This has been stressful week - and it’s only Tuesday.
Thanks to a vile Tweet that started to do the rounds on Twitter, courtesy of hacking, I’ve spent most of the time since Sunday in tears. I’m not about to top myself, but I can quite understand how young people, bullied in the cyberspace, do. Luckily, I am of an age where I know that all things pass, and I again feel blessed by my friends and family, who have been so kind and supportive. But to a young person, I can understand that it might feel like the end of the world because, briefly, that’s what it felt like to me.
I felt violated, hated, the lowest of the low - even though there was not an atom of truth in what was written. I can’t blame the people who reprinted it - their accounts have clearly been hacked; but someone, somewhere, originated the first Tweet, and the speed with which it went viral was deeply distressing. Even more disturbing has been Twitter’s silence on the matter, despite my having reported every single Tweet, blocked the people, and, for a couple of days, closed down my account.
It’s the feeling of helplessness that is the worst. As my friend Judge Alex Ferrer pointed out, it’s the downside of social networking: anyone can put anything out there and there is nothing you can do about it.
Yes, my first call (well, e-mail) was to the Judge (always have a Judge on speed mail!), whose calm voice of reason managed to stem the flow of tears. When I started to tell others what had happened, the support was overwhelming. My Facebook page quickly filled up with friends and even strangers expressing their anger at my having been upset. It was again a salutary reminder of the value of friendship - and the upside of social networking.
I’ve also realised - as I increasingly do, with advancing years - how incredibly naive I am about people and the darker side of human nature. I am genuinely at a loss to understand why anyone would want to harm their fellow beings. Some may find that a contradiction, given that I make my living as a TV “critic”, but even in that sphere, it is never my intention to cause hurt.
At the end of the day, I love TV with a passion and only ever want the best of it, and for it. I have no doubt that there are people who have found some of the things I have written to be hurtful. But take someone like Simon Cowell. He can take criticism on the chin, admit when he is wrong, and he listens to critics because he fundamentally knows that we are all on the same side.
Judge Alex has undoubtedly seen the worst of human nature when, on the Bench, he presided over some of the most vile criminal cases known to mankind (The movie Pain and Gain was based on the notorious Sun Gym case). I’ve been lucky enough in life to know mostly good, honest, kind (literally, man-kind) people which is why, when something bad happens, it feels so ghastly. I just don’t get it.
Why can’t everyone just be nice?
I always come back to the nature verse nurture debate (it’s why Blood Brothers is one of my favourite musicals). Are people born bad, or do their social circumstances make them so? Is there such a thing as “pure evil”? I suspect that people’s inability to understand the concept of evil was what initially brought about a belief in the Devil.
In the absence of understanding, one creates mythical figures on whom to project seeming logic (God being another of those figures - but let’s not go there today, as I already hear the sound of self-combusting. Having said that, it makes me laugh that so many people who believe in God don’t believe in the Devil. I call it selective reasoning. But like I said: let’s not go there today. Okay . . . but do watch Ricky Gervais’s The Invention of Lying, which is one of the most extraordinarily profound things you will ever see about the nature of belief. Now I’ll stop).
But back to people. Isn’t laughter the thing we all love most in life (I’ll leave sex aside for the moment, as that one might open not only a can of worms, but a veritable worm farm. Several, probably)? This year, I have seen many people go through so much - their own illnesses, the death of their children, separation and divorce - all of it desperately painful and agonising to witness. What’s a pathetic troll compared to the realities of living?
I spent yesterday in the company of my dear friend, Walter, whom I have known for well over 30 years. We met when I was doing my Master’s Degree at Lancaster University in 1983. He was with his Irish partner Liam at the time, and after Liam’s performance at the Duke’s Theatre, Walter said: “We must meet for breakfast tomorrow!” I thought it was the most glamorous thing I had ever heard.
We spent the afternoon laughing non-stop, reminiscing about old times, including a seance we once did where we allegedly got Beethoven. He “said” that he was playing his music through an 18 year old pianist called Hildegarde Schultz, who lived on the Rheinstrasse in Vienna. We recalled that we spent quite a few hours on the phone afterwards, trying to track her down. I caught out old Ludwig, though, when I asked: “If you’re Beethoven, how come you can hear us?” He replied that he had an interpreter. I kid you not.
They think of everything in the afterlife.
Which brings me back to the God question . . . on another day.