Well, I think I’ve emerged from my dust-up with the goods folks who haunt The Archers messageboard reasonably unscathed. I’m not too sure what happened, what went wrong and why it all escalated in such an extraordinary way, but it most certainly got very silly indeed.
It all started quite innocently when, to help out a colleague who was subbing a piece about The Archers and was having trouble checking when one particular character was introduced, I volunteered to post a message on The Archers site asking for help. My message was headed ‘Urgent reply needed’ (and the fact that I had written it all in capital letters seems to have moved many Archers fans to fury) and I asked:
‘When Usha Gupta/Franks first join The Archers [sic]. A speed and accurate reply would be greatly appreciated.’
The first response (from Dusty Substances) came within minutes and though it wasn’t helpful, I can see the guy’s point:
‘No idea but I’m guessing you are post from a pub quiz? Dx
I replied that I wasn’t, but that a piece was going in the paper and we wanted to get things right. That was when there came the squall in what became a rather minor, though entirely redundant storm. Ermintrude wrote:
‘So the DM are doing a piece about a character who hasn’t been heard of for six months?’
I suspect even non-aligned readers of this blog will detect Ermintrude’s somewhat censorious tone and might accept my contention that had I said the Guardian, The Independent or even the Daily Telegraph was the paper involved, that tone would not have been adopted.
Dusty Substances returned with the answer we wanted:
‘1991 – according to The Archers Encyclopedia’,
but after that it all went downhill pretty quickly, although I must confess that my response to Ermintrude was not particularly diplomatic (but then why should it have been?)
‘Thanks for the 1991. As for the cleverclogs reply about an article concerning a character who hasn’t been heard for several months, it is a round-up of what has been happening over the years. Doh!’
But I sense that even without my reply, the mere mention of the Daily Mail made it open season for all the Mail haters out there: for this came from Dr Toad Leg:
‘High profile investigative journalism about how immigrants are taking British jobs perhaps?’
And on it went. Within a few messages the various sins of the Mail were raised such as its alleged obsession with house prices and the causes of cancer, until by Message 17, from some idiot who calls himself Marjorclanger, we get the usual prejudiced bullshit by people who are not quite as bright as they believe themselves to be:
‘Acerbic and to the point, not a fluffy poster then? Probably not a wind up IMO now. I stand illuminated and confirmed in my prejudice about most journos. Long live campaingner and debunkers, eg the child abuse in the Scottish Islands that wasn’t. As for all the other stuff written on the back of press releases or last night celebrities, well it fills the pages and passes the time.’
After I was accused of being snide and had responded that a quick visit to the Guardian messageboard would illuminate posters what real hatred is all about, Majorclanger came back with:
‘A pity the Mail doesn’t go into such rough places!!! Lord Snooty and his pals from the La La Dem land would perhaps be STTC if the worm ever turned.’
What was – is – the guy talking about? But one thing one can conclude from his entry is that he is most certainly no Conservative or Labour supporter.
That was Message 21, and by Message 27, my sordid past finally caught up with me when BorchesterBolshevik, also not an ardent supporter of either the Tories or the Lib Dems, I should think, judging from his moniker, informed the other posters:
‘All the previous posts across the various BBC message boards seem to suggest a Daily Mail reader rather than a writer.’
After Auntie Rednosed Clockwise had accused me of being either ‘a fantasist or a troll’, miladou also went on the attack:
‘On the other hand, the poster is running true to journalistic type demanding that other people provide him/her with information IMMEDIATELY, rather than doing some actual research.’
In reply I pointed out that posting my query on The Archers messageboard was ‘research’, but as I had also addressed Auntie Rednosed Clockwise as ‘dumbo’, the post (Message 36) was subsequently removed by the ‘moderators’ at the Beeb for breaking house rules.
And so it went on and on and on, interminably, rather fruitlessly and utterly pointlessly, a booing and baaing of which Tweedledum and Tweedledee would have been proud. Whether I was Tweedledum or Tweedledee I shall leave it to the reader to decide. In Message 46 saffronlilly posted a link to this blog, which meant my reading figures went up tenfold in a matter of hours, which rather pleased me. (Such small things do.)
