I was, for a while, just Anton Vowl, but in October 2010 I decided to end all of that. I enjoyed writing under an assumed name as it gave a lot of freedom to be experimental and not to worry about being judged against whatever I've done in my 'real' life, but there comes a time when you feel like you have to just be yourself and not be afraid of the consequences, good or bad, of putting your own stupid giant face and your own rather bland name next to the things that you write.
So, I'm Steven Baxter, a not-very-good journalist from London, now based in Bristol, and a blogger on the media, and other stuff, here at Enemies of Reason. I started the blog back in 2007 as I was fed up with being drip-fed the same old nonsense, telling me things I knew were misleading or untrue, pushing certain stories at the expense of others, and feeding fear. I thought to myself: surely, there must be some room somewhere for an alternative voice? And I found it online, in blogs like Five Chinese Crackers and Chicken Yoghurt and Obsolete.
Finally there was something I could read that treated me like an adult and didn't rehash the same old rubbish time after time; not only that, but here were talented writers who would take on and challenge the received wisdom - they weren't afraid to call out the papers or politicians out when they were peddling rubbish or being lazy. I tried to copy what those better blogs were doing and do it in my own way - which is how we've ended up here. The blog was also born of a frustration about working in an industry where a lot of people are struggling to survive, and many more are labouring under the threat of redundancy, while others breezily discredit the profession of journalism - such that it is a profession at all - by wilfully writing unfair, inaccurate and misleading stories.
Nowadays this blog is not just about media myths, although I still do trawl through the papers whenever I get a moment. You could have hoped that the greater access for readers to the internet, where they can fact-check what they're reading in their daily rag, might impose better standards on those newspapers, but if anything, it seems to have gone the other way. They've become more entrenched and are even more obsessed with selling the same old stories, day after day, regardless of what's actually going on, or whether the situation is a little more complicated than they might like. I'd like to hope the tide might be turning, just a little, but we will have to wait and see. I am optimistic, though.
I picked the name Enemies of Reason because it struck me as at the same time quite powerful and quite ridiculous, almost verging on the pompous, as if I was taking myself a bit too seriously. I like that. I think I first heard it as the title of a documentary by Richard Dawkins, though I understand that Al Gore used the phrase previously, which I wasn't aware of when I chose it. You can take it in a couple of ways - the enemies of reason could be the people who lie to us, or us, for believing those lies.
I don't think newspapers, or media outlets, are the enemies of reason. I think we all are. We're all capable of thinking for ourselves, but we get lazy. We want everything nice and neat and tidy - the goodies wear the white hats, the baddies wear the black hats, and at the end of the third act, the baddies will have been captured or killed, and it's all over. But it's never really that simple. If I see newspapers are being enemies, that's too simplistic as well, because they can be a tremendous force for good, and a brilliant way of getting information to large amounts of people. That they very often don't is what I'm interested in - and why we as readers let them get away with it.
As well as that I like to write about anything else that pops up in my tiny brain. I watch a lot of TV and that tends to turn up here quite often. I have vague nostalgic feelings for the 1980s, so I write about that as well. I also like football, though I've fallen out of love with the beautiful game over recent years - perhaps I'll be able to claw back some enthusiasm as time passes, and write a little more about that. I've also struggled a little with depression over the years, which I detailed in my other blog Farewell Prozac, and I occasionally talk about those kinds of things here as well. I get a bit angsty. It can get annoying. The best thing to do is for us all to hold hands and plough through those times, and wait until they pass, which they usually do. But I do find it helpful writing about that here; it does expiate a certain something.
I swear a lot. I swear a lot in real life. So I swear here. Sometimes, reading a bad newspaper article or listening to some drivel from a politician is like stubbing your toe - and there's only one thing to do. Swearing conveys the anger that I feel, and I'm not really apologetic for it at all. I know it's not to everyone's taste but it's how I do things here and it's very much part of my personality. I know that people will say that if you swear, you aren't a good writer, or if you swear it shows that you haven't got anything to say, and I have some sympathy for that position. It's true I use some rather smelly phrases and the odd cliche here and there, but I do try and be creative rather than just offensive. Sometimes that involves swearing, sometimes it doesn't.
It's not just about me, though. I would like to see more writers putting up guest posts or even regular features, if it all goes well. I have had a couple of guest posts in the past and they've gone down very well, so if you have anything you feel you really want to write about, and you think it might interest me, then drop me an email at AntonVowl at Live.co.uk . I'm quite bad at replying to things but I do try to get back to everyone.