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Comedians using their fans for co-ordinated, safety-in-numbers bullying

This tweet was made - and quickly deleted - just as I was finishing proof-reading this blog.  Whether or not it's in reference to the current MissSpidey controversy, I don't know.  it certainly strikes me as being insensitive, unfunny and inappropriate, though.This is going to be a long, involved blog, and I make no apologies for that. I will detail occurrences of co-ordinated, safety-in-numbers bullying which were presided over by three different celebrities: Simon Pegg, Ricky Gervais and Noel Fielding. They’ve used their combined follower count of just under 6 million to bully people – Gervais in particular does so repeatedly – and I’m sick of the fact that they’re not called to account for it. You will have heard plenty about “trolls and haters” in the wider media, but very little about celebrities endorsing and directing this behaviour. I’ve included extensive source material so you can make up your own mind about these witch-hunts, and the sometimes sly way they are tacitly endorsed through selective retweeting. TRIGGER WARNING: Please be warned that the final tale of bullying gets very upsetting.

“Teach the horrible snob a lesson”

Comedy can be vicious. It often seeks to illuminate a ridiculous state of affairs through mockery, and I find this to be an effective way of opening people up to new ways of thinking. Laughter makes us drop our guard, and previously entrenched positions can end up deserted as a result. Comedy can also be about control, and approval. Think of stand-up comics, who attempt to cajole large groups of strangers into laughing. Stand-up comedy often becomes adversarial, as pissed-up punters attempt to heckle the on-stage comic, hoping to stump him and secure the limelight, however fleetingly, for themselves.

Competent stand-up comedians skewer such interruptions immediately, of course, and the audience relishes the interaction, valuing what seems like spontaneous, cutting witticisms, which are in fact often pre-scripted adlibs. Heckling can often spoil the flow of comedy, particularly if it’s a more narrative-driven, story-based affair which is reliant on creating, sustaining and then puncturing a dynamic. Again, though, most comics can work around this with an impressive amount of skill. Heckling is, for better or worse, part and parcel of the world of stand-up comedy.

Whether comedians like it or not, critics are also an integral part of comedy, and of art in a wider sense. Critics – when they actually know their stuff, have a passion for the art-form they’re commenting on, and aren’t Sam Wollaston – can place art in a wider context for the reader.

Sadly, some comedians can’t take criticism on the chin, and while it’s obviously disheartening to see a negative reaction to something you’ve poured your heart and soul into, not everyone is going to like it. Nor should they – the best art is divisive, and seeks to challenge an audience.

It’s still surprising, however, to note just how thin-skinned some comedians actually are. I’d argue that this is perhaps true of most artists – I like to believe it’s their sensitivity that affords them insights the rest of us couldn’t possibly hope to make.

The internet, and the prominence of social networking in recent years, has awakened the critic in us all. Twitter seems to be perpetually fuelled by “live-tweeting”, where people forego the act of actually fully immersing themselves in whatever they’re experiencing, so they can make snarky real-time comments about Charlie Brooker’s hairstyle. It’s an addictive process, and one which I try to refrain from, as it seems akin to going to a live event, then missing most of it because you’re focussed on trying to record it for later. “I have become simply a stand for my phone” to quote Limmy or, as Fran Lebowitz put it, “If you’re on your phone, you are not where you are.”

A more unpleasant side-effect of the instantaneous nature of internet communication is that many people feel they can take their disgruntlement directly to the source. Being a public figure on the internet means having to deal with a barrage of abuse, which has been covered on this blog before, in my podcast interviews with Jonnie Marbles and Charlie Brooker. It’s unpleasant and unnecessary, but people quickly become emboldened by the deindividuation that occurs when their identities are withheld, given that there’s no chance of getting a punch in the hooter. Stewart Lee’s current show, Carpet Remnant World, involves a whittled down list of the most frothingly insane online critiques he could find on internet messageboards and social networking sites. The “40,000 words of hate” can be viewed on his website. They frequently seem unhinged, over-the-top and staggering in their lack of compassion and humanity – but such is the way with internet communication. People vying for attention on a crowded medium quickly escalate the ferocity of their vitriol so their opinions stand out.

These comments, though, weren’t addressed directly to Stewart Lee – nor could they be, as the mumbling Midlands luddite famously eschews social networking. He had to go and seek out each criticism, ultimately laughing them off, and using the concentrated outpouring of bile in a creative way.

Noel Fielding has a history of dealing with internet criticism in a far less gracious manner. Back in April, Waldemar Januszczak, art critic for The Sunday Times, took exception to Fielding being chosen to interview Damien Hirst for a Channel 4 programme. His tweets make a case for this being emblematic of a dumbing down of arts programming, and there seems to be a certain amount of snobbery towards the art-form of comedy – “Aren’t there enough comedy shows on TV already without Channel 4 sending Noel Fielding to review Damien Hirst?”

Januszczak made a handful of these comments, but at no point contacted Fielding directly – he was doing the polite thing of effectively talking about someone behind their back. Fielding, however, heard about the comments – or more likely found them for himself by doing a vanity search on his name, given that he is Noel Fielding – and decided, like Januszczak, not to make direct contact. Instead he engaged in a form of safety-in-numbers bullying that cast fans and followers in the guise of a personal army, mobilised to defend the fragile ego of a lazy, uninspired narcissist.

“Almost feel sorry for him. Almost.”

This isn’t a new phenomenon, and I’ve previously written about Ricky Gervais’ penchant for the same sort of coordinated bullying. Similarly thin-skinned, Gervais, while still new to the social networking site, quickly found that he could point his fans to negative reviews, and then pat these obedient, bile-spitting dogs on the head afterwards for fighting his battles. Some of you, I know, will say ‘but he never actually asked them to do anything’, and you’ll say the same thing when we get back to what Noel Fielding has been up to lately, towards the end of this blog. You have to decide what the reasons are for Gervais and Fielding posting these things – whether they know what the result will be – and then think about the approval explicitly given out afterwards.

Anyway, it’s all utterly repellent. Twitter has closed the gap between fans and the object of their fandom, changing the dynamic completely. Artists now make themselves available to their fan-base, and there’s no doubt that many of them simply enjoy the interaction for what it is, and are addicted to the site itself, but the bottom line is the bottom line. Artists can now more effectively market themselves, turning fans into compliant street-teamers. Plus, if they have a huge userbase, like [redacted], they can make a lot of money by “enthusiastically” endorsing products.

Certain types of fans will go out of their way to garner the attention of their idols on Twitter. It’s always been one of the more uncomfortable aspects of the site, for me, as I prefer there to be an air of mystery surrounding artists and celebrities. Thinking you’re on friendly terms with an artist is also frequently harmful to a direct and unfettered analysis of their art, which is of great concern to me. Try typing “can I have an RT” into Twitter’s search engine, to observe the never-ending desperation for celebrity affirmation.

Comedians like Noel Fielding, Ricky Gervais and Doug Stanhope prey on this shallow neediness in calculating, unpleasant and cynical ways. Fielding has 340,000 followers, currently, and as mentioned, he took great delight in sending them to attack Januszczak. Let’s have a look at that – read from the bottom up:

Fielding letting loose his pretties

What’s particularly sinister about the way in which he went about it, is that he made it all seem like a jolly rum old cuddly bit of fun, rather than what it was – a co-ordinated bullying campaign. It’s absolutely unacceptable for comedians to hide behind their followers in this manner – Fielding is endorsing and legitimising saftey-in-numbers bullying and, frankly, there’s more than enough of that on the net as it is. Around the time this happened, a BBC3 programme, hosted by Richard Bacon, did an excellent job in exploring the abusive world of internet bullying, but it’s important to stress that celebrities aren’t always the targets – sometimes they’re the ringmasters.

You’d be forgiven for not realising that fact, because very few people bother to comment on it. Yes, we’ve read endless tweets, tumblrs and blogs by Twitter policeman Graham Linehan, banging on and on and on about how much abuse celebrities have to take as a by-product of using the site. I sympathise with them – producing art for public consumption shouldn’t necessitate having people lining up to tell you, with often quite abusive and salty language, just how irredeemably awful it and you are. We’re still negotiating new ways of communicating, on this emergent platform, and many, many people simply and thoughtlessly figure it follows that if you can give your opinion directly to someone involved, then you should. For goodness sake, though, try and be polite and constructive about it. Always.

There is a side-issue here, it should be pointed out, where it now seems that many celebrities – like afore-mentioned Twitter policeman Graham Linehan – simply place themselves above any kind of criticism. This accounts for the devaluing of the term “troll” in the wider media – the phrase was originally coined to refer to people who post inflammatory messages in order to sidetrack discussion, and generate negative attention. Now, it frequently seems to mean “anyone with the chutzpah to publicly disagree with a celebrity or media figure.” Yes, that’s a video where Guy Walters bemoans the lack of quality debate online, yet can clearly be seen engaging in the same level of discourse in his Torygraph blog. He finds it annoying that his blog got him called “an aggrandising pillock”, yet we can see that it is in response to him calling Assange a “big, self-aggrandising pillock.” Then he says that he gets called a moron, before calling “trolls” a “tide of morons.” Finally, he says that people are nasty on the internet primarily because they’re anonymous, and then he details how – thanks to social networking itself – we’re less anonymous than ever before. To the extent that he’s able to get one of his critics on the phone. Above the line, you’re a journalist – below the line, you’re a troll or hater. That’s largely how it is now, unfairly so.

“So who are these people… it seems to me their only role in life is to annoy people, and lower the tone of debate” cut to: James Dellingpole…

“Can y’all flame this dick-twitch.”

Let’s recap. We have identified what we all know, and take for granted on the internet – that people can be hateful. We’re more concerned in this blog, though, about that hatred being orchestrated and focused by celebrities. Let’s continue to look at that with a few more examples – one of which, I warn you again now, gets pretty fucking dark.

My opinion is that any comedian worth their salt should be able to defend themselves, using wit and words. It’s surely a base requirement for a professional comedian. Some, though, can’t be bothered, given that there are many fans desperate for affirmation and attention who can be easily directed. Simon Pegg – good old cuddly Simon “Faith In the Future” Pegg – has a bit of history with this. A while back, a user tweeted the following:

“For some reason @simonpegg really really annoys me, hot fuzz is good though! He’s on my list, and it ain’t a good list! #annoying.”

Rude, unpleasant, and unnecessary, I think we’d all agree on that. Imagine getting masses of messages of that ilk every day. The question is, though, if the response is proportionate:

Pegg bullying

Boom. This silly, rude bastard (with 300 followers, and no influence) has now been brought to the attention of over 2 million Simon Pegg fans, who have been explicitly instructed to “flame” him. Can anyone explain to me why this isn’t seen as being against the terms of service of Twitter, and why people like Pegg aren’t suspended for aggressive, co-ordinated bullying? One possible reason is that celebrities – and people’s willingness to follow them – made Twitter what it is today. Remember when it was just that thing Stephen Fry talked about all the time? Remember when everyone wanted to get on there to see what sort of bagels Jonathan Ross was having for lunch? The endorsement of those two celebrities in particular was hugely important in breaking Twitter in this country. Why would Twitter risk alienating high-profile members of the media, when they’re part of the life-blood coursing through its veins?

The interesting thing is that – when you point out instances of bullying such as this – there’s no shortage of fans who will excuse the celebrity of any wrongdoing whatsoever. “They started it by being rude to the celebrity!” – well, I’m sorry, but this isn’t the playground, and I expect people in the public eye to have the dignity and decorum to be able to, ultimately, ignore such things. They can block the user, or they can remonstrate with them on a personal level – although even this is fraught with frequent repercussions, as we will see…

“How you liking all this attention?”

I’ve already touched on Ricky Gervais in this blog, and his past penchant for directing his followers to negative articles, ensuring the comments get flooded with positive praise. Let’s bring things screaming up-to-date, and see how his usage of the medium has changed in the interim.

On Sunday just past, Gervais was – as you may have come to expect from even a casual glance at his oeuvre – engaging in some good old bullying, and in humour that mocks those of a lower social status than his own. He started out with a volley of t-shirt slogans that “chav parents” could wear:

“their tattoos hide the bruises” “I love the pit bull more than these scruffy little divs” “Yes. All different fathers” “I had these kids to get a council house” “I let them do what they want as they’ll all be in jail soon”

Etc. Then, when a follower points out that it’s perhaps uncharitable to mock people living in poverty, particularly in the midst of a double-dip recession, Gervais gets slowly and increasingly indignant. He has a pop at a few people, then briefly checks that his followers enjoy watching him shame others. Yeehah, we’re gonna watch us some bullying, kids! Incidentally, that tweet shows a common excuse used by Gervais and others – people who criticise tweets are told simply to unfollow, meaning that they have no right to subscribe to something and then moan about the contents. Personally, I think that’s nonsense, but I’m always strongly in favour in debate. It’s worth pointing out, though, that this argument completely ignores the whole viral nature of the way tweets are actually spread. You don’t have to be following Ricky Gervais to see this kind of thing being retweeted into your timeline.

Anyway, Gervais – clearly furious at being challenged over his right-wing, punching-down, Richard-Littlejohn-meets-Jim-Davidson style of humour – then embarks on a “div hunt”, also known as “#gorpcull2012.” Again, read this screen-shot from the bottom up:

You feel the pain

Here’s another thing that has to be pointed out about Twitter – when you’re a celebrity, you can cause an awful lot of abuse for people simply by tweeting them into your timeline. You don’t even have to explicitly ask your followers to attack them, like Simon Pegg did, all you have to do is communicate your displeasure, and slyly sit back and watch the hatred. Gervais did this multiple times with @guyjp, ensuring that his 3 million followers would tear him to shreds. Each time he did so, he also selectively quoted what @guyjp was saying, in order to paint him in a more negative light. Eventually, the guy was so besieged by idiotic, abusive fans that he ended up deleting his account. Which Ricky Gervais – who constantly swans about like he’s bloody Gandhi, repeatedly telling us that “You must never concern yourself with your critics… the best revenge is living well” – gloats about:

What a turd

Note that, like a true coward, Ricky Gervais deletes most of his incriminating tweets – some, like this one above, stay online for little over a minute. This doesn’t stop them being archived on sites like Cook’d and Bomb’d or Celeb Tweets, though.

Again, you have to wonder why someone like Gervais is allowed to get away with this behaviour on Twitter. I’m not, incidentally, interested in excusing the comments of @guyjp – for starters, we now can’t see the original tweets or context as his account has been deleted – I’m just pointing out the tsunami of abuse that is being wilfully and purposefully summoned by people like Ricky Gervais. Repeatedly so.

“It’s about time we re named Twitter Cunt Platform ! whose with me ?”

Let’s segue into the final chapter of this blog. The day after Gervais succeeded in using his followers to bully someone right off Twitter, he replied to a tweet by Noel Fielding which read “Wow people are mean to me. Then my followers are mean to them. Then everyone starts shouting bully x” with “Welcome to my world.” We can see, again, how the likes of Fielding and Gervais deliberately engage in orchestrated bullying, and then completely wash their hands of all responsibility. So let’s look at what Fielding was talking about.

Someone who Noel Fielding was evidently following, or who got retweeted into his timeline, made a comment about “America being the greatest country on earth.” Fielding laughs at this, and takes the piss – he does so directly to the woman, meaning his response would only be seen by people who follow both of them. Despite this, his reply gets 14 retweets and 32 favorites – this proves what we already know: that many of his fans scroll through his timeline reading every tweet, rather than just the ones he sends out for mass consumption. This is common on Twitter, particularly with high-profile accounts. So far, Fielding hasn’t done anything wrong. However, then he does begin to draw public attention to his argument by ridiculing the woman a couple of times, making it clear to people who aren’t already scouring his complete timeline, that there’s a bit of drama to be had if they go and do so. The woman in question is then subjected to a barrage of “angry brits”, and ends up deleting the tweet in question.

What happens next is predictable – Fielding is challenged on his use of the word “retarded”, by someone with a personal interest in making people aware of how their language can hurt others. It’s impossible to see the original message “MissSpidey” sent in full, now, but having seen it at the time, I don’t remember it being particularly abusive. In fact, she sent two tweets in total to Fielding, the first one calling him “a moron” for using the word “retarded”, and the second one hashtagging him with “#TheMightyDouche” after he responded to her challenge by calling her “a dumb fuck.” Fielding goes nuts over the whole thing, tweeting her with abuse about her “big nose”, and then explicitly draws his followers attention to the saga by retweeting people who’d already caught on to the drama. You can see, also, Fielding referring to “Spidey” and himself not getting on, all of which is repeatedly drawing the attention of his followers to the argument. Once again, bottom to top:

Letting the FieldMice know.

Let me just say, at this point, that one of the people who deals with this kind of thing with the most class is Charlie Brooker. If someone is trying to bait him into an argument – and let’s take it as granted that some people are dying to get retweeted by a celebrity, so they can get tons of negative attention from their followers – Brooker will sometimes retweet their comment while simultaneously redacting their username! This allows him to use the vitriol for comedy purposes, yet simultaneously spares the person from getting a savaging at the hands of territorial fans.

Back to Fielding, and he’s now in a narcissistic rage over the whole affair, continuing to repeatedly tweet about MissSpidey, advocating a namechange from “Twitter” to “Cunt Platform”, and talking about how he’s a “horrible boy who likes to pull the legs off spiders.” A fairly lame attempt at contrition is made, before he RT’s a supportive fan, then immediately goes back into “fuck em” mode. Then we get a spot of victim blaming for good measure before, finally, Fielding thanks his followers for the support.

The support was, as you can see from what he chose to retweet, abusive and insulting towards MissSpidey. She was repeatedly opened up to the hostility of 340,000 followers, many of whom are young girls who worship Fielding and his contrived, try-hard, drippy fucking surrealism. Fielding personally set the tone early on to one of personal abuse, using MissSpidey’s avatar picture to make unflattering remarks about her appearance. This thread was picked up by his followers, but they went further. Much further.

MissSpidey was swamped by hundreds of mentions, from hundreds of users. These tweets, as I’ve said, mocked her physical appearance as being “old” and “ugly” – in reality, she is neither. Then it took a more sinister turn, and MissSpidey found that her address had been tracked down and was being published by the “FieldMice”, who were also threatening violence. Then she started to receive death threats – Noel Fielding was, as you’d expect, copied in on much of this by the fans seeking his approval, so presumably knew what was going on. MissSpidey tried to counter the avalanche of hostility by using the official mechanisms in place for doing so: she started to block and report the users, eventually ending up suspended from Twitter for “aggressive blocking.” I know, isn’t it?

MissSpidey suffers from Cyclothymic disorder. Twitter was a vital support network for her. With that suddenly taken away – through no fault of her own – and with a continuing barrage of hateful, hurtful messages being continually delivered to her, MissSpidey lost hope. She tried to end her own life.

Let me reassure you that MissSpidey was unsuccessful in her attempt, thankfully. She is recovering, and I’ve spoken to her at length to get the facts about this story, and in order to ascertain what should and shouldn’t be included.

The Sun picked up on the whole affair, running it in the showbiz section of its website. Fielding’s fans were livid, and staged a campaign to try and get it removed, so incensed where they, in particular, by the naming of a 14 year-old fan. The article was eventually removed, but presumably only because MissSpidey’s friend explained to the newspaper that she had tried to commit suicide, and seeing this just as she was getting out of hospital would risk making matters worse. The Sun, in an uncharacteristic display of concern for the welfare of others, pulled the article. Fielding continued to be fairly unrepentant about the whole thing denying that he’d asked his followers to bully anyone, yet missing that he’d clearly endorsed and tacitly encouraged it, before finally thanking his fans for the support. And, in a cloud of shit, cuddly, childish giggling and twee whimsy, the 39 year-old prick flounced off, doubtless never to be seen again… until something next needs a concentrated marketing push.

Clearly, we had quite extreme circumstances here – a perfect storm that resulted in matters escalating into a very unfortunate incident, one that could have easily been so much worse. It would be unfair and unreasonable to put the entire blame on the eye-shadowed and empty head of Noel Fielding, but I also don’t think he’s entirely blameless. If, as we’re constantly told by Twitter policeman Graham Linehan, we should all aspire to being nice to others on social networking, isn’t it time that some of the high-profile celebrities were asked to behave in the same way? Isn’t it time they realised how ridiculous some of the behaviour of their fans can be, and stopped supporting and utilising it for their own fragile egos? Let me say it again: How many times have you heard about the sort of occurrences I’ve detailed in this blog? I’m willing to bet it’s considerably less than you’ve heard the media commenting on “haters” and “trolls”, and it’s time people with large, rabid fan-bases started to take responsibility for their words, and for their actions – as well as realising the effect their influence can easily have on those who hang on their every tweet.

What can you do to stop this kind of thing happening again? Perhaps it might be worth reporting the next celebrity you see acting in this manner.

