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...
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:
Can't quite understand Dave Gorman having a go at @neilsean1 Leave him alone. He's a nice fellaHe 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.
— Stephen Dixon (@StephenDixonTV) September 23, 2014
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.
@StephenDixonTV @DaveGorman I note not one of your tour dates is a sell out ! lets hope my bashing creates some interest then #comedyfail
— neil sean (@neilsean1) September 24, 2014
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:
@DaveGorman "fans " I have reported all your homophobic/racist abuse to twitter /police @lgfoundation @LondonLGBTPride @AllOut #gay... and that's a far more serious allegation.
— neil sean (@neilsean1) September 25, 2014
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.
@neilsean1 @lgfoundation @LondonLGBTPride @AllOut I’d be upset if there was anything as you describe. I’ve not seen any. Examples?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.
— Dave Gorman (@DaveGorman) September 25, 2014
@neilsean1 Actually, the inference that this is to do with me is a bit off. I’m sure you’ll clarify? @lgfoundation @LondonLGBTPride @AllOutNo 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.
— Dave Gorman (@DaveGorman) September 25, 2014
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:
Celebrities who moan about twitter trolls just block rather than trying to shore up PR no one buys it #blue #marybeard #twitterThere 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.
— neil sean (@neilsean1) August 23, 2013
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.