Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Monday 26 April 2010

'Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?'

It looks as if a new benchmark has been set for stupidity in the electronic age. This story has left me speechless - so I offer it in full for your edification.
A woman was plagued with almost 3,000 text messages and hundreds of calls after her mobile phone number was displayed on EastEnders. The incident happened last September when a message sent by Sam Mitchell was shown close-up on screen for four seconds.

So either the callers are blessed with eidetic memory or they actually went to the trouble of pausing the programme in order to read it. I know which one I think is more likely...
Above the message were two further texts which had apparently been sent from Mrs Edwards's phone, showing her business mobile number.

So far, so harmless - a simple technical mistake by the production crew. After all, no one would be stupid enough to call a number on a text from a fictional character would they?
The 39-year-old mother of two from Alvechurch near Birmingham was then deluged with calls and texts, with several asking: 'Is that Sam from EastEnders?'
Others, it seems, were less polite:
Mrs Edwards said: 'The calls just keep coming and I can't use my phone for my business. Most have been friendly but quite a few were obscene.'
Luckily Ofcom are there to provide the voice of reason, informing us that:

'We found that Mrs Edwards would not have expected her business mobile telephone number to appear on screen during an episode of a soap opera.'
You don't say! Ofcom added that the torrent of 'unwanted and abusive calls and texts was

' ...further added to after the repeat broadcast of the programme later that evening on BBC3'.
Which probably says more than we want to know about BBC3's viewer profile. However, nobody comes out of this story very well; according to the BBC,
'the number of calls and messages to Mrs Edwards's phone may have been inflated after she complained to the Sun newspaper about the incident and the number was clearly displayed in a screen grab published by the paper. '

Even allowing for repeat messages, that's still a depressingly large number of people who considered it a good use of time or money to call the number. Either random obscene callers are so short of imagination they need someone to show them a number to dial or viewers have epically failed to grasp that they are watching a work of fiction.

I'm starting to wonder whether universal suffrage was such a good idea....


  1. Isn't this why US tv shows always show a 555 number? You'd think the Beeb would learn from that.

    Although if they knew, and simply thought UK viewers would be far more sophisticated, then they really are out of touch...


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