Johann Hari – What I Did on my Holidays

Noseybonk can see you

Continuing the theme of plagiarism from Nige’s post, here, raised from the archives as a Bank Holiday treat, is Noseybonk’s take on the dodgy hack Johann Hari…

Those who have been following the remarkable case of the plagiarising, Wikipedia-manipulating Independent journalist Johann Hari will know that he has handed back his Orwell award (the plaque that is, not necessarily the cheque) and gone back to journalism school to learn how to write proper.

His first assignment of the term was, naturally, to pen an account of his summer entitled What I Did On My Holidays. In an exclusive for The Dabbler, Noseybonk has managed to get his hands on the manuscript, which received a grade of B-.

What I Did on My Holidays – by Johann Hari, aged 31

My holidays began in grim circumstances, with the death of a great artist and dear friend. I’ll never forget my first meeting with Amy Winehouse. It was 2006, and we were sitting in the snug of The Spiked Armadillo, her favourite pub in Camden. Over a tanqueray and tonic, I asked her about the rumours of her problems with alcohol, then not widely known.
“They tried to make me go to rehab,” she told me.
“And what did you say?” I asked, surprised.
“I said no.”
“No?”
“No!”
I believe I was tapping my pen in a classic motown rhythm. We both paused, looked at each other and started humming. I can’t in all conscience claim direct responsibility for her breakthrough hit Rehab (I point-blank refused Amy’s demand that I take a writer’s credit). But, given what happened to Amy – her great success, and her inability to handle that success – neither can I entirely wash my hands of all blame for her tragic early death. If you demand high standards of others, you have to be just as damning when you fail to uphold them yourself. Therefore, even though I still stand by the quality of the songs we co-wrote, I will be returning the numerous platimum discs, MOBO and Grammy awards that we won for our albums Frank and Back to Black, and enrolling on a course, at my own expense, at music school. I apologise to all concerned.

 

It wasn’t long after Amy’s demise that I broke the News of the World phone hacking scandal, a story which rocked the world of journalism only slightly less than my difficult but ultimately courageous decision to return my Orwell award even though I still stand by the triumphant and ultimately true article that won it.

It brings me no joy to make moral judgments about my fellow members of the journalism profession, but if you demand high standards of yourself (and I do, as proven by my decision to give back my Orwell award) then it’s only right that you damn others when they fail to uphold those same standards. I think we can all agree that plagiarizing other people’s work and pseudonymously changing your rivals’ Wikipedia entries to describe them as anti-Semitic, homophobic drunks, though undoubtedly questionable behaviour, is nowhere near as bad as hacking into celebrities’ voicemail accounts, and that the hacks who committed these crimes are despicable human beings and probably homophobic, drunken anti-Semites too.

Of course, I was saddened that two of my own award-winning investigative scoops for News of the World – in which I exposed Pakistani cricket match-fixing and the corrupt dealings of Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York by disguising myself as an Arab businessman – have now been tarnished by association with that paper, but, because I demand very high standards of myself, I will be returning my Reporter of the Year awards and enrolling on a course, at my own expense, in Ethics and Philosophy at a university of some sort at some point in the near or distant future. I apologise to all concerned.

The third and perhaps most significant event of my holidays was the rioting that swept Britain during one mad week in August. I was in London on that night when the flames began to rise and all around the sound of smashing glass was like a cacophony of smashy sounds. The next night I was in Birmingham when the dark side of multiculturalism was exposed for all to see amid the sound of sirens and the rising flames. I was also in Manchester when the council estate boys, excluded from society and with nothing to lose, howled their hymn of nihilism and despair. I was also in Bristol, Gloucester, Liverpool and a few other smaller places, I forget which they were now. Anyway, I saw it all at first hand. I looked into the eyes of those hoodies and saw frightened boys. Frightened boys struggling under the weight of broken dreams and very large flatscreen televisions.

With the dust still settling and the flames just dying down, now is not the time to jump to sweeping generalisations about root causes. Nonetheless, I think we can all see this is the fault of the banks. As Karl Marx said to me one evening in the snug of The Spiked Armadillo, “You have nothing to lose but your chains.” I do not condone the looters. Understanding is not the same as justifying. What the looters did, though justified, was wrong when judged by the high moral standards set by the likes of myself and Jesus. That’s why I will be returning the 42-inch Panasonic and six pairs of Reeboks to their respective shops in North London, even though I do still stand by the quality of those products. I apologise to all concerned.

Noseybonk would like to apologise for making up the above, and assures readers that he will be enrolling, at his own expense, on a course at the Johann Hari Rehabilitation Centre for Sanctimonious and Vindictive Little Fraudsters.

