Sodden clumps of Mayfair on a radiator

sex-boxWoody Allen once said: “Love is the answer, but while you are waiting for the answer, sex raises some pretty good questions.” And thanks to Channel 4’s Sex Box, which starts tonight, three couples now have a forum for discussing those questions. All they’re required to do is have sex inside a futuristic portakabin in the middle of a television studio, before emerging, breathless, ruddy-faced and slightly unkempt, to have a cosy post-coital chat with Mariella Frostrup and a panel of ‘sexperts’. Bingo!

The show is part of Channel 4’s ‘Campaign for Real Sex’, a season of programmes “which aim to reclaim sex from porn”. And what better way to reclaim sex than by placing it inside an opaque, sound-proofed cube. “It’s quite a chaste programme,” said Channel 4’s head of factual programming, Ralph Lee, “— there’s no sex in it.”

True, there’s no sex. But I read somewhere that there is a handy colour scheme so that we can all follow what’s going on at home. Apparently the box glows red for coitus; yellow to indicate intermittent foreplay and a chat about whether the tiles in the bathroom need re-grouting; purple for when the mood evaporates and the couple decide to eat Hobnobs and watch Countryfile instead; and blue to alert the crew to unexpected flaccidity.

Typically appalled by the show’s premise, the Mail Online reported that Channel 4 is cynically trying to boost ratings after it was outperformed by Channel 5 for the first time in its history in July. Whether or not that’s true, I’m sort of glad that Channel 4 got in with this idea first.

After all, Richard Desmond’s cut-price Channel 5 version would probably be called something like Fuck Truck. Presented by John McCririck, wearing nothing but oversized underpants and a deerstalker, amorous couples would be expected to have orgiastic sex in a perspex trailer on the back of an eighteen wheeler. McCririck would then walk among the writhing bodies singing Bloodhound Gang’s The Bad Touch into a loud hailer, as the truck winds its way through Leeds city centre.

Alternatively, Desmond could always develop a programme called Snuff Box, a one-hour programme in which oversexed, banter-loving ‘lads’ are lured into a shipping container by a pneumatic blonde, before taking a bullet to the back of the head. I think I’d watch that.

Anyway, Sex Box and the ‘Campaign for Real Sex’ seem to be a product of Channel 4’s eagerness “to talk about sex – real sex – the kind that is actually going on in Britain’s bedrooms”. That’s fine, but aren’t we always talking about sex these days? A better idea for a show would’ve been Sex Library, where anyone who tries to strike up a conversation about sex gets shushed by a stern-faced, conservatively dressed librarian, with half moon spectacles sitting on the end of her beaky nose. Isn’t sex boring now?

And what is ‘real sex’ anyway? With absolutely no apologies for the sweeping generalisation I’m about to make, I imagine ‘real sex’ for men in their late teens and twenties involves clumsily trying to mount someone in a piss-sodden nightclub toilet, while a stumbling, incoherent friend helpfully vomits eight hours of two-for-one shots into the crotch of their ankle-high underwear.

I’m also not entirely sure how Sex Box can liberate us from pornography?

My first experience of porn was in 1989, when I discovered a bin bag full of pornographic magazines in a park behind the newsagents where I worked. I remember turning my bike on its handlebars, as though innocently fixing a puncture, just to give myself enough time to paw at the bag until some of the glossy magazines slipped out and flipped tantalisingly open. I ended up flicking through a ridiculous photoset featuring two naked women cowering beneath a mulleted Dracula – a set of plastic fangs sitting awkwardly in his mouth, with his cape thrown open to reveal a phallus of truly ridiculous proportions.

I only managed to look for a few seconds, though. The sound of Bram Stoker turning in his grave suddenly spooked me (or it might have been a cat darting through the bushes behind me) so I decided to hide the bag in some undergrowth and return to collect my filthy treasure after dark.

The bin bag was gone by the time I returned to fix another fake puncture on my bike, but that was the beauty of porn in the old days – it was a challenge to find! (And in terms of the sodden clumps of Mayfair I once found and tried to dry out on a radiator, difficult to read.) Furthermore, buying just one pornographic magazine over the counter at a newsagents was often prohibitively expensive, especially once I’d hidden it beneath four packs of Chewits, a copy of The People’s Friend and a foam ball and tennis racket set. The young people of today wouldn’t have an addiction to porn if they had to acquire it under those kinds of conditions.

Actually, thinking about it, maybe Sex Box can rid the world of pornography. If this box thing catches on, we might soon be living in a world where all the filthiest, x-rated bits from porn films take place inside opaque, sound-proofed boxes, leaving us to actually enjoy the dialogue and plot in films such as Moulin Splooge and The Italian Handjob. Furthermore, trying to view pornographic images online would eventually be no more exciting than surfing the IKEA website for a self-assembly wardrobe. If pornography was made that dull, I’m fairly certain that people would lose interest.

We can but hope.


Filed under Television

Tom Daley’s butt crack

Whenever I peruse my miserable blog stats, I always click on the ‘search terms’ section (the word combinations that nudge people towards my little corner of the internet) to give myself a much-needed boost. Sure, the depressingly low visitor numbers indicate that I’m a failure, but at least I can console myself with the fact I’m not hitting the internet for nude photos of Barry Chuckle and Nadine Dorries (separate searches, I might add). Nor am I Googling for images of “Chris de Burgh’s nipples” or desperately trying to identify the cast of Glade’s ‘Poo at Paul’s’ Touch ‘n Fresh commercial. Yeah, life’s pretty good!

Until, that is, I had an epiphany. These search terms represent people who’ve landed on my blog unexpectedly and have immediately exited the page without reading a single word, disgruntled that “Tom Daley’s butt crack” didn’t appear before them like a sexy apparition. The upshot being: my blog is less appealing than a young diver’s chlorinated crevice. Is there really any point in my continuing, I pondered?


And so this, my 100th blog post, will be my last.

Far from being a decision based on a silly interpretation of my blog stats, it basically comes down to the fact that no one reads this stuff. It’s become an emotionally draining process for me to spend hours excitedly tapping away on my laptop only to see my words sink without a trace as soon as I hit ‘publish’.

I’ve only ever written one successful post, back in 2011, when I wrote about Nadine Dorries, the Mail Online and the sexualisation of children. Emerging from a dull meeting at work to discover that my blog post had been retweeted far and wide on Twitter – and even mentioned on other people’s blogs – was a dizzying and exciting experience. The biggest compliment I received on that day was from Dr Petra Boynton, who told me that she’d snorted coffee out of her nose while reading it. (Someone once told me that my turn of phrase made them choke on some couscous, but this really was the promised land.)

Of course, so-called ‘success’ was short lived (and has never been repeated). My next blog post – the difficult second album – hit the world with a whimper and was greeted with general indifference. I didn’t write a single word for six months after that. Blogging is all about peaks and troughs. But mainly troughs.

Anyway, I just want to say a genuine, heartfelt thanks to everyone who’s supported this blog over the last four (and a bit) years. And to anyone who’s ever left a comment, shared, retweeted or ‘liked’ a blog post, or said anything nice about the rambling nonsense I’ve written – you’re all wonderful (and probably know who you are).

