Been playing catch-up on the whole Max Gogarty thing, you know the Groan’s gap-year dilettante who caught a good old fashioned monstering last week – check the comments under his post and you’ll see what I mean.
First things first, by far the best thing to come out of all this is Chris Dillow’s gloriously agitational post on class hatred, not least for reminding me of Barry Switzer’s remark that:
“some people were born on third base and go through life thinking they’ve hit a triple.”
But also for no better reason than that I do enjoy a well-executed wind-up – the more deadpan the better – and Chris’s remarks are as dry as they come.
On a markedly different note, we have this whining response from Caroline Davies in the Observer which proves, yet again, just how far journos still have to go to come to grips with the robust cultural mores of the on-line world.
When Max Gogarty, a 19-year-old gap-year student, landed a coveted blogging spot on which to chronicle his two-month backpacking adventure around India and Thailand, he could have never predicted how his moment of triumph would backfire so spectacularly.
But within 24 hours of his first posting on the guardian.co.uk travel pages, the teenager was swamped by a tidal wave of internet hate mail as he became a victim of the phenomenon of ‘going viral’. As the north London teenager was touching down in Mumbai, hundreds of comments – many vitriolic – were appearing not only on his blog, but on scores of message boards and social networking forums, including Facebook and high-profile gossip sites such as Holy Moly.
The astonishing reaction was provoked when surfers spotted that he had the same surname as Paul Gogarty, a travel writer who occasionally contributes to the Guardian. Readers presumed he was a privileged public school boy whose father had secured him the blog spot and whose gap-year travels were being funded by the newspaper.
The resulting ‘cyber-bullying’ has now forced Max, an occasional scriptwriter for the E4 teenage drama series Skins, to ditch his weekly blog while he and his family cope with the consequences of global internet exposure.
Look, let’s get young Max and his first (and seemingly only) blogpost out of the way first…
If the Groan thinks there’s some interest value in some 19 year old’s ‘Gorillas in the Mist’ style musings on India and Thailand then so be it. Personally I can’t think of anything I’d be less inclined to an interest in – one half-arsed travelogue is pretty much like another as far as I’m concerned – and the older I get the less of a ‘people person’ I find I’m becoming. Whether you want to put this kind of stuff under the ‘reality’ label or file it under ‘human interest’ the bottom line here is the vast majority of my fellow humans just aren’t fucking interesting, especially the one’s that the media think are and the one’s that are interesting (including a fair few bloggers) are the one’s that I tend to find for myself.
There is a whole broad strand of media output which runs from the inane ‘celebrity’ and scandal obsessed bollocks that infests the majority of women’s magazines through well-intentioned but dumb ideas, like Max’s aborted blog, through to Channel 5’s regular freak show documentaries that I really, genuinely, honestly, couldn’t give a flying fuck about. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Britney’s minge, some poor cunt with an infeasibly rare and grossly disfiguring disease or the kind of witless twat whose wife’s recently fucked off to shack up with a women’s rugby club I really don’t care. It just doesn’t interest me in the slightest – life is just too short to take an interest in some cunt I’ve never met, am never likely to meet and, frankly, wouldn’t cross the street to piss on if they were on fire.
If anyone genuinely does want to know what India and Thailand are like then get on a fucking plane and go see it for yourself. I did the whole travelling thing myself when I was younger (Europe, North Africa and the US) and had a fucking brilliant time – its a great experience…
…and that the whole fucking point. It is an experience – its only worth something if you actually get off your arse and go do it for yourself. Simply reading about stuff that someone else is doing just isn’t the same.
Look, there’s a great line from (if my memory serves me correctly) the film ‘The Choirboys’ that sums it up perfectly. During an after work drinking session, one of the female characters sits on a glass topped table only to notice that one of her male colleagues has slid under table to get her good view of her muff. Afterwards the male cop is asked by his other colleagues what it was like and replies with words to the effect that it was like ‘eating a ham sandwich with the wrapper on’ – yeah, that about sums it up.
Getting back to Caroline’s whine, its the reported comments of his father, a freelance travel writer that I find most interesting:
Max, who introduced himself as living ‘on top of a hill in north London…spending any sort of money I earn on food and skinny jeans’, was last night alone in India at the beginning of his trip, while his father accused his detractors of class hatred and envy. ‘It’s the conformity of the comments, the cruelty, the smug self-righteousness and envy. It’s all so bitter and full of bile. The exposure is terrifying,’ said Gogarty Snr. ‘He’s out in India on his own. We were all feeling upset at him going away anyway. But this…this tsunami of hate. We just cannot believe it. Max is a talented and hard-working boy. He is what he is – a middle-class kid who goes to a comprehensive and managed to get four As and is supporting himself by working in a cafe.’