Not joining him there will be the numerous lndependent-reading Twitter-users such as Stephen Fry and Josie Long who leapt to the defence of Hari when he bravely admitted his guilt after getting caught red-handed, and nobly offered to return his Orwell award after being threatened with having it stripped from him. The valid point those wise Twitterers make, of course, is that such ‘mistakes’ as fabricating material, or stealing the work of other journalists because you are too lazy or technically incompetent to conduct a coherent interview yourself, or using the pseudonym David Rose to make malicious slanderous accusations on the Wikipedia profiles of your journalistic rivals, are trivial details when you remember that, as an environmentalist anti-corporate left-winger, Johann Hari is ultimately on the side of Good. And anyway, as Hari’s apology clearly states, none of it was really his fault.

Noseybonk’s book Blogmanship: How to Win Arguments on the Internet Without Really Knowing What You are Talking About, is available to buy as an eBook from Amazon or as a PDF direct from The Dabbler.

 

 

Cartoon by Smooch Papandreas.

Alain de Botton International Airport

Noseybonk can see you

The terrifying and bewildering Noseybonk Saga originally ran on The Dabbler in 2010 and 2011, and followed a cast of characters including poet Grayson Ellis, revolting hack Rod Lidl, Ed Balls and Julian ‘mirror-licker’ Assange.
In this extract, Anglo-Swiss philosophe Alain de Botton attempts to blackmail Elton John, Art Garfunkel and other singer-songwriters, who have been plagiarising his tweets in order to create lyrics for Adult Contemporary songs…

Carrying the weight of his cranium, Anglo-Swiss philosophe Alain de Botton proceeds down Ladbroke Grove, glancing perceptively left and right and noting, in the composition of his interminable interior monologue, the pleasures and sadnesses in the souls of those humans such as them ones he sees going about the daily things what they do and all that.

Outside the Tudor Trust some lovers were parting, he muses in sagacious and beautifully-constructed prose. She must have been twenty-three, he a few years older, handsome, though perhaps over-showily hirsute and with an undersized cranium. Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood was in her bag, I noticed importantly. They were dressed casually in combat trousers and T-shirts and had come of age in the period between the Iraq invasion and the publication of my bestselling book The Philosophy of Travel: The Consolations of Going on Holiday with Alain de Botton.

It was the intensity of their kiss that first attracted my perceptive attentions, but what had seemed like passion from afar was revealed at closer range to be unusual devastation. She was shaking with sorrowful disbelief; he was cradling her in his arms, stroking her short blonde hair, in which a hairclip in the shape of a tulip had been fastened. That’s the sort of revealing detail I’m good at observing. I might Tweet that one later if I can tart it up a bit. I evinced sympathy. It helped that she was extraordinarily beautiful. She could not have been unaware of her appearance. It would have been a significant part of her identity from the age of twelve, the minx.

Yes, I evinced sympathy, right at her, but in actuality there were stronger reasons to want to congratulate her for having such a powerful cause to feel sad. We should have envied her for having located someone without whom she so firmly felt she could not survive. If she been as sagacious as me and able to view her situation from a sufficient distance, she might have been able to consider it as the high point of her life: the moment when her pleasures and sorrows fell under the perceptive scrutiny of Anglo-Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton who, with the self-control of Odysseus negotiating the Sirens, continued along the Holland Park streets in which the ululating pigeons appeared to be rebuking this domestic English morning for its somnolence. Oh I say, that’s good.

At the house of Elton John, he is shown up a marble staircase and into the dining room by a ludicrously-dressed footman who, de Botton perceives with the perceptive bits what he has in his brain, has balanced the profound sadness in his soul with the consolation of serving one who is, by curious definition, less free than his own servant. Ooh that’s a Tweeter. All twaddle, mind, since the footman is really Noseybonk in disguise, who sees all and laughs at it like a drainful of gits.

On entering the room de Botton starts and emits a gasp, being immediately confronted by what seems to be his lanky domehead mirror-image or doppelganger only more clown-haired and wrecked. But in fact it is just Art ‘The G’ Garfunkel, politely standing to greet him. Around the commodiously behemothic, which is by way of saying in a pointless way, big, dining table sit a shedload of Adult Contemporary singer-songwriters. Billy Joel is there, fat and tired. Jack Johnson is humming a dooby-dee-dah-de-dum-de-dum with intense hatred. Al ‘The Year of the Cat’ Stewart is there, being not dead yet. Gary Barlow is there too, being worried about what happens when Robbie Williams screws it up for everyone again. They simper obsequiously, sucking up and that, at the Anglo-Swiss philosophe who as he is well aware holds all the trump cards.

Double doors swing and in comes Elton, pushed in his exquisite, cherub-decorated, porcelain bathchair by poor morose old Bernie Taupin, whose back is giving him some right rotten gyp. “Wheel me to Alain, darling!” croaks Elton. “I’m going to kiss his hand!”

