I was a twenty-something f*ckwit: Continuing confessions of a former comment drone

Or how I learned to stop worrying and read Das Kapital

Google me and you’ll find all kinds of stuff; the story of me being punched in a West London pub — a sucker-punch from a man who had already threatened me that day — various comment pieces for The Daily Telegraph which I would slag off on Twitter if I encountered them today under someone else’s byline, any number of articles where I strongly identify with capitalism and the consumerist hunger of the tech world, articles written for a man who was an arsehole then but is fascist now (Milo)… a whole library of evidence that I was not always as left-wing as I am now, that I didn’t always believe what I believe now nor express my views as clearly as I do now.

I was at 25, not the man I am at 36. That makes sense. I was not a step-dad then. I had not been through several breakups. I had not spent time with a lot of people on the left who recommended me books and introduced me to arguments that I had not considered before. At The Daily Telegraph, where I was only ever a contract writer on £1,000 a month, which added up to just more than minimum wage after the number of words and hours I put in, I wrote to order and was technically a token leftie (the person assigned to pen the ‘why Ed Miliband is alright’ stuff for the Comment desk) but I was also painfully centrist and didn’t think my ideas through much.

If you knew of me then and didn’t like me, understand that I didn’t like myself then and don’t like that version of me now. That’s why yesterday — attacked from one flank by a pride-before-the-fall of Telegraph journalists and the other by segments of the online left who have always considered me to be an apostate who undertakes insufficient self-flagellation — I genuinely tweeted that I was planning to end this newsletter and delete my Twitter account. That’s always stupid as you almost always regret it, but I did truly feel like that was the answer.

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I am really tired of being in a profession where, after 15 years, I’ve seen no consistent increase in pay or respect despite having spent time in a wide range of roles and produced work that a lot of people have liked. Day after day, I have people in my industry who tell me how to do my job or imply that I’m not capable of doing that job at all. It’s incredibly frustrating and often pretty demoralising.

The counter-argument is that by writing media criticism, I bring this on myself, attacking fellow journalists rather than being constructive. But, in truth, I want to say good things. I’m itching to find green shoots in the muck of the media. When I read columns that I think are good, I always say. The problem is that there are so few that it seems like I spend most of my time being snarky and critical… because I do.

This shot-by-both-sides situation is tedious. So here it is laid out:

  1. I wrote for Milo and regret it. He was not yet the monster he is now but he was already a bully and I should have just turned down the work. I certainly shouldn’t have defended him back then and I never supported him once he moved to America.

  2. I talk a lot of shit and I should be better at taking shit in return.

  3. I started on a trade title before moving to consumer titles where I had a decent amount of success but I couldn't handle the atmosphere at Q.

  4. I have only avoided being fired because I always resigned when it seemed on the cards.

  5. I have done several jobs outside journalism in the 15 years that I have been in the profession including producing speakers for big live events, media training, and consulting work for SAAS companies.

  6. I blew up my bridges at The Daily Telegraph and The Next Web by deliberately pushing boundaries and in the latter case by writing a piece called “Why I’m quitting tech journalism”.

  7. I have hugely changed my views over the years and came to Marx and the materialist conception of history late in the day. I don’t pretend otherwise.

  8. I’m too emotional. Which is why I do things like suggest that I’m going to delete my Twitter and stop the newsletter. I do mean it at the time. And I have deleted things — like my blog of nearly 8 years — in the past. I regret that.

As for The Telegraph journalists’ attacks on my mental health and ability to get jobs, that’s like receiving medical ethics lectures from Harold Shipman.