Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Jason and the Trolls

 As a blogger, I rarely use other people`s words in my blog posts, but felt the need to in this instance to show exactly what inspired me to jot down my musings on the issue in point.  The author of the quotations below is Jason Manford, a well-known British comedian who disappeared from Twitter and our television screens when he was discovered to have been exposing himself and enjoying on line dalliances using a web cam, whilst his wife was pregnant with twins.

Over the past twenty-four hours I have seen several tweets mentioning a "great piece of writing by Manford about Gary Barlow and trolls", so this morning I decided to have a peek and read it for myself.  The first thing I noticed was the length of the piece of writing. I was surprised at how long it was.  As I read it, I found several points that Mansford made to be quite subjective and ambiguous.  Was this written as an objective piece of observational writing or was it purely emotive?  Intriguing. 
He begins by waffling on about his feelings towards people he perceives to be trolls.  I wondered what his perception and definition of the word, was based on.  Was it just a matter of people not reacting in the same way as himself, or was it that "the trolls" felt strongly enough to tweet their feelings so openly condemning what they considered to be heartless behaviour by a father who chose to perform on stage at a time when they felt he should be at home with his wife and other children at a time of bereavement? 

It made me question my own reaction and response mechanism.  Would he call me a troll?  Am I a heartless individual because I too don`t see and feel the way he does? 
 "But during the Olympic closing ceremony I posted this:

“Fair play Gary Barlow. What a superstar. Don’t think I could perform after

such a tragedy, amazing.”

I was referring, of course, to the Barlow family’s recent tragedy, their stillborn baby girl, Poppy who was born and died last weekend.

I’m not a Take That fan, I mean I like them, but I don’t own any of their music but I really like Gary Barlow, I’ve never met him (he sent me an email once asking if I could do a charity thing for him) but he seems like a thoroughly lovely chap.

Now after I posted this comment, I just got on with my night, sorting out my own family and half watching the rest of the ceremony. Then I came back, as I always do, and checked the comments. At the time of writing this blog the comments had 10,936 ‘likes’, had been viewed by 101,000 people and had 334 comments. Most of these comments are in agreement but some, oh man, some will make you wince.

Now I’m not talking about people doing jokes, I get that, i don’t like it, it’s not my kind of humour but I get it. Something horrible happens and the gags fly round before the bodies are even cold; 9/11, Madeline McCann, I’m sure even this latest little girl Tia Sharp has more jokes said about her than sympathy flowers outside her home. Again, you know my humour, that’s not me, i don’t appreciate it, I don’t tell them but at the same time, it doesn’t upset me and I don’t get angry about it because, generally, they’re just jokes.

What does get to me, and what does anger me, are people’s genuine opinions. A joke is a joke, we’ve all told an off colour joke to a close friend, knowing full well that it’s not you’re actual opinion. But some of the comments I saw in those 334 would make your blood run cold."

"First up is person A who according to his profile lives near me and is a fan of Cheryl Cole and the American TV show, ‘Medium’. His favourite, and only, activity is ‘drinking’ as is his only interest. Let’s assume he’s been drinking tonight, but he wrote:

“money first with mr barlow lol”

Now firstly, I suspect that he never actually ‘loled’ at his own comment since, well, it’s not funny and secondly it’s not factually correct. As a great many of you pointed out, none of the acts got paid for either Olympic ceremonies, they got paid £1 each for contracts but that wouldn’t even get you a hotdog in the Olympic park (they’re £3.40, I was there last week).

More to the point, of all the people to accuse of putting money first, don’t launch it at Gary Barlow. The guy has worked tirelessly over the last few years, organising countless charity and free gigs for the people of this country and abroad, The Children in Need gig at the MEN Arena, the Jubilee celebrations, as well as his continued support of Comic Relief, Help the Heroes, the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation and lots of others beside.

Anyway, that’s just the beginning. Person B writes:

“Appalling! Just a week and he’s put money and his job before his family. If he was my husband he’d be out on his ear! I don’t think it was brave or legendary!”

And follows it up with:

“I’m sure he did (do it for his country) but it won’t do him any harm when that song sells copies again and makes him some money! He does nothing for free, he’s completely up himself! Really don’t like the bloke. He put his job before his family tonight, that’s disrespectful to his wife who probably needs him more than ever right now! And to think I felt sorry for him!”

And then for equal measure:

“He hasn’t been respectful to them (his family)! I respect his wife 100% and my heart goes out to her and her other children. My son is my life, I’d die if anything happened to him but if my husband left is to go to work before our child had even had a funeral, I’d never forgive him!”
This quote was the first one to make me question myself.  I agree that there is nothing legendary about Gary Barlow appearing on one of the biggest stages in the world, in front of millions and millions of people. I too would question his ability to do so and, as a mother myself, can understand and respect "Person B`s" opinion on the matter.  Why does this make her a troll?  Doesn`t it just show that the mother felt strongly enough to show her true feelings on Twitter?

Now, I know it’s 2012 but I’m always surprised when you get a comment like this from a woman, and a mother no less. There really is a catch 22 with doing charity work when you’re famous. I mean, I am nowhere near as famous as Gary Barlow and I don’t support as many charities but this kind of cynical nature that a lot of people have really plays on your mind when you’re doing charity work. Like when the charity say ‘can we put this visit in the paper I always think ‘oh no, people will think I’ve just visited this hospital to get in the paper’ where as the charity are thinking “this would be great coverage for us”.