Unrepeatably chundermaking creepings ensue as each of the singer-songwriters tries to ingratiate himself with the author of How Reading Me Talking About Myself Can Improve Your Life, ie. Make it More Like Mine, a thing they’re all bleeding useless at having little experience at being nice to other people and nothing to go on except to mimic weakly the toadying behaviour of their own innumerable lickspittles and hangers-on. Only Jack Johnson refuses to bend the knee, interrupting the farce by bellowing: “Enough already! Let’s get down to brass tacks, dudes.”

Cough cough go the less uncivil artistes. Elton ahems, “Alain, darling, please excuse Jack here. He’s a surfer.”

Alain de Botton nods perceptively, leaving a hint of ambiguity to show he sees a bit deeper than that, but do go on.

“Look it’s quite simple, darling,” continues Elton. “We want to use your Tweets in our songs. We’ve all got the most hideous writers’ block… Haven’t we Bernie? [he asides viciously at the morose lyricist]…. And your Tweets are just the most perfect Adult Contemporary words ever. Now, what do you want in return? Name your price, darling.”

“Well…” begins de Botton.

“Anything at all dear, just say it.”

“Anything?”

“Anything, my good man,” inserts The G.

“Well there is one thing I’ve always dreamed of…But…”

“Go on,” says Elton encouragingly. “Spit it out, Limey!” snarls Jack Johnson, before Billy Joel can shush him.

“I’m Anglo-Swiss actually, not a Limey,” says de Botton patiently. “What I’ve always wanted is…”

“Ye-es?”

“Well what I’ve always really wanted…”

“Go on, darling.”

“Is…an international airport named after myself.”

There is a non-plussed silence.

“Oh there wouldn’t have to be any actual planes coming or going,” explains de Botton dreamily. “Or real passengers. It would just be a wonderful, quiet space. A between place, a not-quite-place. Where people could come to feel the consolations, pleasures and sadnesses of travel, only, without the travel. Alain de Botton International. Where people could come to gain the wisdom and insights of my works…”

And, almost unbidden, quietly at first but growing louder and bolder a song that has long been lurking in de Botton’s heart comes sweetly pouring out into the air of Elton’s dining room, and he sings…

Oooh,
If I were a rich man,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I’d biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man.
I wouldn’t have to Tweet hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
Yidle-diddle-didle-didle man.

I’d build an international airport with runways by the dozen,
Right in the middle of the town.
A fine glass roof with blue carpet floors below.
There would be one long travelator just going up,
And one even longer coming down,
And one more leading nowhere, just for show.

There’d be a hundred-foot billboard of my remarkable cranium
For the town to see high above.
The Waterstones would stock only my philosophical books
And my debut novel Essays in Love

The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!
They would ask me to advise them,
Like a Solomon the Wise.
“If you please, Alain de B…”
“Pardon me, Alain de B…”
Posing problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes!
And it won’t make one bit of difference if i answer right or wrong.
When you’re Swiss, they think you really know!

If I were rich, I’d have the time that I lack
To sit in Costa Coffee and muse.
And maybe have a seat by the eastern wall.
And I’d discuss my life and books with the learned men, several hours every day.
That would be the sweeeeeetest thing of aaaaall.

O!
If I had an airport,
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
All day long I’d biddy biddy bum.
If I were a wealthy man!
I wouldn’t have to Tweet hard.
Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
If I were a biddy biddy rich,
Yidle-diddle-airport-owning MAAAAAAAAAAAN!

Spent, Alain climbs carefully down from the table, across which he has been a-stompin’ and a-shakin’ towards his atonal crescendo, which, Alas!, has fallen stillborn into grim hush.

Al Stewart pretends to see something out of the window. Gary Barlow, blushing empathetically, is examining his fingernails. Billy Joel moans into his fists. Jack Johnson grins hate. The G gapes. Taupin is morose. Elton, frowning, tinkles a porcelain bell.

Noseybonk in ludicrous footman disguise bumrushes the empty-handed thinker down the staircase and into the indifferent Holland Park streets, and one more incident is added to the many hundred, thousand, countless deeds and sayings at which in decades to come Anglo-Swiss philosophe Alain de Botton will look back through black chaffinch-bellied eyes under a hairless cranium-dome, and cringe to the roots of his very soul.

Buy Noseybonk’s e-book Blogmanship: How to Win Arguments on the Internet Without Really Knowing What you Are Talking About. Apologies to Topol. Noseybonk can see you. Illustration by Stan Madeley.

