When I think about counterpoints, I always think of Airplane, and this guy:
"Shanna, they bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into. I say, let 'em crash."
But if 'let em crash' man were a columnist today, he'd be the point, not the counterpoint. We've got to the stage now where there's a bunch of professional trolls trying to outdo each other in terms of nastiness, unpleasantness, callousness and sheer fuckknucklery. Interestingly (or perhaps not) I can give you three examples in the space of a few days from behind the Times paywall. I say 'behind the Times paywall' but I'm not a subscriber; I've seen these incidents mentioned in dispatches. Firstly, AA Gill calling Clare Balding a dyke; secondly Matthew Parris deciding to go for a swim across the Thames in his vest and pants; and thirdly Rod Liddle (a welcome return to this blog) saying that it would be nice if we could call 'mad' people 'mad' again to try and bring back the stigma.
Maybe it's lonely behind the paywall, and these men (they are all men, though don't let it be said that women can't be unpleasant trolls) are just crying out for a bit of attention. Maybe the paper readers aren't enough and they feel like they're getting cabin fever, talking to themselves and worshipping staplers as gods. Maybe it's part of a sophisticated marketing campaign to bring their edgy and hilarious views into online chatter so that people desperately want to subscribe to see what these crazy guys are getting up to - it certainly sounds like the kind of stuff you'd pay a quid a day to enjoy! But I don't think so. Gill and Liddle are recidivist trolls of the worst kind, forever tightrope walking between attempts at funny near-the-knuckle humour and outright offensiveness; getting into a bit of hot water, you suspect, strokes their not inconsiderable egos, and they probably enjoy the thought of causing so much controversy. It's no bad thing for a columnist sometimes, and it gets you noticed. Parris probably just fancied a swim and was a bit of a dillon* about it; I wouldn't bracket him with the other two.
There's a whole army of these guys. It's been decided for us that these are the kind of voices we enjoy. Hell, maybe we do. Maybe we do like an endless slew of grumpy middle-aged white guys twatting away; there's nothing inherently wrong with that. I might think it's a slightly tedious and repetitive schtick that I've grown to loathe rather than enjoy, but I imagine there are thousands of eager readers every week who think "Zzzzzzzzzzing! Another winner, Rod! You go and take the piss out of them forrins!" and who am I to argue?
Well, who am I to argue? I'm just some bloke with a keyboard. The stereotypical view of a blogger, as some sunlight-deprived loser tip-tapping away in the spare bedroom, isn't a million miles away from the truth, I would suspect in my case. But that doesn't matter. I might not turn up as a talking head on television programmes to say "Ooh, you never knew George Michael was, did you?" or "Nail em up! That's what I say! (huge round of applause and whooping" but that doesn't mean my views are irrelevant, wrong, or somehow not worthy as a counterpoint. The good thing is, through self-publishing and blogging, we can all provide our own counterpoint.
For example, I take inspiration from this guy:
The 'Fuck this guy' guy should be a real example to us all. When you see someone saying something you really disagree with, don't let them get away with it. Don't stay quiet, because you think that maybe that's what everyone's secretly thinking. Maybe people aren't secretly thinking that, and maybe there are more people secretly thinking what you're thinking. But the person saying the thing you disagree with has had the courage (or the fact it's their job) to come out and say it. You've got to have the courage as well. In my own small, insignificant way, I want to be like the 'Fuck this guy' guy. When someone comes out and says something stupid, offensive or just plain wrong, I want to challenge it. Sure, my cardboard sign might not be as professionally made as his, but so what? I'm going to hold it proudly. Whoever you are, 'Fuck this guy' guy, I salute you.
There's a lesson in there for all of us, I think, and hope. Blogging means there's a counterpoint possible. Sometimes we're going to have to make it ourselves. Sometimes we're going to have much less of an opportunity to have our voices heard than the orthodox sources who turn up on TV shows. But that doesn't lessen the impact of what we can do. If you read something rubbish in your newspaper, or see it on TV, and you're pissed off that this kind of crap gets unpunished and unchallenged in the mainstream, get it off your chest. There's a way of doing that now, that there wasn't before. It might not be perfect, and it might feel at times you're pissing in the wind, but it's better than keeping it all in.
* I hereby declare that 'dillon' as a low-level insult should be brought back. It worked in the 1980s, why not now?