Monday, September 29, 2014

Oh Neil, Did You Have To?

As I type this, there is one day left to watch the third episode of Modern Life Is Goodish online. It's repeated tonight at 8 too. If you're reading this and wondering what all the fuss is about and there's still time, watching it will help to make sense of where I'm going.

I was intending to let this whole episode pass without comment but it's somehow ended up in a place where some serious allegations have been made and I think they're worth addressing. I don't think anyone who saw the show would think anything racist or homophobic has been said - indeed, not a word was said that could even be misconstrued that way - but someone reading twitter might think so and that's serious enough...

In the show, I spent quite a bit of time dissecting the writing of a journalist and author called Neil Sean. You might not know the name but you will have read something he's written.

For years he's written a showbiz column in the Metro (although it appears to have ended at some point between the show being recorded and now) and he's been a correspondent for Sky TV here in the UK and for FOX in the States.

He's not without influence or power. He's a critic. He offers his opinions on others constantly and, well... he's just not a very good writer and some of what he says appears to be a bit disingenuous, if not downright dishonest.

The material about him was all about seeing patterns and inaccuracies in his work and pointing them out for what they are. I won't repeat it all here, but he's written a book called "How To Live Like A Celebrity - For Free" and it's not hard to demonstrate that much of its content doesn't stack up. It's a risible piece of work.

Anyway, during the show, the Sky news presenter, Stephen Dixon tweeted:
He didn't contain my @ so I didn't see it initially... but it didn't take long for a few people to reply and include me and bring it to my attention. I have no problem with Stephen's tweet, by the way,  he's obviously worked with Neil, liked him and so felt sorry for a friend. That's a perfectly natural reaction. It sparked a little dialogue that, I think, covers an important topic... because Neil isn't always that nice about others. He tweets jokes about a singer's looks, for example. And worse.

I find it far easier to defend making jokes about a professional writer's writing than about a singer's weight. His work ought to stand scrutiny and someone who makes a living being bitchy and unpleasant about others is really in the last place to complain about it. (Incidentally, all of these points were accepted with perfectly good grace by Stephen who, I think, was a little surprised to see the nature of some of Neil Sean's outgoing tweets. But that's another story.)

Meanwhile, perhaps prompted by Stephen Dixon's tweet, Neil Sean himself had decided to get involved. And, rather deliciously, his response contained the trait I was mocking him for in the show. I think 20 of the 50 dates had sold out already.

Up until this point, I hadn't seen many people tweeting Neil Sean about the show's content. There'd been one or two. But not many. But after this tweet a lot of people got involved. Naturally I was interested in what they were saying so, using tweetdeck, I created a column that showed me every tweet that mentioned Neil Sean's twitter handle.

Most of what he received was mocking him for the inaccuracy of the tweet or referring back to the way he often writes gossip about slebs who are smokers and so on. Some of it was abusive. I don't condone it. I saw the C word flying around. That makes me uncomfortable. The criticism of him in the show was done with a smile, after all. It was never abusive. It was factual. I certainly wouldn't describe it as a bashing. I'd say it was a ribbing.

But then Neil tweeted this:

... and that's a far more serious allegation.

Like I say, I'd been monitoring the reaction on Tweetdeck so I'm pretty sure I hadn't missed anything. I hadn't seen a single reference to his sexuality. Or race for that matter. But I was naturally concerned that maybe I'd missed something.
No reply came. And a bit of time passed. And slowly the tweet started to get under my skin. What would the casual reader think if they alighted on that tweet without any of the context? Without having seen the show? The suggestion that I've done or said things to encourage that kind of abuse is deeply unpleasant. And untrue.
No reply came. No clarification. So I called Neil's place of work and asked to speak to him. I was put through. We had a perfectly friendly chat. I explained that I was calling to express my concern about the idea that he was receiving homophobic abuse. I also explained that I hadn't actually seen any.

Neil told me that I wouldn't be able to see them because they had been sent as private messages. Which seemed odd. Because you can only receive private messages on Twitter from people that you've chosen to follow. And Neil was only following 33 people. It seemed unlikely that people he'd been following since before the show was broadcast had suddenly turned homophobic and abusive. I explained as much to him. And he blustered something along the lines of, "well I am getting them".

We chatted for a while after that. It was all perfectly civil. I understand that he's upset at being criticised by me. I think that, given his line of work - and given that the criticism wasn't personal or abusive - he ought to be able to take it. I'm afraid, I can't conclude anything other than he's invented the homophobic abuse as a defence mechanism.