UPDATE: Thank you for the overwhelming response to this blog. It has been pointed out to me, many times now, that Simon Pegg actually apologised for his outburst, and was very contrite about the whole matter. You can verify this for yourself by reading this tweet, and this one. I’ve also been informed that he has been a lot more careful about his social media presence since, and has specifically asked his followers not to attack people who disagree with him. Everyone can make a mistake, and his contrition and subsequent behaviour speaks well of him.

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286 Responses

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  1. DJ Solid Snail says

    I don’t believe that Stewart Lee obsessively trawling the web and compiling even the mildest criticisms (there’s a couple very reasonable ones from CaB, for example) is any less indicative of comedians’ famously fragile egos. Obviously it’s a more preferable state of affairs than him using his fans to attack critics online – and I think Lee’s far above that – but let’s not kid ourselves than it’s at all clever or creative or that it’s anything other than an attempt to deflect negative opinion that has cut close to home. All comedians are neurotic narcissists – it’s what makes them decide that, to paraphrase Marc Maron, not only is what they have to say so important that they should be saying it on a stage with people watching, but that those people should be *paying* for that privilege.

    Just wanted to pick up on that small point. Still working through the rest of the post, and good work, by the way.

    • rudi says

      You’re missing the point twice though:

      1. he’s not directing any ire back to the abusers, either from himself nor his ‘fans’.

      2. he plays a fragile, bitter narcissist on stage. How many times does he need to explain that?

      • DJ Solid Snail says

        1. Um, I wasn’t saying he was.

        2. That’s an awful lot of effort for a bit of online in-character material. Do you really think he went to all that effort to get a laugh?

        • Anthony says

          Re 2: yes, he did. It’s also the reason he rejected an offer to jump ship from the BBC to Sky for more money — because, as he said, the Stewart Lee “character” he plays on stage in his TV show wouldn’t, so he couldn’t.

          • DJ Solid Snail says

            Well, his persona also wouldn’t do panel shows as a rule, but he did a string of them a few years back – and entirely for the money, by his own admission. Which I’m not judging him for at all, I’m just failing to see your point.

        • Anthony says

          [I'm replying here coz your next comment has no Reply button for some reason --nested too deep?]

          You wrote: “Well, his persona also wouldn’t do panel shows as a rule, but he did a string of them a few years back – and entirely for the money, by his own admission. Which I’m not judging him for at all, I’m just failing to see your point.”

          My point was that yes, Lee does make an awful lot of effort for his material. I think that effort would include strictly avoiding material that didn’t fit with his persona of “fragile, bitter narcissist” as rudi eloquently put it, above.

          I also think it would include not moving to Sky. He’s incredibly rigorous and committed to the principles of his act and to the art of standup in general. He tortures himself about how to shape his material, straining to avoid cheap jokes and anything that would trouble his conscience. See his two books.

          So that was my argument, if an argument it be. But then you pointed out that he did panel shows for money when clearly his persona wouldn’t have, and you thereby undermined everything I thought I knew, thus shaming me into leaving the internet for ever. Farewell!

          • Neil says

            When he did panel shows, it was purely for the money. Bear in mind, DJ Solid Snail, that he stood to finally make a good living from comedy with Jerry Springer The Opera, and then the campaigning took that all away from him. He was left utterly skint, and had no option but to try and support himself by doing panel shows. This quickly ended when he realised he wasn’t suited to them, and didn’t enjoy them.

            He had no real option but to go outside the character of “Stewart Lee the stand-up” there, but also, perhaps the idea of the stand-up as a separate entity wasn’t quite as fully-formed back then? Not sure.

    • JimboNWUK says

      Stewart Lee is just an unfunny narcissistic wanker like most of them….he talks low-voiced rambling shite and expects everyone to say “Oh Yah, WHAT a clever alternative comic he is” — emperors new clothes I’m afraid, he is an unfunny shite, end of.

      • Anthony says

        Yeah, “end of”. No point wasting any time actually thinking about what Lee is actually saying. No point using yer actual brain for once. Nah. End of, mate. End of.

      • Applemask says

        Well, you’re almost there. Just rid yourself of as much of the working class-ness as you can and brush up on reasons everyone but you is an idiot, and you’re ready for SOTCAA.

  2. apycroft says

    Great article. Didnt know Pegg was guilty of this.

  3. Sam Barnett-Cormack says

    I think sometimes it even happens accidentally. Celebrity expresses annoyance with someone, crazy fans go on warpath. Happened to a friend of mine.

  4. Marie Dickson says

    While well-written, this article is very one-sided. Certain people’s were ‘interviewed at length to get the full story’ while others were not contacted at all. I accept that its more difficult to get the likes of Simon Pegg or Ricky Gervais for a phone interview but it really should be noted that this isn’t the whole story. The person making the criticism also needs to take responsibility for their own actions and should know that attacking someone who is an idol to alot of people is bound to have reprecussions. I also suffer from a mental health disorder and can say that relying on ‘virtual’ friends for suport should never be a substitute for real people and their support. I would also expect people who have a problem with a word like retarded being used to target everyone who uses this (or similar) words and not just certain celebs as this would be discriminatory. I personally think calling someone a ‘moron’ could be equally offensive but noone seems bothered by this. I think it says alot when you let a bunch of annonymous strangers decide your self worth and this is what concerns me most as an issue that needs to be resolved (in real life). If a twitter account is suspended, a new one can easily be created (as was demonstrated) so I’m afraid I don’t see the issue there anyway. Basically, if you don’t like what someone says, don’t follow them or block them. And if you do criticize, perhaps you should imagine how you feel when others attack you. This whole thing has gotten way out of hand and while people are judging, they are using many more harmful/inflammatory terms in doing so. Unfortunately this irony seems to be lost on most.

    • Stephen Colt says

      I’ve observed Gervais’ bullying of complete strangers who’ve just been on twitter, had no connection to him, and he’s then retweeted them for material making fun of them in an abusive way and his followers have simply carried on with his attack on the person. They don’t have to have had anything to do with him. And then there’s trolls where he should just know better to leave them alone in their miserable world. The problem is he is creating a lynch mob out of his fans and directing them at members of the public, despite them calling him a name or being rude and then he’s directing 3 million people to decide if they’re a loyal enough fan who wants to impress him and attack this person. It’s cyberbullying. There simply isn’t another way of thinking about it despite some of the tweets where Gervais has fiend a lack of understanding, he can’t deny he is aware of this now because of some of his tweets in the last few months. He needs to stop or someone needs to tell him he has to learn to be a decent human being. The article isn’t one-sided in relation to Gervais because we have seen patterns repeated in his behaviour of involving complete strangers who turn into his fans’ victims from attack.

      • JimboNWUK says

        I have always suspected that Gervaise’s on-stage shit-head persona is only a thinly-veiled version of what truly lies beneath and this just confirms it.

      • Jackie K says

        I’ve noticed this with him too, and think it is appalling. Even more appalling, I participated once, without meaning to. He retweeted some right-winger Christian’s tweet which had some silly argument against atheism and added to it “Moron”. I replied back “Ha ha, nice try!” or some such (ie, agreeing that the argument was silly), but didn’t notice my reply included the original tweeter. I felt awful immediately but didn’t delete because I thought that I should at least be honest and let my horrible tweet stand, instead of going behind someone’s back – but I’ve never forgotten it and have always felt bad – it’s made me very careful ever since!
        Similarly I follow a couple of people who obviously just search for tweets that contain “atheists” or “atheism” or people that are very religious/right-wing, and then quote them with replies – I have often wondered, isn’t this really just trolling as well?

        I notice Ricky Gervais recently tweeted something about how everyone has the right to an opinion but not to respect for that opinion. Perhaps he’s copping a bit of flack after all.

    • Roisin says

      Marie, I don’t follow any of the celebrities you have mentioned in your comment but I still see their often hateful tweets retweeted into my timeline. Saying ‘if you don’t like it don’t read it’ just doesn’t cover this issue. Tweeting Ricky Gervais directly to take issue with his use of a (to be fair, pretty reprehensible) word for people with learning difficulties might be rude, it might be thoughtless, it might be trolling – but it’s not a justification for him to encourage his hundreds of thousands of followers to respond with abuse. It’s just not at all proportional and anyone with that number of followers and fans knows that. At best it’s misguided but at worst it is far, far darker than that, as this blog post demonstrates.

      • an autistic adult says

        It’s downright bigoted, exclusionary and violent, not just “pretty reprehensible”. I’m autistic and I’m lucky I was born into a time when we were no longer being locked away in basements or abused by state psychiatrists to keep up appearances. Gervais’ attitude of casual humiliation and contempt for those who struggle with developmental issues is part and parcel of how we ended up in that miserable situation in the first place, though. Ricky Gervais isn’t a policy maker, thankfully, but his words have the potential to influence millions of people a day. It’s beyond antisocial for him to take the attitude that he has, and Twitter are criminally negligent for allowing him to attempt manslaughter. (That’s what it is, by the way–being obviously a person of reasonable if lagging awareness, he can’t possibly have avoided the knowledge that this kind of bullying leads directly to suicide in some cases. He’s made the choice that he can play god, that he can determine the acceptable risk of death for others.)

        • an autistic adult says

          Side note – I appear to have mixed up “Ricky” and “Noel”. (Can’t remember the latter’s last name at the moment, nor can I be arsed.) All apologies to Gervais, who I erroneously singled out. I got a bit vitriolic there, sorry for getting unhinged. And just to be clear, as a non UK citizen/scholar I’m not qualified to interpret the laws there–I intend “criminal(ly)” in a strictly moral sense above.

  5. Karen says

    I recall a fair while back Neil Gaiman mentioned bad service in a hotel. He was just grumbling like we all do, but they got a barrage of complaints from his followers. Following that he vowed to only ‘use his powers for good’. And he always has.

    Pretty disappointed to find Pegg involved in this. I can’t say I recall ever reading him say stuff like that, but then I don’t hang on his every word.

    • Geoffrey Brent says

      I saw the Pegg incident mentioned in this article, and I was very disappointed in SP. But from what I recall he apologised, and I haven’t seen him repeat that behaviour, so I wouldn’t put him in the same class as Gervais and Fielding. (If I’m mistaken on this, I hope somebody will let me know.)

  6. Karen says

    I missed the whole paragraph about the relevance of that… but I guess my point is ‘with great powers comes great responsibility.

    There’s really no excuse for unleashing a mob on someone. Report them. Block them. Share & grumble anonymously.

  7. Chris says

    This is a very one sided article. The user you talk about at the end, MissSpidey is notorious for picking fights with people. She wants the attention from fighting and the spathe afterwards. It’s very difficult to have sympathy for someone who keeps putting their hand into a fire and then composing their hand is burnt

    • oscar says

      spathe [speɪð]
      n
      (Life Sciences & Allied Applications / Botany) a large bract, often coloured, that surrounds the inflorescence of aroid plants and palms
      [from Latin spatha, from Greek spathē a blade]
      spathaceous [spəˈθeɪʃəs] adj

      Um what?

  8. Jill Hayward says

    Very measured and incisive blog. I watched with some horror last weekend as celebs I had previously thought to be ‘good guys’ proved to have feet of clay and, worse still, people whose opinions I respect tearing lumps out of each other debating whether said celebs were right or wrong.

    I always try to be polite, even when criticising (well, apart from current government but we all have our limits!) and everyone has the right to disagree with me, as long as they don’t resort to abuse. Twitter is just too immediate sometimes – maybe the tweet button should have an ‘are you sure?’ failsafe!

    I was disappointed by both Fielding and Pegg (Pegg could have avoided the whole debacle by simply accepting that his wording might have had unintended negative meaning). Gervais on the other hand, is beyond the pale. Have always been uneasy about his comedy, which relies heavily on cruelty (see also Little Britain) and his arrogance is astounding.

    Thanks for taking the time to address this issue. Celebs have just as much duty to behave well as the rest of us.

  9. Sophia Eribo says

    I’m afraid you have manipulated the Fielding story quite grossely. I was online at the time and followed the whole thing and this entire article is incredibly one-sided. Firstly, the original american woman was tweeting highly offensie anti abortion and anti women’s rights tweets. Fielding was responding to this and other offensive tweets when Miss Spidey got involved. Miss Spidey did not politely inform Fielding that his use of the word retarded was offensive to her and many others, or choose to act constructively, possibly offering to enlighten him or ask him to play (yet another) free comedy gig, this time for her chosen cause of mental disabilities. No, she instead insulted Fielding several times and at length, calling him an “unfunny, amateur comedian” a “mighty douche” and an “idiot” for starters. His response that is was nothing to do with her and calling her “big nose” is an expression he uses often to describe someone being nosey. Big nose is effectively like calling someone a nosey Parker. He later called her a dumb fuck, not more offensive than what had already said. He did not ask his followers to abuse her, they saw her incredibly rude and personal remarks to him and responded angrily. Have you never been to a comedy gig and the comedian deal with a heckler by getting the entire gig to shout “1,2,3, wanker!”. The heckler usually laughs along, if they were the type to feel mortally offended they wouldn’t or shouldn’t have heckled in the first place. if you insult someone on line over and over you should, especially someone with many fans, you should be prepared for a backlash. To call someone a bully who is responding to abuse is completely unfair. Sorry this was long but I felt it was important that at the very least the facts were correct so that people can make their own judgments afterwards.

    • an autistic adult says

      Person A: “retard”
      Person B: “actually, that’s offensive to people who struggle with lagging social conceptions of mental difference. i think you’re an unfunny, amateur comedian, a mighty douche and an idiot, for starters.”
      Person A: “you’re a real asshole, but you’re right, i shouldn’t stigmatize people with mental/developmental differences. they’ve had enough to deal with. wanker.”

      is that so hard?

  10. Commenter says

    “trigger warning”. Ugh.

    • AMG says

      Why ugh? You don’t like things to be clearly labelled? Supermarkets must be pretty depressing for you.

      • Commenter says

        Hah. Now I’m imagining over dramatic signs in ASDA that stroke their customers’ egos, “Warning: aisle contains meat that may horrify some of our most-valued and sensitive customers.” It makes selling boring old hamburgers so dramatic.

  11. Sophia Eribo says

    What is a trigger? I don’t know what that is but if that was aimed at me I hope I’m also allowed to air my thoughts and opinions without backlash…isn’t that partly the point of this article?

    • Geoffrey Brent says

      More likely a response to the “trigger warning” at the top of the article (which is a warning that it contains content some readers may find upsetting).

  12. Gowbo says

    Sophia, regardless of what she said he could have privately told her to fuck off, in as offensive a manner as he felt, blocked her and moved on. If you have 340K followers and you retweet insults you can reasonably expect that person will get bombarded with abuse. That’s disproportionate to the original insults.

  13. Sophia Eribo says

    Well…She also alerted all her followers to what was going on, and incited them to insult him, which they did! I think people expect famous people to not react or get upset by abuse but the rest of us can. Also he’s apologised about 20 times that this even happened and I’ve met him before at a teenage cancer trust event and he was genuinely sweet and lovely. I know he also does a lot for other charities and I just dont think it’s right to try and ruin someones reputation based on some stupid tweets which fans took too far. Maybe im being naive but he has always seemed like a really good person and now everyone is trying to destroy his reputation. Im sorry this girl got hurt too and hope she is ok as well.

  14. Derek Gate says

    “In fact, she sent two tweets in total to Fielding, the first one calling him “a moron” for using the word “retarded””

    So…..he used a pejorative term based on an out-of-date medical term for people who have learning difficulties and she responded by calling him a “moron” – also an out-of-date medical term for people with severe learning difficulties? Was this deliberate irony?

  15. Sig says

    I watched the incredible amount of abuse Januszczak got from Fielding’s “FieldMice” – he took all the death/rape threats very well considering that he received hundreds in a very short amount of time.

    Fielding won’t be gone long from Twitter. He needs the love and acceptance of his fans too much.

  16. Gowbo says

    Sure, but how many followers does she have vs his? The point is if you have that many fans you should know how they’re likely to react and act accordingly. If he’s using a public forum like Twitter he should be aware of the consequences of anything he says on it.

    • JuliaM says

      “Sure, but how many followers does she have vs his?”

      All the more reason not to bring a knife to a gun fight, eh?

  17. Matty says

    Whilst I agree with the general thrust of this piece there’s something I think you’re not taking into account enough. You’ve established the upset these co-ordinated attacks create but public figures tend to attract a lot of twitter abuse and it might be worth considering that maybe these people are often cracking under a lot of anonymous attacks eventually deciding to “lash back” at unfortunate individuals. It’s important to understand the environments and context and by doing so try and understand (that’s understand, not sympathise with or condone) the reasons for the attacks themselves. These probably aren’t just nasty people being nasty, they’re probably frequently perfectly reasonable people turning nasty as a result of lots of people calling them cunts, poofs, pricks, ugly fuckers etc etc day in day out.

    I follow quite a number of comedians and celebrities and in my experience about, as a rough estimate, about 40% of them have done this kind of thing at least once, usually in response to sustained anonymous abuse. I don’t think this kind of behaviour makes someone a terrible person, even if it’s terrible behaviour. It’s easy to say something like “For goodness sake, though, try and be polite and constructive about it. Always.”; that’s probably not quite so simple to adhere to when you’re facing a lot of abuse. In other words, call people out on their behaviour by all means but don’t start making generalisations about their general personality based on this. Twitter really isn’t going to bring the best out of people.

    As a final point, I’ve seen some celebrities send their followers en-mass after tweeters who subject them to homophobic or racist abuse. This raises an interesting question; if bullying is to be condemned then should that extend to bullying of bullies?

  18. Sophia Eribo says

    Ok last point I promise…by writing this blog and encouraging hatred of Fielding, who is see is now getting a ton of hatred and abuse messaged and sent to him on twitter….isn’t the writer of this blog doing the very thing he accuses Fielding and The other comedians of doing????

    • Jake says

      That’s so infantile an argument as to be entirely redundant.

      Firstly, it’s not “encouraging hatred”, it’s holding a grown man to account for his actions which have resulted in a suicide attempt. Secondly, why are you going at such lengths to defend someone you don’t even know?

      • Marie Dickson says

        So why doesn’t the person who ‘attempted suicide’ have to be accountable for their actions? And others who tweet derogatory comments to others?

        And do you personally know the people mentioned who were ‘bullied’?

      • JuliaM says

        “That’s so infantile an argument as to be entirely redundant.”

        ‘Waaah! How dare you turn it back on me with your damned LOGIC!’

        Doesn’t seem to me as if Sophia’s the infantile one here…

    • James B says

      Absolutely this.

      Famous people are just people too. Just because they happen to have influence due to their fame, doesn’t mean that they automatically become higher beings or know necessarily how to handle that influence. They’re fallible just like the rest of the human race and anybody who posts anything online needs to be able to either stick up for themselves, take it on the chin, or get out.

      if you criticise someone, be prepared to get criticised back. If that criticism takes the form of childish insults, then you can pretty much shrug that off, right?

      This blogger clearly has an issue with Fielding, judging from the amount of childish, personal and appearance-based insults they direct at him in this article. And that’s just perpetuating this whole ridiculous internet bullying rubbish – just because he’s 39 and famous, doesn’t mean Fielding is ‘fair game’ and you’re hardly leading by example here.

      Anyone who can’t take it should stay off the internet. And I will also add that social networking sites probably aren’t the best place for a girl who’s borderline bi-polar and evidently predisposed to suicide attempts to be spending her time and I hope that she can get a ‘support network’ in real life rather than in the more often than not damaging atmosphere of the internet.

  19. Fridgeman says

    I was once on the receiving end of something like this, orchestrated by Alan Davies. Yes, that’s right, the happy, giggling chap we all love to see on QI.

    My crime? He’d been tweeting repeatedly about someone in an airport telling him he couldn’t take his young child into the (licensed) ‘executive lounge’ of an airport. He was gathering his fans around himself and trying to whip up a frenzy. I tweeted to him, politely suggesting that he was perhaps being a little unreasonable.

    He RT’d me to his 300k-ish followers and I had an ‘interesting’ 12 hours or so.

    He knew exactly what he was doing. I’ve since heard that this isn’t unusual for Mr Davies.

  20. Sarah says

    “Twitter policeman Graham Linehan” once retweeted me when I replied to a tweet of his. Was initially chuffed cos I actually thought he agreed, or at least thought the point was worth considering. Turned out he retweeted what I said (which wasn’t abusive, just my opinion on a subject he was tweeting about) so that his other followers could show me the error of my ways – he retweeted a lot of their replies to me and deleted the original retweet of what I’d said. I was really disappointed in his behaviour & have since unfollowed (not, I’m sure, that he noticed).
    Am now pretty convinced that most celebs want the interaction of Twitter, but only when the interaction is fawning & adoration.
    I regularly see celebs basically setting their followers on anyone who displeases them. It is bullying and it is every bit as disgusting as the random abuse better-known users get just for being well-known. (I agree with the praise of Charlie Brookes; he’s a shining example of how to RT abuse to make some point about it without lowering yourself to the shittiness you are complaining about)

  21. Sophia Eribo says

    If you use that argument wasn’t he, by retweeting, simply holding a grown woman (39 years old) to account for her insults? He had no way of knowing she had a condition. I see no difference between what he did to her and what she and the writer of this blog are now doing to him. And you ask why do I care about someone I don’t know? I could ask the same about you and the spidey woman??