Blogmanship: Advanced Techniques

In the fourth extract from our serialisation of Blogmanship (available to buy here), Noseybonk looks at some of the advanced techniques of winning internet arguments, including a methodology for squirming out of argyments you have clearly lost…

“Gras-tyme is doon, my fodder is now forage.”
Chaucer – The Canterbury Tales, The Reeve’s Prologue

 

‘Above the fray’ play
Once the novice blogman has grasped the fundamentals of condescensionplay and non-sequiturcraft (see excerpt 1) but not before then, he may attempt to proceed to the next level. The cultivation of a persona that appears, at all times, to be rather above this sort of thing is what enables a blogman to win a clear solo victory in a thread contested by dozens or even scores of laymen.

I contend that a consistent facility with abovethefraymanship is what separates the serious blogman from the mere dabbler (both Smythe-Hurst and Grapplehard concur on this point). Again, this guide can only provide the shallowest introduction, since getting ‘above the fray’ is one of the most nuanced areas of Blogmanship, requiring ‘soft hands’ and a sureness of touch which, some argue, can never truly be learnt because one has to have been born with it.

First, the successful abovethefrayman needs a sense of timing. How gratifying it is to see a long, angry multi-participant debate, raging back and forth about some controversial topic (e.g. whether the United Nations truly has any moral authority over US foreign policy), suddenly won, perhaps at comment number 124, by a blogman making only his second contribution since the very start of the thread thus: “Gosh, are we still arguing about this one?”

The gambit can be made even more effective with a dash of elsewherecraft; that is, the implication that the blogman hasn’t been following the debate because he has been over on another, much more important blog, arguing about much more difficult matters. Dixon-Pollard has been known to wreak havoc on more than one message-board with the line: ‘Goodness me, is this still going on? Sorry I’ve missed the fun – as it happens I’ve just been having a bit of a set-to with a well-known so-called ‘philosopher’ about this subject, only writ large’.

Top fraymen like Dixon-Pollard will also make hay with fair’sfairmanship, a technique that allows the blogman to defeat not only his direct opponents but also those who agree with him.

The trick is to precede the attack on your opponent (Layman X) with a mild rebuke for your ally (Layman Y) for being right but getting there in the wrong way. For example:

LAYMAN X (opponent): I’m sick of listening to you old white middle-aged farts criticising multiculturalism. Britain is a different place now, get used to it.

LAYMAN Y (ally): There’s nothing progressive about changing ‘Christmas’ to ‘Winterval’. All that does is insult everyone – Christians, Muslims, the lot.

BLOGMAN (using fair’sfairmanship with second-order nonsequitur ploy): Actually that whole Winterval thing is a bit of an urban myth, Y, but you’re basically right. What X can’t seem to grasp is that Alf Garnett was the original multiculturalist.

  [nb - The suggestion that something is an ‘urban myth’ is a very useful move in Losemanship - see below]

 

Advanced Trollmanship
The National Society of Blogmen abhors the activities of common-or-garden internet ‘trolls’. Appearing unexpectedly on a Justin Beiber fan website and comparing Mr Beiber to an unmentionable part of the human anatomy, merely to upset and enrage impressionable teenagers, is anathema to the civilised craft of the blogman.

That being said, lessons can be taken, if not from the motives of the troll then perhaps from his tactics, and these subsequently applied to the infinitely more elevated field of Blogmanship. The purpose of the blogman, it must be remembered, is to be one-up, and should the opportunity arise to go one-up on the whole commentariat of a blog, it would arguably be churlish to refuse it.

Perhaps the finest example of trollmanship techniques applied to Blogmanship conditions witnessed in my lifetime was a comment by Dr D B C Cohen (yes, he of linkmanship fame – see Chapter III). Cohen, well known to be a professional attorney, allowed a long and involved discussion about the legality or otherwise of shooting a trespasser to develop unhindered. Then, after some forty-five comments and with the impeccable timing of the frayman, he entered with the devastating stopper:

The lawyers amongst us are cringing.

 (It should be noted that some on the ‘traditionalist’ wing of the Blogman fraternity frown upon the so-called ‘nuclear option’ of advanced trollmanship, and see it as against the spirit of the craft.)

 

 

 

Moral indignationship (Warning: not for the beginner!)
Assuming a position of moral indignation is not recommended for any but the most experienced blogmen, and even then the donning of kid gloves is advised. This is because any overt display of sanctimony or outrage is vulnerable to a simple condescension play or, worse, a keep-your-hair-on counter.

In the right circumstances, however, the highly-trained blogman can reap significant one-up results from moral indignation:

– First, by implying that Continue reading

Blogmanship: How Americans can annoy Britons, and vice versa

In the third part of our serialisation of Blogmanship (available as an eBook from Amazon or as a PDF here), Noseybonk looks at how Britons and Americans can go ‘one-up’ on each other on the internet…

“….America [!]…”

Henry James – The Turn of the Screw

Special Relationshipmanship: The Shrunken Pond

One of the unexpected benefits of the internet has been the breaking down of those international barriers – of time, cost and practicality – that once prevented peoples separated by oceans from daily arguing with each other at protracted length about gay marriage and suchlike.

