't exactly lead by example either, walking on to the sounds of You Get What You Give by The New Radicals.

If our ruddy-faced premier had anything to do with the song choice at all -- and let's hope he spent all available time perfecting his speech rather than poring over his iPod -- it suggests no more than a cursory glance at the tracklisting of whichever Now That's What I Call Music compilation that particular chart-bothering one-hit wonder came from.

"You get what you give? I like the sound of that idea, Samantha, it's like my Big Society. And the band are called The New Radicals. How jolly! That's what they used to call Boris and me when we were at Eton."

If Call Me Dave had delved deeper into the lyrical content of the song, of course, he would have discovered lines about "trashing Mercedes-Benz" and chasing the rich back to their mansions, plus an honourable, topical mention for lying "big bankers buying".

His exit music, meanwhile, was The Lovecats by The Cure which, on the surface seems rather lovely with its melodic double bass and kooky piano-led chorus, but it's all too easy to imagine Cameron and his cabinet "slipping through the streets while everyone sleeps, getting bigger and sleeker and wider and brighter". The slippery buggers.

Ed Miliband is no better. Choosing Florence + The Machine's cover of You Got The Love is as lame a grab for the zeitgeist as there ever was. I'm actually surprised, given the ubiquity of Flo's appearances at UK festivals over the past couple of years, that she didn't float out onto the stage and demand to perform it as a duet.

Now, I may have been giving the music used at the various party conferences too much thought lately, but that's only because I wish the parties cared as much. I'm not stupid; with 80,000 more unemployed people on the streets in the last six months and Mervyn King warning of the most serious financial crisis in decades, I realise there are more important things to fret about than which Killers song to play as the PM takes the lectern.

But I think it does point at something far more worrying - that they Just. Don't. Get. It. On any level. Politicians have long battled to appear connected with the voters, and an easy way of doing this is with shared cultural influences. Gordon Brown saying he loved Arctic Monkeys in 2006 was a pathetic, last-ditch attempt of grabbing some young voters. And he got found out, which is even more embarrassing than lying in the first place, although perhaps not quite as desperate-looking as Mr Tony Blair carrying his Fender Stratocaster everywhere with him. He was in a band at uni, you know...

David Cameron learned nothing from the Brown debacle and keeps on insisting he's a fan of The Smiths. Music is in the public domain once it's released, and no matter how much Johnny Marr forbids Dave from listening to The Queen Is Dead, he can't stop him.

Cameron, however, should know better than to endorse a band born during Thatcher's formative years. How can he seriously enjoy songs such as Miserable Lie, I Don't Owe You Anything and Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now? And an album title that rejoices in the fact his boss has carked it.

Dismiss the Tories' musical faux pas as unimportant if you will, but for me, their lack of research into the matter is symptomatic of a government not only obsessed with the superficial, but worryingly slack with the details too.

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Do the abusive messages sent to One Direction members reveal a darker side to fandom?

Incidents like this are often used to characterise all young female fans, but this isn’t about fandom. It’s harassment. 

One Direction’s Niall Horan is the internet’s favourite innocent blond goofball. He spends his days tweeting platitudes about golf and the weather, Snapchatting his reactions to whatever is on his TV, and thanking his fans for everything they’ve done for him. His social media presence is generally one of cheerful bemusement.

So, last night, the web went into maternal #ProtectNiall mode when he took to Twitter to highlight the darker side to fame.

A group of “fans” got hold of Niall’s number, and started frantically texting, WhatsApping and calling him. After two weeks of constant abusive messaging, despite requests to stop, Niall tries to use his platform to get them to stop.

Around the same time, screenshots of the supposed messages started to circle online. (I certainly can’t prove whether they’re real or not, but they first surfaced before Niall’s tweets and feel genuine.) The pattern that emerges seems to be one of frantic, attention-seeking messaging, extreme shock and surprise when he writes back, and, when Niall only requests that they stop messaging him and respect his privacy, the really nasty stuff starts. Messages range from “You invented cancer” to “If [your nephew] was my kid I’d sell it”; from “You’re so stupid and r*tarded” to “I hope your house blows up”.

Niall’s responses are extremely Niall in their politeness. “Why do I deserve to have a bad day?” he asks one. “You guys are bullies,” he tells them. “Go away please.”

As soon as the screenshots emerged, so did suspicions about the identity of the individuals in question. A set of five or six Twitter handles were circled by fan accounts, encouraging people to block and report the usernames to Twitter. Some of the owners of these accounts themselves claim to have been part of the conversations in question, to varying degrees. These account owners are seemingly women, under the age of 18, who have supposedly been involved in other recent One Direction harassment incidents.

One of those incidents came just days before Niall’s tweets. A person suspected to be a member of this group of “fans” got hold of another band member’s phone number: Louis Tomlinson’s. You can listen to a recording of the phone conversation between them that leaked online. After telling him her Twitter handle, Tomlinson asks the caller how she got his number. “You’re a fucking bitch and I hope your baby dies,” she says. Louis responds with a variation on the ancient proverb, “Lawyer up, asshole.” He seemingly tweeted about the incident later that day – and Niall retweeted him.

Fan accounts insist that the same Twitter users were also involved in hacking the iCloud of Anne Twist, Harry Styles’s mother, and leaking hundreds of photos of her son online.

The whole situation is a complicated mess. Parts of the messages feel as though they have been influenced by the style of accounts desperately trying to get the attention of celebrities on Twitter. If you look at the top reply to any tweet from a celebrity with millions of Twitter followers, the responses are calculated to shock the most in an attempt to get noticed. Maybe it’s a weird combination of sexual and violent imagery, or a sexist or racist slur. This is harassment itself, but its ubiquitousness can make it seem less offensive or extreme. Perhaps this kind of behaviour is easier to ignore on Twitter or Instagram – if you have millions of followers, you presumably can’t be notified every time one of them interacts with you online. When it moves into your private sphere, I can image it becomes more terrifying than annoying. Maybe these girls were simply swept up in the cultural moment, and failed to grasp the consquences of their behaviour.

Is it a damning indictment of the hysteria of teenage girls? The scary state of twenty-first century fandom? The problems of anonymity offered by the internet? It’s true that the internet has offered new ways for fans and celebrities to have a more direct connection with one another: for the most part, a mutually beneficial arrangement.

But the revelation of the internet has also been that it is a tool through which fundamentally human behaviours are expressed. Over the last few decades, we have learned that aggressive behaviour online is not limited to largely non-existent stereotypes of spotty virgins in their mothers’ basements, or teenage girls developing “dangerous” sexuality. Grown men and women, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons all do it. It’s also not a behaviour that is inherently connected to online spaces: children and teenagers might experiment with moral boundaries through cyberbullying, but they also might do it via anonymous notes in lockers or whispers in school corridors. People of all ages, professions and genders harass others.

The real problem is not celebrity culture or the concept of teenage fandom or social media. As Louis Tomlinson rightly identifies, it’s that our laws have failed to catch up. If we continue to treat harassment as harassment, in all spaces and by all perpetrators, we’ll have a better chance of minimising it.

Anna Leszkiewicz is a pop culture writer at the New Statesman.