Leon Knight, ex-footballer and noted misogynist, suspended from Twitter

His "Slag Alert Pictures" stunt backfired.

Leon Knight was a footballer. At the age of 29, he finds himself without a club, after he was released from Glentoran after allegedly making homophobic comments on Twitter.

Until yesterday, though, there was a place where Leon Knight still had an audience: Twitter.  As @leonknight82, he had 102,800 followers, who enjoyed such banterous tweets as "Hoes have to know 80% of men have a sat nav hoe alert device programmed into our brains you can't fool us lol #beat&delete". A month ago, he went after Jamie O'Hara, claiming that his wife Danielle was a "hoe" and trying to provoke both of them into responding to his increasingly obscene tweets. (I made a Storify of that here; it's pretty unpleasant).

Anyway, for the last couple of days, Knight has been trailing "Slag Alert Pictures", his latest brave foray into the world of "exposing" women who've sent dirty pictures to their boyfriends. He even created a hashtag, #SAP. The plan was to tweet compromising pictures of these women, to shame them - and entertain his fans. The stunt added tens of thousands of followers

Now, I'm not going to detain you with amateur psychology on Leon Knight, who seems to veer between common or garden misogyny and "person you'd cross the continent on avoid". I just wanted to make a record of exactly how this went down.

First, Knight tweeted about the #SAP idea, and published an email address for people to send pictures to.

He claimed that someone had sent the following email, and he'd therefore decided to have mercy on them:

 

 

Then he published an image of a chalk board with the Twitter handles of the women he planned to target. Clearly, a fair proportion of his 102,000 fans then got in touch with the women to taunt them about their upcoming public vilification, because you see messages like this:

 

 

Not everyone was cowed, though:

 

 

Rather heartwarmingly, one of the targeted women's timeline simply contained "thank you" after "thank you", as she showed her gratitude to all the people who'd got in touch to say how horrific they found the whole idea.

That angered Leon Knight, who started tweeting that he was going to "ruin her whole life". (I've blanked out her name.)

 

 

Tragically, nothing was going to stop Leon Knight. I missed his initial flurry of tweets, and by the time that I checked, the photos he'd posted had disappeared. Here he claims that "Twitter" had deleted them.

 

By the end of the evening, one of the women said that she was receiving death threats and tweeted a photo of herself apparently in a police station, where she claimed to be reporting the crime. (I've been unable to find any credible report of Knight's arrest, although the rumour has been swirling on blogs and social networking sites). Another one of the Twitter handles from Knight's "blackboard of shame" appeared to show that the account had been deleted. 

And this morning, I checked for Leon Knight's account and found this:

Now, I don't think there are any grand conclusions to be drawn from this - apart from the fact that misogynists have fan clubs. It was a man who tipped me off about Knight's latest rampage, and for every witless idiot cheering him on, there was someone else disgusted by the flagrant bullying and slut-shaming. 

But it is worth recording. Because this stuff happens, and ignoring it won't stop it happening. Staffordshire police looked into Knight's earlier tweets to Jamie and Danielle O'Hara, and yet there he was last night, moving on to a new target. As our lives get more and more networked, those of us who use public spaces are going to have to decide how to deal with the Leon Knights of this world. 

Or, as This Is My England put it:

Digital technologies: changing faster than we get get our heads around the risks which come along with the useful functionalities. So let's be careful out there.

Update 2.30pm I've just contacted Staffordshire Police's press office, who confirm that Knight was cautioned last month over the tweets to the O'Haras. But they haven't received a new complaint.   

Leon Knight, who has been suspended from Twitter, in the shirt of his former club, Swansea. Photo: Getty

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

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Notes from a crime scene: what Seymour Hersh knows

Xan Rice meets the tireless Seymour Hersh to talk My Lai, pricey coffee and Bin Laden.

It’s late on a lazy Wednesday afternoon when Seymour Hersh comes bounding down the stairs. “Let’s find somewhere to sit,” the American investigative journalist says, striding over to the café area of the hotel in Bloomsbury where we meet.