Nowhere is this heartening eradication of artificial borders more apparent than in the brave new world of Anglo-American Blogmanship. We speak here not merely of those controversial topics where a typical American and a typical Briton might be expected instinctively to disagree (the literal truth of the Bible, the benefits of proliferated gun ownership, the manliness of different professional ballgames et cetera), but rather, more particularly, of those areas of shared interest. For remember, the Blogman is not simply concerned with besting an opponent in a debate; but, perhaps more importantly, in how he can go one-up on somebody with whom he fundamentally agrees.

The 2003 Allied invasion of Iraq has been widely pinpointed as the true catalyst for the development of Special Relationshipmanship*, since it enabled Americans and Britons on both pro- and anti-war sides to come together and irritate each other in a spirit of brotherhood and mutual respect. Here are the principal ploys…

 

The weight of history; the power of geography

The basic Britishman gambit is to imply, politely but with annoying sureness, that the American is in a natural state of one-downness because the US is still in its infancy when viewed in the context of the rich and ancient culture of the ‘Scepter’d Isle’. Comparing current affairs to ‘fairly recent’ events in the fifteenth century, for example, is classic historyship.

In reality, the British blogman – especially the younger man burdened with a comprehensive education – may be no more knowledgeable of matters historical than his powers of searching Wikipedia allow; but, done well, historical condescensionplay can create a strong impression that the American is a hopeless naïf, blundering about the intellectual sphere like an earnest teenager while the Briton looks on with the not-unkind amusement of the old hand who has ‘seen it all before’.

This is especially powerful when augmented with geographyplay. Americans, uniquely in the world, have a tendency to see Englishmen as multi-lingual globetrotters, as comfortable ordering the escargot in a ‘lovely little out-of-the-way bistro they know on the banks of the Seine’, as they are coolly dismissing aggressive peddlars in the Casablancan bazaar from beneath a Panama hat. The Angloblogman will often find that a few ‘that’s not what they used to tell me in Cairo’s yield returns; and suddenly making a whole comment, a propos of nothing, in either French or Latin (but not Spanish) is almost guaranteed to ramp up the pressure on the United Statesman.** As ever, there are counters.

Counter-historying

Although it will be his first instinct, almost the worst thing the United Statesman can do when faced with with historiogeographical gambiting is to Continue reading

Blogmanship: The Blogman’s Toolbox

Continuing our serialisation of the new handbook – The Theory and Practice of  Blogmanship – or How To Win Arguments On The Internet Without Really Knowing What You Are Talking About (available as an eBook from Amazon or as a PDF here.)
 In this second extract, Noseybonk moves on to the practical tricks of the Blogman’s trade…

“Have you read… [it]?”
Germaine Greer on The Late Review programme, BBC2, circa 2001

 

Book recommendmanship
The successful blogman need not have read any important books pertinent to the topic at hand. Indeed, he need not have ever opened a tome more advanced than Asterix and the Big Fight since school. Nonetheless, with a firm grasp of the fundamentals of bookrecommendplay he will be able to intimidate and befuddle any internet opponent into submission and despair.

In essence, the three golden rules of recommendmanship are:

  1. Be obscure
  2. Be vague
  3. Be aggressive

Prof P H H Knott-Eagar of Maui University – by consensus the greatest bookrecommendman ever to put fingertips to keyboard – summarises his method thus: “If you say it, I’ve read the book that said it better, AND the book that showed why it was wrong, AND the book which showed why that was wrong too. And I’ve read all the books in the footnotes.”

Had he actually read these books? It scarcely matters, for who could help but applaud a gambit such as this classic from 2005:

LAYMAN: Of course the vast majority of Muslims dislike extremism as much as we do.

KNOTT-EAGAR: Try taking a look at Hashem Ahmadzadeh’s second book on Kurdistan before re-reading the Koran next time, and say that again with a straight face.

Note the expert employment of the golden rules. The mentioned book is obscure (an academic work that may not, in fact even exist at all); it is vague – there is no clear sense of what, if anything, the book says or why it might be relevant to the argument; and the manner of ‘recommending’ is aggressive: suggesting that unless one is familiar with the work, and probably those surrounding it, one is no more qualified to speak on the subject than is the most ignorant child.

Rereadingcraft
The good Prof Knott-Eagar also proposes the following maxim:

THE BLOGMAN NEVER READS A BOOK BUT THAT HE REREADS IT.

This especially applies to books that one’s opponent might have actually heard of, such as important philosophical works. “Yes, I used to think that too, until the second time I reread Spinoza’s Tractatus. Took me until then to realise that the orthodoxy had it all the wrong way about, so you’re not alone” is solid condescension-play incorporating recommendmanship.