This woman says “it won’t do him any harm when that song sells copies again and makes him some money”. Now I don’t know what is going through Gary’s head at this time, but I’m pretty sure the already richer-than-all-of-us-put-together superstar at no point thought “I know my wife gave birth to a stillborn child the other day, but I really need to sell some more records”.

"What an unbelievably stupid thing to say person B. As for it being ‘disrespectful to his wife’ and ‘putting his job before his family’ again, shut the fuck up. You do not know what goes on behind closed doors. For all you know, Gary could have spent the week sobbing his heart out in his bed, under the duvet and saying to his wife, ‘darling, I don’t think i can ever perform again’ and his wife could quite possibly have said ‘Gary, please sing that special song for me and Poppy, it will make us all so proud’. Now I don’t know either, but for you to presume the worst just because you ‘don’t like the bloke’ or think he’s ‘completely up himself’ is a disgusting trait in a human being."

Very emotive and sympathetically written, this paragraph made me realise that Mr Manford has a good imagination when it comes to relationships.  It even made me think that perhaps this was the discussion that Gary had with his wife, but the truth is, he doesn`t know, never will and should not be slating people who have read the situation differently.

He then goes on to describe his job and how the old entertainment cliches are still alive today.  Does that make it okay then?  My son is a professional musician, travelling up and down the country, gigging.  I know how hard it is to cancel performances when he has been booked for special occasions.  I wonder whether Mr Manford, in his condemnation of trolls, has considered the fact that most people did not know Gary Barlow would be performing that night, so therefore could have easily ducked out of appearing.   

Also being a performer is different from any other job. I’ve had family members pass away, I’ve had very upsetting things happen to me whilst on tour, but you can’t ring up the office and hope you get through to one of the cleaners to explain that you might not be in work today. You can’t go into work and just sit at the back quietly until the boss comes over and tells you to take a few days off. ‘The Show Must Go On’ is one of the most overused cliches in the entertainment world, but it’s because it’s true. If thousands of people have bought a ticket and are waiting to see you perform, have sorted out babysitters, have travelled from all over the country or the world to see you, then quite often, you put your personal problems to one side, and you give them the show that they want. And you know what, your wife fucking supports you because that is who she married; she married a driven professional caring guy, who respects that people have worked hard for their money and so you work hard for yours.

Okay. Moving on. Person C says: “he aint the only one thats had bad news, others have to get on with it.”

Now this is one of those kind of arguments you get on social media all the time. I remember putting something up when Amy Winehouse died saying I felt sad about it, and someone put ‘what about all the troops that die every day’. Yeah, I feel bad for them too. The human heart isn’t built in such a way that means we can only empathise with one thing at a time, I can quite easily feel sorry for Amy Winehouse’s family AND our injured or dying troops, at the SAME time; my heart is that fucking good!
Very interesting paragraph about what people consider important in their lives.  I liked Manford`s reasoning.  Well thought out and poignant to me in my present situation.  Few things are important to me nowadays since my granddaughter was diagnosed with Leukaemia in February of this year.  Several celebrities have died and I must admit it meant absolutely nothing to me.  One very famous singer was found dead in the bath and I could not find an ounce of pity for her.  Her daughter, maybe, but not for her as she had openly abused herself for years whilst our baby girl fights to stay alive. 

Where does that argument leave us as a race? We pride ourselves on being able to empathise with our fellow human, it is one of the things that separates us from the animals, the ability to feel someone else’s sorrow. Of course we have bad news in our lives, but why can’t we feel for the Barlows AND feel our own problems to.

Okay, last one. And I actually went from hating this guy to just thinking, maybe he just wrote something without thinking and is now, quite rightfully, getting it in the neck.

Person D writes:

“It’s not quite the same as losing a child who’s actually lived properly though, so why are people making out like it is? If the kid was like 5 years old it’d be 100x worse!”
You can`t argue with ignorance......"Person D" has a reasoning that we would never comprehend simply because his mind thinks in an entirely different way to ours. Does this make him a troll?    Logically, it kinda makes sense, but in reality it is unthinkable to even consider such a statement.

Yes, read it again, someone did, not only think this, but also wrote it down online. I mean, where does this end? So you love a child more the older it gets? When is the cut off point? What are the maths behind it? Do we love our ten year olds twice as much as our 5 year olds? When they reach twenty does our adoration double again?"
Jason Manford then goes on to write an astute insight into a man`s perspective on pregnancy.  Very moving and insightful indeed.  Which only made me question his actions when his own wife was pregnant.  Subsequently, it has also made me question his reasons for publicising such a blog, especially as his own professional life has been so heavily scrutinized and slated by many.  I don`t dislike Manford, he means nothing to me, but I can`t help but wonder whether he will see me as a troll.  I held back about my feelings on the Barlow story as I realise my thoughts are somewhat governed and saturated by the pain and realities of my own stage in life, helping to make my granddaughter better.  I do not have the capacity to hurt for others as my heart belongs to my own family at present.  Does that make me a troll or just plain selfish?  In my world, I don`t really care what others think but must say I found the piece interesting and thought-provoking, perhaps for reasons Mr Manford would never have considered.

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