And thank you to SudoOne for leaving the only comment on my last full blog post. “Superb piece,” he very kindly wrote. (I thought so, yes.)

Right, those naked pics of Pauline Quirke and the cast of Birds of Feather won’t search for themselves. I’m off.



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GTA V: A fleeting distraction in our terrifying reality

After playing GTA V, the latest instalment of Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto series, the Mail’s James Delingpole recently gave “his verdict” on the title. With thousands of frothy-mouthed gamers primed to ransack their local branch of Game, they waited expectantly for word from the great bespectacled one.

For the benefit of his eager readers, he launched straight into the action:

“Yesterday, in the process of robbing a bank, I beat up an elderly security guard before shooting dead perhaps 15 policemen, exulting in their murders with the flip dismissal: ‘Shouldn’t have been a cop.’ After that, I stole a succession of fast cars, evading my pursuers by driving on the wrong side of the road, mowing down passers-by and killing more police by ramming straight into them. Then I went home for a change of clothes, a nap, a beer and a joint before getting into my stolen vehicle to wreak more mayhem, pausing briefly to enjoy the services of a prostitute.”

When my wife used to take control of the CJ character – back in the old GTA: San Andreas days – she used to run everywhere because she flatly refused to carjack anyone. She would then spend two hours strapped into a jet pack, hovering high above the bustling streets of Las Venturas, quietly looking for horseshoes. A fun, non-violent way of making some money, and every bit as important as my ruthless gang-banging and thirst for fast cars.

My wife contributed to the game on her terms, only doing what she felt comfortable with (she also used to hit the gym and go shopping). Delingpole, on the other hand, sounded like he wanted to squeeze in as much violence and depravity as possible. He shot dead “perhaps 15 policeman”. He doesn’t know the exact figure because he was lost in the moment, happily spraying those uniformed visualisations of image data with cop-killing lead.

It certainly sounds like he’s improved since he played the first Grand Theft Auto back in 1997. “It involved an awful lot of driving around motorways and I crashed so often I kept failing in the missions the characters were supposed to carry out,” grumbled Delingpole, reminiscing about the time he played his stepson’s copy of the original game – and hated it. Perhaps if the gameplay had involved driving a Vauxhall Zafira around the Cotswolds (sensibly, at 50mph) with a mission to find a boutique hotel before nightfall, it might have been a more enjoyable experience.

Still, Delingpole’s “spree of orgiastic destruction and drug-fuelled violence” in GTA V left him in no doubt as to how gamers should approach the game, neatly observing: “The idea is that rather than disapprove of all the unpleasant things [the game characters] have to do in the course of their missions — drug deals, heists, assassinations — you should revel in every moment.”

Of course, there’s nothing to say that gamers can’t have the best of both worlds. In future, Rockstar might look to provide some kind of in-game Points of View programme, where people who hate GTA (but for some reason find themselves deeply engrossed in its gameplay) can complain about the missions they’re being asked to carry out. If a gamer would rather do a bake sale to raise funds for a local hospice instead of committing a violent armed robbery for kicks, they should rightly have the means of communicating their concerns.

But let’s face it, no one immerses themselves in a game world to disapprove of things that, here in the ‘real world’, we might consider unpleasant or amoral. We accept that our violent actions are confined to our games consoles, where we can commit the most appalling acts with impunity (and even a wry grin). We’re the stars of our own ridiculous comic.

Typically, Delingpole’s Mail Online article carried two prominent screenshots of GTA V’s interactive torture scene, which players have no choice but to confront. Every instalment of GTA always has a controversial, headline-grabbing element – and this is it.

In a 2009 Telegraph blog post about torture, Delingpole reminded us that he, too, believes that “full-on torture is basically wrong”. However, his reference to “full-on torture” suggests that he sees torture as a car wash-style menu of packaged options. He’s probably OK with ‘basic torture’ as it likely involves nothing more brutal than a light beating or flagellation with a bare flex. The next level up from that is probably just a few stress positions and some psychological torture, like forcing a man to listen to the sound of a squealing pig for 24hrs (looped endlessly over the title music to Last of the Summer Wine). So far, so good.

This psychological torment is actually known as ‘torture lite‘ in U.S. Military circles, so it’s perfectly acceptable! It’s like a spread or carbonated drink with all the evil taken out, then repackaged as the healthy option. But “full-on torture” – waterboarding, tooth/fingernail extraction, possibly even genital mutilation – well, that is basically wrong.

Given that the torture scene in GTA V sees the gamer’s character (Trevor Phillips) torturing a terrorist suspect for information at the behest of the FBI, I assumed it would’ve been right up Delingpole’s street. After all, his Telegraph blog questioned why “hand-wringing liberals” in the West spend so much time agonising over the human rights of various terrorist suspects “while giving scarcely a fig for the memory of the numerous innocents they have managed to wipe out by bullet, grenade or suicide bomb”. With this in mind, the opportunity to sharply twist the handheld controller and wrench out a tooth, roots and all, from a terrorist’s gaping, blood-filled mouth should have been quite appealing.

[Incidentally, if James Delingpole were ever to torture a man, he strikes me as someone who would go about the task with all the restrained unpredictability of Gus Fring.]

But it would be wrong of me to spend this entire blog post focusing solely on James Delingpole (992 words is more than enough). The GTA V torture scene has also caused outrage among human rights groups and teachers’ unions. (Oh, and also Labour’s Keith Vaz, who, let’s be honest, would probably describe a vigorous massage as one of the most sickeningly violent things he has ever experienced.)

Alison Sherratt, president of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, warned that young children watching their siblings play GTA V may not be able to tell that it’s fictional. “The graphics are so realistic that little ones don’t think what they’re watching is a game,” she said. “Four to five-year-olds have a tendency to copy what they see on TV, whether it’s this or Fireman Sam putting out fires.”

I assume that if a child copies Fireman Sam by extinguishing a fire – rather than hurling flammable cushions into the flames to accelerate the conflagration – that’s a GOOD thing. Forcefully extracting a friend’s milk tooth at playgroup, probably less so. But that’s not very likely.

Maybe I’m expecting too much for there to be a level of parental responsibility here, but parents shouldn’t be buying GTA V for children under 18 years of age anyway (plonked in front of a 50″ plasma TV, mouths agape, controllers in hand). And they and their 18+ teenage offspring should certainly know better than to allow their five-year-old children/siblings to be witnesses to their violent video game exploits. But people are fucking stupid, so I guess some do. That’s not the video game industry’s fault, though.

I also disagree with the view that inserting torture into a video game “glamourises” it in popular culture.

Few people bat an eyelid when storylines of kidnap, murder, violence and drug taking are ‘glamourised’ in prime-time soaps like Eastenders. In fact, the 2007 episode of Coronation Street, which saw womanising builder Charlie Stubbs tie up teenager David Platt and force his head under water, was deemed to be “editorially justified” by Ofcom “even if there were some risk of imitation”. TV audiences are obviously considered to be more sophisticated and intelligent than gamers, who are so backwards that they simply cannot distinguish between reality and digital fiction.

