I was never aware I could “write”. I have always been able to articulate my thoughts and feelings very well, and have a reasonably good grasp of the English language (I was predicted two A* at GCSE level, which ended up being two A’s due to the addling effects of vodka), however putting my opinions into prose had never, ever crossed my mind.
I also was never aware how interested I was in politics. I grew up in a household where the Morning Star was force-fed to me every day along with two rounds of toast and coffee, and shelf, after shelf after shelf of Marx, Engels, Trotsky et al peered, dog-endedly, through the plumes of tobacco smoke, inviting me to (even just briefly) peruse some of what they were trying to tell the world.
I never did.
The only reason I got “back” into politics was unemployment, due to alcoholism. If you’ve ever been completely isolated from the rest of the world, in a very bad place, the conundrum that is Twitter can oddly be somewhat of a solace. When you’re an alcoholic who is attempting to control their drinking (I don’t ever say “recover” or “recovery” – there is no such thing) having a “programme” each and every day is crucial to ensuring you don’t pick up – and Twitter provides that. Pathetic? Debatable. Vital for some people? Absolutely.
The only reason I began “writing” was because of my disgust at the Labour Party and their flagrant manipulation of their supporters during the 2015 General Election – namely Ed Balls and his wholly deceitful “Inclusive Prosperity”, which pertained to be designed to “redistribute” wealth, when in fact it came straight out of the pages of a Henry Jackson Society report and the minds of a plethora of bankers, economists and oligarchs.
I needed a platform to vent my spleen, as it were, that could accommodate my thoughts more adequately than a thread of tweets. So I literally thought “bollocks to this”, and wrote down everything I had been researching for 6 months prior, along with a splattering of vitriol, and then attempted to mould it into something that was comprehensible for the majority to understand.
This is where I have to say a “Thank You” – to Will Black. He proofread my piece, advised me on writing style (advice which I still generally adhere to), and guided me on the most favourable way to approach potential publishers; not that the latter worked, as I sent the article to the shitheels at Huffington Post and they never got back to me…
Due to the lack of interest, I set up a WordPress site and published it on there. The reception was generally very good (albeit aggravated from a lot of the Milifandom, crying into their bacon sandwiches), and then everything snowballed from there.
In 9 months I’ve gone from not writing anything, ever, to having an article published for The Independent, via the Morning Star (something which my late Father would, I know, have been absolutely ecstatic about), with several detours to the CommonSpace, openDemocracy and other places of interest along the way – most notably the fantastic “Consented”, who were the first people to actually publish something I wrote.
I didn’t want or expect any of this, hence, I guess, there are two reasons why I’m writing this.
One, is to reiterate my (rather contentious) views on journalism and the media. I personally don’t do this as some sort of narcissistic, masturbatory exercise. I do this because in the current political and socioeconomic climate we are barraged day in, day out, with lie after lie after lie – and I’m of the opinion that the more people out there shouting at the tops of their voices in any way they can to counter these lies can only be a good thing.
Our mainstream media is corrupt – we all know that.
Unfortunately, our “new media” (many of the sites you can find on Twitter), the rebel Guardianista’s and the more vocal commentators on social media are generally nothing more than urchins, latching onto to our misery in the hope that when the current journalistic elite fall (which they will), they can slide into their place. They are all (still) a Russell Group, self-serving chumocracy, albeit one which tows the line of what is fast becoming the new centre-left (that is, “Corbynism”), and will not deviate from the message which they perceive will garner them the most views, followers, re-tweets – whatever.
This is not the future of journalism. The future of journalism (in my opinion), is one where every person, if they feel inclined, can write, record or express in any way they see fit “their truth”, and share it with the world – then the world can make up their own mind. The “new media” is fundamentally the same as MSM – telling us what we should be thinking, why we should be thinking it, and persuading us that what we are told to think is correct. This is wrong.
The second reason I’m writing this is to say thank you.
Thank you to everyone that’s advised, shared, re-tweeted, commented, praised and criticised everything I’ve done this year. It’s hard to express on Twitter just how much it has meant to me, on numerous levels and for numerous reasons – and to be honest it’s a fucking struggle doing it here. But it has, and the support of so many people has been wonderful, and I have engaged with some fantastic individuals this year, who work a damn sight harder than I do – but I hope that what I have been and will continue doing has at the least made a few people stop and consider things.
I don’t overthink what I write – I do research until my eyes bleed, however what you see in text form is generally how I verbalise things in real life – whether this is a good thing or not remains to be seen, but I believe in speaking in a way that everyone can relate to and I hope this always comes across.
If you’re interested, the two articles I’m proudest of are the piece I did for openDemocracy on alcoholism (the hardest thing I wrote this year) https://www.opendemocracy.net/steve-topple/alcoholism-nhs-and-political-hypocrisy and the one for the CommonSpace on the media manipulation of, and subsequent public apathy to, the CSA Inquiry – as I still maintain this is the one of the most important issues facing the UK https://www.commonspace.scot/articles/2050/steven-topple-after-the-edward-heath-revelations-where-s-the-outrage-over-csainquiry
My raison d’être for 2016? No-one, old media or new, will be telling me what to think. I will research, ponder, question and criticise, even if it goes against what the majority are saying. Finding my own truth is going to be a fundamental component of my year, because without it I will be nothing more than a cog in the ever-growing wheel. Ain’t happening.
Call me hypocritical, but I think that should be your mantra, too.
Happy New Year.