This is by way of an administrative apology, really. You may have encountered a bit of trouble leaving comments on my blog for the last month or so. Only today, I’ve had one of you leaving a perfectly legitimate and interesting comment three times, clearly out of frustration that it didn’t appear the first time you posted it. Well, just for the record, the comments are moderated, so if I’m away from my computer (and I don’t use a smartphone, so unless I’m sitting down, I’m not online), comments are queued. However, to make matters more inconvenient for you, I have had to add in a spam filter and a registration wall in order to discourage abuse. Clearly, I’m not going to go into any details, as the haters and the irritants usually do it to get attention, and even by typing this I’m sort of indirectly acknowledging their existence – but it’s a necessary level of protection for me. I don’t invite abuse. I do my best to write in a fair and balanced way – irritatingly so, at times, I should imagine – and even in my critical writing, about films or books or TV shows, I make it my business not to slag off for its own sake. I’ve done my slagging off. When I was a hungry NME journalist in my twenties, I’m sure I wrote some horrid things about Elton John and Mick Hucknall, but it was in the spirit of the publication and anyway, you grow out of that.
As someone who writes, and broadcasts, in the public domain, I accept that I am fair game to a degree. Also, as a user of Twitter, I’m above the parapet by choice. But I do not accept abuse, especially when it is posted anonymously. So I’ve put in a few mechanisms, provided by WordPress, to keep the tiny minority of timewasters at bay. I have an email address which is public and available to all, but to use it requires an email address, and those who abuse and waste time are not looking for a dialogue. They are, as I’ve stated before, doing the equivalent of knocking on your front door and running away.
So, once again, apologies if it’s harder to get in than it was once, but you’ll respect my reasons for doing it, I’m sure. You are the good guys and girls. I welcome comment. I encourage dialogue. And a lot of you read this thing now, which I really appreciate, and as proven by the comments left after the more serious recent entries about the financial meltdown and the riots, an encouragingly fair and intelligent debate often ensues.
When I’m on the radio, with text and email and social networking in full swing, it’s a piece of piss to lob an insult at me, or my Saturday morning co-host, and yes, it stings for a few seconds, and the first instinct is to reply, but you must never do that, as it seems to be what a lot of anonymous idiots are fishing for. On Twitter, if someone has a go at me, I can block them instantaneously, and then not only will I not hear from them again, they will not hear from me again, so everybody should be happy. They can go and slag off someone else. The Guardian Telly Addict review worried me when I started it, as a minority on the Guardian website use it as a forum for rampant nastiness, but they seem to have either been very kind to me, or disinterested, either of which is a result.
Tim Adam wrote an interesting piece on the psychology of anonymous online abuse in the Observer a couple of Sundays ago, which didn’t exactly crack it, but at least organised a few examples. Have a read of it. We’ve seen a lot of people wearing masks to achieve anonymity and doing stupid, despicable things this week – in real life – and I guess anonymous looting on CCTV in broad daylight in some cases puts online abuse into perspective. It’s braver to go and loot a shop, but only marginally.
I’m not sure why what I do attracts the abusive. I’m not really a table-banging shouter. I have shall-we-say unconventional views on the culling of animals and the rights of complementary practitioners to go about their business, but I have learned to keep these views to myself, rather than broadcast them here, as you will have noticed. Why? Because I do not set out to rub anyone up the wrong way. By and large, I will be preaching to the converted by even saying this, but I’m saying it anyway. And I’m certainly not fishing for compliments or ego-stroking, believe me. I have long since stopped visiting the Word message boards where I seem to draw frequent slings and arrows, and yet I adore that magazine, and feel it is a privilege to write for it; this is a shame, but what’s the point of raising my own blood pressure defending myself, and my work, against a handful of insult-mongers? Best to retire gracefully and let them get on with it.
To paraphrase something Michael Moore once said to me, when I asked him how he stays so certain that he is right: “If I’m wrong, I’ll change my opinion and then I’ll be right again.”