    • Jake says

      I reserve my compassion for those I believe are deserving. An insecure comedian encouraging his followers to abuse someone isn’t one of them.

      • Anthony says

        What about Sophia’s point that MissSpidey encouraged her own followers to abuse Fielding? Are you excusing her for that?

        • oscar says

          The difference is obvious; for the same reason that when my nine year old cousin hits me I don’t clock her back. Grow up you false equivalist

          • Anthony says

            Well! I applaud you for your coinage of the nonce-word “equivalist”. (I use the word “nonce” archly). But I wasn’t actually equating things, though I admit it may have looked like I was. But that was just your inference, I’m afraid, not my intent. Don’t infer — it makes an “inf” out of “e” and “r”.

            I’m sorry. I haven’t been feeling too well lately.

  22. Andrew Jones says

    It’s a shame Pegg does public stuff now. I once got in a twitter argument with him, and he responded only through DMs, meaning I looked weird randomly tweeting to him, but no element of “Look at what so-and-so is saying about me” was going on. It was one of the better ways of handling disagreements on a social media platform. He’s gone mainstream, I guess.

  23. Gowbo says

    I don’t think it’s infantile at all. He’s inevitably going to get a load of abuse following this. He already has done and has stopped tweeting as a result. It’s a fair point to make; with social networking where does the cycle end?

    That said, the difference here is this is at least a reasonably well thought out article, bias or no. It’s not the same as retweeting context-free quotes to people who are specifically following you and who you can reasonably assume to be part of your fanbase. In Noel Fielding’s case quite a rabid fanbase made up of teenage girls.

    But he does have a big nose and was the least funny one in The Mighty Boosh.

    • Jake says

      Don’t you think it’s rather telling that instead of apologising on behalf of his fans or condemning the more extreme threats he chooses to stay off twitter for a while?

  24. @shoottheducks says

    In a world where it’s self evidently possible to get hauled over the judicial coals for a single ill judged tweet, there’s really no excuse for celebrities not to understand what effect attacking individuals has. The excuse that Twitter is a new medium doesn’t wash.

    Alan Sugar – always amusingly good value on a twitter feed – deals with this quite well. He “descums” without notification. That’s all that’s needed. But it amazes me that someone with that level of following even notices abusive remarks, let alone has the time to be affected by them.

    Whether or not the attacks are triggered by insulting behaviour is utterly immaterial, as is whether or not the celeb is utterly charming when met at a function. If you’re at the head of a baying mob and someone shouts abuse from the street, it’s irresponsible to point the mob at them. If you crack and do it unthinkingly, as probably happened with Fielding, then the correct response is a proper apology, and some contrition. He seems more worried about his own reputation than the possible consequences to his victims.

    In Gervais’ case, and really he comes across on his feed as a boorish egomaniac, possibly because that’s precisely what he is, there’s something deeply nasty at play. There is a deep misanthropy and unpleasantness at how he attacks for fun, when he’s bored, it’s like watching some gangland sadist toying with random people he meets on the street. Utterly disgraceful behaviour, and he really should be held to account. It’s no better than Russell Brand’s attacks on Andrew Sachs, frankly, and I suspect comes from the same source, an unpleasant and cynical arrogance.

    There’s a great William Blake quote, something like “as the air to a bird and water to a fish, so is contempt to the contemptible”. That seems to apply very aptly to Gervais and others.

    Incidentally I got blocked by Twitter Policeman Graham Linehan in less than 11 tweets when I questioned some rants he was making (very politely) about someone who’d blogged about him. He’s really no better than anyone else.

  25. Gowbo says

    What I think is that doesn’t have much to do with what I was saying. It’s fair to say that this blog post will result in him getting some Twitter abuse.

  26. speedwell says

    The old adage was that comedians learned to be funny at school to avoid a kicking from the bullies. Back then, a new car and a tour of working men’s clubs was enough of a two-fingered salute to one’s playground aggressors.
    However, in this mass media age, it seems negative comments online can trigger painful flashbacks to a childhood of victimhood, and cause some comedians to react: ‘How dare you not love me! I’m not an outsider any more, I’ve got a bigger gang than you now!’
    Luckily, to their credit, most rise above it.

    • Anthony says

      I think that this is a very insightful comment and that you should write a novel about it.

    • Jemster says

      Great point, speedwell! This deserves an article all of it’s own. X

  27. Whibby says

    You really need to grow some balls and a brain

    This horrible horrible bullying that has you wetting your bloomers can be stopped by ignoring twitter. And since twitter is pretty much a megaphone for ignorant sel-promoting twatwaffles, that would not be a bad thing.

    Please do find some real problems.

    • @shoottheducks says

      Ah OK. By the same token, let’s ignore burglary because it’s easy enough to live in a good area and fit locks. Or rape, because by not going out women can avoid being attacked.

      GREAT argument.

      Anyway, here’s an idea. You worry about what you want to worry about, and let other people politely gather together to discuss something they don’t like, and we’ll agree to differ on what is a “real problem”. OK?

      • Whibby says

        Yes, because having your home robbed is exactly as invasive and traumatic as ignoring twitter.

        Spot on!

        • @shoottheducks says

          Well driving someone to attempt suicide certainly sits somewhere unpleasant on the continuum of nasty things, doesn’t it?

          That’s the crime here. Bullying is nasty. Setting a mob onto individuals is nasty, and can cause actual damage. You may not like that, but it’s a perfectly valid subject for discussion.

          • JuliaM says

            I think you mean ‘allegedly driving someone to attempt suicide’, don’t you?

    • openside No.7 says

      Hmmm Irony?

  28. Rob says

    I’m abjectly not about to defend Ricky Gervais, here. He’s a vile, petty man – Hollywood’s robbed him of all self-awareness and turned him into an oafish, ignorant pug who has no interest in empathy, no interest in his fellow man, and plucks people out of the void and deliberately lynches them for daring to think differently to him. Horrible fellow.

    I’m equally not about to defend Noel Fielding. He’s clearly caused someone a lot of distress, apparently for having the temerity to be offended by something he said. Also not at all cool.

    But just because someone ends up on the receiving end of an attack doesn’t absolve them of all culpability. Take your Simon Pegg case study. I’m all for creating a world that’s more loving, and tolerant, and kind. That’d be lovely. Everyone should be fab to each other. Great. But I find it hard to characterise Pegg as the villian and Dalton as the hero just because Pegg’s brand of internet bitch-slap has a bit more clout than Dalton’s.

    A twitterer did something stupid and hurt someone. Then another twitterer did something stupid and hurt someone back. There isn’t a hero and there isn’t a villain, it’s two people who are making their own luck and one’s stronger than the other. Pegg isn’t obliged to tolerate AnonymousTwitterer234′s guff just because he happens to have a few fans. If he does tolerate it, all the better. I outright respect that – wholeheartedly approve of the Charlie Brooker method. More power, then, to those who can retaliate with humility, kindness, or maybe even love. But as soon as you @ someone into any conversation, you are engaging in discourse with them. You are not entitled to a pleasant discourse any more than you’d be entitled to a pleasant discourse with any other stranger you yell profanity at.

    “Victim-blaming” is quite rightly a very dirty word when applied to one-sided crimes. Applied to Twitter, it would be morally reprehensible to blame the Christians he plucks from the ether, for example, for the torrents of abuse Gervais hurls at them. But the second you start using it to defend the person who threw the first punch, it doesn’t become a case of what’s morally reprehensible, it becomes a case of picking your favourite victim – usually the most vulnerable – and using big, uncomfortable phrases like “victim-blaming” to deflect any criticism away from them. Just because an aggressor is more vulnerable than their chosen prey doesn’t mean they should expect to get away with being nasty. We all hurt the same.

    • Jemster says

      Yes, I agree with this point Rob. While I agreed with the article itself and think it’s message is very important, I did feel slightly uncomfortable with the author’s attempt to use the fact Miss Spidey has bi-polar disorder as a kind of “trump card” in a way which to me is slightly misleading and patronising. Stephen Fry for example has bi-polar and would never engage in goading and attacking people online. People with bi-polar are every bit as intelligent, capable and accountable for their words as you or I. Bi-polar disorder is not a ‘get out of jail free’. I feel the mention of her having this condition was like using a big red arrow to point us in her direction as the aforementioned “favourite victim”. I, for example, have depression but would never engage in the sort of behaviour she seemed to. (A previous poster mentioned she is notorious for goading other twitter users.) I make a point of being nice online and use the same adage as I do in the real world of “treat others as you would like to be treated.” It takes a conscious decision and effort to do this, but once you get into the habit of it, it becomes second nature.
      What is surprising about Gervais is that he is obviously a very intelligent person, who studied Philosophy at University. But he seems to give into his most base and cruel instincts so easily, and so publicly. He seems to have no “filter.” How can he expect us to believe his protestations about his purely compassionate motivations for writing ‘Derek’ when he makes his ugly, bullying side so visible, in both his previous material AND his own twitter feed??

  29. Crispy says

    Simon Pegg did apologise, and addressed his behaviour in a blogpost (see 12 July, http://www.peggster.net/ ). He at least seems to have thought about the implications and learnt a lesson. Disappointing, but I’m not subjected to the daily bile, so find it hard to judge them. Twitter needs to take some responsibility for those online trolls whose feeds are clearly nothing but abuse and provocation to well-known tweeters.

  30. SFUuu says

    Internet Policeman Graham Linehan is particularly bad for this sort of thing, attacking people for not liking the films of Woody Allen for example. His problem is that he wants to get involved in EVERYTHING. Every issue, both Twitter and non-Twitter. So there is a lot of opinion for people to disagree with.

    I can understand his frustration though. If would be nice to see their @ feed and see some proper discourse instead of abuse. He does appear to frequently attack & retweet people for having a different point of view though, and it’s infuriating. Maybe they’ve become so accustomed to trolling abuse that every disagreement is regarded as trolling abuse, no matter how innocent.

    Chris Addison has his own brand of petty retorts to fairly reasonable disagreement which has put me off him altogether. I just didn’t see him being that type of fella. I do wonder if the trolls have done this to them.

  31. Tabs says

    Basically, don’t dish it out if you can’t take it back. Sure, celebrities probably should rise above and ignore all the negative comments but they’re only human like the rest of us. I’d like to think I would act in a noble way if I was being verbally attacked but who knows what I’d do in that situation? It’s easy to judge when you’ve never been there.

    There has to be a degree of responsibility by the people who tweet the negative stuff to celebs in the first place, since it’s the easiest thing in the world to leave the actual celeb account out of the tweet and express your opinion that way. You have to wonder what they’re hoping to gain by tweeting negative comments to a person directly – it smacks of attention-seeking to me. If you play with fire, you get burnt – simple.

    I’ve been on Twitter for nearly 4 years now and seen quite a number of storms and fallouts but have never been involved in any of it because I prefer to stick to positive stuff.

    Why are all the people who made the negative tweets in the first place not being called out for ‘baiting’?

    • Mike Reed says

      Seems important to note that MissSpidey made a comment that Fielding decided to have a go at. She didn’t say anything negative about him, and appears to be a completely innocent victim.

    • Geoffrey Brent says

      Granted, some (not all) of the people targeted started it by being jerks, and the article has already acknowledged that. But anybody with enough mental function to live off their wits ought to be able to understand the concept of “proportionate response”.

      Imagine you’re a heavyweight boxer out in public, and a bratty little kid runs up and punches you in the leg, hard enough to hurt. Do you turn around and punch that kid full-force? And do you gloat afterwards about how far you sent him flying, how many teeth you knocked out? If you do, you’re a much bigger jerk than the kid.

      That’s how Gervais and Fielding are behaving. Their followers give them clout, and they use that full-force, knowing its effects. It’s especially obnoxious when they do it to somebody whose only crime is to post a bad review – at that point it becomes clear that the celebs are the ones looking for the fight.

      (I exclude Simon Pegg because from what I can tell, it was a one-off; he got angry and lashed out, but then apologised, called off the dogs, and hasn’t reoffended that I’ve seen.)

  32. Mike Reed says

    A great piece. Having been a huge fan of The Office, which seemed ultimately to have a very real sensitivity towards the struggle of ordinary, rather shy people in an oafish environment, it’s been disturbing to see how Gervais’s humour has become more bullying.

    The whole Karl Pilkington set-up is disturbing: two men laughing at and insulting another man for his unworldliness and physical appearance, while the victim seems to accept the punishment with the bemused resignation of the playground wallflower who will endure steady bullying just to be close to the cool kids. It doesn’t matter how fake it is or isn’t, the principle is pretty unpleasant. Like laughing at someone being repeatedly punched in the stomach.

    I didn’t know the stories here, as I don’t follow these celebs closely enough to have noticed. Truly shocked by the Spidey story. Horrendous.

    • Jemster says

      I feel the exact same way as you about the Karl Pilkington stuff. Is good to hear someone else say it so well! It always puts me in mind of the book ‘Flowers for Algernon’. The main character is a man with learning difficulties, who is oblivious to the fact that the workmates he thinks are his friends are actually picking on him….until a scientific experiment which sees him gain incredible intellect and insight. However, upon making this realisation, he goes from being content in his ignorance and naivety, to being deeply sad. The point being that, just because someone is not smart enough to realise they are being bullied does not make it okay. Ignorance may be bliss for Karl to a degree, but the people doing it know it is wrong and so do the rest of us. I’m not trying to run Karl down by saying that, simply saying that he doesn’t seem to understand what is ACTUALLY going on. He THINKS Ricky is his friend. Ricky’s defence is always “well he’s not complaining! He got a house and new car out of it.” This confirms my point!
      To continue your analogy of the playground bully, I always got the sense that Steve Merchant was similar to the ‘hanger on’ who stands by while the ‘cool kid’ picks on someone, too afraid to speak up in case he is turned on and ousted from the group. He seems mostly to be a passive observer, leaving the cruel and nasty insults to Ricky.
      I would love Gervais to read Flowers for Algernon. I read it in high school and it made a lasting impression on me. It’s message is invaluable and so important.

  33. Kel says

    “This is going to be a long, involved blog, and I make no apologies for that.”

    I assume that you don’t aspire to be a writer, then? Editing is 50% of the battle. I found this article absurdly long-winded and way too much of it was heedless. Dish the facts, and then get out.

    I’ll also chime in on the fact that this is basically trolling in itself, and completely one-sided. I thought that it aspired to be journalism of some kind, or an investigation…. nope, just a blog post that couldn’t curb its OWN personal insults whilst trying to lambast the behaviour of others.

    I’m a bit pissed off that I bothered to read it, to be honest

    • Neil says

      Yes, I do need to learn how to edit, and wish I’d had a bit more time to do so on this post. Thanks for the feedback.

      • Jon says

        Hi, rather enjoyed that article but I honestly think you should have kept the acerbic asides about the protagonists out. It is evident you do not admire Gervais, Fielding and Pegg…For me they are ‘curates egg’ but that’s neither here nor there…However, by including the personal attacks on these people, you devalued the piece by allowing your readers to assume the potential for bias. Not everything is or should be a platform for vitriol…

        I suppose I really ought to start using my tweet address but it does seem like a monumental waste of one’s life unless of course one is looking to self-market…

        • Dan says

          This call to be “fair and balanced”, to not be so “one-sided” is so much arse-water. You people don’t want balance in your articles, you just want the nasty blogger to leave your beloved alone. Just say that, instead of this false, passive-aggressive, “can’t we all just get along?” hooey.

          I eagerly await the day when, in an effort to be “fair and balanced”, no one has any opinions on anything at all, and articles like this are just a cold summation of the facts. No anger, no passion, no soaring rhetoric, no beautiful bile, just “fairness”. Give me a fucking break.

          Sorry Jon, this isn’t really even aimed at you, more the faux-reasonable charlatans who came before you.

          • Jon says

            Thank fuck for that cuz I was simply reading the article and the little snide asides jumped out at me…I thought ‘Oh no, there’s an agenda here so maybe this piece is in fact bias veiled as balanced’. I’m not saying it IS, I’m saying it no longer presents itself as impartial…And I want to read impartial accounts if i am to form my own opinion. I do not want to read one half of a story and form an opinion based on a protagonists view…Because there be dragons…

          • Jon says

            Actually…the point is, unless the piece is labeled as ‘Opinion’ it definitely shouldn’t have any overt opinion. The piece here (I am assuming) is to present the facts as they stand, with as much information as there is available and let the reader form their own opinion. This is good journalism. BAD journalism is where facts are intentionally omitted or falsified to sway the reader’s mind in one direction or another.
            There used to be a term for this method of swaying opinion by presenting bias in what on the face of it appeared to be a believable report…It was called propaganda. It is of course widespread…Every newspaper, every broadcast company has a bias, an agenda…From Fox to the Beeb, they’re all at it…And I worked in broadcasting!
            However, it doesn’t mean that one shouldn’t attempt to present the facts, all the facts, and let the reader decide. This article, on the face of it, DID seem to present all the facts but the little digs at the comedians suggested to me at least, that despite appearing as balanced information, the writer couldn’t refrain from opinion and therefore the integrity of the article was brought into question. Doesn’t mean it was wrong or biased, just means it’s harder to believe it wasn’t…

        • oscar says

          I can’t respond to your lower comments but “unless the piece is labeled as ‘Opinion’ it definitely shouldn’t have any overt opinion” Is just plain nonsense: it is impossible to write about something without forming an opinion, even if you are just ‘presenting facts’ the criteria used for selection will be the subjective nature of you opinion on what is relevant.

          p.s. a curates egg is something objectively bad that you cannot criticise for openly

          • Anthony says

            Hmm. Chambers defines “curate’s egg” as “Anything of which some parts are excellent and some parts are bad”, which is how I’ve always understood it.

          • Jon says

            Just to make things clear… as said earlier, the phrase ‘Curates egg’ is usually used to suggest that something is ‘good in parts’.

            Interestingly, because you had formed an erroneous opinion that the phrase meant ‘something objectively bad that you cannot criticise for openly’ and presented that as fact by using the statement opener; ‘a curates egg is’ ,you are yourself offering an opinion as fact.
            Now, think how many people might read that and come away with a new definition for the phrase because it was presented as a fact when it was actually your (erroneous) opinion.

            See what I mean… If you had said ‘I thought curates egg meant’ or had said ‘in my opinion ‘curates egg’ means…’, people would have been able to see your point without believing it was true…And subsequently decide for themselves.

            As regards ‘it is impossible to write about something without forming an opinion, even if you are just ‘presenting facts’… That is probably true but you don’t HAVE to allow your opinion to colour the factual piece, do you? When I read a Haynes manual written by a bunch of engineers who have just stripped and re-assembled a beautifully engineered Porsche 911 and now have to do the same to some tacky cheaply made soviet commuter bike you don’t see little snide comments about how rubbish the castings of the CZ are or how poorly designed the gearbox mainshaft bearing locations of an MZ are…those engineers keep their opinions to themselves and present the facts without bias.

            Yes, they almost certainly formed an opinion, but they didn’t allow that opinion to colour the objective piece they were presenting….Which was my point…A factual piece should present all the facts without bias and allow the reader to decide. if a writer is incapable of writing without omitting pertinent information, yet presents the piece as factual…Well, draw your own conclusions…

            Anyway, Neil, it was a good piece, and interesting. I shall now go back to my life and stop the deluge of emails into my inbox!

          • jt says

            I know i’m 6 months late on this but why on earth should this piece be written without opinions, Jon? There is no ‘should’ when it comes to choosing what to write on your own blog. To think that all written output should be as factual as a Haynes manual is insane – Should I just dismiss the works of John Steinbeck because it appears to be portraying the experience of people during the nascent period of American society whilst also offering some comment on it?

            What you mean is: I don’t think you should have done it this way. Ironically, you are offering your opinion on how it should be done as the ‘right’ way or, i guess, as if it is a fact..

      • Jemster says

        Basically trolling???!!!! Not by a long chalk. Well done Neil, on highlighting this issue, which I for one was unaware of. I found it fascinating.

  34. ry says

    Thank littlejohn we have these arbiters of public opinion able to passive-aggressively refocus public outrage back on those they feel deserve it, not like those scummy comedians who try to direct public rage at those they feel deserve it.

    Coordinated bullying on the internet. It brought a tear to my eye, let me tell you.

    PS. please don’t coordiante bullying on me for thinking your blogpost is shit. :(

  35. DrPizza says

    Somewhat undermined by “and aren’t Sam Wollaston”. The article is criticizing the practice of calling out people by name so that they can be abused; what is the purpose of calling out Wollaston other than to criticize him and invite further criticism?

    I understand the appeal of making a quick jab from time to time, but it can rather diminish the message.

    • Neil says

      This article is attacking bullying, not criticism. People keep trying to undermine it by equating the two. I don’t think people are above criticism, particularly if they’re professional critics, like Sam Wollaston.

