On Trolling for a Living

Can there be any more pointless occupation than being a “professional contrarian”? I just don’t get it. Surely the purpose of a writer is to say something interesting or informative, rather than just coming up with the most facile disagree-with-everything bile purely for the sake of getting a reader reaction? Okay, I can understand there might be a certain thrill one can get from it, but personally it’s not for me. Maybe it’s because my parents gave me attention when I was a child.

Yes, I’ve been reading articles by Brendan O’Neill, the Telegraph columnist and editor of Spiked Online, the website for upper-middle class media types to massage their victim complexes.

More specifically, I’ve been reading his recent Telegraph article about the famous statistic that one in four of us has a mental health problem, and also another statistic that one in four children experiences bullying.

Actually, that’s not quite true. I’ve been reading Neuroskeptic’s critique of the article, because Neuroskeptic is worth reading and Brendan O’Neill is not. But anyway, O’Neill writes,

Can it really be true that a quarter of Brits are bullied or beaten up at home or are mentally ill, or is this simply a case of social campaigners exaggerating how bad life is in order that they can continue to make headlines, make an impact, and get funding? I reckon it’s the latter. Next time you see the “one in four” figure, be very sceptical – it’s probably Dickensian-style doom-mongering disguised as social research, where the aim is to convince us, against the evidence of our own eyes and ears, that loads of the people we encounter everyday are basket cases in need of rescue.

I could start explaining that “having a mental health problem” does not equal “basket cases in need of rescue”, but there barely seems any point. O’Neill doesn’t actually provide any evidence for his own argument, so it seems fair to not bother with any deconstruction and just go straight to slinging rotten fruit.

I may not be alone in taking this approach. Just a couple of days ago Charlie Brooker tweeted,

Dear joyless contrarian screed-bucket Spiked Online: I am not a fan of the Smiths, you honking great twerps.

O’Neill seems to be taking a lot of flak lately. Just recently, when explaining why it’s apparently okay to send abusive e-mails to feminist writers, he commented,

If I had a penny for every time I was crudely insulted on the internet, labelled a prick, a toad, a shit, a moron, a wide-eyed member of a crazy communist cult, I’d be relatively well-off.

The latter accusation is of course a scurrilous libel. O’Neill is a wide-eyed member of a crazy libertarian cult. Namely the Revolutionary Communist Party, which then became Living Marxism, and then become Spiked Online. Don’t be fooled by the names, they’re about as communist as Lord Alan Sugar. Mostly they consist of over-privileged Oxbridge alumni trying to declare that just about every aspect of modern culture is a nefarious conspiracy by liberals to destroy our freedoms, bring in the Nanny State and WAH! WAH! I WANT ATTENTION! LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT MEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

Well, a pox on all “professional contrarians”. Not just the alpha-male whiners at Spiked but also Peter Hitchens, Bidisha, Melanie Phillips…Anyone who’s job it is to bump up advertising revenue by unleashing a torrent of narcissism and histrionics in time for each print deadline. I have no desire to write to be controversial. I think I’ll just concentrate on writing stuff that may or may not be controversial, but which hopefully will contribute something worthwhile to public discourse.

11 thoughts on “On Trolling for a Living

  1. not entirely pointless; without his selective paid trolling O’Neill would just be another ‘scrounger’…

  2. I knew as soon as I read the title who this was about 🙂

    As I said to someone on Twitter, I’d call him a ‘twat’, but he seems to delight in it. So instead I’ll just say that he is a really nice little man.

  3. He seems to be a classic case of Troll Bait – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAHfUdf_aX8
    Deliberately provoking people to respond. I wonder if he is the person that goes round the blogs of those of us with mental health problems and leaves nasty comments saying we ‘deserve’ to suffer!? TROLLS = evil scum, and this guy is one of them!! I hope a cannibal Troll comes along and bites his trolling head off!! :@

    • That’s a tricky one for me. On the one hand there’s freedom of speech, on the other there’s the whole argument that “freedom of speech does not mean an obligation to give a platform”.

      Though I must say, it seems odd that a debate about women’s reproductive rights was to be argued over by two guys.

  4. Why on earth would you no platform a debate about abortion at a university?
    There were two people doing the normal university debate thing. One proposing and one opposing.
    Men and women can hold either view of that issue.
    What it shows is, IMO – that O’Neill is far from the worst that is around in politics and society.
    It’s students who want to ban everything from debates like this, to The Sun, to Robin Thicke songs being played, that are the real ”trolls” I reckon.

    I only noticed after I posted my last post that this thread was several years old.

    • Speaking personally, rather than demanding they be no-platformed, I’d probably have turned up and heckled the pair of them.

      • Because there is no debate to be had on abortion? Because at least one of them wasn’t a woman?
        If it had been Brendan O’Neill and a woman from SPUC would that have been OK?
        This thread was about how terrible O’Neill is, and I’m sure that some of the students who prevented him from speaking also saw him as a general troll. For criticising their bans and world view about what is and isn’t permitted on campus.
        Its bad now, but I remember it being a bit like that thirty years ago too, when students at the polythenic of north London rallied to stop a National Front member from attending.
        A bit like the furore over Chef Evens or fottball managers being found to have made racist texts today.
        Everyone has to be either banned or hauled over the coals.
        I think O’Neill is often right about his views on these things.
        But many, or even most don’t.

      • I’m not saying the debate should have been banned, I’m just saying it doesn’t come across very well.

        As for Ched Evans, I’d be a bit more sympathetic to his rehabilitation if he’d admitted his guilt and made an expression of remorse. But he hasn’t, so I don’t have any sympathy for him.

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