[There are exceptions, obviously, like 14-year-old soap fan Daniel Bartlam, who bludgeoned his mother to death with a hammer in 2011 in a reenactment of his ‘favourite’ Coronation Street storyline.]

Furthermore, beyond the open world of GTA V, in our terrifying reality, we’re already exposed to an unrelenting daily diet of some of the most appalling and inhumane acts of cruelty and barbarism imaginable. We see Syrian rebels eating the hearts of their enemies and beheading captured helicopter pilots for the benefit of the camera (all available on YouTube…or in multiple pixelated screenshots on the Mail Online); Syrian civilians left writhing in contorted agony following Sarin nerve gas attacks; and yet more mass-casualty shootings in America. Added to this, we hear harrowing details of defenceless children in our own communities, tortured and starved to death by the parents who should have loved and protected them. We have homicides casually posted to Facebook, teenagers bullied into suicide by callous online trolls, and people who will literally kill for a free breakfast.

James Delingpole prays that the on-screen violence in GTA V doesn’t “bleed into Britain’s streets”, which is a woefully simplistic view. A violent video game isn’t going to unleash a wave of heavily-armed, glassy-eyed imitators, hellbent on wreaking death and destruction. The world is a fucked up place already, with more than enough real violence and inhumanity to chill our bones. In the whole scheme of things, Grand Theft Auto is just a fleeting distraction.


Filed under Comment

The post about Manchester United that no one will read, but I wrote it anyway

In 1982, before I realised that I hated musicals with a passion, my parents took me to see Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre, a staggering four times. The last time we saw the show, I remember there was a pre-curtain announcement which explained that Jess Conrad – the star – would be unable to perform due to a family bereavement, and that the role of Joseph would be played instead by the understudy.

On hearing this news, the audience emitted a deep guttural groan as if they’d just been told that Norman Tebbit had been bused in to play the lead. I imagine the sound of mass disappointment filling the auditorium didn’t make the understudy’s heart sink so much as it tried to burst through his chest and roll out of the nearest backstage exit. It must have been a terribly disheartening moment.

I can’t actually remember anything about the performance that followed. All I remember is the audience reaction to the announcement and the instant assumption that the performance would be sub-standard. After all, how could a young pretender possibly replace the mighty Jess Conrad and still provide us with the high levels of entertainment we’d come to expect?

Believe it or not, this Jess Conrad-based preamble is my way of easing you into a blog post about football. You see, I’m a Manchester United fan. Admittedly I’ve only ever been to one game (Old Trafford, March 1985: we beat Aston Villa 4-0, during which I accidentally hurled a meat and potato pie over the man sitting in front of me) so I’m probably more ‘armchair fan’ than dedicated ‘super-fan’.

True ‘super fans’ of Manchester United probably live in a subterranean netherworld beneath Old Trafford itself, where the blood, sweat and tears from every match filters through the hallowed turf and hangs in the air like a fine mist. (In contrast, I live in a light and airy flat in a small Warwickshire village.) Furthermore, true ‘super fans’ probably attend every first team match – home and away. They’d probably turn up to watch the ground staff kick an empty can around the car park if they could. I obviously can’t compete with that level of fandom, but I’m still a fan and I still care what happens to my team.

The incomparable and uncompromising Sir Alex Ferguson has been at the Manchester United helm for all but a couple of years during my time as a supporter, but the idea that he would one day retire never really crossed my mind. Part of me expected a Weekend at Bernie’s-style scenario to eventually transpire, whereby a complex pulley system would be employed to animate Sir Alex in the dugout, inspiring thrilling victories and late comebacks for evermore. But now he’s gone (retired, not expired) and David Moyes sits in the big chair.

I feel a bit sorry for David Moyes. When he first took over at Manchester United it was reported that Sir Alex Ferguson had seen him as his understudy and natural successor. He was the man standing nervously behind the grand drape listening to a groaning audience of doubters, dubious of his ability to deliver high quality entertainment and anything but disappointment. “Will David Moyes turn Man United into a team who have to fight to get into the top four?” asked one fan on Yahoo Answers, using a forum best known for people asking if it’s safe to eat urinal cake.

Does any manager go into a club with the aim of actively reversing its fortunes? No, of course not. It was an idiotic question that was posed before David Moyes had presided over a single competitive game.

Still, David Moyes and the new executive vice-chairman, Ed Woodward, have had a tough time so far, particularly in the transfer market. In July it was reported that Woodward had departed the club’s pre-season tour of Australia to deal with “urgent transfer business”, and like many supporters I salivated at the prospect of Gareth Bale arriving, or even Cristiano Ronaldo returning, perhaps to be joined later by the likes of Geoffrey Kondogbia, İlkay Gündoğan, Mesut Özil, Ander Herrera, Eliaquim Mangala, Ezequiel Garay…and any number of players that we were being linked with on a daily basis.

Speculation about the “urgent transfer business” was constant. Woodward was in Spain trying to tie up the Fabregas deal. He was in Hungary on the trail of Puskás. Meanwhile, reports of secret meetings with Jossy Blair suggested that he was close to securing the signature of a Glipton Giants playmaker. We were about to go wild in the transfer market – and I couldn’t wait!

My excitement was somewhat dampened at 11pm on deadline day, when our only signing was £27.5m Marouane Fellaini from Everton. It’s an over-priced signing that, granted, gives us some much-needed physicality in midfield. But signing just one player in a last minute frenzy of transfer activity on deadline day was undeniably disappointing. Especially when you consider that, in the same transfer window, Spurs managed to snap up Christian Eriksen from Ajax for a mere £11m, along with the likes of Erik Lamela, Paulinho and Roberto Soldado. “If even half of these impressive Spurs signings succeed – look out,” tweeted Sports Illustrated senior writer Grant Wahl.

Oh, and Mesut Özil – one of the most technically gifted attacking midfielders of his generation – ended up at Arsenal. “The Premier League…is a league with much more space and Özil is a player that, given time and space, he will kill you,” warned Barcelona’s Cesc Fàbregas, fresh from playing the lead role in our long summer of unrequited love. Arsenal, it seems, could be deadly this year.

Fellaini’s arrival, on the other hand, was greeted with a mixture of dismay and indifference, with only a light dusting of vaguely positive reaction. “Probably our least exciting £20m+ signing ever,” sighed ‘kps88′ on the forum. I wouldn’t be surprised if at least one contributor to a forum thread has, at some point in the last couple of weeks, predictably referred to him as “Marian FAILaini”. But that would be unfair, seeing as he hasn’t even pulled on a Manchester United jersey or kicked a ball competitively for us yet.

Fellaini could be a great signing for us, so we should give him time. And I really hope David Moyes is given time, too.

In spite of a pre-season Charity Shield win for David Moyes’ United, followed by four points and four goals in three Premier League matches (in what Moyes described as “the toughest start Manchester United have had [in the league] for 20 years”) I’ve already seen some fans calling for his head – which is madness. We’re not going to become that club, are we? The type of club that casts stability to the wind and throws a manager under the bus every time there’s a dip in form.