      • DrPizza says

        I don’t believe I am attempting to equate the two. I am saying that you were specifically attacking Sam Wollaston.

        There is a difference between “Sam Wollaston’s criticism fails to place the creative arts in their wider context” and “Sam Wollaston is incapable of placing the creative arts in their wider context by dint of being Sam Wollaston”. The former would be criticism. The latter is attack. The latter is what you were doing.

        • Neil says

          You clearly are trying to equate the two by drawing a comparison, and stating I’m “inviting further criticism”, which is clearly trying to draw parallels between what myself, and the subjects of this blog.

          Firstly you say I’m criticising him, then you say, no, I’m actually attacking him. Which is it? I don’t think it’s wrong to criticise or attack at times, the issue in this blog is clearly one of proportion and responsibility.

  36. concerned citizen says

    Oh dear, people on the internet annoy each other and get angry. Boo hoo. You should all get off your stupid phones, get off twitter and get a real life. Problem solved.

    • Neil says

      Doesn’t that go for people who get annoyed at blogs, too?

    • JimboNWUK says

      WOW! I thought I was alone in sharing this opinion! Well said CC….high 5!

    • an autistic adult says

      Some people have been marginalized and excluded from “real life” activities. Some people have limited mobility for physical or mental health reasons. Some people are more comfortable with computers, because computers are the one thing that offers interaction without directly abusing them. Some people were born with brains that were hyper-developed in logical capacity (“up or down”) while being robbed of the usual abilities in lateral thinking (“social detective” skills necessary for successful public interactions). Of this group, most of us were either systematically (behaviorism, psychiatric abuse) and/or accidentally (painful sensory inputs forced on us through ignorant school laws, enrolled in overwhelming activities by well-meaning parents) abused; and some of us are flat-out tired of bad outcomes from forced interaction with people, and relish the opportunity to escape the abuse once we reach adulthood. None of which is any of your business, and I suspect that a provincial, presumptuous ignoramus like you couldn’t handle it anyway. I don’t know much about MissSpidey, but I bet she’s forgotten more about real life than you’ll ever have to know.

  37. Sarah says

    Many years ago, I got attacked by Graham Linehan.

    I had just experienced the worst year of my life wrangled in a very public legal case involving corrupt police and had finally – miraculously – been found not-guilty and the nasty police involved proven to have blatantly lied. It was an amazing victory against the odds. The sense of complete and utter relief was intense and extremely emotional.

    I was soon tweeted by Lineham, who had heard the result, congratulating me but demanding to know what I was doing about following up on the corrupt police now that I was free. I explained I hadn’t done anything about the corrupt police – I hadn’t done anything at all, my case was was only a few days closed – and after a brief and bizarrely angry [on his part] twitter exchange he called on his followers to call me out on my lack of public duty to expose the corrupt police involved in my case.

    I was still reeling from the whole trial. I was constantly wanting to vomit/cry from the legal case/result being so overwhelming. I hadn’t said anything rude to him or anyone. I hadn’t called him or anyone out on anything. All I had said was I wasn’t going to do – couldn’t do – what he wanted me to do at this moment in time. And I was subjected to such fevered Linehan-follower-patriotic vitriol telling me what a terrible, nasty, failed person I was, that I had to leave Twitter for my own sanity. It was simply horrible and so so mind-numbingly unexpected and confusing.

    My final tweet to Linehan was actually an apology, desperately explaining my brain could barely function after such a harrowing court ordeal (has anyone actually been that close to prison for a ‘crime they didn’t commit’? It was the most terrifying experience of my life!). His response was simply to delete his original RT and subsequent call-to-arms tweets. And that was it. Done. I was now history and I can only suppose he was off searching for the next subject to launch his public ire at.

    The ‘want everyone to be nice’ part of me still holds onto the hope he must have been just having a bad day to be so angry at, well, nothing, at least not with anything I was actually responsible for, yet… I dunno… it wasn’t a very pleasant experience to say the least.

    They say never meet your heroes. My advice would be: never tweet your heroes.

    • bowler, thanks says

      that’s the most incredible thing i’ve ever read. honestly, god, what a piece of work internet policeman (corrupt) graham lineham is

    • Paul Moloney says

      Hi Sarah, do you have more information about this incident? Links to the original news report, etc?

      Thanks,

      P.

    • Jemster says

      Wow Sarah. I cannot believe that. I am so angry on your behalf. What a prick. Yes, your advice is def sound. Don’t tweet your heroes. In my case, I have completely avoided twitter altogether as it seems like a minefield. My friends and I do not feel the need to communicate using that medium, nor do I care to know every detail of what any celebrity is up to, regardless of how much I may admire them. Most of them seem to collect followers to boost their own egos, but from what I have heard, never actually follow back or bother to reply. It seems to be a shallow vanity exercise for most of them. Anyway, I am very sad to hear what happened to you and have a new found ‘disrespect’ for Lineham. At the very least he should have acknowledged your apology (though it seems it was HIM who should have been apologising.) Take care. X

  38. Sophia Eribo says

    Man walks into a bar, punches the landlord in the face, repeatedly, landlord shouts out ouch! and the pub crowd jump the man. Is the landlord to blame for what happens to the man? Or should the man not have attacked someone unnecessarily first? Sorry bad analogy but that just occurred to me…. Also, Once again I just want to point out…I saw these tweets as they happened…miss spidey sent many abusive and personal insults to fielding before he even responded . He finally by calling her a dumb fuck (eventually) and then blocked her. He did not RT her or invite his fans to attack her. He made childish jokes about spiders which at the time felt like he was lightening the mood. Also he didn’t seem to mind being told of for his use of the word retard, him saying whats it to you big nose is something I’m seen him tweet before..meaning what’s it to do with you nosey Parker. Also I’ve been told spidey has been suspended by twitter four times already, I’d be interested to know what for? The way I see it she, this blog, and other even harsher ones like it, are not doing the same thing they believe to be wrong…drawing attention to what someone tweeted and inspiring hatred towards that person? Fielding has apologised for offence caused, apologised for using the word retard, and stated he should never have risen to her insults and responded in the first place. What more do people want? Blood? A ruined career? As far as I can see he has now suffered much more abuse online than she did. We all should go do something positive today and stop gossiping and spreading hate and rumours about people we don’t know.

  39. @shoottheducks says

    I realised driving to work what this is really about. It’s road rage.

    You have all these twitter users sitting in their comfortable isolated bubbles, cursing silently other twitter users for their foolishness, and then suddenly someone cuts in right in front of you, and the red mist descends.

    If you happen to be on the metaphorical twitter equivalent of a bicycle, you’re likely to do little more than shout at the receding exhausts. If on the other hand you’re sitting in a great big fuck off twitter juggernaut, you’re likely to run someone right off the road in your desire to get even. If you’re a complete dick and you can get away with it, you might well do worse things.

    And that’s the situation people like Fielding are in. Yes, maybe there’s provocation – if you have hundreds of thousands of followers of course you’re going to get a few fuckwits in the twitter equivalent of a souped up Nova running up your backside and flashing you, but you should be able to get a grip on the power you have and hold back.

    Not the least interesting aspect of twitter is how much political and social clout it puts in the hands of celebs. Ultimately rather worrying, but that’s a subject for another day.

  40. Neil says

    I’ve tagged on an update to the end of the blog to acknowledge that – as many have now pointed out – Simon Pegg was openly apologetic and contrite about his actions. He also, seemingly, has entirely changed his behaviour since, good for him. Everyone makes mistakes, it’s how we behave in the wake of them that matters.

    Gervais is continuing to be unrepentant and arrogant, but that was expected.

    Twitter policeman Graham Linehan made some interesting responses last night. There is a long history here, and some may feel I’ve singled him out unfairly in the course of this blog (although many don’t seem to think so…) – not so, he’s been a dick to me quite recently. It all basically stems from me criticising an episode of his TV show five years ago – however, I did so on his blog, not knowing that wasn’t really an appropriate place to do so, at the time. He wanted feedback, I didn’t know he only meant the positive kind. That jars with someone who has spent so long on forums – the net was very different pre-Twitter. And I was a bit ‘forummy’ in my tone, too, too strident – I have regretted it since.

    However, he doesn’t let things like that go. He subsequently closed ALL comments on his blogs, and put up an entry parodying my complaints and me as “Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.” Just recently, he blocked me despite me never tweeting him, then deleted a tweet when he saw I was attributed in it, and did some further childish stuff after that when I queried as to why he was still so annoyed. He really holds grudges, behaves pettily, is very thin-skinned, and looks for any opportunity to stick the boot in to his “enemies.” All the twitter policeman Graham Linehan blogs he writes about Twitter ‘being a big, lovely party’ are not standards he ever lives up to, I’m afraid.

    Here’s how he referenced this blog last night. Firstly by deliberately misconstruing the whole thing, and missing the entire idea we should ALL be nice to each other. But to Graham, it’s all about the plebs being nice to celebs, and that doesn’t have to be two-way traffic, because they are special. Then he posted this video, “I don’t like that dog in the mirror” yeah nice one, Graham.

    • Sean Inglis says

      Linehan is a funny man, but certainly knows how to hold a grudge.

      I stopped even attempting to follow him (I am blocked after daring to *politely* disagree with him) after he was interviewed on R4′s Today to publicize his production of The Ladykillers, where he felt he’d been ambushed.

      He then set about documenting his whines in a series of tweets, blog posts and (if I’m not mistaken) newspaper articles calling for the producers to abase themselves and for the perfidious Today to bend according to his view of how the world should operate.

      And you have to have sympathy; armed only with a previous career in journalism, a current career in the media and as a journalist, and over half a century of precedent in the form of Today itself, he was a lamb to the slaughter.

      Poor Graham!

  41. Headington says

    Though I agree with the thesis of this post, it seems a bit ripe coming from Cook’d and Bomb’d who, before Twitter even existed, protractedly mounted attacks upon many comedians of my acquaintance – not even on the basis of their work, but on a very spiteful and personal level. So well done, Cook’d and Bomb’d, for being early adopters of trolling.

    • Neil says

      I’d agree it was pretty rotten at times in the past, very vicious, but I think it’s quite a different forum these days, with some of the most hateful people having thankfully left.

  42. O_3 says

    I don’t know these comedians. I don’t use Twitter. But I find this article pretty rubbish. To use your own words, “This accounts for the devaluing of the term ‘bullying’ in the wider media” — in what world is taking the piss out of a public figure like “Waldemar Januszczak, art critic for The Sunday Times” ‘cyber-bullying’? Especially when that public figure is apparently buying into some kind of a 19th century “hierarchy of art” idea and dumping on the benighted comedian from the bully-pulpit of his high self-regard? Because you open the article with such a manipulative interpretation of what constitutes Internet harassment, it’s difficult to trust you as an impartial observer in other cases you cite, even if they don’t involve public figures with their own media clout. I simply don’t know enough about the alleged victims to feel sorry for them, aside from the fact that they themselves appeared to start things going, and bring what followers they had along for support. By the way, I, too, suffer from depression, and might “attempt suicide” if things get rough for me on this blog, so please, only positive responses!

    • Neil says

      I said it devalued the term “troll”, not “bullying.”

      If someone is talking on their timeline, as Januszczak did, without tweeting the person directly, they are in effect talking about that person behind their back. Which is what polite, civilised people do, when they have something bad to say about someone, rather than tell them to their face, like an unrepentant and gobby Big Brother housemate.

      What Fielding did constituted cyber-bullying, because he then specifically asked his followers to go and hassle this guy. Which they did.

      Abuse from Fielding’s fans, much of it retweeted by Januszczak, included suggestions that he is a “gitface”, “poopy pants”, “a c**t”, “a pedophile rapist”, “still a virgin”, “a total scum bag”, “smelly s**t arse”, a “batty crease”, “a stuck up piece of s**t”, “absolute poo face”, “self righteous tw*t” and “made from s**t sperm” with “a face like a hobbit in a headlock”.

      And so on. Fielding then said he’s pissed himself at it, and thanked his fans. How is that not co-ordinated cyber-bullying?

      • James B says

        If a Times art critic can’t handle being flamed with frankly ridiculous and comedic insults after publishing very condescending Tweets which called into question Fielding’s ability in both art and comedy then I don’t think he should be on Twitter at all. Calling a complete stranger a poo-face on the internet is hardly cyber-bullying. If you don’t KNOW the person insulting you and they clearly don’t know you, why would you take any notice of it at all?

  43. Sophia Eribo says

    Not sure why you mention Peggs apology but not the fact that Fielding has apologised about 10 times on twitter for any hurt of offence caused. He has admitted he should never have responded to the initial insults in the first place, and has now stopped using twitter. You can still see it all on his page if you look!

    • Neil says

      I can’t see it, actually, as he’s come back from his Twitter break specifically to block me.

      However, I can see the archive, and I even put screenshots of the tweets you are referencing in the blog post! In my view, it’s not a particularly contrite or sincere apology when someone interrupts it to say “If people are going to be mean on the internet then they are at risk of being insulted themselves.” Also “yes it is true Miss Spidey was mean to me. But I should not have responded. I certainly never asked people to bully her.” Just washing his hands of the whole thing, while continuing to blame her. Hardly equivalent to the classy way Pegg handled things.

      Gervais reacted to this blog in much the same way: “Calling people who expose or fight back against trolls bullies, is like trying to ban self defence because it’s dangerous.

      What he continues to miss, there, is that “self defence” is meant to be proportional, not openly and unapologetically sadistic. If someone tries to mug you, you’re not allowed to chop their head off with a really big sword, or order an army to fire tanks at them. There is more of an onus on people with big fanbases to be responsible, because they can do a lot more harm than the likes of Miss Spidey.

  44. Drew Buddie says

    This is a brillaintly written and somewhat salutory blogpost. As a Hread of ICT at a school this is the sort of issue,the aftermath of which I know many people in my position around the country have to deal with on a regular basis. It is great to know that people like you care enough about the abhorrent behaviour by some so-called ‘celebs’ and its effect on the victims, to write such a well researched piece as this. I have bookmarked the article and will be using it to inform the delivery of the Cyber-Conduct strand of my ICT course at school. Incidentally, I was on the recieving end of a rather stroppy reply from ‘Twitter Policeman’ and was called ‘passive aggressive’ by him. Thankfully, I received no mob-attack-type Tweets, but I did end up UnFollowing and Blocking him. Which made me feel good. Thank you again from writing such an exceptional blog post and raising the profile of this atrocious behaviour by people who should know better.

  45. Matt Buckland says

    I can understand the poor celebrities plight, to retweet is just one simple click, a block takes an entire three clicks! How can we expect our Twitter Idols to flex their fingers quite so much!

  46. Steve Fendergast says

    I’m finding this post and the comments quite fascinating; I’ve had a few problems in the past with Internet Policeman Graham Linehan too and thought it was just something I’d spotted (though I do love his work). It’s never my own posts but just from reading his attitude towards others; my timeline from following him will contain uninvited tweets in quotes and pithy comments and dot-ats (a term I’ve possibly not invented, basically means putting a full-stop before the username so everybody can see the “witty” reply). I suppose the argument is why do I follow him, but it’s not unreasonable to follow someone and expect them to keep their online spats off my timeline. Online spats do not interest me. If I wanted to follow Lord Sugar and Piers Morgan, I would, but I don’t.

    Everything that happens on Twitter, every scandal, every outrage, every issue – Linehan seems to stick his oar into it and rub people up the wrong way. It gives the impression of a constant need to attach to campaigns, popping his face into the background like John Terry putting his shinpads on. I had to laugh when I saw a picture of Paul Chambers winding down after his court case to see ol’ PC Glinner gurning.

    As a result of being involved in EVERYTHING it does mean (like someone mentions above) he’s going to have a timeline full of opinions. Now I can understand celebrities having to tolerate abuse and I’ve often wondered how any of them maintain their sanity. However I’ve read Internet Policeman Graham Linehan’s replies-feed and he doesn’t get abuse. He has people disagreeing with him; there is a ginormous difference here. I don’t remember the Woody Allen thing above, but I do remember some all night rant he had about video game storylines and he was VERY grumpy about people disagreeing. That’s fine, he has a right to be grumpy, but don’t retweet with the arsey retort attached, just reply to them (DM if possible). Or ignore them altogether, that might be easier. When I say ignoring people, don’t say how you love the block button, or love the mute function in tweetlogix. Nobody needs to know you’ve been blocking people. Hashtag blocked hashtag justsayin’.

    Dot-atting them and thus inviting the abuse is perhaps the most puerile and rude action. I just don’t understand why these people can’t just have a one-on-one conversation rather than inviting their fans to chip in; possibly misinterpreting the argument in the process.

    Nobody is saying it’s ok to troll and I really do sympathise with celebrities, but sometimes the responses are embarrassing. Rarely is the abuse they get the same as Tom Daley being issued death threats because the average person doesn’t follow someone like PC Glinner. It’s comedy fans, HIS fans, people like you and me pointing out hypocrisy and inconsistency. Everyone is answerable to such things and the action of blocking people who raise such concerns is quite a sinister one. I expect better from somebody who, amongst MANY other things, waves the flag of having the right to reply.

    • Neil says

      That was a glorious comment, thank you. Thank God it’s not just me (or many, many other people I know.)

  47. Kitty says

    I unfollowed Simon Pegg after a different incident involving him being rude and mean to a Twitter user who challenged him on a photo he posted and the comment he made beneath it. (The photo/comment (when I saw it, before the spat kicked off) made me roll my eyes and feel vaguely disappointed in him, but I (thankfully, in retrospect) didn’t move to comment/Tweet @ him about it.) Another Twitter user did. She accused him of sexism. He got angry and they had a public Twitter spat. It revealed him to be (to me) a rather nasty man. The feminist Twitter user received hundreds of insults, death threats and threats of rape (among other things) from his followers. It lasted for days. After a few hours and hundreds of threats she specifically Tweeted @ Simon asking him to “call off the dogs” (as it were). He didn’t. This was.. last month? I unfollowed him as a result and tweeted @ the woman in support. It was a truly horrible thing.

    The worst thing about it (besides the fact that the original @ wasn’t even an outright insult, but simply a comment/reasonable challenge) was that Simon Pegg knew better. He’s been on Twitter a while. He’s encountered this sort of thing before. And he could very easily have stopped his followers from attacking this woman. It was extremely unpleasant. I don’t know if he has apologised for it (or even admitted he was at all in the wrong) because I unfollowed him immediately after. I hope he has, but I don’t hold out much hope and I’m not going to re-follow him to find out.

    As for Noel Fielding.. I don’t excuse his behavior, but it is a fact that he uses Twitter with much less frequency and usually in a much more offhand manner than a lot of celebs/comedians (and I know he’s not particularly tech-savvy, not even owning a computer until a few years ago..and he can’t even spell). I think it is possible he didn’t realize just how damaging his Twitter behavior in this instance could be. He also couldn’t have known about the girls cyclothymic disorder or that she would react in such a way to (what he appeared to view as) a fairly harmless/silly internet argument. I think it’s rather harsh to suggest (as this article does) that he is a very bad man and directly responsible for the girls suicide attempt. He’s not a monster. I’m not an apologist for his pettiness, I just think you’re making him out (or trying to make him out) to be a lot more sinister and awful than he is. And I notice (I just had a look at his timeline) he DOES appear to have thought about it and feel bad about what happened. And he has apologized.. and has seemingly left Twitter as a result. Not the actions/Tweets of a monster, imo. I still think he’s generally an ok sort. Certainly didn’t mean serious harm to come to anyone.

    Pegg and Gervais.. not so much.

    • an autistic adult says

      Pegg apologized (see twitter posts above) and expounded upon his bad behavior at his blog, taking accountability and refusing to hide: http://www.peggster.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=2403

      Not exactly feminist, but what do you expect from Pegg? (I think public figures do have an obligation to support women, the working class as a whole and underrepresented minorities, I’m just not holding my breath for Pegg to do it.) I don’t think he’s got anything heavier than the plot of Star Wars Ep3 bouncing around in his skull, let alone political theory, and while I’m open to criticism for low expectations, frankly I was pleasantly surprised that he demonstrates an understanding that objectification is bad, and that his comments could have been considered sexist with some justice, and that what he did in response wasn’t OK, and that it’s on him to do better. Good for him, I say, and it definitely clarifies which male English comedian’s films I’m more likely to support (between him and Gervais anyway). (Where I live, British comedies are not especially profligate, though we do get a few of them, roughly on time but mostly in eclectic alternative theaters.)

      As an aside, I didn’t know anything about Gervais’ twitting (that’s what it’s called when *he* uses the service) until I stumbled on this article today. But, after seeing a relatively small amount of his work, it surprises me not one bit. I always thought he seemed vicious beyond the limits of good fun, but didn’t have any particular evidence; I once saw him berate an actress for needing a few takes to get her line right, but he did it in character and she took it quite passively so it was hard to tell whether it was really him saying those things (for me, at the time). I now realize that she was using silence and an embarrassed smile to deflect attention from her emotional reaction (the real prize for him, probably), and that if she were really in on the joke she would have more likely fired back. I now know that passive reactions to people like Gervais communicate more about their infinitesimal moral capacity than about their victims’ comfort with the situation.