If I'm wrong about that then he obviously has my sympathy. I would never condone such abuse and anyone who sends it has nothing to do with me. It certainly doesn't relate to anything said in the show. (I don't even think someone who watched the show would come away knowing anything about his sexuality either way.) I'm confident that if it did happen and it was sent in the form of direct messages then it certainly had nought to do with the show. And if it wasn't sent as direct messages, well, then why would he tell me it was? Odd.

Unsurprisingly, it hasn't been hard to find evidence that he hasn't always been sympathetic to others who've been on the receiving end of Twitter abuse:
There isn't a lot of high ground to occupy when you've been that unsympathetic to Mary Beard. And there's simply no comparison in the level of abuse the two of them have been subjected to.

My worry, having written this, is that, this being the internet, some people will misunderstand and see this as some kind of incitement to send him more abuse. Or more abusive abuse. That really isn't the point. Really. I just wanted to spell out what I think has occurred. (And what I think hasn't.)

Please play nicely.

34 comments:

Rea Pearson said...

I saw your (rather brilliant) episode and there definitely wasn't anything even vaguely homophobic in there. A critic should be able to take a little criticism about his work: if you can't handle it, don't dish it out. You are a legend, Mr Gorman. Please keep up the great work.

Anonymous said...

Dave,

I think your concerns are quiet right! This is the internet and frankly alot of people think everything they read here is true. I commend your trying to kerb his idiotic reactions and his reaction I feel is more abusive as I feel it undermines and uses, rather than supports with evidence his defensive posture! Keep it real, keep it clean, keep on smiling, many of your fans know the truth of this show and its point!

You have not been responsible for rupturing my hernia operation through laughter, although it has come close mate ;)

Looking forward to tomorrows laughter :D

Cheers

Howard

PS Gor the last three tickets in Ipswich next month, me and my two 'Team Dad' mates are scattered but chuffed we got in on the wire ;)

@denmarkjon said...

I'm not surprised that he got prickly, given that what you said on the show seriously undermines his credibility and therefore possibly threatens his livelihood. On the other hand, everything you said was spot on and he hasn't got a leg to stand on.

And no, nothing whatsoever on the show caused me to consider or question his sexuality for a single second. I'm confident that all of us who appreciate your work are intelligent enough not to hold such prejudices anyway.

shadowphiar said...

Dave, you are entirely in the right and he is entirely in the wrong.
But I can't help thinking of Mark Twain's rule of thumb: "Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel."He holds a lot of media attention and I'm not surprised to see him trying to use it against you when he's backed into a corner.

Dawn said...

I have been following this with interest ever since I watched the episode of Goodish and I just wanted to compliment you on a well written, well-reasoned, level-headed blog.

Stephen Kent-Taylor said...

On the plus side (as you've already seen and as your show demonstrated well) if this guy were to try to orchestrate a campaign of words against you it would likely be laughably inconsistent and easy to see through.

The ones to worry about are those who are bright and sneaky in addition to having a tendency to bend the truth.

Dougie said...

Without any evidence being produced for homophobic abuse, it's difficult to substantiate the claims. Anyone calling foul and claiming homophobic abuse when none exists is actually offensive to anyone who does legitimately experience this sort of abuse, and undermines them.

Anonymous said...

As my close friend Prince William says "those who dish it out should be able to take it".

Having watched the show I never considered his sexuality once. I shouldn't worry too much no one takes gossip columnists seriously anyway do they?

Anonymous said...

In the world of celebrity, nothing is real. Faces, clothes, makeup, it's all just a vacuous screen designed to separate reality from fiction. Yewtree has horribly and violently taught this to be true in several cases. As consumers, we are expected to swallow the fiction whole by a coalition of the willing - namely PR companies, newspapers, magazines, record companies and film studios. And even TV companies. Is it any wonder therefore that those who deal, write about and live in the world of celebrity have such difficulty separating reality from that constructed fiction?

Neil Sean doesn't make his living writing about real people - he is basically more of a fiction writer than EL James or Enid Blyton. James created this image of hyper-sexualised people strapped (ahem) beneath respectable button downed exteriors, when in reality most of us (according to the papers) are fairly ambivalent about sex. Blyton created a picture-postcard chocolate box world of goody-good children and baddy-bad villains, whereas in reality the 1940s and 1950s contained as many bad kids as any generation since. Similarly, celebrity reporters / critics etc approach to life is to cherry pick the very best - and worst - of celebrity culture and dress it up as the norm.

Why then does he have such trouble distinguishing the same when it happens to him? Does he not realise that by getting involved in this culture he is playing the same game? Does he not realise that you, Dave, have done to him what he has done to others? You have attacked his writing, his persona, his image, his art - NOT himself, the person. It's a shame he made it so easy with such weasely attempts at inside gossip. Oprah Winfrey he ain't.

