Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Rattling the cage

Anyone who watched BBC Breakfast this morning will be familiar with a story they talked about. Max, aged 19 is off to India on his gap year and you can read alllll about it on his Guardian blog. (http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/travelog/2008/02/skins_blog.html#comments)
Except the Guardian blog readers, a hard to please audience at the best of times, are riled. Cries of 'And whose son at the Guardian are you?' and 'Who commissioned this tripe' are ringing out all around - 400 of them - along with a choice selection of comments featuring "other personal attacks on author, deleted by moderator". The keyboards and mice were out in force, you could almost see the beady, angry little eyes of the commenters burning down the information highway. Youch.
Here's the thing. Everyone who has a blog is a writer. And I'd bet that a majority of us would give their qwerty keyboard for a chance to write for the Guardian newspaper, lets be honest - you wouldn't turn it down. But the Guardian Unlimited blog section? Na-ah. That place is a lions den frequented by a gaggle of supremely bored middle aged men who have a cynical, elitist and generally bullish view of most things presented to them; proving at every turn that you don't have to be elite to be elitist. You do get the odd in depth discussion, but it rarely comes without some form of personal attack at the author. The backlash against 19 year old Max was crazy - 400 commenters sucking bitter lemons and spitting them out into cyberspace - it didn't matter what Max was writing about, or how naive his comments may have been about India, his writing style was hardly highbrow - they were riling against his social status, his background and the fact that  he was privileged enough to go travelling and get paid (I assume) to write about it. Unlike the commenters who clearly missed their flights, got office jobs, lost their hair and decided to launch backlashes against their own on line instead. Who also, no doubt, all have blogs of their own and could only dream about getting such a huge audience to direct their opinions at.
I'm interested in what will happen next. (Umm, not what happens when Max gets to India. That I couldn't really care less about.) Given the media attention the blog and it's readers are getting, will the editors pull the plug on it, or (more likely)sit back and watch the stats rise as a 19 year old recalls what he can about the backpackers club the night before and gets slated at every turn?
There's that weird thing about the internet. People are given this shield of anonymity to hide behind whether they're writing blogs or making comments - but when they choose to use that anonymity in order to make nasty comments, it rarely reflects badly on the person the comment is directed at. Which is a bit ironic, really. Lets hope that Max from North London finds a better, more suitable and receptive audience to share his travelling shenanigans with. Saying that, it probably won't be me.


AFC 30K said...

ood point, but I must be one of those few that couldn't envisage writing for a living... I'm well aware of my poor spelling and lack of consideration regarding composition - which I suppose is reflected in the low readership stats that I have :-)

I do just enjoy sharing my thoughts with others and more so like reading the thoughts of fellow bloggers.

The question remains though - is he the son of a Guardian employee???

mjohnson said...

Yes he is. His Dad is Paul Gogarty who does travel writing for the Guardian so you'll see the boy is going into his father's trade.
This was linked to on the b3ta newsletter and I noticed it, but didn't comment as comments had been closed. I had no objections to what he'd written, but felt the charges of nepotism were probably not entirely unfounded. I then read an article in the Observer defending Max and damming the commenters. Yes they were unnecessarily harsh, but the article noted:
"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."
This isn't the case. The calls of who's your daddy surfaced almost immediately, but that's not my point either. They neither deny or confirm that the boys father works for the Guardian in the entire article. This is all they say. The majority of the comments were accusations of nepotism and they fail to address this, they'd rather use the incident to point the finger at the uncivilised mob. Well yes the internet is very uncivilised. It's favourite things are porn and monkeys drinking their own urine, but the charge remains, is it nepotism? Yes of course it is. I wasn't born yesterday, we all know how the world works, it should be no great shock to anyone.

China Blue said...

It was really quite something - I read about it on Popbitch on Friday and followed the trail of snark.

I remember seeing the header on the Graun site earlier that day and thought that it looked like the most boring blog ever - the title didn't make me scream yes. After all, who is Max? He's hitting the road? Really? Yeah, and...?

The blog itself was your typical 'hi folks' intro. Nothing exciting, we all have to start a blog somewhere. However, I think he needed to hit the road and come back with some tales for us first.

