Until recently, I can't say I was overly familiar with the nu-metal band Lostprophets. Now I don't think I'll ever forget them. The crimes to which their former singer has admitted are so monstrous, they leave even the most jaded person reeling and perplexed. Emotionally, his acts make us want to reach out to wipe history clean, pinpoint the wickedness and shut it down. But rationally, most of us know that the most heinous of criminal activities must face the cool rigours of the law - nothing more or less.
I say 'most of us', because there is a subset of the population with an over-developed sense of responsibility. Thanks to their minor celebrity, they've made the gargantuan leap from over-photographed face, to moral arbiter of everything they see. She's not alone, but I'm particularly thinking of Peaches Geldof here.
By an accident of birth, Peaches had easy access to a showbiz profile as soon as she could dress herself. Unfortunately, and in common with us all, recent years have also given her access to extremely powerful media outlets - like Twitter.
Although Ian Watkins' name has been common knowledge for many months, his co-accused have remained anonymous. There's a single, simple reason for this: they are the mothers of some of the dreadfully young infants whose abuse was planned and executed by this revolting cabal. If their mothers' names are known, then the children will be identifiable; and all victims of sexual crime are guaranteed anonymity for life.
Incredibly, Peaches Geldof decided this wasn't to her liking and - as a celebrity, and therefore far more important than a trivial matter like the law - decided the task of exposing these women fell on her shoulders. So she tweeted the names. To 160,000 people. With staggering irony, she also opined:
'... just how far the cult of celebrity has come when grown women are passing their kids around.'
Well, I don't know how much the 'cult of celebrity' had to do with those appalling assaults, but I'm sure it is the driving force behind this kind of crass irresponsibility on Twitter.
Laughably, Geldof calls herself a 'journalist' (she has no training in the field), so presumably she mistook copying, pasting and pushing a button for reportage. Not that it much matters if she mistakes baked beans for an army of little bald people. Unless, in doing so, she disrupts the progress of an incredibly sensitive trial and threatens to bring real harm to others; in this case infants. Then it matters a great deal.
Social media's positive potential is enormous. However, as it has seeped into our lives, it has emphasised a rather unsavoury side of human nature - self-righteousness. A dozen years ago, putting a cat in a bin was unlikely to attract anything more than the ire of the animal's owner, a very hacked-off cat and possibly a visit from the RSPCA. In the here-and-now, it also draws in thousands of punters, desperate to assert their own validity and moral credentials by blowing hard on Twitter about how 'wrong' they found the whole venture. They weren't directly affected, nor did they give two hoots for the feline a few hours later. But in the moment, they assumed the mantle of cop, judge and jury in an effort to accumulate a shred of self-worth and an iota of authority. Twitter gives them the perfect platform and this is the peril of social broadcasting for all.
Magnify this conceit through the prism of minor fame, and a recklessly stupid power trip is the result. Peaches has said sorry and deleted the tweets (almost certainly on the insistence of her legal 'people') but her apology is telling ...
"The question of whether or not to give anonymity to criminals in cases like this will go on forever. However these women and Watkins will be getting three meals a day, a double bed, cable TV etc, all funded by the tax payer alongside not being named apparently. It makes me sad.
"Will check my facts before tweeting next time. Apologies and lesson learned."
At no point does she acknowledge her breach of the law - indeed, she imagines the anonymity ruling is a movable feast and a matter of debate, which it clearly isn't. There is also a vain attempt to justify her tweeting, based on perceived unfairness.
Actually, I don't think Peaches announced those names for any of the reasons she gives. I firmly believe she thought she knew better and was therefore entitled to execute some celebrity, citizen justice and reached for her iPhone.
The Attorney General's Office are investigating Ms. Geldof and she may yet face charges. If she does, we can only hope she proceeds through the legal system without the vigilante interference of an impulsive fool out to make a name for themselves.
Magnus Shaw is a copywriter, blogger and consultant