Likewise with you Dave. You are a famous person and can be defined as a celebrity. Does that mean that everything you say in your shows represents you fully as a human being? Probably not - although I hope I am not wrong to say that your personality shines through more in your work than many others does. But those who judge you - and attack you - solely on your shows, your work, your books and your standup are fools. Neil Sean needs to realise that you weren't attacking Neil Sean the human, you were attacking Neil Sean the Writer, the Critic, the Dreamer. There's a subtle difference.

Having said all that, that joke about veils though - that WAS racist and uncalled for. He should be ashamed.


@kembrek83

Anonymous said...

Neil's reaction is unfortunately very similar to that of someone who has been found inept and has resorted to the childlike tantrum of projecting their own discomforts on to others. Like a person who has not really come to terms with their own sexuality or personality and relys on criticising others as the only way they can feel good about themself. A kind of professional troll only far uglier than the mythical looks of a troll on the inside. Clearly Neil is not like that as he is a professional journalist working for entirely impartial broadcasters.

Adrian

Richard Godfrey said...

A found poem?

David Goldblatt said...

I hope this whole 'issue' will die a quick death as it is (or should be) a non-event.

I was in the studio audience for the recording of that episode. If it becomes more serious, I would be delighted to appear in court to confirm under oath that nothing was said or implied about Mr Sean's sexuality (or race). Until I read this blog and the comments below it, I had no knowledge or indication of Mr Sean's sexual 'leanings'. I still don't.

Maxx said...

I'm upset that a 'professional' commentator, such as Neil, cannot take the criticism he receives with the same grace that his own writing (for want of a better word) is received.

I would have thought that someone in his line of work would have developed a thicker skin. I wonder if he too is battling a 40 a day smoking habit? Did you hit an undiscovered nerve?

I enjoyed the show and excerpts from the book have allowed me to live more like a celebrity without having to give Neil any of my money. So I really am living the celeb lifestyle for FREE!

I'm looking forward to a future episode of Goodish, that was inspired by these event's, especially the found poem.

Thanks for everything Mr Gorman.

Maxx

Michael said...

While the abuse he received may not have been homophobic or racist, it was still abuse and it occurred as a predictable response to your show.

Clearly your show was a legitimate dissection of this man's work and we can't allow the risk of online abuse to have a chilling effect on this kind of material.

Nevertheless you need to be aware that any personal attack, however good natured, will be taken further by some people online. You need to be able to draw the line - control who you can and condemn who you can't.

Obviously, with the allegations here you need to have it on record that they are inaccurate. But first you need to exert some control over those who act in your name.

And it's incredibly tricky because any comment can simply stir up more trouble. You need to do all this as tersely as possible and then, publicly at least, drop the subject completely. So good luck with all that!

(Love the show, by the way)

Anonymous said...

All the above is a fair reflection of events.....thoroughly entertaining and amusing.....free speech long may it continue

Kirstie Yeadon - Fisher said...

Very well said and written.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm... Did you wake up this morning feeling a little low - and thinking an online hug would be just the ticket?

Apart from your first tweet to the reporter (maybe) I'm afraid this all sounds like getting ants in Dave's pants, and is close to making me wonder if indeed celebrities should even be allowed to tweet or blog. There should be a law against it...

Oh and err, towards the end of your blog you reminded me yet again of the importance of not being earnest.
Top tip - tone it down a tad next time!

Dave Gorman said...

Thanks Neil.

Anonymous said...

No, just a fan who was more of a fan before he read this article and who finds it rather tiresome when celebrities engage in silly online squabbles.
You must have realised that hardly anyone, if indeed anyone [familiar with your work] would think you were racist or homophobic after reading that tweet - yet you still went to the trouble of all this.
I just don't understand why you didn't ignore it and get on with your day.
.... I'm wasting my time aren't I? Yes, I too see the irony.

Dave Gorman said...

Celebrity is in the eye of the beholder. I don't see it in myself and think that it's a sign of madness when anyone sees it in themself. But that aside the idea that "celebrities" should be held to a different code of conduct to others seems absurd. I think everyone should play by the same rules myself.

The blog was prompted by a text from a friend saying, "watched the show, looked him up, shit - what have people said?" They assumed it had somehow spiralled that way - probably not hard to imagine given it's the internet.

But even so, yes I know not many ppl would see it. But some would. How many people would you tolerate thinking you're a homophobe? Where's the line drawn on that one?

Anonymous said...

Play nicely. Hehe.

David S said...