Fuck me, talk about laying it on with a fucking JCB – scanning the [remaining] comments it seems that a fair few of the more vitriolic riposts have been removed, which actually makes his father look faintly ridiculous as there’s very little in the thread that might reasonably justify his ‘tsunami of hate’ comment. That said I happily take Tim’s word that things did get out of control but reading what is still there it isn;t as if the Groan weren’t warned – about six comments in this was posted by ‘Benulek’
Oh Christ, this guy’s going to get an absolute hammering. CiF commissioning editors, you are cruel, cruel beasts. I almost feel sympathetic. Almost.
Don’t forget, poverty is sad, but kinda authentic and like ennobling, mmmhmmm.
Why does nobody go looking for themselves in Belarus?
All of which does seem to reinforce the point that the poor bastard was more than just a little bit hung out to dry here, not that the Groan will admit this, as becomes obvious when the the comment (partially) turns up later in the article:
Some contributors were uneasy over the tone of many comments. One wrote: ‘The amount of hate, envy and hypocrisy that’s been on display here is shocking.’
But others compared Max to Nathan Barley, a loathsome fictional twentysomething London media type in the Channel 4 sitcom of the same name. One asked, ‘Whose son is Max then?’, while another predicted, ‘Oh, Christ. This guy’s going to get an absolute hammering.’ Yet another added: ‘Don’t show Derek Conway this – he’ll be most upset.’
How very dishonest of you – you get a clear warning, take no fucking notice whatsoever and then pretend it was part of the ‘abuse’ heaped on the kid in order to try and cover your own sorry arses.
And having got off to bad start, dear old Dad seems determined to make matters even worse for his beloved offspring:
Eventually Gogarty felt compelled to weigh in himself, posting: ‘Max won’t be writing any more blogs, I thought I’d bring all those heroic internet warriors the good news. Max’s trip (which he paid for himself I’m afraid – sorry) has got off to the worst possible start and he’s feeling pretty grim You may like or dislike the blog, but the cruelty is shocking, if quintessentially British.’
No, its not British, its just how it is out here on the net and nothing to compare with the kind of feeding frenzies you get State-side, but Dad isn’t finished yet.
Still others urged him to continue the blog and answer the critics, but his father said: ‘We just want him to be left alone. It’s scary and the exposure is so horrible. He’s a strong kid and I think he is moving on. Max himself made the decision to pull it and I think it is a mature decision.
You sure he doesn’t need counselling?
‘People have said “stay and fight”. But there is no way – whatever he writes next week, it would be pilloried. It’s a no-win situation. He has seen some of the blog. He has said to me that he doesn’t like the media world now. He doesn’t want to go into it any more.’
Awwwww – my heart bweeds… NOT.
The kid’s 19 years old and a bunch of people on a website have called him a twat and taken the piss out of him and all of a sudden its the end of the fucking world, all of which makes him look even more of twat than he did at the outset. Between his Dad and the journos at the Groan I have to say they’re doing a damn fine job of (metaphorically) fucking him up the arse and making him look a complete and utter fucking wuss.
The article doesn’t say who the people who said “stay and fight” are but I suspect that its fair bet that many of them are likely to be people who’ve been around the net for quite a while and know very well just how things pan out out here on the electronic frontier.
Absolutely the best thing the kid could have done here was to have come right back at his critiques by calling them a bunch of cunts and telling them to go fuck themselves before getting right back on with blogging whatever the fuck it is he figured might interest the kind of people who go in for travelogues. Sure there would have been a few hardened troll who’d fire back – that’s what moderators are for, for weeding out the incorrigible dickheads – but there are plenty of other who might have had a pop at the kid first time out but who’d respect the fact that he’d shown the balls to come back firing rather than roll over in the face of bit of rough handling and, at least, leave the kid alone.
That’s how it works out here on the net, respect is something you have to earn and one of the ways you earn it is by giving as you get – whining only makes it worse.
Tim’s assessment of things is, I think, absolutely spot-on:
This defensive play is not designed to protect a teenager… it is designed to protect the reputations of adults who should know better.