  48. Cory Tunt says

    Twitter policeman, Graham Linehan doesn’t always respond too well to praise either. Only last Sunday I took time out of my busy schedule to write;

    “I think @Glinner ought to be applauded for the Direct Line adverts. The financial sector creates more wealth than silly jokes. ”

    To which he responded;

    “oh, noes! We’re selling out! You guys are 14 years old, right? ”

    He went on to say that I was “brilliant” though, so no harm done.

  49. teenage_u_thant_ninja_turtle says

    I’m pretty sure I saw Simon Pegg turn on someone on Twitter within the last month, so he’s obviously not *that* contrite. I don’t remember the details but I’m pretty sure the other user hadn’t even @ed Pegg, which I think considerably aggravates this sort of behaviour. Does anyone else remember this or take screenshots?

  50. Sophia Eribo says

    SOrry neil but that isn’t true…firstly noel has apoligised many times not only for using an un pc word but for any offence or hurt caused to anyone. You shouldn’t not include what we are telling you because he blocked you…which is what you think celebs or others should do if they are getting negative tweets right? Secondly…waldemar did @ message Noel directly, and then did about 15 or 20 very nasty follow ups. I know a lot of people at the time we’re talking about it, to Noel as well, so no doubt he was aware. Add that to the one @ message and is it surprising he may have clicked to see what all the fuss was about? Waldemar had spent a couple of days slating Fielding, before the programme he was annoyed about even aired. I remember a couple specifically “getting Noel fielding to present a show on art is like draping a naked woman on an Italian car to sell it”. quite rude considering Noel is an artist himself and has a master in the arts no? He also made very insulting comments about fielding’s education sniggering that perhaps he had a btec. It was relentless for a few days! He is also a respected public figure and knows him tweets are read and retweeting. What Noel did by telling his fans to give waldemar a taste of his own medicine was childish and silly. But waldemar is a 50 year old man and seemed to actually enjoy it all, and laugh about it, even changing his picture to a morphed photo of him and Noel. Waldemar is a writer for the times, he has a very large and public platform of his own to voice his objections if he’d had any, I don’t think he needed you to do it for him. As for spidey, it seems clear she was rude and inflammatory and got more than he bargained for. Her reaction was unexpected to everyone involved no doubt. Fielding has since apoligised many times since for any hurt or damage.

    • Neil says

      What are you accusing me of not including? The apologies, which I’ve already stated are screencapped and included in the original blog?

      I’ve just looked through Januszczak’s timeline. You said he @’d Fielding and then did 15 or 20 very nasty follow ups. That is untrue – he did a lot of tweets about the show, and then replied to someone, finally, with Noel Fielding already @’d in. That can be seen here.

      The rest of the tweets are him ‘talking behind Fielding’s back.’ I don’t care how well known he is – to be honest, I found him to be a bit of a dick, and far too snobby towards the art-form of comedy. Regardless, and no matter how well he took it, I still think Fielding whipping his fans into a frenzy, where they start calling the guy a “paedophile rapist” is unacceptable, cowardly, and just lacking in any kind of class. I’m amazed you’d continue to try to defend it.

      Fielding didn’t “give him a taste of his own medicine” – he hid behind the skirts of obsessive teenage girls. Some comic he is, who can’t handle his own hecklers, and has to get a bunch of “FieldMice” to do it for him! Especially when the heckler is just a guy in a separate room, giving his opinion, rather than screaming it directly at the comic.

      • Kathryn says

        Wow. You REALLY have a problem with Noel don’t you? I think you’d be better off just coming out and saying, “I don’t like Noel Fielding” instead of churning out this rubbish and writing this great big wordy spiel about it, who has the time?! What are you hoping to gain from this? Fielding’s fans wont change their opinions on him and the people who dislike him are already singing from the same hym sheet as you anyway, so everyone’s opinion still stays the same except now Fielding’s fans think you’re a bit of a dick with too much time on your hands.

        “I’ve just looked through Januszczak’s timeline. You said he @’d Fielding and then did 15 or 20 very nasty follow ups. That is untrue – he did a lot of tweets about the show, and then replied to someone, finally, with Noel Fielding already @’d in.”

        ACTUALLY, that is untrue, where you reading as this all happened? Janiszczak definitely did direct tweets towards Noel, perhaps he deleted, but I know what I saw. He baited Noel and Noel retaliated, tit for tat, eye for an eye etc, perhaps he shouldn’t have been so vitriolic about Noel interviewing Hurst, then he would have avoided the ire of the Fieldmice.

        Like I said, you don’t like Noel, cool, I don’t expect everyone to like the same stuff, I don’t really care if people like him or not, but this poorly researched blog post is a joke!

        • Kathryn says

          * I meant were you reading as this happened, not where.

        • Neil says

          You can’t really accuse someone of poorly researching something, then simultaneously of having too much time on their hands because they attempt to thoroughly research and check facts. Make your mind up, eh.

          Yes, I was reading as this happened, and originally started the article back at that time, which is why I had screenshots available. I think it’s clear I’ve been very thorough with my evidence and checking, so trying to detract from the credibility of this blog is probably a non-starter, Kathryn.

          • Kathryn says

            Then Neil, you’re a liar. Janiszczak directed tweets towards Noel. This is poorly researched, the too much time bit stemmed from the waffling spiel you have churned out.

          • Neil says

            Kathryn, I’m not lying, I took the trouble of scrolling back earlier to check. There was one single tweet directly to Fielding, which was in reply. If there were more, they are deleted. Can you provide proof? If not, please stop calling me a liar, and perhaps you could be less aggressive in general? :-)

            Besides which, you are taking us off topic – how would this even begin to justify what Fielding did regards sending his followers to attack the guy? Let’s focus on that, eh? Too many fans are keen to put all the blame on the victims of bullying, and steer all of it away from the perpetrators and ringleaders. Are you fine with this guy being swamped with hateful messages because Fielding couldn’t take criticism (either directly or indirectly), and do you think it’s acceptable for him to turn his followers into his own personal army?

          • Kathryn says

            “Kathryn, I’m not lying, I took the trouble of scrolling back earlier to check. There was one single tweet directly to Fielding, which was in reply. If there were more, they are deleted. Can you provide proof? If not, please stop calling me a liar, and perhaps you could be less aggressive in general? :-)

            Besides which, you are taking us off topic – how would this even begin to justify what Fielding did regards sending his followers to attack the guy? Let’s focus on that, eh? Too many fans are keen to put all the blame on the victims of bullying, and steer all of it away from the perpetrators and ringleaders. Are you fine with this guy being swamped with hateful messages because Fielding couldn’t take criticism (either directly or indirectly), and do you think it’s acceptable for him to turn his followers into his own personal army?”

            If I’m being aggressive, then what would you call this comment, “contrived, try-hard, drippy fucking surrealism”?! I don’t have proof, do you have proof he didn’t direct tweets towards Fielding and then delete? :-)

            I actually don’t mind that he got his fans to support him and tweet at this guy, I’m sure he’s a big boy and could handle it, if not he shouldn’t have been baiting Noel in the first place. It almost seems like he wanted a reaction from Noel and he got one.

          • Neil says

            I think “contrived, try-hard, drippy fucking surrealism” is a proportionate response to these events, and to his lacklustre comedy in general. Perhaps you’d have more luck pushing that as me being agressive, if you didn’t then immediately go on to completely excuse saftey-in-numbers bullying.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Victim_blaming

          • Kathryn says

            See, as someone who was bullied in high school )and had to change schools because it got so bad) I don’t consider what Noel did to be bullying. Has Januszczak come out and said he feels bullied? I thought Januszczak took it all pretty well, in good humour, let’s face it the tweets were probably from a bunch of kids who were bored at the end of their Summer holidays, not what I consider bullying!

          • Kathryn says

            “I think “contrived, try-hard, drippy fucking surrealism” is a proportionate response to these events,”
            Yet in your blogpost you put:

            “many of whom are young girls who worship Fielding and his contrived, try-hard, drippy fucking surrealism”

            Your first statement makes no sense when quoted with what you actually put in the blog post? I still think it’s an aggressive statement, far more aggressive than anything I’ve said!

          • Neil says

            You don’t consider someone saying “I thought it would be fun if me and all my followers went onto his Twitter and insulted him” as bullying? Or “teach the horrible snob a lesson”?

            You don’t consider someone whipping up a mob to go and abuse someone else to be bullying?

            Sorry, but are you quite serious?

          • Kathryn says

            Quite serious. Actually I am starting to think you’re a bit of a bully yourself. Like I said, it was a bunch of kids, did Januszczak feel bullied? Januszczak’s comments were bullying in the first place, as I said before, tit for tat, eye for an eye, probably best not to start something if he couldn’t cope with the wrath of the Fieldmice (a bunch of harmless girls – the more I think about this the more hilarious it’s getting actually!)!

          • Kathryn says

            I think his ego was bruised and he wanted it stroked for a bit. He knew it would be harmless, he knew the guy could take it (which he did). He didn’t mean harm, you’ve said some pretty cruel things about him in this post and tried to turn people against him, he turned the Fieldmice on Januszczak, you’re trying to turn people against him on here. *shrugs* Surely both as bad as each other (if you believe what Noel did to be mega horrendous as you obviously do).

          • Neil says

            Oh, I see you think I’m a bully, rather than the guy who commands 300,000 followers to go and abuse one of his critics! Well, do explain why I’m the bully, rather than Noel, I absolutely can’t wait to hear the logic there.

          • Kathryn says

            Out of all the legit stuff I’ve said that is the thing you’ve picked up on, so you do not refute anything else I’ve said? Interesting!

            I think you have your own agenda here, trying to turn people against Noel and you’ll say whatever it takes to try and make your argument seem credible. If Noel turning the fieldmice on Januszczak is bullying, then by your definition what you are doing here is bullying too.

          • Simon says

            I don’t think Neil was encouraging abuse of Noel Fielding and I don’t think this could be construed as bullying. I don’t have an opinion either way of Noel, I don’t feel I am about to tweet abuse at him. To my mind the blog post has been careful to make the distinctions it has and “takes one to know one” type comparisons between Noel’s actions and this post that yourself and “last post I promise” Sophia are making is incredibly reaching. If anybody has struggled to hide a one sided agenda it’s you.

          • Kathryn says

            If you can’t see how biased & one sided this blogpost is then you comprehension skills leave a lot to be desired! I have no hidden agenda, my agenda is pretty transparent, I believe Neil already severely disliked Mr. Fielding and was just waiting for an opportunity to rip him to shreds! I wonder if his precious Chris Morris had done the same, would the Post be quite as scathing and full of vitriol?!

          • Kathryn says

            I don’t think it’s bullying either, but by Neil’s definition it is!

          • Neil says

            I’ve been plenty scathing of Chris Morris in the past. No fear or favour.

            I’ve stopped refuting some of the things you’ve said, because I realise the sheer futility of it, Kathryn. You can parade this as you having ‘won’ if you like, that’s not why I enter discussions.

            It’s ridiculous to see the same points continually stated by the more rabid Fielding fans: criticism is not bullying, you can’t paint me as a bully while also excusing the actions of someone who explicitly used his fans to attack someone, and you can’t continue to obsequiously remove all responsibility from someone with a far greater amount of power, just to place all or most of the blame on the victims. This last thing is a horrible, insensitive, fawning action to engage in.

            For the record, I disliked the comedy of Noel Fielding, I don’t dislike him on a personal level, because I don’t know him, all I know is that the way he has lead bullying against people – explicitly and tacitly – is hateful.

            I also don’t think I have the influence to “turn people against Noel Fielding”, nor would I want it. I’m commenting on a wider problem, and I know it’s already had a positive effect on the thinking of other celebrities with large fan-bases.

          • Kathryn says

            Stop playing the victim blaming card, it’s actually pretty upsetting.

            Januszczak had been baiting Noel. MissSpidey is quite obviously not an innocent victim. I still maintain this is a poorly researched, sanctimonious article full of bias. I will win this because I am right, not because you think it is futile, Neil :-)

        • jt says

          Kathryn, further down this blog you state that you are right. You are absolutely not, you are entirely wrong. Writing a blog does not constitute an attack on someone – freedom of speech and all that? Facts are facts, how you choose to rationalise those facts and fit them into your world view is something else.

          Mind boggling.

    • Seaneen says

      “Noel”? He’s not your mate because you follow him on Twitter, you realise that?

      Criticism is NOT the same as bullying. People should be free to criticise things without the person stirring up a mob.

      • Kathryn says

        Of course I don’t think he’s my mate, his name is Noel, how would you like me to refer to him if using his name gives off the impression I think we are friends?

        Januszczak was giving off a little more than criticism, it was a barrage of abuse that went on over 2/3 days. I wouldn’t call it bullying, I wouldn’t call what Mr. Fielding did bullying either. The blog writer obviously has an axe to grind, does not like Mr. Fielding and has written this absurd article.

        • bowler, thanks says

          to b ehonest i think Kathryn’s come out of this pretty fairly. the important points she raised is whether or not Waldemar directly tweeted Noel. there is no proof either way so it’s impossible to say.

          • Neil says

            That is not the important point – also, going by his timeline, he didn’t, apart from one time. So it’s only impossible to say if we decide that he did, and deleted the tweets afterwards.

            But again, that is not the important point, the important point is that Noel Fielding felt it appropriate to use his fans to engage in safety-in-numbers bullying of someone, and revelled in the abuse.

          • Kathryn says

            “Noel Fielding felt it appropriate to use his fans to engage in safety-in-numbers bullying of someone, and revelled in the abuse.”

            It was some 50 year old bloke, he knew he could handle it, he had been baiting Fielding. You are ridiculous.

        • Neil says

          You ‘don’t think he’s your mate’ yet refer to him using his first name, and refer to Januszczak using his surname. It is a bit telling, isn’t it?

          • bowler, thanks says

            maybe ive got it wrong, and i agree with your ‘important point’, of course the saftey in numbers bullying says something. but if the waldemar fellow has deleted his tweets, which is entirely possible, and everyone does it, i.e. ‘there is a chance that he did it’ then it’s impossible to say. if he did tweet noel fielding with hyper-pretensious gittiness then he’s obvioulsy a bit of a git. not that fielding’s reply is justified and he should have done it himself, you’re right. anyway…

          • Kathryn says

            To be fair I don’t know how to spell the guys name so I just copied the bit you used in the article.

            I honestly don’t think Mr. Fielding is my friend.

  51. Alistair Burns says

    I managed to get blocked by Jonathan Ross for a couple of tweets to Jamie Oliver asking him for the full answer to a couple of very interesting questions posed by Wossy. It seems he didn’t like me pointing out his habit of repeatedly interrupting answers. PC Glinner also blocked me for taking him to task for frequently retweeting somebody who uses his TwitPic to abuse other people’s copyright and steal their credit. gplus dot to slash twat will be his legacy.

  52. CB says

    I enjoyed reading the blog post because it goes to show what damage a charismatic individual with loyal followers can do – the individual in question being one “Miss Spidey”!

    As several posters before me have pointed out, “Miss Spidey” is well known on Twitter and in the political blogging scene for deliberately provoking arguments, resorting to very nasty attacks herself, then making a big song and dance about being the poor victim of “bullying” (in her world, not agreeing with her is seemingly the same as bullying?!).

    There are always claims of emails or threats sent to her by whoever she is having a go at at the time, be it by text, email (how would these people get her phone number or email address?), further helping to turn her loyal followers against her chosen victim.

    Nary a week goes by without some impossible personal tragedy befalling “Miss Spidey” and her tweeting and often blogging at great length about it. Anyone who dares to question her often contradicting and increasingly bizarre stories is quickly hounded down by her loyal followers, after which she predictably deletes all evidence of her aggressive behaviour, melodramatically proclaiming to have to leave twitter “because of bullying”, but always returning within a matter of days.

    Now I do not expect a comedy blog author to be familiar with this repetitive and predictable pattern of attention-seeking manipulative behaviour, but a little research would surely not have gone amss?

    Since most of “Miss Spidey”‘s sob story about her alleged suicide attempt is based on the story of her dramatic rescue by the now deleted twitter user @WestLib, a quick check of said user’s cached Twitter profile (http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:7Dlz1XCTJugJ:twitter.ie/WestLib+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk) would have revealed that they claim to be ” Owner of award winning cider distillery” and their cached tweets to user @SLACK_TV clearly show that @WestLib claims their business is based in Ilminster, Somerset.

    @WestLib and “Miss Spidey” have also claimed that @WestLib used to live in Woking, where “Miss Spidey” heroically assisted her with her cancer-riddled husband and later moved to Somerset, where they now run this award winning business. Or rather she runs it on her own as her husband tragically “died” sometime since @WestLib last surfaced in May this year, that time oddly enough also to defend and back up another nasty story “Miss Spidey” had cooked up.

    Funny, then, that the ONLY licensed cider distillery in Somerset – one of only three in the whole country! – is a business at http://www.ciderbrandy.co.uk/, The Somerset Cider Brandy company. Who have not only been based in the same location for decades, but are a large family business who have incidentally never heard of this @WestLib person.

    Now either we should believe that this wonder woman @WestLib somehow is too stupid to know what kind of business she actually runs (since she does NOT run or own a cider distillery either in Somerset or elsewhere) and yet she single-handedly runs this wonderful successful business and looks after her children all on her own, or maybe, just maybe, those who pointed out that @WestLib was clearly a sockpuppet made up by “Miss Spidey” were actually on to something.

    • Jon says

      you’ve researched that a bit wrong. A place where they make cider is not a distillery…Distillaries are for making an alcoholic spirit out of something. A spirit is not the same as a perry, a cider or a beer and there are in fact hundreds of cider MAKERS in the UK, including one in, yep, Ilminster… http://www.perryscider.co.uk/.
      Being a Devon boy I was naturally more interested in the cider bit than the ‘heinous individual making up stuff’ but!

      Oil be ‘appy if it come up to moi chest…

    • Neil says

      I’m sure your cider distillery-based investigations are powerful stuff, but I don’t really get it. Perhaps we could err on the side of caution and sensitivity, and leave alone this woman who attempted to commit suicide less than a week ago?

      • CB says

        Neil/Jon,

        I know cider is not distilled, as do you.

        However, “Miss Spidey”‘s story of her alleged suicide was told by twitter user @WestLib whose cached twitter profile (now deleted) claims to be the owner of a cider distillery. There are only three cider DISTILLERIES in the country, one of which is in Somerset and they have never heard of either Miss Spidey or @WestLib.

        Now either this person “WestLib” is so thick they do not understand how to make cider (while running an “award winning cider distillery” business), or @WestLib is a fake / sockpuppet (as many who have followed her ego-stroking antics online have long suspected) and therefore the account of “Miss Spidey”‘s suicide attempt is therefore utter bull.

        I’ll leave you to figure it out…

        • Neil says

          One does not necessarily follow the other. You’re operating under confirmation bias, and suspect the suicide attempt was fake, then using whatever means you can to try and prove this. It’s distasteful and insensitive speculation aimed at discrediting a victim of bullying. Urgh.

          • Lauren Toth says

            That said you equally have no proof of what was alleged to have occurred. I doubt we’ll ever know exactly what happened and I certainly hope noone harmed themselves but I think all these definitive statements about Noel Fielding ‘causing’ a person to try to kill themselves are very unfair (based on lack of verified source materials) and potentially slanderous.

  53. Sven says

    Gréât article,thanks

  54. DanAvenell says

    This is Fielding’s second ‘offence’. He finished this one with a ‘oops, I didn’t mean any harm (but secret wink to my followers).’ What he should do is say ‘If I have a spat with someone on twitter, please DO NOT join in or I’ll block you. Something random about giraffes made of jelly.’ He knows what his fans are like.

    Gervais is the worst and should be thrown off Twitter, for his own sake if nothing else. Siccing your fans on someone, however slyly, should be against the T&Cs, but Twitter knows it’s celebs that are why people use it, so it’s one rule for them and another for anyone else.

    • Richard says

      I always find it odd that Gervais boasts of being a rationalist whilst encouraging insults in place of rational discussion.

      (Though, in fairness, debate is impossible on Twitter with the speed and character limitations)

  55. Richard says

    Personally, I put most of the blame on Twitter for not updating their system to stop mob behaviour. It is ultimately a fault with how their site has evolved. Twitter mobs can start without an initial rude Tweet, and so stopping celebrities fanning the flames is not going to stop this happening.

    A simple solution I can think of could simply be to allow users to sandbox any Tweets which mention them in an @ , so they don’t appear on other people’s timelines, as that is when it usually gets out of hand.

    That, or actually have some clear house rules and pay moderators to implement them properly. Can’t be hard to flag up any account which is being sent lots of abuse in a short period of time.