Sir Alex Ferguson’s first game in charge of Manchester United, on 8 November 1986, was a 2–0 defeat at underdogs Oxford United, which was followed by a goalless draw at newly promoted Norwich City. It was hardly a scintillating start, but it didn’t define Sir Alex’s managerial reign or prevent him from eventually building teams that went on to deliver a historic level of footballing achievement.

Robert Chalmers’ open letter to Sir Alex Ferguson, which appeared in GQ magazine shortly after the Scot announced his retirement, noted:

“Paddy Barclay wrote, at the time you were possibly facing the sack, around 1990, that you had got everything right at [Manchester United], except at first team level. We read those words, as supporters, and thought: what use is that? But a great manager – given time, as you were – moulds a club in his own image.”

Wise words indeed.

David Moyes has a six-year contract at Manchester United and I think we should let him have those six years to build his own empire and write his own history at the club, even if it means that we have to part with success temporarily. He needs to impose his own style, make further signings (something he was very good at as manager of Everton) and even create his own urban myths. Like the time Sir Alex Ferguson disemboweled a hapless boot boy following a 2003 FA Cup defeat at the hands of Arsenal, before angrily stuffing the organs into a boot and launching it at David Beckham’s head, with the steaming entrails flapping like a comet’s tail as it flew across the changing room.

I’m not qualified to give David Moyes tips on how to achieve success. Although, I do have a very successful Manchester United career under my belt courtesy of Football Manager. (Or I did until last week, when I jokingly resigned after 12 glorious [game] years following some poor results, then watched in silent horror as the game immediately autosaved.) Football Manager is one of the most addictive games of all time. It’s like being captivated for hours on end by a detailed and thoroughly entertaining PowerPoint presentation. And when you’ve played the game for so long that your new signings are all ‘regens’ (regenerated players), your squad begins to look like it’s made up of talented E-FIT criminals. It’s swallowed a lot of my spare time over the years. But here’s what I’ve learned from that virtual managerial world: give youth a chance!

David Moyes shouldn’t be afraid to blood the youth at his disposal. Wilfried Zaha reminds me of one of those talented footballers at school, who could beat you with a flashy trick and blistering pace one minute, then go from pirouette to crumpled heap, clutching his balls, the next. His skill certainly needs refining, but he’s absolutely fearless and can run all day – which should terrify any defender lacking concentration or pace. Similarly, I’d love to see Adnan Januzaj get some significant game time under his belt this season. I’ve just heard that Juventus might do another ‘Paul Pogba’ and poach him from us if his contract runs down, which I’d hate to see. Surely he’s the future of Manchester United – PLEASE GIVE HIM A NEW CONTRACT, DAVID!

Also, please play Shinji Kagawa as often as possible. I know the trick is finding a way for him to play alongside Wayne Rooney in a position in which he can excel, but just find a way. Injuries aside, I thought he was great in his debut season. Just the nimble, creative force we need.

Still, what the fuck do I know?

After 26 years of managerial continuity at Manchester United, our 2013/14 transition season is obviously going to be tough as hell – especially with five very strong teams challenging us for the title. But before he disappeared down the players’ tunnel for the last time, Sir Alex Ferguson instructed supporters to do one very simple thing: “Stand by your new manager.” And unless David Moyes uses the January transfer window to re-sign Eric Djemba-Djemba or sell Wayne Rooney to Chelsea, that’s exactly what we should do. Jess Conrad is gone, now it’s time for the understudy.

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Filed under Football, Sport

If the Mail Online has to exist, let’s make it disappear

I recently read an analysis of the Mail Online’s infuriatingly popular website, which observed that if you “surf around the [site] for a few minutes…you’ll find yourself dropped into one of around a dozen topic silos”. I think ‘silo’ is a fairly accurate word to use in relation to the Mail Online – assuming we’re thinking of the corn silo in Witness into which Harrison Ford lures one of his pursuers, before burying him beneath a suffocating avalanche of corn

At the very least, given that the depth of the Mail Online’s homepage is 5.16 metres (just under one and a half times the height of an average British male) the Mail Online experience is like being swallowed by a ‘topic sinkhole’.

That said, I have to admit to reading the Mail Online on a fairly regular basis. Although I do so mainly because it acts as a barometer of how much stupid there is in the world. Just how on earth did a website featuring such offensive, inaccurate, hypocritical and largely inconsequential drivel become the leading online newspaper in the world?

“People are addicted to it,” said Martin Clarke, editor and publisher of the Mail Online, during an interview with the FT a few months ago. “It’s like journalism crack.” (I think “journalism” is over-egging it somewhat.)

It’s said that the first time a person uses crack, they experience a completely indescribable feeling of euphoria. They then try to recapture that moment again and again, slipping ever deeper into hopeless addiction, but never managing to recreate the intense feeling of that first high. It’s like a newcomer to the Mail Online’s vast website choosing to read an article about ‘Single Alex Reid scoffing a KFC bucket in a layby‘, a story of such national importance it was promoted on the site’s homepage last September. After that initial hit the ‘user’ returns to the website repeatedly in a futile attempt to replicate the feeling of elation that that showbiz exclusive delivered. But unless Alex Reid is ever papped in a dingy alleyway drinking piss out of a discarded shoe, it will be impossible to achieve.

‘Freddy from Manchester’ – a man seemingly riddled with self-loathing – neatly summed up Mail Online addiction when he recently commented on a pointless article, saying: “I feel disgusted that I read and understood the clearly defined title and contents of this article yet still clicked through and had a good old look anyway.” It’s a sickness.

You already know everything I’m about to write, but I really need the catharsis. So here are just a few things I despise about the Mail Online.


Ricky Gervais once said: “There’s no difference between fame and infamy now. There’s a new school of professional famous people that don’t do anything. They don’t create anything.” These nonentities are the very essence of the Mail Online.

A case in point is Patricia Krentcil, who was arrested last May and charged with second-degree child endangerment after allegedly taking her then-5-year-old daughter into a tanning booth. The charges were dropped in February this year, which should have seen her weathered, mahogany fizzog return to the obscurity from whence it came. But of course, it didn’t.

Using the nickname ‘Tanning Mom’, the Mail Online continues to occasionally report on her car-crash existence as if it’s genuine showbiz news (when I say “report” I obviously mean “regurgitate vapid nonsense from TMZ”). Since the charges against Krentcil were dropped the Mail has worked tirelessly to keep us updated about her appearance as an extra in a gay porn film, her plans to make a movie about the last year of her life, her stint in rehab for alcohol abuse and her ambitions to launch her own tanning lotion, not to mention treating us to umpteen photographs of her gut-wrenching bikini shoot in which she “channelled her inner mermaid”. (Imagine Daryl Hannah’s role in Splash being played by the 2,000-year-old mummified corpse of Tollund Man.)