Not quiet enough, Hersh decides, and he marches into an adjoining branch of Steak & Lobster, past a startled waiter who tries to explain that the restaurant isn’t open yet. “He’ll have a coffee,” Hersh tells the man laying the tables, gesturing in my direction. When the drink arrives, he remarks that, at £4.39, it’s the most expensive coffee he has bought in some time.

“I’m older and crankier than [Bernie] Sanders,” the 79-year-old says with a smile, leaning back in his seat, his tie loose and his top button undone. Hersh’s many notable stories include the My Lai Massacre and cover-up in Vietnam, which he exposed in 1969, and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal during the Iraq War. He’s in good health, relishing his speaking tour of London to promote his new book, The Killing of Osama Bin Laden, and hearing “how wonderful I am”.

“I come home from a trip like this,” he says, “and my wife can’t stand me. She says, ‘Get away, I don’t want to talk to you because you want everybody to bow and scrape.’”

Hersh never planned to be a journalist. After he was thrown out of law school for poor grades in 1959, he heard about an opening for a police reporter at a small news agency in Chicago. “I was reasonably coherent and could walk in a straight line, so they hired me,” he explains. Hersh learned on the job, covering his beat with a zeal that did not always impress his editors, one of whom liked to address him, without fondness, as “my good, dear, energetic Mr Hersh”.

“He saw me as a bleeding heart,” Hersh says, “who cared about people ‘of the Negro persuasion’ dying.”

Half a century later, he cannot say exactly what drove him to become an investigative reporter. “What defect did I have in my life that made me want to make everyone else look bad?” he wonders. “I almost viewed myself like a public defender: my job was to be there on the scene of a crime and to write about it in such a way that the police could not have the only call.”

Later, as his range widened, Hersh came to see his role as keeping in check “the nincompoops and criminals and fools running the world”.

He had been a journalist for ten years when he received a tip-off about an army officer being court-martialled for killing civilians in Vietnam. After investigating, he broke the story of the massacre at My Lai, in which a group of US soldiers murdered at least 347 people. The work earned him a Pulitzer Prize and soon afterwards he wrote his first piece for the prestigious New Yorker magazine. After sending in a draft, he was told that it would be read by the editor, William Shawn, and that he would receive a proof copy in the mail.

“Seven days later, the envelope comes and I’m terrified,” he recalls. “It was a writer’s magazine and any change they wanted, they asked you about. On the third page, I had some cliché or figure of speech. It was circled and in
the margin Mr Shawn had written: ‘Mr Hersh. Pls use words.’ I had a one-year course, a Master’s degree in journalism, in one sentence!”

Hersh has written regularly for the New Yorker over the years, though the relationship has recently come under strain. After researching the death of Osama Bin Laden, he became convinced that the Obama administration’s account of what happened before, during and after the raid in which Bin Laden was killed was a lie. He argued that the al-Qaeda leader had been captured by Pakistani intelligence in 2006 and held in Abbottabad until the US navy Seals operation five years later, which, Hersh claimed, was conducted with Pakistan’s assistance – rather than being a daring mission into hostile territory.

The New Yorker declined to run the story, so Hersh wrote it for the London Review of Books, which published it last year. The piece was read widely but attracted criticism from some American journalists who argued that it relied too heavily on a single, unnamed source and veered dangerously in the direction of conspiracy theories. Hersh is convinced that his version is correct and makes no apologies.

“I remember saying to my wife, ‘Don’t [these journalists] have mothers that tell them what to do better?’ . . . They insisted what they knew, what they wrote, had to be the story.”

Hersh’s mistrust of the official line is undiminished. His new book also questions whether it really was the Assad regime that carried out the chemical attacks in Ghouta, Syria, in 2013. Even the culprits of the recent Paris and Brussels massacres are not beyond doubt. “I don’t think Isis had a goddam thing to do with these kids,” he says. “The truth is, I don’t have any idea. I’m just telling you, heuristically, it’s an idea I would pursue if I was still a reporter.”

There is more to tell but Hersh has another interview. “Talk to me tomorrow,” he says, running back upstairs to collect his coat. “I’ll be around. I still have a lot of energy.” 

Xan Rice is Features Editor at the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism