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Little sign of intelligent life

The reaction to Victoria Beckham's tweet was infuriatingly obtuse.

india Updated: Nov 07, 2011 23:31 IST

Last weekend I felt sorry for Victoria Beckham. Just for a moment I felt like I'd been there. That's not a sensation I get often where she's concerned. We have very different lives, I suppose. I've never been in a girl band, she's never been on I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. She designs her own clothes, I barely wash mine. Anyway, we're different people.

One of the few things we have in common is being on Twitter. Last weekend I read an article headlined: 'The aliens are coming, tweets moonstruck Posh', which approvingly recounted the Twittersphere's disdainful reaction to her tweeting: 'UFO hovering above our house last night!!!!!' accompanied by a photograph depicting what most people would agree is a full moon.

It quotes one tweeter as saying: 'Someone want to tell Victoria Beckham that 'UFO' is the moon?' Now there's a phrase steeped in swaggering scorn. I found lots of similar responses. From the warm: "just a full moon Vic!!......x"; through the concerned: "Victoria, to me it looks like the moon"; past the condescending: "never saw the moon befor?" [sic] to the mocking: "thinking the moon was a u.f.o is the funniest thing ever #sillycow".

They had a field day at her expense. Many of them, I'm sure, thought they were clever. What they were all too stupid to realise is that Victoria was obviously joking. She didn't think the moon-like image was actually a flying saucer. She just thought it would be funny to say so. And unfunny though the joke arguably is, it's not easily confused with a serious assertion.

I've often experienced this kind of obtuseness on Twitter. Apart from the steady stream of people who, when I say I've written in the Observer, seek to correct me that in fact it's the Guardian (as if they would know better than I do which newspaper I write for), any joke will get several smart-aleck responses from thick-alecks who haven't got it.

Victoria Beckham does not have a reputation as an intellectual. This leads many people to assume she's unintelligent; but I think it unlikely. There's plenty that suggests the contrary: her fairly wide-ranging career, continued success, wealth and circle of friends all imply that she's at least averagely bright. But even if you think she's a bit dim, there's no evidence that she's so mentally sub-normal as to mistake the moon for a spaceship.

The second is the respondents' belief that, if Beckham thought she'd spotted an alien spacecraft, her only reaction would be to tweet about it and wait until the next day to do so.

The third link in the chain is that, having come to such an unlikely conclusion, the tweeters are sufficiently sure of it to put it in writing. They don't merely suspect that she is guilty of this implausible level of idiocy, they're 100% convinced. This is puzzling because, to have made the first two misjudgements, they must be very foolish people or very lazy thinkers, who would have little experience of being right.

And the delicious pudding to this tasting menu of unreason is that it's not the moon. They're even wrong about that. There was no full moon in Los Angeles that night. Don't worry though - I doubt this means it was a spaceship (although, strictly speaking, it's currently an unide-ntified flying object - another gold star to VB). It was probably a helicopter searchlight shining towards the camera. The helicopter noises may have been partly what inspired Beckham's quip.

Being jokey with strangers is a generous thing. And what was Beckham's reward? It made some idiots feel clever. That's what led to the banking crisis.