I don't care whose son he is, as long as the writing is good. His dad is a travel writer, and young Max is following in his footsteps - it could potentially be very interesting. Unfortunately, it's now interesting for all the wrong reasons.

Jo said...

afc - It would appear so. Indeed there are many different reasons for blogging, some do it for personal gain while others do it for well, a bit of fame.

mjohnson - Ok I googled nepotism and now I know what it means, so I can reply... ;) Exactly - everyone immediately asks 'whose your father' and to an extent they're right to do so, because the article is fairly poorly written, it's a world away from the usual guardian 'style', but then the lad is only 19. What's laughable is that if those commenters are half as intelligent as they like to appear, they would know that in order to get anywhere in the media industry at that level - you've got to know someone. And if it's your dad - all the better, surely.

china - I agree. The blog entry itself is about as mundane as you get. But people dont comment on that, they comment on the background of the Max bloke writing it! Surely if these people have half a brain they can see there's another level you can read the article at, for example as a sign of the changing gap year "experiences" - what do gap year-ers want out of their travels? Can they get a taste of real culture by backpacking? It's gone completely over the heads of the "intelligent" commenters.

Miss Understood said...

For God's sake, this is ludicrous. I actually feel sorry for Max. So his Dad is in the business and gave him a step up. So what? It happens everywhere...to all sorts of people.

Ae these 400 + commenters really Guardian readers? I'm surprised they can read at all.

cramerj said...

Nepotism is corruption.
Next you will approve of bribery by cash or sex for a position.
So you don't care for middle age men. They have been in the world longer than you and have this thing called experience - so tough.

Jo said...

cramerj - What a load of bollocks. Getting a job because your parents are in the business is a million miles away from getting one because you had sex with someone or gave them money. As far as I know, most people don't shag their parents and kids of most affluent families are not in the business of giving their parents money. It is most certainly the other way around.

Middle aged men are fine - its the ones who read and comment on Guardian blogs, who clearly have huge chips on their shoulders I take issue with here. ie. Those who think their "experience" of sitting in an office reading a paper is superior to others. They're out of touch.

James said...

I've read a few opinions on this story, and to be honest I just feel a bit 'meh' *shrugs shoulders* about it all.

I think some people (i.e. fellow teenagers) might want to read a 19yr olds account of his travelling. Others maybe not (grumpy bearded middle aged men). But why all the fuss it's not like the Guardian is funded by the taxpayer or anything. The Guardian can publish what they like and employ who they like, and we can choose what we read or don't.

Reluctant Blogger said...

I think that these people writing the comments, should step back for a moment and ponder what they would do if they were in Max's situation, or even if they were his father. Would they not take the opportunities presented to them?

As a mother, I would like to think I would not do this for my own children (because it isn't really the RIGHT thing to do in any sense) but I cannot be sure that I would not. The desire to do the best you can for your children is very strong.

As for the boringness or otherwise of Max's blog. If it is boring and they wanted it to die a death the best thing they could do is not comment. If no-one reads or comments then it would soon disappear. But presumably the intended audience is young travelling types not middle-aged moaners.

Jo said...

James - I agree...Surely the easiest thing in the world is to just ignore / not comment if you don't like what you read. As you said, no one is forcing those balding men to read the travel blog section. Maybe they are all lacking a good book.

Miss Understood - Haha...yeah...can someone define 'readers' here?! ;)

Reluctant - Yeah, given the target audience, its weird that the guardian have commissioned such a blog...but still.. as you've said, people have a choice.If you like then read, if you don't...then don't.

weenie said...

Hmm...this kinda justifies why I never bother to read the Guardian if this is the kinda stuff I'm missing out on...

Anon comments are cowardly!

fwengebola said...

Specifically, it was Max from Primrose Hill and he oozed privilege, teen confidence and cliches.

Ergo, he got pilloried.


Jo said...

Weenie - i read whatever I find on the tube in the morning. I'm so regimented with my news intake!

Fwenge - I wouldn't expect anything less from you, you do hate the earth, after all..so guardian reading teenagers from primrose hill must be under that title somewhere. ;)

London-Lass said...

400 people complaining? About this?

I despair.

mjohnson said...

Goodness I was away too long. This is a very measured intelligent debate. Looks like you have more intelligent readers than the Guardian Jo.


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