It’s anybody’s guess what our ‘insta-fame’ culture will serve up next? ‘Causing Death by Dangerous Driving Dad’? The ‘Poisoned Pet Twins’? “With faces as long as their tanned, slender legs, the twins were spotted leaving court this morning after receiving a life ban on keeping pets. Cruelly poisoned Labrador aside, it was the twins’ sick Louboutins that were the real headline-grabber!”

T & A

In the eyes of the Mail Online, female celebrities don’t simply leave the house and go about their daily lives in a variety of different outfits (i.e. clothes). To the contrary, whether they’re meeting friends for lunch or heading out to B&Q to pick up a tube of grout, these gals “parade their pins”, flaunt “side boob” and show off their “toned tummies” and “pert posteriors”. Of course, the Mail Online’s favourite term is ‘derrière’ because it knows that everyone’s internal reading voice will automatically default to a Leslie Phillips impression whenever they read it, which ultimately detracts from the fact that they’re essentially just writing articles about womens’ arses.

Recently the Mail excitedly reported about the ‘underbutt’ craze, whereby the likes of Miley Cyrus and Rihanna are now sporting shorts so tiny “they reveal the buttock crease”. You can practically feel the Mail Online trembling with delight beneath its digital cassock whenever the merest hint of flesh is on show.

Furthermore, the Mail Online has recently started posting more photos of pixelated naked boobs to its online picture book of underwhelming events that no one gives a toss about. Farrah Abraham – who featured in MTV’s depressing reality show Teen Mom, before starring in a staged sex tape in the hope that she would be invited to dip her plastic tits into the wet concrete of Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame – was recently featured, topless, on the Mail’s website with just few pixels placed over her nipples. (Although, this being the Mail, they probably call nipples ‘rosebuds’ or something equally Victorian-sounding.)

In light of this development, I assumed the Mail Online would start gradually removing pixels from their growing collection of censored topless photos – like a bonus Catchphrase round, where every answer, to Mr Chips’ delight, is always ‘tits’ – until all celebrity breasts, everywhere, are finally exposed.

As it happens, we didn’t have to wait too long. Only a few weeks ago the Mail Online ran several screengrabs of unpixelated naked boobs from the raunchy US cut of the BBC’s costume drama The White Queen. “Episodes one, two and three of the American version all contain nudity and the first programme includes at least four shots of the Queen’s breasts and a scene showing her younger sister topless in a bath. By contrast, the BBC version doesn’t include any nudity until episode three, and even then only fleetingly,” bemoaned Chris Hastings, momentarily confusing the Mail’s tireless crusade against smut with what sounded like a hankering for more tits on prime time television.

Won’t the Mail Online please think about the children?!


If you removed all the articles about women in bikinis from the Mail Online, only the masthead would remain (and maybe the odd article about Justin Bieber blowing a snot rocket into a fan’s face, or arrogantly wiping his bum on an old lady’s Pomeranian or something). The Mail Online loves women in bikinis! So much so, in fact, that a journalist can face immediate dismissal and their name added to a journalistic blacklist if they fail to run a perfectly good bikini photo in a news story – however inappropriate.

After the violent murder of Lee Rigby a few months ago the Mail Online ran an interview with Justine Rigden, a former girlfriend of suspect Michael Adebolajo, in which she described her shock after realising that her ex-boyfriend was involved. To help us understand the feeling of revulsion that Justine must have felt when she saw the gruesome images of her bloodied ex-boyfriend wielding a meat cleaver after brutally slaying a British soldier, the article’s lead image was, perhaps predictably, a sultry photo of her in a bikini.

The Mail Online also seems to be moving into upskirt shots. Recently an entire article was devoted to an unexpected gust of wind blowing up Isla Fisher’s skirt, which subsequently exposed her knickers and “tiny, pert bottom”. Thankfully the Mail had a paparazzo masturbating in a hedge about half a mile away from the scene, so we didn’t miss the moment. The article even included a cropped close-up of Isla Fisher’s arse – just to reinforce the fact that THIS IS ISLA FISHER’S ARSE!

Maybe the Mail Online could move away from bikinis and cover the next high school shooting, deadly terror attack or grisly murder with some upskirt shots of a survivor or someone very loosely connected to events.

The Mail Online even managed to identify a former Page Three and Playboy model in a group of anti-fracking campaigners at a site in Balcombe recently, where the non-story of Marina Pepper’s six-month relationship with Daniel Craig 25 years ago enabled them to position a busty bikini photo at the top of the article. The fracking issue did, however, provide a nice bit of filler.


The Mail Online recently reported that Google had been forced to change its predictive search function after The Mail on Sunday highlighted a particular search term that returned sickening results, including video of a woman being beheaded in Mexico. Of course, the Mail’s crusade to rid the internet of this disturbing content was somewhat undermined by the fact that they then provided their readers with the web address of where they could still view the beheading video, as well as providing a screenshot of the terrified woman only seconds before she was executed. It could only have been more insensitive if they’d captioned the photo with “LOL!”

Those Mail on Sunday journalists have obviously never visited the Mail Online, which is part Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue and part Faces of Death. Only the other month there was a tragic story about a father-of-two, who was killed when the zorb ball he was riding in veered off course and plunged off a cliff in southern Russia. Reading about this terrible accident is awful enough, but the Mail Online is never satisfied with just providing words and pictures. Nudging its readers in the ribs, it then gestures towards the emboldened command beneath the article: Now watch the video. And like an obedient consumer of visceral horror you click ‘play’ and watch a man bounce to his untimely death.

But if that doesn’t satisfy your dark cravings, you can always scroll through some graphic photos of a biplane crashing during a wing walking display at an airshow. (We haven’t even bothered to pixelate the photos – we only do that to hide celebrity rosebuds – so you can still make out the unfortunate wing walker at the moment of impact!) Or maybe you’d prefer a public execution in China? No? Not your cup of Ginseng? What about seal pups being slaughtered on the south west African coast? A pack of frenzied hounds tearing a fox to pieces?

No rush. Please take your time to peruse our menu of death.


Owing to the fact that much of the Mail Online’s content is of such mind-numbingly poor quality, many of the articles are written copied and pasted from press releases by ‘journalists’ who are so ashamed of the twaddle they’re churning out that they regularly publish under the ‘Daily Mail Reporter’ byline instead of their own names. In fact, it’s probably more likely that these articles are scraped together by enthusiastic, unpaid interns who are handed a daily list of mundane celebrity happenings and then ordered – often at knife point – to write a story to confirm that absolutely nothing of any relevance has occurred.

Stories under the Daily Mail Reporter byline are so literal, they often read like they’ve been lifted from the well-thumbed pages of a private investigator’s surveillance log. Here’s what the Mail Online recently wrote about Imogen Thomas’s fantastically newsworthy workout in a local park:

“[Imogen] teamed her barely there top with some incredibly tight leggings-style jogging bottoms with the word ‘Pink’ written across them. Far from being pink, the jogging bottoms were actually black in colour and they were hugging her body from the waist down.

She also had on a pair of Nike trainers that she had tightly tied to her feet for her afternoon workout. In an effort to keep her hair out of her eyes for her sweat inducing activities, Imogen kept her brunette locks in a tight high bun. She also wore a pair of large black sunglasses on her face to keep the afternoon glare out of her eyes.”