  56. Zander says

    I do not follow Noel Fielding on Twitter and have been fairly indifferent to him up until now, perhaps I have laughed at him once or twice on NTB, that’s all. You do this article a big disservice by your fairly undisguised dislike of him which seems to stem from reasons outwith the ones you describe here. “contrived, try-hard, drippy fucking surrealism” , true perhaps but beside the point. Its a well written article but I have to question your motives. I think Noel Fielding has been misguided, that’s all, and a sincere apology is all that is required.

    • Neil says

      I know some folks are saying this, and to be fair, others think the anger is justified.

      I was, indeed, angry at the whole thing. However, as a recent podcast makes clear, I really don’t like his comedy. That doesn’t colour my blog, though – I take people and events as I find them. I understand the objections, but I also just think it’s a fine line. I kind of like reading things where people are passionate and honest, and where they will openly criticise that which they dislike. And I really don’t like his comedy.

      Having said that, I have kind of begrudgingly complimented him many times on the attitude of Luxury Comedy, if not the content, and respect that he’s at least trying to do something different.

      So, I dunno, perhaps it is a little cheap, I just suspect it’s part of what gives writing some colour, and makes it less clinical. I’m still constantly learning as I go along.

  57. Kathryn says

    I see I’ve been blocked from replying!

    • Neil says

      Clearly, you haven’t. I don’t think you’re going to be able to persuade many people that you’ve been blocked from replying, while replying.

      • Kathryn says

        I found a way to respond, no biggy :-)

        • Neil says

          You found a way to respond, or you weren’t actually blocked from replying?

          • Kathryn says

            Obviously I wasn’t blocked, it was a mistake, my apologies for not being 100% au fait with this site. I hope this has cleared up the matter :-)

  58. Seaneen says

    Kathryn’s argument that the target of Noel Fielding’s childish and disproportionate bullying being, “does he feel bullied? He started it etc” smacks of, “She was drunk and asking for it”.

    This is a great post and thank you for making the oft-forgotten distinction between criticism and trolling or bullying.

    • Kathryn says

      Except no! I do not equate being raped with Noel fielding setting some kids on someone who has been baiting him. I think it’s disgusting you could even draw these comparisons. What Noel did is not akin to rape.

      • @shoottheducks says

        Someone was driven to a suicide attempt by a baying mob. I’m sorry, but that’s perfectly akin to pretty much any serious crime you can come up with.

        About the most consistent defence of Fielding so far from his apologists has been “she was asking for it”. Which is interesting, isn’t it?

        More importantly, if you set a mob of sychophantic wannabe celeb mates onto people who for whatever reason are irritating their hero, you’re risking doing serious damage at some level. Out of 300K followers (let alone the millions Gervais has), you’re going to hit a number of obsessives and a number of genuine sociopaths. The more the victim is dehumanised and held up for ridicule, the higher the risk of actual physical attack. I’ve seen situations where someone on one side of a debate has been identified from other online material and directly threatened – in a one to one forum debate that’s manageable, but make that material available to masses of people at once and there are serious risks. Now that doesn’t seem to have happened here, but it will happen if this aberrant behaviour doesn’t stop soon and people will suffer actual harm. It is PERFECTLY REASONABLE to point this out in a blog.

        What Fielding should have done is to block and ignore. End of. He indulged in the celebrity equivalent of road rage, and he fully deserves to be held to account. What he did was issue a nudge nudge wink wink grudging apology and flounced off for a while.

        If you read Pegg’s comments, it’s pretty clear he’s understood this. Everyone makes mistakes, and he’s been thoughtful and sensible. But let’s be clear, this is not about thought control: no-one is asking comedians not to push back the boundaries of taste. But there’s a caution being raised about directly attacking individuals from the front of a mob. Gervais can engage in any unfunny fuckwittery he wants in the general case about social groups, doesn’t bother me, I have an off switch. But when he identifies one of them specifically and goes after them, he’s a dangerous menace.

      • Neil says

        Seaneen is not drawing a comparison between rape and bullying, she is saying that the process of taking away all responsibility from the perpetrators, and instead blaming the victim, is the same.

        Thanks, Seaneen, hope you’re enjoying your honeymoon.

        • Kathryn says

          The perpetrators? So that would be Januszczak and MissSpidey!

          Nice to see your little friends supporting you!

          • Seaneen says

            Ha, like you’re not supporting, “Noel”? I don’t see how any rational person cannot see he acted like a nasty, immature sod. He did. Anyone else would hold their hands up and say it. The man is nearly 40, FFS.

          • Seaneen says

            And calling someone big nosed, ugly, a dumb fuck for the mildest of criticisms/telling off then setting your mob on them is pathetic behaviour.

          • Kathryn says

            That’s not quite what happened, Seaneen. He’d been getting some tweets from someone else, anti womens rights, pro life etc. He was already wound up when MissSpidey (who, incidentally, has been suspended, again!) piped up, she was not polite, was inflammatory and rude. He said big nose to mean nosey parker, not a direct insult to the way she looks. She said inflammatory things, he said inflammatory things back. Neil doesn’t like Noel so saw this, rubbed his hands in glee and penned his slanderous little article.

          • Neil says

            I’m not really bothering to reply to you anymore, Kathryn, but I will offer a slight correction here.

            “Neil doesn’t like Noel” – Neil doesn’t know Noel (Fielding). Neil doesn’t like the comedy of Noel (Fielding), certainly, but Neil would not pen an article like this based solely on finding random juxtapositions of animals and consumer goods unamusing, and you’re a fool if you think otherwise. Neil will now stop talking in the third person.

            A further correction would be that, as this is written, it would be libellous rather than slanderous.

        • Seaneen says

          Okay, on that count Kathryn- then explain the stuff with Jan…name I can’t be arsed to type out? He criticised- fairly, in his own opinion- the choice of Noel Fielding in a show. And Noel Fielding asked his fans to flame him. So where’s the justification in this one? J (who I think is a bit of a prick) wasn’t nasty. He wasn’t inflammatory. He expressed an opinion.

          • Kathryn says

            He was pretty nasty actually but all the tweets are gone, he was tweeting about/to Mr. Fielding over 2/3 days and in the end Mr. Fielding snapped. The guy is 50 and took it well and in good humour. It’s telling that Mr. Fielding knew what he was doing because he didn’t set his fans on MissSpidey in the same manner, he dealt with her himself by @ing at her and obviously his fans saw that and got involved but there is a distinction isn’t there? He knew the 50 year old J guys could handle it and it was most likely done in jest, he knew MissSpidey couldn’t so dealt with her himself.

  59. LottieP says

    I think you make a good point here about the real issue which is factual: where does the real power lie in these interactions? An anonymous troll is just that. Reprehensible though a tirade of abuse from a stranger may be, it behooves anyone in the public eye to respond graciously or not at all. To use your power as a celebrity to bring down abuse on the head of an anonymous troll is just joining them in the race to the bottom.

  60. Wesley Coll says

    I have a suggestion regarding whoever you dislike on social networks: stop following them, stop reading them, stop wasting your precious time writing about them. It may not affect them at all, but it’ll sure give you peace to mind stuff that’s really important to you. In other words, let them bark whatever they want, it’s a free country. With luck, people will be as lenient about my own stupidities online just on the account of my right to commit them as I see them fit, and provided that I’m not forcing anyone to submit to them. Best (and feel free to watch me falling off my high freaking horse and breaking my insufferable ass…)

  61. katie moffat says

    Very well researched, argued and written post. I have long felt very uncomfortable about this aspect of twitter. Oh the power of unleashing thousands of followers on someone at the touch of a button, Gervais and Fielding in particular demonstrate an arrogant, ugly side to their personalities. Neil, well done on writing this piece, I suspect it will go on to be referenced for a very long time.

  62. Rozzy says

    This was a fantastic piece. Really engaging and well reasoned, exposing some of these celebs for the giant children that they are, but the danger they wield through their cyber power. Of course Charlie brooker deals with the vitriol with panache! He rules.

  63. Sophia Eribo says

    I’m sorry to bring something ugly up but my mother is a health worker and said the last thing people tend to do after a genuine suicide attempt is tell people, or have their friends spread it on the Internet freely. They are usually highly private about it, often embarrassed. How do we even know her mental health problems don’t include craving attention, and possibly lying to get it? She already wrote on her blog that the worst message she received on twitter were as direct private messages from strangers…which as far as I know is only allowed if you follow the person messaging you right? Something just doesn’t sit right with me, sorry. Of course this is just one possibility, but we don’t know the people involved personally so it has to at least be considered. And if not, then surely the most disturbing thing here isn’t that mean messages were tweeted by young girls trying to impress their idol, it’s that a woman in her thirties with a child would attempt suicide because of twitter…I mean in all seriousness should social services not at least be involved in that case? And is it really wise that she is now back on twitter and talking about her new found “fame” because of this.

    • Daisy says

      @Sophia Eribo Wow, what a horrible example of victim blaming your post is. First you accuse her of lying and then, in the same breath, you suggest that she should be reported to social services for the sake of her child, because of her suicide attempt. What kind of twisted logic is this?

      PS: It would have been fairly easy for a determined stalker to find out this woman’s email address, seeing as there was quite a lot of personal info on her blogs linked to her twitter account. Hopefully she’ll have removed this by now.

    • Simon says

      I found this to be a disgusting comment. And a health worker? Hardly a psychological expert – if this is anecdotal evidence, then I can say I know of at least two people who did confess to suicide attempts that were very real immediately afterwards too. Doesn’t prove a thing; you know why? Because humans are all different and react differently to different things.

      What happened to “last post I promise”, Sophia? You have posted several times over and nothing you’ve said has contributed to the debate. If anything you’re proving Neil’s point in terms of the rabid followers.

      This isn’t me being misled by what Neil has said by the way, this is just reading your comments on their own and deciding whether the tone and the content is really that appropriate. I do suggest you read back over what you wrote and consider whether it was appropriate. I think (I hope anyway) your fondness of Noel is making you make arguments you don’t really subscribe to. They’re pretty out there…

      • Kathryn says

        Oh, so if we want to stick up for Mr. Fielding, we’re rabid? I hope you’re not bullying people Simon? Neil posted we were rabid and now you are calling us rabid, careful now, you don’t want people accusing Neil of inciting a mob!

        • Simon says

          Very, veeeeeerry reaching. Come on now Kathryn! You know what I was trying to say.

          (p.s. I had a little giggle at the thought of you posting that with a smug grin, then going to make a celebratory cup of tea. “take that, internet!”)

    • CB says

      MissSpidey does not have children and is 40. Your perception of her behaviour is mostly accurate, but here you’ve got your facts slightly wrong. @WestLib, the fake profile who published the suicide story, claims to have children. These children are as real as her ‘cider distillery’ and her time bending dash to Woking on Monday to rescue Miss Spidey.

    • Seaneen says

      I’m also a mental health worker and that’s your mother’s opinion. I can say categorically it is not always the case.

      Also, if someone’s mental health problems do include lying or getting attention (some do, such as some personality disorders), they are STILL mental health problems and you do not poke someone who has them, who is open about having them, and then say it’s their fault if they react.

      And for god’s sake, he called her ugly, a dumb fuck etc. That is PLAYGROUND crap.

      • Neil says

        Yes, this is important. These are very wise words Seaneen, there is an issue here either way.

        Regardless, the focus should really remain on the person who opened her up to a disproportionate amount of abuse. Discrediting MissSpidey, or attempting to, does not change that.

        • Kathryn says

          Perhaps someone so fragile should refrain from picking fights with people with large fanbases on the internet? when mentally ill you have to work hard to look after yourself, she should pick her battle, yes his use of the word retard was wrong and he was not annoyed at being called out on it, he was annoyed with the way she spoke to him. You are now embellishing your story and making MissSpidey look more innocent than she was because you seem to have some sort of huge irrational beef with Noel Fielding & are quite happy to invent aspects of this story to make Noel Fielding come off as bad as possible.

  64. Sophia Eribo says

    Thanks Julia, precisely. All we know of this woman is that she has been blocked from twitter 4 times already, said she was direct messages threats from stranrrs who couldn’t have sent them unless she was already following them, is now back on it talking about being famous now, and got all her online buddies to post about this “suicide attempt” very soon after she was suspended from twitter. As mentioned my mother tells me it’s extremely unusual for someone who attempted suicide to want attention drawn to it. And if it really happened, why is no one genuinely worried about her and her daughters safety? Why is no one asking if social services have been involved. Or a serious psychiatric intervention. She was suspended from twitter an hour after the incident and from what I gathered got about 100 messages from silly little girls, some just silly, some more menacing perhaps, but either way if this is enough to want you to kill yourself you really have big issues that need addressing. And whatever problems you have cannot be laid at Fielding’s door for responding to her insults. This is so out of hand I’ve now seen blogs titled “Noel fielding bullies 14 year old girl to suicide”. Are you kidding me? Talk about inciting mob action…you guys are smearing someones name here. Im surprised he hasn’t taken any legal action yet. And no neil, you havent just presented facts. You have omitted important information about the baiting and insults from Spidey to Fielding in the first place, you have twisted facts to make it look as if he was annoyed about being called out on the word retard, you have ommited the days of baiting Waldamar did before Fielding responded, and you have laced this “article” with your own biases and opinions, getting no statements from any parties involved.

    • Neil says

      We don’t actually know that she’s been blocked four times – we know you mentioned it in an earlier comment, without providing a source or evidence, and are now again parading it as if it’s a fact.

      I find it abhorrent that you and other Noel Fielding fans – and/or people close to him on a personal level – are so obsequious that you’d be so willing to repeatedly attack someone who tried to kill themselves less than a week ago! I’m horrified to see the amount of victim-blaming you are indulging in here, and feel very uncomfortable about the possible ramifications. Have you really not the sensitivity to think about leaving this woman alone, now, and engaging with the wider debate?

      Your mother is not an expert on everyone who has ever attempted suicide. Your mother can not detail the many and varied ways people will chose to respond and cope with such. I have dealt with people in similar circumstances on the net before, and recognise the forced jollity as being one way they try and cope with it.

      I refute the allegation that I’ve “omitted important information” – what you actually mean is that I haven’t published information, such as Miss Spidey’s tweets, because it wasn’t available to me or anyone else.

      He clearly was annoyed at being picked up on the word “retard.”

      I also did not omit the amount of criticism that Waldemar Januszczak said about Noel Fielding, it is mentioned in the blog! Why are you lying?

      • JuliaM says

        Point of order. Not only am I not an ‘Ian Fielding fan’, I didn’t even know who he was until this kerfuffle on Twitter!

        And for someone criticising Sophia’s supposed lack of evidence, where’s the proof this alleged suicide attempt ever took place?

    • CB says

      See my replies further up, the person who told the story of MissSpidey’s “suicide attempt” is definitely a fake. Luckily MissSpidey isn’t bright enough to set up a plausible sockpuppet (or to know how cider is made).

      • Lauren Toth says

        While I think its terrible that someone would consider suicide as their only option, I think its grossly inacurate to say that Noel Fielding (or anyone) was the cause of the suicide attempt. Noone can FORCE you to kill yourself, in fact, some people would argue that suicide is (an-unheathly) way the person takes control of themselves. So whether or not this attempt happened, I strongly disagree with blaming a specific individual for forcing another person (esp one whom they’ve never met/had any physical contact with) to perform a behaviour. It was a choice a person made and while it might not be a healthy choice, it was that person deciding to and performing the behaviour.

        P.S. I also find the rude comments from the site author/admin completely undermind any potential useful message they were trying to get across. Practice what you preach or you’re no better than those you’re criticising.

  65. Helen says

    This is a great blog – thank you for writing it.

    My boyfriend was once similarly attacked by Alan Davies. Cuddly rent-an-idiot Davies encouraged his followers to go after my boyfriend after he called Alan Davies a knob. I’m not even sure that my boyf used the @ symbol in his initial tweet. Fans of Davies were only too pleased to come thundering in, flinging really unpleasant abuse.

    The funniest thing is, my boyfriend (who seems to love stirring up fools) managed to get The Jool Holland houseband’s fans onto him as well, because he said he thought Jools Holland was rubbish. The houseband retweeted it and people turned up saying that my boyfriend must be “mentally ill”, “an unpleasant person” etc. Someone even said “I’m going to block you, you have problems and are an evil human being.” Erm… because he doesn’t like fricking Jools Holland?

    I’ve even seen this in very minor online celebs – or at least, people who think they should be taken notice of by everyone on the internet. I won’t mention this person’s name as they’d love the publicity, but basically I blocked them because I thought they were unpleasant. They then compiled a blog containing everyone who had ever blocked them and called us all wankers. My boyfriend replied and said he hoped they’d die, so this sad case told their acolytes what he’d said and, completely devoid of context, the numbskulls were out of the traps. Never mind that this person had put me on a list of “wankers”, never mind that all I’d done was block someone on twitter to avoid drama. What a sad, attention-seeking streak of piss. But hey, this person’s crew was up until 4am hurling abuse at *me*. What had I done? I hope the person they tried so hard to impress invited them round for tea, cos otherwise, what a wasted effort *that* was.

  66. Jamie says

    Brilliant article Neil. Good to see a contrary opinion for once.

    Not sure why you’ve been criticised for the editing of the piece, I found it in-depth and illuminating. I guess people are so used to Twitter that anything over 160 charcaters seems like hard work.

  67. Hicksy says

    Regardless of who did/said what, people need to take responsibility for what they say.

    The internet gives people a shield to hide behind so they assume they can say what they wants to other people without any repercussions. This assumption is wrong, if I kept slating someone in public then I would expect some sort of riposte (be it intelligent or vulgar). If the person I have insulted now tells all of his friends what I said to him and they all decide to dislike me then that would be my own fault .

    If I then decided to commit suicide then why should blame be apportioned to the person I insulted in the first place? It would be tragic surely but it would have been my responsibility as I felt I could insult someone without it having any repercussions.

    You will argue that if insulted or baited you should always ‘be the better person’ and ignore it. This is just your opinion and is hard to put into practice especially in the heat of the moment. The fact that you believe the people involved should be held to a higher morale accountability just because they are famous (debatable?) is ridiculous. Just because Noel Fielding, Simon Pegg, Rickey Gervais etc are famous does not make them any less prone to human foibles. They are going to respond if insulted/attacked/baited just as you or I would. You may use big words and well structured sentences or passive aggressive comments instead of just calling someone a twat but you would still, in all likelihood, do it.

    • Seaneen says

      There is a difference between responding to criticism or insults (You are wrong, here’s why/block) and setting your mobs of fans onto someone. Very often, as illustrated, the criticism/insults are so mild that the response is utterly, utterly disproportionate. I find Gervais to be the absolute worst for pure nastiness, and Linehan (who I admire greatly, just not on Twitter) to be the worst for the mildest of disagreements setting off a giant storm.

      • Hicksy says

        Not at all. It’s basic human instinct to try and rally support in situations where you feel threatened. Hence why when someone has had a bad experience they inform friends and family to receive sympathy and support. This stuff happens all the time outside of the interwebs and no one bats an eye lid, albeit not in the numbers being thrown about here (which are conjecture at best in most cases) . It is only being made into a big deal because it was on twitter, if he had said at a live show “some twat called MissSpidey is being a knob to me online” no one would care. Also doesn’t help that this seems to be a clear case of the purported victim embellishing the facts to gain sympathy. I’m sure if it were true that Noel Fielding had driven her to suicide it would be all over the tabloids.

        • Seaneen says

          I’m not sure I believe that she did attempt suicide, but I do believe that Fielding handled it extremely badly and acted in a very bullying way. All she did was call him out of the use of a word.

          • Kathryn says

            “All she did was call him out of the use of a word.”

            NO. SHE. DIDN’T. She/Neil are now saying she was rational and not inflammatory but she was. It wasn’t just a couple of nice tweets directed at him, she was abusive and by all accounts she has form for getting into scraps on Twitter anyway. Love, your honeymoon must be pretty bloody dull, I hope mine is better next year!

          • Seaneen says

            Don’t be so rude. My honeymoon is lovely, and I am currently fucking about on the internet because we are shattered with the week.

            Either way, he, as a public figure, with a lot of fans and followers, should not set his fans on people. He has a lot of clout and acted like a brat. I don’t get why you are so resistant to this. I don’t know or care about miss spidey but from I have seen the reaction was disproportionate and irresponsible.

          • Kathryn says

            I’m not being rude, I feel sorry for you a bit :-( She should not have wound up someone with a lot of clout then. She threw the first punch, this is not victim blaming. I am resistant because I do not believe Neil should have written this article and I believe you are wrong, why are you so resistant? I wouldn’t flame a celebrity because I know I’m likely to feel the wrath of their fanbase.

          • Seaneen says

            Please don’t feel sorry for me because I don’t feel the need to legitimise or prove my love for someone by spending every single second staring into their eyes when we have the rest of our lives together.

  68. Hooton Roberts says

    It is astounding that these rather wealthy people don’t actually ‘live well’ but seem to use twitter as a comfort blanket. Aren’t their DVD sales enough?