 

 

Linkmanship
Most blogmen have traditionally seen linkmanship as a sub-category of book recommendmanship, but there is a growing school of thought that holds that linkplay is a serious branch of blogmanship and worthy of a complete literature in and of itself.

I confess I fall between these two stools. For further reading I always refer students to Dr D B C Cohen’s groundbreaking work in the field I Suggest You Take a Look at This: Linkcraft and its uses in the Furtherment of Blogmanship (2008, UMASS Press) – especially pp788-945 inclusive, and all of Appendix Six*. But for now it is probably sufficient for the novice blogman to consider the following guidelines:

a)    Link big, link broad. It rarely pays to link to a specific quote, study or fact. This opens up the possibility of actually being refuted. Much better to link to something which the layman cannot possibly read in one sitting, such as a dense, 300-page PDF from an obscure Institute. Unexplained graphs are also good.

b)    Link smart. Do not merely display your link in the form of a lengthy web address. Instead, embed it in suitably witty hypertext. This will bring Condescension into play and, with a fair wind, can even act as a Stopper.

Dr Cohen became one of the first blogmen to win international recognition for linkmanship when he posted a comment about the relative importance of carbon emissions on fluctuations in Arctic temperatures which simply said:

I refute it thus

in which each of the words “I”, “refute” “it” and “thus” were links to different, impossibly arcane research papers.

 

Logicship
There are those blogmen who put the use of logicship right at the top of the tree, and doubtless I’ll be receiving some pretty stiff correspondence for failing to even mention it until the end of Chapter III of this guide.

Be that as it may, my firm opinion is that the novice blogman should approach logicship with caution. Done well, it is the peak of the blogman’s craft, and connoisseurs will discuss little else at Blogmanship gatherings. Done badly, and it can Continue reading

Blogmanship: How To Win Arguments On The Internet Without Really Knowing What You Are Talking About

With the holidays coming to an end, many readers will be turning their thoughts once again to the important business of arguing on the internet. According to recent studies, arguing on the internet is now the second most popular leisure activity in the world, just below shopping and just above sex. But how many of those who spend half their lives debating God versus Atheism or Climate Change on a message board or blog really know how to win those arguments?
To help you brush up on your combat skills, this week we’ll be giving you another chance to read exclusive extracts from Noseybonk’s handbook The Theory and Practice of  Blogmanship, which is available as an eBook from Amazon or as a PDF here. In the first part, Noseybonk explains the general principles and aims of the blogman, before moving on to more practical tips tomorrow…

 

Blogmanship Part 1 — The Blogman and his Aims

“They [like]…. to argue…”
Travels with Mbutu – Up the Amazon by Paddleboat with Observations on the Customs and Manners of the Peoples Encountered There by A.O.E Stanhope (1844)

 

What is a blogman?
You, me, him, her*, everyone. That is the answer. And it is a good answer, for we are all blogmen who post a comment on an internet thread or forum in a spirit of argument or debate, be the subject Religion versus Atheism; Tories versus Labour or simply the best way to make an omelette.

But there is another answer, which is that the Blogman Proper, accredited and qualified, is one who wishes to succeed in these internet debates; who clearly identifies a measure for this success; and who in pursuit of it applies a methodology founded on the principles of Blogmanship.

At this point the layman may be thinking: ‘identifies a measure for success’ in an internet debate? Surely that is obvious enough: one succeeds by providing a superior argument to one’s opponent, so that he admits his position to be the weaker and stands corrected.’

The layman may well think this; not so the blogman. For the blogman is, above all else, a realist about the human character. Internet commenters willing to admit themselves bested in an argument are so rare as to make hens’ teeth seem like Starbucks coffee shops. On even the plainest matters of apparent fact – such as whether Elvis or the Beatles had the most hit records – it is near-impossible to force a good blogman to admit his error (see section Factual Corrections, Squirming out of); so imagine the difficulties of such intractable and emotive subjects as Darwinian evolution or Manchester United.

The Blogman understands this; he may not like it particularly, but he accepts it and he works with it. Which preamble brings us to a founding principle of Blogmanship:

DEFEAT IS NEVER ADMITTED, BUT MAY BE IMPLIED

 …since nearly all blog comment threads end not in a clear victory for one party or another, but invariably peter out into a tangled and ill-tempered stalemate.

Example
At this juncture an illustration might assist. Consider this exchange on an ordinary blog, comments unmoderated, between a layman and a blogman. The subject is simple enough: Does God exist? In this example the blogman is taking the role of Believer against the atheist layman.