Imagine that: trainers tied to her feet instead of wedged on each hand like makeshift hooves. And jogging bottoms that were so deceptive to the casual observer, they required a written explanation. In spite of the wording on Imogen’s clothing, dear reader, you are seeing black – not pink. Apologies for the confusion. 

Last week the Mail Online ran an article about Tobey Maguire holding an iced drink, which included a staggering eight photos of the event. So far, seventeen people have taken the time to comment that the article is pointless.

In an effort to keep its 16-foot homepage filled with news, the Mail Online also has a habit of keeping more serious news stories alive with completely superfluous information. After the aforementioned murder of Lee Rigby, the Mail ran an article about his visit to a kebab shop two days before he died. With the aid of multiple CCTV screenshots, the article revealed that Lee Rigby spent precisely 12 minutes in Kebab Ye in Woolwich – where he ordered pizza and chips to take away – and that the shop’s owner knew the soldier, unsurprisingly, as ‘Lee’.

According to this illuminating article, he was apparently such a valued customer at the takeaway that they even allowed him to use the staff toilets upstairs while they prepared his food. A Mail Online campaign for a blue plaque is no doubt in the pipeline. But what this story added to the overall coverage of this sickening murder, I’m not entirely sure?

Unless the Mail Online inadvertently upsets Anonymous at some point in the future, it seems unlikely that it will be disappearing from the internet anytime soon. Still, with lads’ mags sitting behind modesty screens in supermarkets, where teenage boys now have to sound a ‘smut klaxon’ to attract the attention of a shop assistant tall enough to reach a copy of Nuts magazine, the Mail Online will soon be the only place where they’ll be able to find images of sexy lingerie shoots without leaving an incriminating internet history for their parents to find.

But here’s an idea: if the Mail Online must exist, why don’t we make it disappear?

I was recently made aware of Snapchat, a photo-sharing app that allows you to set a time limit of between 1-10 seconds for your images and videos to self-destruct after they’ve been viewed by the intended recipient. Like a flinty Amish elder defiantly clutching a wood chisel and pocket watch, I spluttered incredulously at the absurdity of such an app when it was first explained to me. But now I can definitely see a use for it.

dacre-moobsApplying the same basic idea of ephemeral content, the Mail Online should be forced to set a self-destruct time on all its articles. It can post as many vacuous stories about women in bikinis as it wants, and as many derrières as it can realistically fit on a page. And if Kim Kardashian’s arse appears on Instagram or Kerry Katona is spotted popping into her local newsagents for a Twirl, they can report the shit out of it. Because after 24 hours online it will disappear from the internet – and our lives – forever. Furthermore, anyone who tries to share an article before deletion will discover that the only thing they’ve distributed among their friends and family is a Photoshopped image of Paul Dacre flaunting pixelated moobs.

So come on, Mail Online! Does us all a favour…and disappear.


August 18, 2013 · 04:17

The only thing we know for certain is that we don’t know anything at all

jahar-hashtagIf there are any Wikipedia editors out there, I have a significant update for the John Wilkes Booth entry. I think he might have been innocent. Bear with me, I know I sound crazy. But I may have ‘proof’.

After the Twitter account of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (or Jahar) was publicised last weekend, I noticed some disturbing tweets. On March 11, 2012, at precisely 8:21am, he simply tweeted: “time travel”. Then, almost a year later, on February 13, 2013, he dramatically tweeted: “I killed Abe Lincoln during my two hour nap” (where “nap” can be taken to mean “adventure through the wormhole”). This blatant admission of guilt has since been retweeted over 260 times by various people across the world, including Twitter user @TheSecular, who added “hmmm” to their manual retweet, with all the narrow-eyed suspicion of someone who’d just stumbled across evidence of a time-travelling presidential assassination.

It’s worth noting that Jahar hashtagged his tweet with #intensedream, which should give him a legal loophole to jump through should it ever go to trial. Still, it’s comforting to know that the super-sleuths of Twitter are on the case following the tragic scenes in Boston the other week, forensically analysing every tweet he’s ever written.

Another online sleuth, going by the name of @Mr_GreedGH, quoted two of Jahar’s tweets for the benefit of his 2,000+ followers, adding that they strongly hinted at the terror attack that was to come. One tweet, originally posted in late March, said: “Being bilingual is da bomb” (my emphasis), while another, posted in early February, said: “I’m in the New York state of mind”. With such breathtaking investigative flair, I certainly hope the likes of Kris Kross and Billy Joel have ironclad alibis as to their whereabouts on April 15th. Nothing gets past these online Columbos.

Out of pure nosiness, I spent most of last Saturday reading through Jahar’s timeline. When I started reading, his account had just over 82,000 followers (up from around the 300 mark). By the time I arrived at his very first tweet (a laundry-based update from October 2011) he had over 90,000. If you visit his timeline now and refresh your page every few minutes, his follower count steadily continues to rise – just over a week since his arrest in Watertown, Massachusetts.

Since the bombings, Jahar’s Twitter timeline has become a forum for argument, rumour, abuse, seductive conspiracy theories and even messages of support, solidarity and declarations of awkward romantic feelings from fangirls. Aside from the aforementioned Twitter sleuths poring over Jahar’s timeline for the ‘smoking gun’ tweet that doesn’t seem to exist (e.g. “I did bombingz lol”), it’s developed into a straight fight between the #freejahar movement – who believe he’s been framed by the US government – and those who want to see him fry for the terrorist atrocity he stands accused of committing.

Twitter is basically the digital equivalent of standing outside a courthouse hurling impassioned abuse at a suspect being whisked away beneath a gunmetal-grey, prison-issue blanket. But instead of attempting to land a satisfying blow on the side of the police van as it whizzes past – sending a metallic-sounding thump and barrage of vitriol reverberating around the suspect’s dark soul – all you have to do nowadays is click a ‘follow’ button, post a cathartic, 140-character tweet to the suspect’s timeline (in response to something he probably wrote months ago), then head to the kitchen for a sandwich.

Given that Jahar is unlikely to be keeping track of his Twitter mentions from his prison cell, people’s responses to his tweets are less about genuine attempts to communicate with him and more about playing to the gallery and informing their Twitter peers  – for the avoidance of doubt – that they despise terrorism.

For instance, in response to a photo Jahar tweeted of a sunset last December, one Twitter user bluntly responded: “You’re not artsy dude you’re a killer.” Had Twitter been around in the 1980s, it’s the kind of tweet one might have sent John Wayne Gacy in response to a Twitter timeline full of nightmare-inducing clown art. Of course, Gacy had already been tried, convicted and sent to Death Row to await execution by the time he discovered his creative side. In contrast, Jahar’s sunset photo was probably posted to Twitter with the same instinctive urge to share as someone presenting their Instagrammed chicken and pesto panini to the world. I doubt it was some kind of artistic statement – four months prior to the Boston bombings – which aimed to show that even aspiring terrorists can appreciate natural beauty. 