  69. Neil says

    Twitter policeman Graham Linehan is calling me “not a legitimate source” and suchlike on Twitter, and finding other ways to try and discredit me to “Booshies.” Can I just point out, again, it’s because I criticised one episode of The IT Crowd…five years ago. At the time, he closed comments on his blog, then did an update which parodied me as the Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons.

    Given this kind of behaviour, the stories of him indulging in ‘shaming-by-RTing’ detailed in the comments of this blog, and the fact that he works with Noel Fielding on his TV show, I’d hope his bias is obvious.

    • Lauren Toth says

      So its not ok for him to be biased in his opinion of you but it IS ok for you to be biased in your opinions here. As you said above, you got angry/annoyed – an understandable human reaction which coloured your post with snide remarks- yet Graham Lineham isn’t allowed these reactions?

      • Neil says

        Of course he’s allowed them, where did I say he wasn’t? I am also allowed to give my side of the story, Lauren.

  70. Mark says

    The woman in the Fielding story is either in need of some serious psychiatric help, or an attention seeker willing to lie to get what she wants (and judging by comments that she is now tweeting about her new found “fame” I personally suspect the latter…but I guess we will never really know).

    In either case, I can’t imagine that a blog detailing what has happened and in many ways courting further controversy, drama and attention for the lady in question is particularly wise.  I also want to point out that having  recently experienced the very painful fall out from a suicide in my own life, the first thing drummed into you is that it is no ones fault, and most importantly, it is never ever one persons fault. To suggest otherwise is very reductive and dangerous.

    This incredibly serious accusation that a comedian responding to some online jibes has caused an attempted suicide is at best highly irresponsible, at worst slanderous. And I’m also not sure that the mob now verbally attacking Fielding  online are much better than the original “mob” in this sorry tale, and even less sure than they are serving to reinforce the message that internet abuse is never acceptable. In everyone’s interest I suggest this blog is removed and all witch hunts on both sides put to rest once and for all. 

    • Neil says

      She made a wry comment about “fame” which has been misquoted by a rabid Fielding fan who was tweeting me aggressively even before I wrote this blog.

      I think I made it clear that I’m not laying the blame for her suicide attempt on Noel Fielding’s head – clearly, suicide is a personal choice, and one that someone makes when they feel they have no choices or hope left, as MissSpidey felt. What I wanted to do was point out the contributing factors to this situation, which were the abuse Noel Fielding marked her out for, and the subsequent loss of her Twitter account.

      Clearly, she has existing problems. It was, as I say, a perfect storm, and a good illustration of why celebs should be careful when summoning up their fans to fight their battles for them.

      • Kathryn says

        “should be careful when summoning up their fans to fight their battles for them.”

        He @ed her, he did not summon fans. I think you need to be careful, you are getting slanderous and inventing your own facts/evidence.

  71. Reb says

    Neil, I believe you missed CB’s point. CB was not attacking the victim, but merely showing that in the aftermath of the event, the victim’s character both pre and post attack are suspect. Your post mentioned bullying. CB pointed out that Miss Spidey has a history herself of such behavior. You had mentioned that Miss Spidey attempted suicide. CB was showing that it was virtually impossible such an attempt took place.

    Since your point to CB was about speculation and evidence, myself and others have saved loads of screen grabs over the year which shows Miss Spidey to be nothing but a bully and a liar. I have screen grabs of her tweeting in the third person about herself on another (now closed) account to an unsuspecting tweeter she had fallen out with. This account was known by many to belong to her (it was a political account she actively promoted), except for the victim of her attack – shades of the suspicious @WestLib account.

    Miss Spidey often attacks others out of nowhere, then gets her followers to mass block, compromising their accounts. Once the heat is on and the evidence begins to mount, she simply makes up some “Oh woe is me” story to her enabling followers, locks her account, and ultimately deletes. A few days later, she begins a new account. It’s a vicious cycle, which she appears to thrive on. She is a classic sufferer of Munchausen’s by Internet Syndrome, or “cybermunch”.

    To sum up the others, while it was despicable what Fielding did, his target may not necessarily be the most easy to defend. So many victims of Miss Spidey’s own bullying have tons of evidence saved on her. Saved screen grabs, and even admissions in Miss Spidey’s own blog will show that she is often the aggressor. That you are dismissing this only shows you to be one sided, and I question the nature of your post.

    No one is purporting what Fielding did was appropriate, and victims are not obliged to be pure pillars of society. However, this is not a story about Noel Fielding bullying a Twitter user. Rather, this is a story about Noel Fielding bullying a fellow bully.

    • Neil says

      I don’t know the history of this person, I only know what I saw on Sunday, and I simply don’t understand all the stuff about cider. Or how a possible sock-puppet means a suicide attempt didn’t happen. I’m also, and you must understand this, uncomfortable about the idea of holding such a person up to scrutiny less than a week after they attempted to commit suicide. I’m absolutely willing to listen, I’m just not sure it’s an appropriate time. And, for me, this issue of bullying still remains, you know?

      The “nature of my post” was to comment on bullying by people with a lot more power than us average users. I started writing it in April, after the conflict with the Times Critic, and shelved it. After the Gervais and Fielding issues at the weekend, as well as many, many other issues of bullying I’ve observed by celebrities over the months, I wanted to speak out.

      • CB says

        How does a sockpuppet account prove the suicide attempt didn’t happen? You’re right, it doesn’t.

        But the fact that it was a fake account, likely run by Miss Spidey herself, or someone in on it for a laugh (I had forgotten about the @LibDemsPointing account she started talking about herself in 3rd person in to back up another of her “victim” stories – thanks Reb), who announced having driven all the way from Somerset to rescue Miss Spidey from a suicide attempt, with contradicting information about when this supposedly took place, makes it highly unlikely.

        Miss Spidey herself on her blog claims to have been released from hospital on Monday morning, yet several people saw her tweet on that morning (incidentally she had just tweeted a link to an article on a suicide attempt after cyber bullying). But @WestLib, who claims to live almost 3 hours away from Woking in Ilminster, supposedly rushed to her rescue that morning, took her to hospital, then announced she would be allowed home by five pm that day. Amazingly, @WestLib was tweeting to be back in Somerset within an hour of leaving Miss Spidey, who not only was allegedly let out of hospital within hours of attempting to kill herself, but was soon announcing to have a brand new diagnosis of Cyclothymic Disorder.

        How fabulous is the health service in Woking? So quick!

        Anyway, this is a subclinical form of bipolar, yet another disorder she had been claiming to have been diagnosed with for months, while making one excuse after another for why she doesn’t get any treatment whatsoever, or indeed take any medication.

        I cannot tell whether Miss Spidey has either disorder, what I can tell though is that she clearly has something wrong with her, and whatever that is, it causes her to make up a lot of bullshit online to get attention and sympathy, while simultaneously getting to attack others online and try to destroy their lives by spreading very nasty rumours about them having sent her death threats.

        She’s accused dozens of people, often people whose name and location she knows, of having sent her similar threats, by direct message (which you can’t unless she follows you on Twitter), blog comment or email, always claims to have reported this to the police, yet nothing ever came from it. Right…

        Anyway, she needs help, she needs to wean herself off the attention-seeking bandwagon, she needs help ridding herself of this addiction to drama and lies. I genuinely hope she gets this help before she hurts any more people.

        But I don’t think people like you who just propagate her fake stories and pour sympathy at her many Twitter accounts are helping. You’re just feeding a bottomless pit who has no intention of accepting the help offered by so many.

        • Lauren Toth says

          Very good post. You make some very interesting points.

  72. Kathryn says

    I see MissSpidey’s Twitter account has been suspended, again.

    • LindaM says

      May I just point out that, as someone who has no skin in this game whatsoever, that after reading this thread you come out as the one who’s jumping to celebrities’ defence just because you like them, and seem to be apply double standards in doing so.

      There is a whole lot of Just World fallacy going on, where people assume the ‘noble’ celebrity is in the right and the lowly commoner must’ve done something to deserve what happened to them. People do it all the time, it’s dumb, irrational, and they will deny it every step along the way.

      • Kathryn says

        She DID deserve it? She sent inflammatory tweets to someone with a huge fanbase, what did she expect? This is ridiculous. I’m jumping to his defence because I still believe this article is poorly researched and some of the facts stated are simply wrong. Neil obviously had a grudge against Mr. fielding and is using this to legitimise it.

        • @shoottheducks says

          Sounds like you’re invoking the “contributory negligence” defence there Kathryn. Dangerous ground indeed.

          Let’s say you’re right and this person has mental health issues. Do you think being set upon is going to improve things or make them worse? Do you think it’s better to ignore and block an attention seeker, or make them the centre of a storm?

          I’m really interested in knowing what you think about that. Not about Fielding himself or whether you think there’s a grudge being played out, what do you think is the right thing to have done? Do you think he made a mistake?

          • Kathryn says

            When you have mental health issues you need to take extra care of yourself, probably not bait a celebrity with a large fanbase. Self preservation. How was he to know she had mental health issues? Or are you trying to suggest everyone be treated with kid gloves and get away with being insulting and inflammatory?

          • collectionpoint says

            Kathryn – if you mean they should be spared having their comments retweeted to thousands of people who could fire abuse back, then I’d say so yes. Erring on the side of caution and all that.

            What do you mean by “getting away with” anyway? Is blocking/ignoring/reporting not enough of a punishment?

            Who is this arbiter of what the adequate level of punishment is anyway? Is it you? You seem to think so…

            In all seriousness – because I think this has been overlooked – if someone tweets me abuse, I could retweet it to my 132 followers. The troll in question might get one snarky tweet back but would have generally “gotten away with it”. If Ricky Gervais got exactly the same message and retweeted it to 3 MILLION people, the troll would get hundreds of messages, may be forced off the internet and could have a visit from the old bill.

            I distinctly don’t have the same level of protection from trolls as Ricky Gervais. The point is, most people DO get away with being insulting and inflammatory because many of their targets don’t get the same level of support/sycophancy as someone like Gervais.

            As long as that’s true, it’s not a valid way of hitting someone back.

  73. Anonymess says

    >How was he to know she had mental health issues?

    well you seem to be suggesting that her behaviour indicated so

    • Kathryn says

      Where?

      • Anonymess says

        >she was abusive and by all accounts she has form for getting into scraps on Twitter anyway.

        • Kathryn says

          That doesn’t automatically mean she has mental health issues?

          • Anonymess says

            you don’t think abusive behaviour is a strong indicator of mental health issues?

          • Kathryn says

            Not at all, some people are just attention seeking assholes.

  74. Anonymess says

    that’s a bit abusive

    • Kathryn says

      Some people are though I’m afraid, sorry if you find that abusive

      • Anonymess says

        are you abusive because you have mental health issues, or are you an ‘attention seeking asshole’?

        • Kathryn says

          I’m not abusive.

          • Anonymess says

            you don’t think calling people names is abusive?

            how was spidey abusive then?

          • Kathryn says

            I call a spade a spade, if you’re an attention seeking asshole then you’re an attention seeking asshole. When name calling is a product of someone being an asshole and displaying asshole behavious it is not abusive.

  75. Anonymess says

    you’re hilarious. this is almost as funny as when you suggested there was an age limit to mental health issues.

    • Kathryn says

      eh?

      • Anonymess says

        oh of course that wasn’t you, sorry.
        it’s only noel you’re defending, is that right?

        • Kathryn says

          Yes

          • Anonymess says

            lucky noel

          • Neil says

            Hello Kathryn. As you’ve accused me of bullying you on Twitter, in response to the nonsense by Nicky Clark, I invite you to tell me which of the posts on this blog you felt bullied by. You have made a serious accusation, and I’d appreciate it if you could back it up. I’ve asked you to do this on Twitter, also, but repeated requests ended with you refusing to do so, and then blocking me.

            You’ve made 38 comments on this blog – which seems an awful lot for someone who “felt bullied” – please could you point out when you started to feel bullied and why you continued posting?

            Your only attempt at justification has been “You were a condescending twat to me throughout the whole exchange with an arrogant air of “well I’ll listen to you but I’m still right”. That’s a matter of perspective, but regardless, perhaps you could explain to me how that qualifies as bullying. I await your response eagerly.

  76. Solyndra says

    reading comment section from the bottom up..

  77. Halloween Jack says

    What a sad, crap excuse for a post on a subject that might actually be interesting if a decent writer without obvious bones to pick took it on. You get snippy about having to have people point out to you that Pegg apologized–something that should have been discoverable by you in under three minutes, if you’d taken the time–but you’re still overlooking that, far from being any sort of “aggressive, co-ordinated bullying”, Pegg’s tweet was indicative of nothing more awful than the author having a bad day. Contrary to public belief (which is inevitably heavily larded with rationalization of the believer’s own bad behavior), there is no “contract” that celebrities sign with their fans regarding how much abuse they’re expected to take, and although it’s generally a good idea for them to be seen being good sports about it in public, nobody bats a thousand, as they say here in the states. But, then, if you hadn’t included Pegg, you wouldn’t have gotten all those page hits from people who don’t know and/or care who Fielding and Gervais are, but know that guy from the Mission Impossible and Star Trek movies. Bit of a pot calling the kettle black, eh?

    • Neil says

      Thanks for the feedback. I don’t recall being at all snippy about the Simon Pegg correction, perhaps you could provide proof to the contrary?

      Yes, we can all have bad days. By his own admission he “acted like a dick”, so I don’t think you have to defend him quite so energetically.

      Including Pegg was nothing to do with page hits.

  78. Daisy says

    Excellent blog. Glad someone’s had the guts to write this at last, in spite of the inevitable flak it was bound to generate from the ‘celebs’ and their hangers-on. It’s a shame so many people are trying to muddy the waters and take the focus away from your central point that it’s unacceptable for Celebs with huge twitter followings to use their fans as virtual lynch mobs. I also have a lot of respect for the patient and reasonable way you’ve handled the frequently unreasonable, illogical and hysterical responses and personal attacks you’ve had from sycophantic fans and certain other people who should know better. Nil bastardo carborundum!

  79. Lauren says

    This story about comedians using Twitter to incite violence or bullying is complete bullshit. If you don’t like something someone has to say on Twitter, than don’t follow them. That’s the great thing about Twitter; no one is FORCING YOU to follow them or listen to them. You get to CHOOSE who gets to share their opinions and thoughts with you. I don’t believe any of the comedians senselessly accused in this article would ever intentionally try or even want to harm someone; it is incredibly unjust to hold them responsible for the actions of people they have never even met, simply because some morons decided to use their harmless tweeting as an excuse to bully or torment strangers. If a teenage girl tried to commit suicide because of bullying on twitter, I am truly sorry for her misfortunes. However, it seems far more likely that there was some much deeper psychological disorder driving her to this than the opinions of strangers on the internet. Celebrities, by the nature of their career choices, live their lives in the public view (whether they want to or not); that does NOT mean that they do not have the same right to free speech as everyone else. If people following Ricky Gervais, Noel Fielding, Simon Pegg, or any other comedian, are spending their free time bullying people they’ve never even met, there is clearly something deeply wrong with the FOLLOWERS, not the tweeters. It’s time for people to start thinking for themselves and start taking responsibility for their own actions, instead of blaming it on an easy scapegoat simply because they have a public voice. If you have a problem with what’s being said on Twitter, then don’t use it. It’s that simple.

    • Neil says

      You don’t have to be following someone to get them retweeted into your timeline – this is dealt with in the blog. So simply saying “don’t follow them” doesn’t work.

      Yes, it is time for people to start taking responsibility for themselves, and that goes for the comedians who directly or implicitly endorse and provoke bullying. You can’t point your fans to critics, thank them for giving them a savaging, and then claim no responsibility. That is absurd.

      Finally, I’d rather try and reform something, than simply not use it at all. It’s a good, useful platform – why should the actions of people who haven’t mentally progressed past the playground be allowed to spoil it?

      • Flanna4595 says

        What do you ultimately hope to accomplish with this blog post?

        • Neil says

          That invites me to be self-important, doesn’t it?

          A celebrity contacted me to tell me that she’d done this kind of thing on a minor scale, and wouldn’t be doing it again. I found that very heartening.

          What I hoped to accomplish was debate, and there’s been lots of that. I do hope people think about the consequences of their actions, and that people realise there are faults on both sides, and that demonising anyone critical as a “hater” or “troll” is a dehumanising process that leads to the sort of legitimising of disproportionate response we’ve seen in this blog.

          At the minute, it’s interesting, as Steven Moffat quit Twitter today. His wife tells us “he was distracted by it and had to do more work.” Some people – notably Twitter policeman Graham Linehan – have jumped on this to once again tell us how awful plebs are, and has endorsed the sort of bullying I’ve written about. So I think we’re always going to have this frankly playground mentality of “THEY STARTED IT!” running rampant on Twitter, and people responding to a cat shitting in their shoes by throwing it throw a plate-glass window.

          But there’s been some debate, this week, and that’s all I could possibly and realistically have hoped to accomplish.

          • Flanna4595 says

            No, it was just an honest question I had. Im sorry you misunderstood the emotion and intent behind the question. I believe your intentions are good at the heart of this issue. But was it necessary (or fair) for you to include your own personal insults toward these celebrities (and by this i really mean towards noel fielding – i.e. “fragile ego of a lazy, uninspired narcissist”, “girls who worship fielding and his contrived, try-hard, drippy F-ing surrealism”, “…put the entire blame on the eye-shadowed and empty head of noel fielding…”) yes, you and I are both entitled to our own opinion. however, if your true goal was for there to be (constructive) debate about this issue, i think your personal insults about a person that many ppl love makes constructive debate extremely difficult – at least for the fans (which you criticize as well). It was cruel, unnecessary words that started this whole thing, and Cruel words cut deep, regardless of your position in life celebrity or not. I believe you realize this, but just because someone is a celebrity, that label does not strip them of their humanity, it does not make them immune to feeling and internalizing hurt and abuse from the general public. Nor does being a celebrity mean they will always be able to hold their tongues or will never react poorly to stressful, hurtful situations they encounter. I know you will probably see this as me making an excuse for their behavior, but my heart just feels deeply for what celebrities face every day, that you nor I would ever understand unless we were in their shoes. I don’t condone their behavior, but i look beyond it and wonder what if that behavior is indicative of a deeper pain these celebrities live with every day? A pain that they desire so much to escape from, but can’t. Perhaps celebrity bullying via the Internet is not just because they get a kick out of being a jerk, but is a way of coping? 

            I know using legitimate examples of celebrities who have participated in this kind of behavior was necessary to build your case, but It just felt like you weren’t following your own advice and stance – as you said in regards to voicing our opinions directly towards someone… “for goodness sake, though, try and be polite and constructive about it. Always.” 

            At the end of the day, we are all broken people in a broken world and We are all plagued with pride no matter who we are – me, you, the victims, the celebrities, the fans. Pride prevents us from admitting our mistakes, correcting them, and moving on. Pride produces defensiveness, when we’re told we are in the wrong, when we know we are in the wrong. It is pride which prevents us from being willing to accept each others point of view and bring about constructive conversation and needed change. 

            I pray that all involved with this debate will allow themselves to be and stay humbled, Myself included.

            Please know, I say all this with a sincere heart and tone. Thank you for allowing me to voice my thoughts on your blog.

            -Leigh Anna 

          • Neil says

            Leigh, you seem like a very kind, thoughtful and sensitive soul, it’s a pleasure to read your comment and meet you.

            I was wary of sounding self-important, and had already been accused of it last night on Twitter (by someone telling me all the reasons they were unfollowing me). So I didn’t think that’s what you were intending me to be, I was just wary that it would naturally follow when I attempted to tackle such a question.

            I’ve dealt with this in the below comment, and in other responses, but again: I’m now rethinking about such language. It came from a place of anger and frustration and wanting to, effectively, protect people who had been hurt. It feels justified, to me. You are perhaps very right in all that you say, though, and I’ll be thinking about it.

            You make some very good points about why they may engage in bullying, and I don’t recall those being put forth before on here, although I guess we kind of agree – as I say in the blog, I do think artists are naturally more sensitive, and it’s this sensitivity that enables them to spot and create things we can’t.

            I was talking about being polite in one-on-one communication. I think there’s plenty of room for polemics, and for criticism – my criticism of Noel comes first and foremost from his comedy, and then from his attitude towards bullying. I can’t help but become angry at a grown man endorsing bullying to a group of youngsters. These “FieldMice” are being taught – particularly through the example of the Times Critic – that bullying is a funny, inventive and even creative pursuit to engage in. They’re being taught this by someone who holds a lot of away over them, who they really admire and look up to. That makes me really fucking angry, which is why the blog has that tone at times. Bullying is a horrible, awful thing with many potentially awful consequences. This sanitisation of it by Fielding and others is wreckless and irresponsible.

            Thank you again your thoughtful and sensitive perspective.

