"I can do this all day." Why I won't be threatened by presenters from TalkRadio aka School Bully FM

I don't mind people being angry with me. I dish it out, so I should expect it back. But being horrible about my mother? That's a step too far.

I was childish yesterday… if you’ve read this newsletter for a while, that’ll come as no surprise (remember the Centre for Understanding News TechnologieS?) I’m 36-years-old. I should know better. But the media environment can have that effect on you. Having read a tweet by ‘Iron’ Mike Graham, a presenter for TalkRADIO whose schtick is entirely belligerence and bullying, in which he attacked journalists at The New European — for which I’ve written but which I tend not to agree with politically — I couldn’t resist replying:

I was referencing the following scene in Reservoir Dogs, and I was being deliberately rude in the great tradition of rough and tumble English satire:

Now, I knew I was poking a hornets’ nest full of particularly unpleasant hornets, but I expected no more than a few insulting tweets back. And yet… over the course of hours, Mr Graham peppered me with tweets designed to get his 93k-odd followers to descend on me like so many ageing flying monkeys. Still, that was how the game is.

But Mike Graham believes he ‘doesn’t play by the rules’ and his tweets escalated beyond attacking me and into attacks on my mother — with whom I once co-founded a company — and threats to “ruin [me]”:

I would argue that a broadcaster for a national radio station, owned by News UK, a subsidiary of one of the biggest media companies in the world, should be more circumspect about throwing around threats. But then, I am not a shock jock whose career rests on having rucks with anyone who presents themselves, and for whom being blocked constitutes ‘a win’.

Graham has the same MO as many media bullies — he is a grievance artist. He operates on a hair-trigger, expects to be able to be insulting himself but is incredibly thin-skinned about insults directed back at him. He argues in bad faith and exploits the platform provided by his radio show as a stick to beat people he doesn’t agree with. His threat to ‘ruin me’ is an implicit threat that he will come at me again if I don’t back down, perhaps even that he will ‘talk’ about me on his radio show. I will be keeping one ear on it today.

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This is all ironic given that Graham and TalkRADIO — School Bully FM — so often bang on about false culture war ideas like ‘the left-wing war on free speech’ and ‘cancel culture’. Graham was quick to accuse me of aiming to get him fired when I suggested that his attempts to harass me using my family — specifically my mother — as the source of his insults might lead me to complain to TalkRADIO. I don’t care if Graham has a radio show, beyond the fact that he believes that makes him impervious to mockery and criticism, and I certainly don’t want to get anyone sacked.

Despite Graham’s constant mithering about free speech, he fully expects me to silence myself in the face of his threats. The intention of his barrage of tweets, which stopped for hours after our initial contretemps, but were restarted after he had clearly taken to Google in a half-arsed attempt to find ‘dirt’ on me, was that I should be afraid of him and bow my head to ‘the don’ now he was making it clear that I would be made to pay for my disrespect. Another element of his bombardment was to imply that I’m a failed journalist with no background, no readers, no supporters, no hope.

But while my audience is certainly much smaller than Mr Graham’s fandom, I have made a 15-year career in the media, at no point supported by a full-time role in News UK (though I have freelanced for some publications owned by it and, on rare occasions, appear on its radio stations as a commentator). To an ‘old-school’ operator like Graham though, if you’re not on the Murdoch payroll or a right-wing agitator/agitation like Darren Grimes, you’re a failure.

Graham believes that if he digs through my past and throws every complication of it, everything that I have failed at, then I will back down. He thinks that insulting my mother, my attempt to build a business, and my previous articles, will cause me to cry into my tweets and admit that he is the bigger, better man.

I am not meant to write this newsletter. I am meant to shut up and take my beating. But I stopped doing that at age 15. I am the kind of dumb that Captain America demonstrates in the first film in the Marvel Universe to feature him — Captain America: The First Avenger — when, still an underweight, super-power-free weakling, Steve Rogers tells a group of loudmouth bullies who knock him down, “I can do this all day.” TalkRadio is a whole station of people shouting over the newsreel and they expect to throw punches with impunity.

Mr Graham is very proud of the firepower his job with TalkRadio gives him. His belief is that he could, whenever he liked, pick through my past and twist things I’ve done or said or failed at to ‘ruin’ me. Only, I’ve been pretty honest about my failings — the column I published for The Telegraph about being attacked in a pub, the huge mistake I made working for Milo, the two companies I started that didn’t work out — so it’s a little bit like the line Eminem spits on I’m Back:

You better get rid of that 9, it ain't gonna help
What good's it gonna do against a man that strangles himself?

I should keep quiet. I should shut up for fear of Mr Graham’s threat that he will ‘ruin’ me. But… I can do this all day.