Interestingly, one day after the attacks, Jahar tweeted a response to @ImRealTed (a parody account of the Ted film character) in which he called out a heart-rending human story from the Boston Marathon as “fake”. The story, which had spread like wildfire around social media sites – unchecked, typically – told the story of a man who intended to propose to his girlfriend after she’d completed the marathon. But after hearing the two explosions, he rushed to the finish line to discover that she’d tragically been killed. The accompanying photo showed an anguished man tenderly cradling the head of a lifeless woman lying on a blood-spattered pavement. “This deserves endless retweets,” said @ImRealTed, as the story was shared with the account’s quarter of a million followers.

They got the retweets they asked for – over 1600 of them – but the story was fake, as Jahar rightly pointed out. The man in the photo was a perfect stranger to the injured woman on the ground (18-year-old high school student Sydney Corcoran, who hadn’t even been running in the marathon and notably didn’t die from her shrapnel injuries). The story was as fake as the one about the Sandy Hook pupil running the marathon for victims of last December’s school shooting. But that didn’t stop several Twitter users, apoplectic with rage over Jahar’s supposedly insensitive tweet, from responding. “Wow you fucking bomb people and then call out fake stories on victims stfu,” said 17-year-old Christina, who later added that “no one cares about the story being fake when a terrorist says it”.

Her uncompromising ‘guilty until proven guilty’ approach is almost as baffling as her apparent willingness to accept bullshit stories at face value (unless officially debunked – by a trusted, non-terrorist source, obviously).


Jahar now has a twitter feed with enough retweets and favourites to rival Rob Delaney, with a growing base of support from people who genuinely believe he’s innocent – not to mention a growing army of smitten women. “I think I’m in love with a fake terrorist,” tweeted one ‘supporter’, with a split-screen photo of her smiling face next to Jahar’s. “It’s always the hot ones that turn out to be the messed up ones,” tweeted another. “Can we talk about how perfect his teeth are?” said one Tumblr post, beneath a photo of Jahar wearing a wing collar dress shirt and a beaming smile (with his arm around a girl whose face has since been scribbled from history). One girl even posted a handmade ‘Jahar’ photo-collage to Twitter. It’s like glimpsing what the world would be like if introduced a ‘Phwoar on Terror’ category for anyone wishing to meet extremist singletons.

Aside from the draw of his boyish good looks, Jahar’s Twitter account is actually quite ordinary. He chatted with friends, posted photos of his cat, tweeted song lyrics, enjoyed sharing random facts and watching Breaking Bad, slowed down for squirrels crossing the road and advised his friends on allergy products (“You need to get Claritin Clear,” Jahar advised @therealAbdul_…just over 24hrs after he’d allegedly killed three people and maimed hundreds more at the finish line of the Boston Marathon).

There’s no mention of “jihad” or “infidels” in his timeline, but you will find “Nemo” and “Dory”. (Unsurprisingly, this being the internet and everything, Jahar’s Finding Nemo­ tweet triggered an inexplicable and pointlessly macho etymological discussion about the term “Glasgow smile” and whether it was the correct term for the violent torture method that one Twitter user said he’d use on another. Several of the ‘conversations’ that Jahar’s tweets have spawned have the stagnant air of YouTube’s comments section about them.)

He even tweeted a few things that I wholeheartedly agree with, like calling MTV “garbage”. He also retweeted a link to a Media Matters article – with the words “just depressing” – about how the Kardashians get 40 times more news coverage than ocean acidification. It’s a strange feeling to find a modicum of common ground with a suspected terrorist.

But it’s this apparent ordinariness which has left people baffled as to how he could be involved in the grave events in Boston. A video of Jahar lightheartedly performing the robot during a wrestling training session (posted to YouTube by a friend, with the title ‘This was the Jahar I knew’) only adds to the confusion and sense of disbelief among his supporters. I guess it’s how we’d all feel if we suddenly found ourselves at the mercy of a mysterious bomber, only to later discover that Peter Crouch had transformed himself into the Ted Kaczynski of the English Premiership.

Perhaps the most notable and disturbing thing about the #FreeJahar movement online is how quickly it’s adopted a siege mentality. And due to the involvement of more than a few Beliebers and Directioners (who flock towards any cause that enables them to act as a hivemind) it already has the unsettling feel of a teenage cult. Many of his supporters are already spending their time defending the campaign against ‘haters‘, which is an infuriating label to hurl at anyone who objects to the plastic pop of One Direction and Justin Bieber, but completely inappropriate when used to deflect criticism from anyone genuinely unsure as to the innocence of an alleged terrorist.

In a frighteningly similar way to how Beliebers and Directioners believe they have a deep and very real emotional connection to their idols, which they assume is reciprocated, some of Jahar’s supporters have been tweeting as if he’s fully aware of their efforts. “I’m sure Jahar wants us to be strong, but if he hurts, I hurt. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the way it is for me,” tweeted the supporter behind the four-day-old ‘Supporting Jahar‘ account.

The emotions of his more impressionable supporters are also starting to be routinely targeted by what sounds like bite-sized fan fiction. Only yesterday, a rumour appeared from nowhere that “Dzhokhar cries when he wakes up and to stop the crying he goes back to sleep.” This nugget of information was attributed, in the vaguest sense imaginable, to “a nurse from the prison Jahar is in” (that being the Federal Medical Center, Devens). It surely won’t be long until someone tweets: “After our campaign secures his freedom, Jahar has said that he’s going to do the robot dance especially for us!” (source: A legal type dude working on his case and shit)

And in typical obsessive fan style, some supporters are even tweeting the usual “Let’s trend!” rallying cry – only to complain, when no such trend appears, that their efforts must have been actively blocked. Even though many supporters assert that they’re not conspiracy theorists – while at the same time posting and retweeting endless conspiracy theories about the Boston Marathon on various social media sites – their belief that even Twitter must be working against them says much about their naivety.

zubiYesterday, a Twitter account purporting to belong to Jahar’s mother appeared, which encouraged followers to make cash donations to help with Jahar’s legal defence. A photo of a woman claiming to be Zubeidat Tsarnaeva holding up a sign with routing numbers for a Russian bank account was the third tweet to be posted to the account (there’s also an accompanying YouTube video). Bizarrely the tweet prior to that was a message to Jahar himself, which asked him to follow her and then communicate only via direct message (“do not do a public Twitter,” she stressed). Even more bizarre is the fact that the @Tsarnaeva account appeared to have been created in July 2010, yet not a single character had been typed nor a tweet posted until yesterday afternoon.

Worryingly, the person behind the account claimed that they had received over $2,000 in just a few hours (after the appeal had been promoted by the ‘leader’ of the #FreeJahar campaign @TroyCrossley). Crossley later admitted that the account didn’t belong to Jahar’s mother, but assured everyone that the creator of the account was a supporter of the campaign nonetheless and the banking information was entirely accurate. So at least those 14-year-old online activists, with their supportive t-shirts and consciousness raising messages scribbled across their fresh faces, can now wire their mum and dad’s cash to Chechnya without feeling that something’s amiss.

(Well, they can’t anymore because the @Tsarnaeva account has since been deleted.)