LAYMAN:  Of course God doesn’t exist. Why does your God allow children to be murdered and earthquakes to wipe out whole populations?
BLOGMAN: I must say, you seem rather angry at this God whom you don’t believe exists.
LAYMAN: I’m angry that you think I should worship a God who, if He exists, must hate me and be evil.
BLOGMAN: Perhaps it’s not necessarily all about you?

Observe the blogman’s craft. Has the question of God’s existence or otherwise been satisfactorily resolved? It has not. Has the blogman even directly addressed the opening question? Again, no. All we have is a series of general remarks and an inconclusive stalemate. And yet, to all objective readers, it will be quite clear that the blogman – cool, good-humoured and patronising – has emerged ‘one up’. His opponent, meanwhile, will feel that something somewhere has gone wrong, that he has lost control of the battle, or that he is somehow being poked fun at.

For here is the crucial insight of Blogmanship:

THE GOOD BLOGMAN WINS THE STALEMATE.

The blogman’s skill is to create the impression that his intellect is vastly superior to that of his opponent, without getting into the awkward (and dangerous) business of actual reasoned debate.

 

Two secondary but important principles
This brings us on to another pair of fundamentals:

THE BLOGMAN KNOWS HOW TO PLAY THE MAN, NOT THE BALL.

because when an objective conclusion is impossible, the loser is the one who looks most foolish by this becoming apparent. However, crucially, we must remember that:

THE GOOD BLOGMAN IS A GOOD GENTLEMAN.

There are many tools in the blogman’s box, but crudeness, profanity and childish namecalling are not amongst them. Such primitive weapons inevitably backfire and are tantamount to admitting defeat, something a true blogman will never do.

 

The blogman’s basic tools: Condescension and Flattery
So much for the general principles and aims of Blogmanship. Now we come to matters practical: the methods, the tactics, or, as the terminology has it, the ploys of the artful blogman.

The most basic tools in the blogman’s box – the hammer and the screwdriver of Blogmanship, if you will – are Continue reading

Noseybonk presents: Confessions of a Radio 1 Disc Jockey

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Well-loved DJ and fundraiser Kenny Bovril passed away peacefully in his sleep last year. However, a private document, discovered only after his death, has fallen into the hands of Noseybonk. It reveals a dark secret hidden for decades…

Pamela Smethwick, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Pa Mel La: the tips of the lips meet twice to kiss, once quick, then slow, before the tongue lingers lovingly on the palate. Pa. Meh. Lla. She was Pam, plain Pam, in the morning. She was Pammy in slacks. She was Ms Smethwick on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Pamela.

She should, of course, have been my downfall. But here I am, a free man, beloved, beknighted and mouldering peacefully in my grave. You are reading this because my sins are now known; it matters nothing to my dead conscience.

Since I’m in the mood for confessing, let me own that I was not always Kenny Bovril, popular Radio 1 Disc Jockey. Hoping for a soldier or a saint or a solicitor, my mother bestowed on me the upstanding name of Alfred James Arthur Xavier. Her hopes were wholly dashed: I became an academic. Yet perhaps she must shoulder a share of the blame for her accidental acronym, because I took to the Ancients, with the accent on the Greek.

As an Oxford don I was a dismal failure and unpopular to boot: ever in combat with porters and, especially, librarians. One particularly violent contretemps with a dunce at the Bodleian (who, thinking the entire works of Galen marginal to the study of the ancient world, shipped them all off to Swindon) landed me in hot water. As it turned out, my Professorial colleagues were in no mood to rescue me from boiling. They disapproved, you see, of my little soirees, and in particular the guests who came to my quarters on drizzly afternoons or foggy, foggy nights. Insufferable old fuddy-duddies! They frowned not upon the gender, nor the race, nor even the quantity; but upon the age, as if love were a game of numbers! Inevitably, I fled.

My reincarnation as Kenny ‘Bovvers’ Bovril – clucking clown, spinner of discs, warbler of drivel – was as improbable as it was strategically brilliant. Who could have known it was old A.J.A.X. behind that preposterous fringe and curly beard? What former student could guess it was the Prof himself, chirping inanities about The Sweet and Gilbert O’Sullivan between 11am and 1pm, Monday to Thursday? God knows I detested pop music! But, mes amis, I consoled myself thus: like Oxford, it was a means to an end. Every step I have taken, every leap into the darkness, each degradation I have suffered – all has been at the service of one master: my exquisite peccadillo. In that sense, I have been pure.

But how did I get away with it? you ask, feigning querulous outrage like the tiresome prig you really are. Well, consider the times. The past is another country, and at Radio 1 in 1977 we did things very differently there. Weird was safe, old was young, youth was everything, but age had power. What a cast of ghouls we were, flouching around those brown corridors, guzzling Hofmeister and Nescafe, flashing our chest-hair at the soggy receptionists. The Hairy Cornflake. ‘Fluff’ Freeman, Kid Jensen. Gits the lot of them. Think of the conversations I had to grin through! Paul ‘Yawnsville’ Gambuccini, rabbiting on and on about the ‘achievements’ of pop musicians as if they were Tudor Monarchs! John Peel and his wretched bald patch. And don’t get me started on Blackburn.