  80. Bill says

    I looked at Fielding’s page and he has apologised many many times and acknowledged this has got out of hand (see below), he has also now officially retired from twitter… Since reading this article I’ve learnt that the woman in question is 40 years old with 12 twitter accounts with a history of internet spats, who has been blocked from twitter and other forums many times for unacceptable online behaviour before, so whilst i sympathise with her, i’m also loathe to view her as a poor defenseless bullied girl. I don’t think RTing insults for your fans to see is right…but in this case Fielding didn’t do that as far as i can see. He simply responded to some rather persistant abuse he was receiving from her (some of which seems to have been omitted from the article , but is clear to see in the comments section – unfunny, amateur comedian, idiot etc). It is unfortunate his fans all jumped in to get involved, but then the original insults from the woman were chosen to be aimed at him on a very public forum. I would hate to get in a public spat with anyone, celebs or others, and i know the dangers of it getting out of hand and am well aware that if i attacked a celeb publicly online their fans might get riled up too. As such i conduct my “spats” in real life .That said, if i was in the public eye and therefore getting a ton of abuse every day from strangers who knows…maybe i too might reply to them, occasionally get drawn into a heated exchange. As far as I can see Fielding has been drawn into 2 online arguments over several years, and the rest of the time uses twitter to write little stories and jokes…which no doubt his fans enjoy. I also agree with the well made comments above – the particularly scathing descriptions of Fielding in the blog really do undermine the journalistic qualities of the piece and certainly made me feel like i was reading a biased account….it also undermined the point that people should always be “polite and constructive, always”. Abuse towards anyone in any circumstances isn’t right…and perhaps if the blogger agrees he ought to lead by example himself?

    For anyone who is interested here are the apologies on Fielding’s page:

    Ok so Twitter seems to have become tricky again. I dont want to get involved in silly fights with anyone. x

    Yes It is true Miss Spidey was mean to me. But I should not have responded. I certainly never asked people to bully her. x

    I dont have any bad feelings towards anyone. I am sorry it happened. x

    I am sorry any of it ever happened. I guess Twitter is a good idea in concept but not in reality. x

    I literally meant retarded in the sense of slow or delayed thinking
    If I offended anyone with the use of that word again I am sorry x It wasnt my intention x

  81. Neil says

    The apologies are linked to in the blog itself, there’s a screenshot of them.

    Certain details about what MissSpidey said were not in this article, because they weren’t actually available! Her account was suspended, so I could only go by what I and others saw at the time, and could remember. There was no attempt at bias, here, I went out of my way to be fair, and provide as much evidence as was available.

    Finally, quite a few people now have picked me up on my ‘insults.’ And it has forced me to think, about things I write in future. I will say, though, that when I say we should try to be polite to each other, always, I mean that we should try to be polite to each other face-to-face. Another way of being polite is to talk about people behind their back, shielding them from your true thoughts. This wasn’t an article aimed directly at Noel Fielding, therefore I don’t think I’m particularly hypocritical for making some angry, pissed-off comments that were provoked by a really horrible situation.

    Finally, I don’t know much of that to be true about MissSpidey, I only know what certain parties are spreading about her. I also don’t think it’s entirely relevant, given what Fielding did. You say he didn’t RT her, but he did RT comments about her, which also included her username, and made everyone aware of the ongoing fight. And then he kept referencing her to his followers, over many more tweets, thereby drawing their attention to it – although, as you can see from the RT’s, many had already spotted it. This, to me, is clearly a malicious and/or thoughtless act, and I simply don’t believe that people should have to take unfair consequences.

    (Oh, and what I didn’t like about his “apology” was that it was mostly the usual sort of victim-blaming, and continued to push the line that ‘well, she was asking for it, wasn’t she?’)

    • waswasere says

      Normally I feel bad about succumbing to a spot of schadenfreude but knowing Spidey’s “previous” and having been a victim of her bullying myself, I have to shamefully admit that I haven’t had such a good laugh in ages.

      Rearrange: “Petard Hoist Own By”

      Me bad ;-)

    • rudi says

      There’s being fair and there’s being boring. People picking you up for your phrasing are deliberately muddying the water for reasons best known to themselves. I dread to think how they react reading proper lit crit; lordy lord!

      After all, why engage with the point of the article when you can nit-pick through the writer’s style?

  82. L Robertson says

    You could add Iain Lee the comedian on that list, its exactly what he did to me, I told him he was being anti Scottish with comments he was making and he replied in a retort, he retweeted my tweet and then I had a barrage of Lee fans on my back. As a woman on Twitter it was pretty intimidating. Politicians do it too, I’ve had a few politicians send their dogs on me….JimMurphy shadow defence secretary and Tom Harris both Labour are offenders wgo retweeted folks democratic opinions and set them up to be what I accused them off online bullying.m they are really insulting to his Scottish opposition supporters. You’d thin

  83. Flanna4595 says

    Neil,

    Just wanted to thank you for your graceful response and kind words. I want you to know that I do see where your heart is at the bottom of it all, and you have taken a bold, yet necessary step to shed light on an important issue that needed to be addressed. I hope that readers can realize that too. I apologize if it seemed like I was nit-picking (as I think one commenter above suggested…but maybe that wasn’t directed toward me). You were/are rightfully angry and have every right to express that anger through your words. I just saw the potential for those personal criticisms to cause some readers to shut you out and ignore/miss the point you are trying to make. Thanks for your transparency, honesty, and for explaining those areas where i misunderstood you.

    Now I must go to sleep! It’s 10:30 pm where I am. Goodnight! (or is it good morning?!) :-)

    -Leigh Anna

  84. Peter Sardonica says

    Wow, there’s SO much wrong with this article I don’t know where to start. First off, the language you use when describing Noel Fielding is FAR more abusive than anything he’d said to MissSpidey. So you can give it out, but bitch and whine if it’s given back to you? Is that the tenet of your argument. Also, without wishing to belittle the suffering of MissSpidey. Cyclothymic disorder: ‘Characterised by MILD depression, and MILD highs.’ Erm, sorry – isn’t that called LIFE? If she is THAT fragile then she really shouldn’t be insulting people on Twitter calling them ‘Pricks’.
    (PS/ I have no feeling for Noel Fielding / Gervais / Pegg either way, they get paid mighty well for being average. But if you can’t stand the heat, don’t post provocative tweets to them? Isn’t this common sense.
    No sympathy at all.

    • rudi says

      It’s not an article about abusive language, it’s about instructing followers to attack others. Go back and read it again, perhaps get someone else to read it along with you.

      • Bill says

        Dear Rudi, from reading the article and the subsequent comments and from also seeing the original tweet exchange (much of which hasn’t been reproduced above, perhaps as accounts have since been deleted/ suspended) in the case of Noel Fielding he didn’t instruct his followers to attack this Spidey woman. He replied to her himself directly, after plenty of provocative insults from her, and his fans saw the exchange and took it upon themselves to join in. He didn’t retweet her comments to him. Personally I think its fair enough for a person, famous or otherwise, to respond directly to abuse from a follower.. As for the Sunday Times Critic, he seemed to quite enjoy the attention, and has since stated as much himself. I am sure that critics who spend their life dishing it out are very well equipped to take what was essentially a load of very childish insults (e.g. “you are a poo poo head” was the general level of insults). The whole thing was very immature and childish on the comedian’s part, but to me it never appeared malicious. I also think its worth mentioning that Fielding since expressed regret that his fans got involved in his exchange with Spidey, apologised a few times, and has since deleted his twitter. Pegg also has since apologised for his comments. I’m not a particular fan of anyone mentioned in these articles, but i don’t think its fair not to lump everyone into the same bracket. All the best, Bill

  85. Sam says

    Neil you are fucking baby. So what if these “celebrities” are talking shit. You wouldn’t be writing this story if this was a regular john and jane doe now. When did these celebs have to become responsible for saying there thoughts and opinion and firing back at someone. And especially comics!! You are out of your fucking mind and asking for it to tango with people that practice putting a heckler in their place as much as their comic routine. Ridiculous!!

    • @shoottheducks says

      The point at which anyone – not just celebrities – become responsible for their online actions is the point at which dumb flaming risks actual real world damage.

      What’s being argued here, anyway? It seems to be “Stop commenting negatively about what people do online because it’s OK if people comment negatively about things online”. I.e. if it’s OK for Fielding to have a crack at people who annoy him, it’s not OK for someone else to point that out. It’s a Mobius strip of an argument.

      No-one asked Fielding (or Moffat for that matter) to leave Twitter. The article complains that unthinking use of twitter mobs against the so-called “haters and trolls” risks collateral damage in the real world, and that’s a perfectly valid point to debate. The level of sychophancy some fans are capable of in the hope of getting a reply or a retweet should be serious pause for thought for anyone, it is frankly terrifying (I always think back to the Alan Partridge episode where he met a deranged fan obsessive).

      And actually this is psychologically much closer to road rage than anything else, it’s about apparently consequences free ability to wield power when someone does something you don’t like which impinges into what you consider your private space. In reality even nice people – and I’m sure Fielding is a decent person basically – can become monsters when the red mist descends.

  86. Neil says

    Noel Fielding has deleted his account, now, and I’m getting a bit more heat from the “FieldMice”, which is fair enough. But I can’t keep replying to it all and trying to debate people who shout, and then block.

    I’ve also been attacked most viciously by someone who relies on celebrities for her media career, which is the main reason I’m not posting on Twitter for a while. So I’d just like to publish these links about Nicky Clark, so people can see for themselves what’s happened, given that she (deliberately and manipulatively) never provides proof for her outrageous, libellous claims. This seems to have occurred because I criticised Graham Linehan and Ricky Gervais – two of her celebrity “friends” who she relies on for retweets and, by extension, her media “career” – and because I turned down her offer to be interviewed and included in this blog. She is even reading my replies feed at the minute, so I’ve essentially been stalked and bullied off Twitter. Anyway, links so you can judge for yourself:

    The first encounter:
    http://storify.com/cookdandbombd/bizarre-encounter-with-nicky-clark

    The follow-up:
    http://storify.com/cookdandbombd/how-nicky-clark-mrsnickyclark-reacts-to-disagreeme

    Not related to me, but another classic example:
    http://storify.com/ianbetteridge/at-mrsnickyclark-and-at-caimh

    Ditto:
    http://twitter.theinfo.org/217561986127495168

    • Daisy says

      Blimey. Those conversations with NC are verging on Kafkaesque. I can’t work out whether she is genuinely deluded or just being slyly vindictive. Probably the latter. I’m sorry you’re having to put up with all this :(

    • Duncan says

      What a strange person. She does seem to an overinflated opinion of her own intellect who falls back into ‘victim’ mode as soon as she starts losing an argument. She doesn’t seem particularly sensitive, simply incapable of conceding a point, going by the examples that you’ve posted, instead trying, in a very clumsy way, to try and make out as if you’re as guilty of ‘orchestrated campaigns’ against other people as the celebrities you’ve discussed in this blog post, which, by all accounts, is complete nonsense.

      Anyway. re: the post itself, absolutely agree with the points your raised. In rather nerdy terms, it seems somewhat analogous to a script kiddie having control of their own botnet and DDOSing whatever website they feel has pissed them off that day, except in this case, the kid is an adult, and the botnet are 3 million stupid people, who should know better than to be used in this way.

  87. Richard G. Clegg says

    The level of doublethink in this article is pretty astounding really. How is this article different from the bullying you decry? Pretty much only in the number of people reading it — and this seems moderately widely repeated now (as sufficiently compelling celebrity tittle-tattle will be). You make it clear you dislike both Fielding and Gervais… when Gervaise’s followers cause someone to leave twitter you say “beseiged by idiotic fans” and imply he’s forced to leave and this is an awful result of bullying. SImilarly another person leaving twitter is “deprived of a vital support network”. When Fielding leaves twitter (after media critcism) he’s “flouncing off”. Why are two of these deserving of sympathy and the other simply a celebrity tantrum?
    By not particularly bothering to investigate what actually happened with missspidey you leave a rather serious insinuation and present it as established fact. I think recent events have shown us the dangers of reporting rumour as fact.
    I’m no particular fan of the comedians you mention here. I like some of their work, dislike others — they have strong points and weak points. You appear to have just picked some targets you like and started swinging.
    Perhaps you should set your own house in order here first. Maybe you are right that people (including public figures) should be nicer to each other online. So go ahead, set an example.

    • Neil says

      This article is different in that it isn’t being directly delivered to the people involved. I believe it’s polite to be gracious to someone’s face, and say nasty things behind their back, essentially. When I first tweeted about the blog, I did not @ mention the comedians referenced, I just used their names. If they then vanity search, they take what they get. However – and to illustrate how everyone has a different etiquette on this new media – someone quickly criticised me for not @ mentioning them, thereby depriving them of a right to reply!

      My comments come from justifiable anger at what I observed happening.

      Why is Fielding not worthy of sympathy? Because he used his clout to bully others.

      How do you advise that I should have investigated what happened to MissSpidey more seriously? Should I have asked her to twitpic the contents of her pumped stomach?

      I picked targets that I observed engaging in bullying. Two out of the three targets have done so repeatedly. I believe my own house is in order, and I’ve spent 8 days now being pleasant and civil in the face of some very hostile fans.

  88. Neil says

    I did an interview on this blog/topic for The Pod Delusion, if you’re interested in hearing that then it’s 44 minutes in : http://poddelusion.co.uk/blog/2012/09/14/episode-153-14th-september-2012/

    I’ve been helping with a Sunday Times article on this topic, too, which will be out tomorrow.

    I was also asked if this could be republished on an Australian website, as they are in the midst of a lot of discussion on trolling, but I’ve rewritten it a bit instead. I’ll post a link when that goes up, although I doubt anyone wants to read even more words from me on this topic. I certainly don’t!

    I’ll likely be stepping away from the net for a bit, I’ve let this take over my life to far too much of an extent, and been exposed to a lot of crazy. Thanks for all your responses.

  89. Denise Brown says

    The things is — she called him a “moron” for saying “retard.” BOTH words are psychological/medical terms for someone who is intellectually-challenged. I witnessed the exchanges in real time, and she (regardless of her medical condition) was partially to blame for the Twitter backlash. If you read her Twitter feed, she was clearly seeking *personal* attention from Fielding. Sadly, it back-fired on her. For me? I don’t like either derogatory word: moron or retard.

  90. Denise Brown says

    This blog/article was well-written and informative. Thank you.

  91. Denise Brown says

    The use of the term, “idiot” is also off-putting. Thanks, again.

  92. Jazz says

    I do see the sense in some parts of this article. People, (celebrities or not) should not intentionally bully or encourage others to bully. As we have seen, the consequences can be devastating. However, with the cases of Noel and Ricky, I do feel that they are comedians and their tweets will have been made as innocent jokes. I’m sure that they are not of some sinister satanic cult. We ARE ALL HUMAN after all and most of us have a backbone to stand up to people who speak poorly of us, whether it be a follower to a celebrity or indeed vice versa. No-one is more important than anyone else, but also no-ones opinion is more correct than anyone else’s so why should a celebrity be punished for saying things that ANY other Twitter user could easily say ANY other day without people batting an eyelid. Ok, maybe it is because they have more followers and therefore a sense of responsibility. Fair point but they are still people with freedom of speech and things like this are going to happen. Maybe it isn’t the best platform for expressing opinions on ‘touchy’ matters but nevertheless it is going to take place somewhere and it’s about time we all accepted that! Sometimes, I agree with Noel’s comment about Twitter being re-named ‘Cunt Platform’ because of course people will ALWAYS disagree but some take it too far with death threats for example! This is fucking ridiculous and should not be condoned. Having said this and reading the Tweet evidence presented in this article, they seem more light hearted than this, after all it can be harmless banter and Fielding was not to know of any mental condition of the girl in question. It does not condone some of his words, however he cannot be blamed entirely and maybe the girl should have thought carefully before needlessly insulting someone with 340.000 followers? She must have had an inkling that this could happen? It certainly works both ways when it comes to bullying and everyone falls prey to becoming a hypocrite! I have probably been inconsistent in my views during writing this but I try to convey a balanced argument. A few fine examples of this hypocrisy presented themselves in this very article. As I have said, I do agree with the anti-bullying messageds that you go so far to pledge… yet this is followed up by calling some of Gervais’s fans ‘bile-spitting’, for example. Then Fielding is described horrifically on a multiple of occaisions…
    ‘Eye-shadowed and empty head of Noel Fielding’
    ‘his contrived, try-hard drippy fucking surrealism’
    ‘the 39 year old prick flounced off’
    I mean the first one is illogical seeing as he tends to wear eyeliner more often than shadow (little one for the fans- strictly unimportant) and of course no-one’s head is empty so we can rule that comment straight out.

    The second one refers to comedic taste which purely subjective and therefore cannot be fairly commented on, only opinionated.

    And thirdly, the last comment, for me was the most shocking. After a lengthly, somewhat agreeable and somewhat hypocritical article, this comment is thrown in! As if to give an ironic twist to all that you said! I mean the implications of it are awful! ‘prick, flounced off’. How dare you say such a thing to anyone. I don’t care who you are protecting or defending, no-one deserves a backlash like this! Come on. It’s the same as the reply of ‘moron’ to Noel’s use of ‘retarded’. And they could both be easily contextualised reasoned with innocence such he but he said/she said it first blah blah blah. Im not saying either of them were right, I’m just suggesting seeing things from all possibe angles before making a fully informed choice to comment, or not. And anyhow, this incident was clearly not entirely Fielding’s fault although admittedly he should not have got involved. But we all know what it is like when a nasty comment stays in your head no matter how many nice ones we get- It’s human nature and I would expect nothing less than someone itching to respond in order to defend themselves! Plus we cannot forget that the majority of ‘abuse’ caem from 150 fans who took things way too far but this cannot account for the other 339,850 followers who tweet peacefully and ignore the uproars. In retrospect, after taking a breath and thinking of what I have just written, I suppose than no-one can be entirely right and equally no-one can be entirely wrong. It’s just aggrivating when someone makes, in some ways, such a good case against bullying and then finishes it by effectively bullying that very person back! It’s sheer hypocritical nonsense and needs analysis of consistency. However, as I have said we are all humans, no matter how many followers we have. We all make mistakes sometimes. Let’s all just get along shall we?

  93. Jazz says

    …Please excuse the multiple typing errors and spelling mistakes. They are the results of venturing into a long rant and not bothering to read back what you have written before publishing it to the world.

  94. Eccentrica says

    Good article, except for this bit:

    These tweets, as I’ve said, mocked her physical appearance as being “old” and “ugly” – in reality, she is neither.

    Errrr… what on earth is the point of the last bit of that sentence? Would it be okay if she was old and ugly? If not, why say it?

  95. James Baldwin says

    Whilst I largely agree with what you are arguing I would say you have approached this from a very one sided perspective in that Gervais gets called a cunt for seemingly no reason and I presume that is tweeted directly to him (I’ve no idea how the site works) thus he is well within his rights to repost/ retweet that because the guy sent that to him wanting it to be seen (I presume), hell if I had an account with a million (or however many) followers and somebody was being overly abusive with no good reason I’d be hard pressed not to point it out. And you even jump over this point in the article without giving the other side any weight in the argument.

  96. Michael Richards says

    Seems like I’m a little late to the party on this one, though it is still an interesting topic. Glad to see several of those celebs who used their fans to gang up on others have stopped using Twitter!

  97. Kupferfüchschen says

    (I might also be very late, but on this one, but I really had to get this of my chest)
    When I read the first few lines of this article, I must say I was really agreeing with what you said.
    I do agree that especially celebs Need to ne carefull with what they do, at least when it’s them against ‘normal’ persons, because even though it’ s not their fault if some fans take things too far it is still better to do anything to not let arguments get out of hand.

    On the other Hand this article is just really offending:

    I am a fan of Noel Fielding and it’s okay if you aren’t but using a ‘objective’ article to flander him is in no way right.
    I read your arguments about you being angry an emotional there, but if you say you are allowed to be angry and say things that don’t belong there, well then celebs also are.
    Also I think there is a Need to distinguish between, what Mr. Fielding ( I never noticed but I woul naturally write Noel since it is shorter, but some of the follow audience seem to believe it expresses the delusion that fans have of being friends with Mr. Fielding ) did to the Girl/or Woman (I don’t think it does matter that much) and an ‘Public’ figure.
    I Don’ t think, that it was right what Mr Fielding did in the second case, even though it seems both parties seemed to not have taken major damage, but to put this on the same Level as Mr. Fielding Answering in some granted childish and/ or mean way to the girl is not appropiate.

    Also it is very sad, should it be true, that this Girl has attempted suicide, but there was no Way he could have expected it and if being mean to some-one on the iternet killed people, there would be many people to attempt or commit suicide.

    I do see the point you were trying to make, but you lose your credibility if you feel the need to include clear insults, since it then seems to be nothing but ranging against famous people and most important of all as if you hadn’t enough arguments to convince people of your otherwise ‘objective’ article.

  98. Arwen says

    Oh hell, I had no idea about what had happened with Miss Spidey! Please pass on my love and best wishes to her.x

  99. Michael G Zealey says

    I’m getting 30000 email notifications every day about this shit blog, please tell me how I can delete it, what started as this on the spectrum bloke posting his bile and mildly interesting post is no clogging up my inbox 30000000 each day. How can I delete the follow ????

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