Melton Times sports editor’s blog: Social media mob turn nasty in Ched Evans saga

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If there’s one thing social media was made for it’s moral hysteria. Nothing sends Twitter or Facebook into a Trending frenzy than a bit of outrage and indignation.

Followers particularly love an issue, preferably one where they can clamber up to the moral high ground and take bile-propelled potshots. Social media was made for Ched Evans.

As with all emotive debates played out over the internet, the lines of right and wrong became, with grim inevitability, blurred.

Not content with simply voicing protest, the whole saga descended into death threats and faceless nastiness. By now it was no longer clear which way the moral compass was pointing.

The fury and bullying created within cyberspace surrounding Evans was the latest example of how moral debates get hijacked.

Journalists within the mainstream media are trained and have a legal and professional responsibility to be rational and restrained in such matters - with a few dishonourable exceptions.

But the public is not dutybound to be so careful. While politicians and celebrities clamour for more regulation of the mainstream media, anything goes within its social cousin.

Not a fan of the simple black and white logic of mob rule, I tried to use empathy to see both sides.

But having searched my soul, I found little sympathy for Evans’ predicament.

I had even less understanding for those within Oldham Athletic who thought the time was right to sign a recently-released convicted rapist. Regardless of the eventual findings of the Criminal Case Review Board.

It would be difficult to imagine any footballer who has left such a toxic trail. And in this sport, that’s a particularly bad rap.

I’m sure the vast majority of footballers, who do much good work off the pitch, aren’t rolling out the red carpet for his return either.

But Oldham seemed intent on seeing how far they could push the boundaries of what was acceptable in football.

Would ability and reputation convince supporters to gloss over one of the most appalling human crimes?

They only had to look at Sheffield United or Hartlepool for the warning signs.

But unlike them, Athletic refused to drop the idea at the first whiff of a rumpus.

The longer the subject lingered and the Ched-shaped albatross clung to the Boundary Park mast, the more likely it seemed Oldham would take the plunge.

And the sad truth is that they would have. Chief exceutive Neil Joy said one of the main things stopping them was cash; the sole motivating factor left in football.

Without this threat to their bottom line, I’m sure Oldham’s owners would have been happy to stand the associated moral bankruptcy.

A TV voxpop with supporters last Wednesday evening unearthed further depressing truths.

One particular fan seemed prepared to turn a blind eye ‘because we need a goalscorer’.

Sadly I suspect his wouldn’t be a lone voice. For all the fans who are repelled, there is still a blasé section at all clubs who would forgive and forget anything in return for points and promotion.

While Evans may be the moral panic of the moment, in six months’ time, the angry mob will have moved on.

Maybe then, when the heat is off, another club will quietly smuggle him into their ranks.

If that precedent is set, and misogyny trodden deeper into the sport’s grubby fabric, where’s left to go?

It’s a question that needs answering. Just don’t ask social media.