I watched your show, and it was harmless fun ,maybe a bit at his expense but he should be big enough to deal with it in his line of work. As a gay man, it annoys me that some people use the homophobic stuff when it is clearly not. This causes others not to take it serious when it does happen. Seeing many of our shows I cannot believe you go out of your way to offend people.

Anonymous said...

If you don't like the heat don't sit on the Aga.

toni sharp said...

The beginnings of a 'found poem' me thinks! Love your factual arguments and intelligent presentation.

Mark W said...

It upsets me somewhat that you've felt the need to write this blog, Dave. It really shows how things can get out of hand from what seemed like absolutely nothing. But all celebrities have to, for the most part, stay impartial to everything, unless they dont mind the media spinning it into an over-exaggerated ratings-fest.

I understand that you've written this in order to nip the whole situation in the bud, but in a perfect world, there wouldn't be a situation. As part of the Dave Gorman fan base it makes me uncomfortable because I don't want the media turning all of your fans into a homophobic mass who attack people because of something the sensationalist journalists will pin on you.

Your shows are good-natured comedy and never fail to have me in tears from laughing every time. I know (as do all of your fans) that none of what was said in your show was meant as an attack on Neil or anything to do with him as a person (the topic of his sexuality had never even crossed my mind until I saw this blog).

Try not to let it get to you, Dave. This should all blow over pretty quickly and if anything that Neil said has happened has indeed happened then it was absolutely nothing to do with you and I offer him my sympathy. Looking forward to another great episode tomorrow night.

Anonymous said...

This is exactly what Dave Gorman does! How can anyone get upset about it.... enjoy your bonus Gorman

Vixxster said...

It's really sad that he chose this tack rather than taking a picture of his telly at the part where you hold up his book and post it with the caption "DAVE GORMAN LOVES MY BOOK!"

We'd have all had a giggle, Dave included, no doubt, and Sean would have gotten a little respect from us MLIG viewers then it would have been tomorrow and we'd have all just gone on with doing something else.

One can only assume he chose this tack of rebuttle because he is finally getting the attention he so desperately craves. Even negative.

I feel a bit sorry for him that he feels the need to do this. It is obvious that he is lying about contacting police, and about homophobic reports. Wasting police time is a crime. A real one.

Mark W said...

I would like to clarify, as I'm watching the new episode, because I wrote my previous comment at nearly 3am, that I am upset that these allegations have been made, I feel it was necessary for Dave to clarify from his own perspective because things do easily get out of hand. I do hope he doesn't let any of it get to him. Keep up the great work Dave!

Mishmish said...

I can't get past the irony. In the same week that Mr Sean gets all upset about someone ribbing his own book, he decides to tweet about Kelly Brook's new book with the mildly cruel hash-tag 'poundland'. I guess what goes around comes around.

Lydia said...

The way Neil Sean turned the criticism of his poor writing and fabricated celebrity endorsements into homophobia reminded me of this Key and Peele sketch

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3h6es6zh1c

@denmarkjon said...

Having been duped by "Angela Rippon" and "Edwin A. Currie" in the most recent episode, one could be forgiven for believing that "Neil Sean" is a figment created purely for comic effect.

nightcat26 said...

Fun Fact: All the comments about Neil Sean are actually true and factual!

There is no abuse there and he should just change the way he is if he wants to receive nice factual comments about himself.

Pete said...

I think celeb industry is being used to dumb down society. Why else do most news pages now have Daily Mail style sidebars we can't avoid on every news story, to get easily influenced gullible people to care about what over hyped talentless half wits are doing. They turn ex-manufactured band members like Victoria Beckham or Kerry Katona who can't sing solo but still want the attention, or Essex reality show contestants into style icons, because it involves no more skill than wearing clothes, except they're less stylish than everybody else I've ever seen, as have orange skin, obvious fake chest they like showing off, scouse brows, plastered on make-up. Or half a news page had Kardashian naked, and then they said she broke the internet, when nobody wanted to see her naked anyway.
Can't even walk into a newsagents without being confronted by rows of magazines full of thick orange people, with their dumb made up stories. Before their promoters make up a new career for attention, like business person for putting their name on a perfume somebody else made, or fashion designer for drawing a picture of a dress, and then getting somebody to make it who has worked in and studied the industry. Then their gullible brainwashed army say they must be great if rich, from there being so many gullible brainwashed people to care about types who are worse than most people.

Anonymous said...

This is what Louise Mensch does ALL the time whenever she starts to lose an argument - she accuses those she is in an argument with of sexism (from my research I would say about 10% of the time the accusation is justified).

Well done for following up and proving that it was simply censorship by people who like to dish it out but cant take getting it back.