The point of this long, rambling blog post is to stress that none of us really know anything, which is ironic given that we live in an ‘information age’. The people who believe that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is guilty of carrying out the deadly terrorist attack in Boston are relying on information provided by a frequently unreliable mass media, not to mention law enforcement agencies who’ve been feeding the public a constantly mutating, and at times wholly contradictory, narrative.

The #FreeJahar movement, on the other hand, will continue to rely on Alex Jones’ Infowars and any number of armchair conspiracy theorists to pick at the threads of the official story, sharing among the hivemind any and all discrepancies that provides ‘proof’ of a False Flag terror attack, and thus, Jahar’s innocence. Meanwhile, the super-sleuths of Twitter will read and re-read Jahar’s achingly normal tweets through the murky hue of their terrorist filters. And supporters and detractors alike will continue to lock horns across the Internet, pretending they have all the answers.

The internet is awash with deceit, misleading and downright inaccurate information, endless repetition, argument and counter-argument, and more charlatans than you can shake a stick at. Although, from a slightly wider angle you can see that there are several other shady characters in the vicinity with stick-like implements…and if you look at the impossible directions of the shadows on the ground, it could be argued that I wasn’t stood there shaking a stick at a charlatan at all. The online aftermath of a terror attack is a confusing and depressing sensory overload. The only thing we know for certain is that we don’t really know anything at all.

(In the time it’s taken me to write this blog post, Jahar’s inactive Twitter account has gained over 20,500 followers.)


Filed under Current Affairs, terrorism, Twitter, Twitter

A three-tiered chandelier the size of a car ferry

ilb-eating-money“It doesn’t matter about money; having it, not having it. Or having clothes, or not having them. You’re still left alone with yourself in the end,” as Billy Idol once said, probably through a perfectly cultivated sneer. Unfortunately, as profound as Idol’s quote is, for some people it’s simply not true. It does matter if you have money. And perhaps most crucially, it’s important to show everyone else what you’re doing with it.

Let’s face it, when the end finally does come, if you can’t afford to have your withered, cryogenically frozen body launched into space aboard a rocket crammed with the material possessions of your obscene wealth – while funereal confetti cannons shower mourners with singed and unusable £50 notes – what’s the point of your pitiful existence?

That’s obviously not my personal view. As I have no money, I’m firmly with Billy Idol on this one. In the event of my death and subsequent funeral, I wouldn’t have the remaining funds to do anything more showy than have a single cloudy eyeball sellotaped to a firework rocket and launched from a milk bottle. But for supposedly wealthy people like Instagram user ‘itslavishbitch’, who I happened upon this week, it seems that money and possessions are everything. And thanks to social media, he’s now able to keep the rest of us “peasants” (to use his delightfully arrogant term) constantly updated about just how wealthy he is.

Not much is known about ‘itslavishbitch’ except that he’s a 17-year-old called Param, who resides in San Francisco and appears to be a sort of Asian Montgomery Burns. The unsubstantiated rumour is that he’s the son of Shikha Sharma, CEO and Managing Director of Axis Bank, India’s third largest private bank. But there are also rumblings that he’s nothing but a fake (albeit one with access to a staggering array of expensive-looking props).

A little bit of research by Digital Trends revealed that his social media channels all appeared online between January and March this year, with his personal website ( – also created in March) being set up through ‘Domains By Proxy’ – a service that allows you set up websites while keeping all personal data out of the public domain. Whatever the truth – whether genuine multi-millionaire or mere troll – he’s a truly detestable character. But one, admittedly, who’s actually made me feel a lot better about not having two coins to rub together.

Because when you look through his Instagram account, you can’t help but love the Internet for giving him the digital tools to make himself look like a total prick. He revels in the trappings of his vast wealth, but does so alone. The things he holds most dear do nothing more than lie around his penthouse suite inanimately, occasionally glinting in the light when a three-tiered chandelier the size of a car ferry is switched on. Meanwhile Benjamin Franklin looks on, disapprovingly, from stacks of one hundred dollar bills strewn about the place. But if you allow yourself to see beyond the apparent wealth on display, it’s an Instagram account that practically howls with the cold wind of emptiness whenever you visit.


It also seems to confirm that excessive wealth detaches people from reality to such an extent that they’re forever engulfed in a fog of complete ridiculousness. In one photo, he’s shown pouring Bulgari-labelled San Pellegrino sparkling mineral water into a toilet (the only water he’ll shit into, presumably for the expensively fizzy splashback experience), while in another he’s shown tying a $2k wad of dollar bills to a bunch of helium balloons. There’s also a photo of him wearing two pairs of expensive jeans – one over the other – and another which shows him using yet another $2k wad of dollar bills like a mobile phone, with the caption “I be talkin moneyy” (sic). Going off the images alone, Param’s Instagram account often looks less like an elaborate trolling exercise and more like the heart-rending photo-journal of someone suffering from early onset dementia.

He also seems to have a love of expensive stationery. One photo shows his gold Cartier fountain pen, while another purports to show five gold-plated staple strips sitting in the palm of his hand at a cost of $175. I assume he uses them to staple cash to peasants’ faces whenever he’s in a generous mood, which is why I would never be tempted to enter one of his many cash giveaways.

Speaking of which, you can find details of these giveaways on his personal website. Not that you can actually read anything on there, as you’re constantly harassed by an aggressive pop-up that obscures half the screen and encourages you to download his grammatically incorrect book – Its Lavish B*tch – The Guide – which is billed as “a comprehensive young entrepreneur course”. (The true extent of his entrepreneurial experience is anybody’s guess. When the Huffington Post recently interviewed him and asked the question: “How do you have all of this cash?” he bluntly responded with: “It’s my parents’ money.” I doubt he’s generated a penny of the wealth he flaunts, which makes his self-help book something of a bizarre promotion.)

His YouTube channel also gives us a glimpse into his affluent world, with one video in particular serving up a brilliantly mundane moment. After being chauffeur-driven to his “crib” to the sound of ‘I Stunt’ by the aptly titled rap artist Philthy Rich, Param enters a mirrored lift, briefly gives the finger to camera and selects his required floor. “Elevatin to the laundry room hoe,” brags the Boyz ‘N The Hood-lite subtitle. Unfortunately, once he arrives at his floor the video abruptly ends. I was expecting the camera to be plunged into a laundry basket made of spun gold, containing thousands of dollars-worth of fresh clothes, with the subtitle: “Smellin like a motherfuckin summer meadow, bitches!”

If Param is the genuine article, then there’s never been a more stark reminder of the vulgarity of excessive wealth in the wrong hands. Alternatively, if he turns out to be nothing more than a troll – more desperate for attention than possibly any troll in history – then it’s a simple reminder that we live in an age that enables us to sell to the world whatever image we create for ourselves, however ridiculous, divisive and inflammatory. Nothing is ever quite as it seems in the bizarre online world that robs us of so many hours each day.

I’d re-invent myself as an arrogant millionaire, but my stationery’s just too cheap and ordinary. A miserable life of peasantry awaits.


Filed under Uncategorized