In Message 51, Chris-mas Kettle of Ghoti even suggested I didn’t exist (or something). He/she wrote:
‘For some reason, a person wanting information after seven in the evening for a piece that was purportedly going into a daily paper the following day struck me a high quality end-product of male bovine. Therefore I assumed that this poster was not being quite accurate in his assertions. However, if someone can be bothered to look through the rag in question tomorrow and find out whether it has anything about TA in it, that is up to whoever wants to do it.’
That struck me as a pretty lame ending to a rather grand ticking off, although the poster managed to establish his/her bona fides in that he/she didn’t read the Mail!
The whole thread meandered on until the current Message 151 (in which Organoleptic Icon wrote: ‘I think vegans run more towards “bloodless” ’ which only goes to show how nonsensical these threads can become.
. . .
What strikes me from these and other entries on the board, as well as the names posters give themselves, is how ineffably twee it all is. And I don’t like twee very much. I’m more a vinegar man than candyfloss.
The of-so-funny names of posters, all presumably self-imposed, are always a fair guide to how people regard themself, and it would seem this bunch think of themselves as rather a humorous lot. Oh well.
The other remarkable thing is the almost atavistic loathing many of the posters have for the Mail. Why exactly? It makes no sense. Surely to goodness they know – being the bright, intelligent and well-informed people they are or, at least like to think they are – that all the Mail does is to tell its readers what it thinks its readers want to hear?
All the papers do that, even the saintly Guardian (which this year surprisingly didn’t indulge in a seasonal bout of redundancy of its staff). Independent readers want to be reassured in their conviction that because we are all burning fossil fuels as though there were no tomorrow, the world will go to Hell in a handcart unless we do something! Now! The Guardian readers want to be reassured that the Tories are still the scum they always were. Times readers like to be reassured that being horribly middle-brow isn’t half as bad as they fear. Telegraph readers want to know that most certainly there will be further wars. And so on.
One final point: it might have struck some of you that my view of hacks is pretty similar to that expressed by many on the messageboard. But there are two important provisos. 1) I come at it from a completely different direction, and my general complaint is that hacks, with one or two honourable exceptions, are self-centred fuckwits. And, more crucially, 2) it’s all very well for me, a hack of almost 37 years standing, to slag off my colleagues and compadres, but I won’t stand for having some fucking civilians do it. Ever.
. . .
My best wishes for the New Year to all who don’t have the good fortune to live in Blighty. A look at the stats for this blog show that one or two people in New Zealand, The Netherlands, Ireland, the U.S., Canada, France, South Korea, Slovenia, Turkey, Russia, Japan, Germany, Poland, the Czech Repulic and China have all dropped in at some point or other, so you know who you are. I like to think they all stopped off for more than a brief time, but there’s no way of knowing that. Oddly, so far no one from South America has dropped by, but I don’t think there is anything sinister in that.
Courtesy of one particular reader – and because this reader values ‘comfort’, I shall only say he/she lives and works ‘abroad’ – the scope of this blog might broaden. For this reader informed me that were they (‘they’ being the modern way of getting around the ‘he/she’ dilemma) to recount some of their experiences in the country they at present call home, no one would believe them. So I invited them to send me accounts of those experiences which, if suitable – this blog operates a ‘no one over 18 policy’ as it does not want to risk being taken seriously – I shall publish. That particular reader can be reassured that I shall treat all their submissions with discretion and that, if they wish, they can cast their eye over what I plan to publish to avoid any indiscretions.
I should like to extend that invitation to everyone else who lives abroad. We Brits are always only to happy to learn what is going on in foreign parts, especially how much they envy our way of life. If you want to take up the invitation, please get in touch with me via this blog, I shall reply from a different email address to ensure communications can remain private.
As for the reader I was initially addressing, I trust that sofa will not prove to be too lumpy, and I should be interested in hearing whatever you have to recount, however outlandish it might seem. Remember, we here in Britain have to put up with people such as Richard Branson and Jeremy Clarkson, so outlandish really doesn’t bother us.