No, Times columnists, I don’t have a chip on my shoulder, it’s a whole shop — fryer, jars of pickled eggs, and all the rest...
I’m more than a little tired of being patronised by people who are older than my father.
|Mic Wright||Oct 28, 2020||2|
I’ve been fairly lucky when it comes to interactions with people who have featured regularly on BBC Radio 4. I have gone for drinks with and maintained cordial internet friendships with Kathy Clugston and Corrie Corfield whose voices were a familiar firelight presence on the station as far back as I can remember.
A third resident of the con who I have never met, Susan Rae, is a Twitter friend. Meanwhile, Samira Ahmed of Front Row and defeating BBC pay inequality fame — among many other things — is an actual IRL friend (as a result of initially chatting via Twitter). All of this name-dropping is in the service of saying this…
It was a somewhat bizarre experience yesterday to check my Twitter notifications and discover that Libby Purves, the Times columnist and former host of the now-cancelled Midweek on Radio 4, had attempted to body me with some fairly predictable ad hominem stuff in defence of a column written by her Times colleague Rachel Sylvester:
Mic Wright 🏳️🌈🌋🏴☠️ @brokenbottleboyThis Times column is a classic of the “can’t we just enjoy brunch?” genre. Politics is *about* division. And it’s 💩 you can’t get a cigarette paper between Labour and the Tories Red — spin | Green — factual | Purple — anecdote | Pink — centrist blather | Blue — page furniture https://t.co/U9hpGRH3of
It was a familiar approach as Libby ignored the substance of my critique of Sylvester’s column and instead went for the easy hits of my football team preference — the implication being that football fans are stupid? Or that I’m a hick from the sticks? — and the fact that I use coloured pens to provide my breakdown of articles.
Combined, the attacks are a clumsy attempt at delegitimising me as someone making criticisms of the media. I am not a journalist of 15 years standing, whose work has appeared in almost every national paper besides The Daily Mail, but a “Norwich City fan”, and the substance of my criticisms is not relevant because I use coloured pens as a means of making it easy to digest on Twitter, a medium when brevity is required.
Libby Purves @lib_thinksBEWARE, @RSylvesterTimes - nothing like a Norwich City fan with a wide array of coloured felt pens... https://t.co/foocEqLBFB
It is indelicate to discuss a woman’s age so I will simply say this: Libby Purves would’ve been a few years older than my dad at school. I’ve experienced this phenomena — of people who are either about a decade older than me (hello, James O’Brien) or old enough to be one of my parents acting as if I’m wet behind the ears, despite being a step-father, experienced journalist of 15 years standing, and… someone they don’t actually know — fairly often and it never gets less annoying.
Responding to Libby Purves’ totally substance free strike-back on behalf of her colleague — whose column I criticised rather than the substance of her character — resulted, of course, in her accusing me of having a chip on my shoulder 👇🏻
Au contraire, Libby, I don’t merely have a chip there, I have an entire functioning chip shop, jars of pickled eggs and all. My issue with the media, regardless of what a cavalcade of contemptible clowns from The Daily Telegraph — where I was once employed as a contract writer on the Comment Desk — say is not that it won’t employ me (it has and sometimes still does) or borne of jealousy. Instead it is that so many people working within the trade — my trade— are producing terrible work that only serves the interests of multi-millionaire and billionaire proprietors, even as they kid themselves that they are unimpeachable professionals.
Obviously I responded to Libby’s cheap jibes with a marginally more expensive jibe:
Libby Purves @lib_thinks@brokenbottleboy Chip, shoulder, pot, black.
Should I have risen above it? Yes. Was it enormous fun not to do so? Oh, yes.
While getting talked down to by household names from the worlds of broadcasting and journalism is tedious and can sometimes get to me — “They’re probably right,” says the devil on my shoulder, played in this production by Rod Liddle in a jaunty little Satan outfit — I have started to recognise that it means this newsletter and my newspaper criticism (on Twitter and via Twitch) is landing in some way. If nothing I said got to them, they would simply ignore me. Most of them do.
Nora Ephron said, “Everything is copy,” and I’ve taken that to heart since I first encountered that quote as a teenager. So I’m grateful to Libby Purves and her truly execrable ‘banter’ for inspiring me to write this issue.
The thing to remember is that it’s not trolling when a Times columnist makes ad hominem attacks and here’s — in a Times2 unnecessary list style — why:
opinions are only valid if they are offered by someone with a column which has a very old byline picture of them at the top, and especially so if those opinions are paid for by Rupert Murdoch or an equivalent rich person
it’s not trolling if a columnist attacks you rather than your opinions or work, that’s because trolling is something plebs do and Times columnists are merely defending themselves or their colleagues
when a columnist tells you that you’re wrong and also awful, you should genuflect, apologise, and immediately commit to a month-long period of silence and reflection in honour of your betters.
Obviously I’m not wise enough to bow deeply and retreat after the powerful intervention of a former Radio 4 presenter and current Murdoch shilling receiver. Instead, my coloured pens and I will be back later today, still breaking down the newspapers, still irritatingly under 40, and still willing to indicate directly where the media is shitting the bed and trying to present the result to its readers and viewers as a lost Jackson Pollock painting.
Sorry Libby, would you like a pickled egg with the chips?