Dear God, the phoney Cockney-cum-Mid-Atlantic accent I had to adopt! The catchphrases I had to coin, mirthless ejaculations of nothingness, spat gobbets of imbecility. Strike a light, sister!… Pull the other one, it’s got a bell on the end!… It ain’t over yet, Chuckie-Pig! Doubtless that last is on my gravestone, and sod all about the PhD in Hellenistic Poetry.

So you see I have suffered for my sins. But oh! the magic of the dressing rooms, with Linda, with Sharon, with Pamela…. And at the Beeb I could hide in plainest view.

I was suspected from the off. The other Jockeys at Radio 1 were as concupiscent a gaggle of old goats as you’ll find anywhere in the bordellos of Broadcasting House, but they had their lines in the sand, I suppose. Like the Oxford Dons, they frowned but no more. It was the culture, the gentleman’s club. Eyebrows were raised hither and thither. Hints and flashes…

…At an aftershow party I express a preference for nylons over bobby socks….

 

…A private DJ bash one night at the National Gallery: the other DJs purr at the cherubs, I linger lovingly at Rubens’s fat trio of Goddesses….

 

…A sixteen year-old beauty from the typing pool brings her mother in one day: I  am witnessed paying undue attention…

I was not quite alone at the BBC in my peculiar predilection for grown women. DLT was partial to German wenches in their thirties. Bruno Brookes liked ‘em old. We knew each other by sight, fellow travellers on the forbidden path. But at free-wheelin’ Radio 1 a man could not openly declare his lust for buxom forty five-year old divorcees in sensible shoes. And that, mes amis, is precisely what Pamela Smethwick was – an innocent maid with two kids and a hefty mortgage – whom, God forgive me, I enticed into my sickly orange dressing room with promises of tea and bourbon biscuits and a full recitation of my catchphrases. Strike a light, sister, you don’t get too many of those to the pound!

It was Savile who caught us canoodling between sips. Bursting in was just one of his myriad horrible habits. Now then, now then, he croaked automatically. A grin of purest evil spliced with disgust slithered across his goblin features. It was no use pretending. Tumescent and filled at last with the rage of frustrated decades, I leapt across the room to silence him.

But I reckoned without his uncanny strength: the wiry little bastard was a professional wrestler, and soon had me expertly bent in a half-nelson. Pamela was screaming fit to wake the dead (of which I, now I come to think of it, am one, and so is he. We shall not wake). He had me over a barrel. There was no choice: a deal had to be struck. I’ll keep your little secret, leered the rotten old troll. And you’ll help me keep mine.

And so I did, my friends. Until now, when it’s too late for you or anyone else to do a sweet little thing about it. That was my sin. I never got my knighthood, but the scrawny satanic marathonist got his, and what can you do to him now? Tear down his gravestone? Go ahead, you have my blessing. Do your worst.

It’s all over now, Chuckie-Pig…

Professor Kenny Bovril (deceased)

Noseybonk’s book Blogmanship: How to Win Arguments on the Internet Without Really Knowing What You are Talking About, is available to buy as an eBook from Amazon or as a PDF direct from The Dabbler.

 

 

Cartoon by The Spine. Noseybonk can see you.

Private Eye at 60

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Recently Dabbler editor Brit made the controversial claim that the ‘jokes’ section of Private Eye – written for five decades by a small exclusive gang hidden away in the editor’s office – is not funny.
To investigate, Noseybonk, who is able to travel back and forth in time nae bother, zips forward to the year 2021, when the famous satirical magazine will be 60 years old…

Here he comes down Carlisle Street, head like a wobbly spud on a spindle. Snaking in his wake, as always, is the line of Boy Scouts trained from birth to chortle whenever he emits one of his Zingers – these being, in reverse order of brilliance: (4) Actually; (3) Errrrrrrrmm, No; (2) Errrrrrrrmm, No, Actually; and, the big one, (1) Allegedly. For it is he, Ian Hislops, editor of Private Eye, still sneering strong in the year 2021.

Noseybonk, donning cap and woggle, mingles unobserved amidst the troop and sees all. At the door of number 6 Hislops turns and addresses his flock.

“On one particular episode of Have I Got News For You… some years ago,” he declares, “the late Paula Yates, God rest her soul, referred to me as ‘the sperm of the devil’. Presumably she thought this made some kind of sense…. Errrrrrrrrm, No, Actually.”

Although (or rather, because) they have heard this Zinger many times before, the Pavlovian Scouts chortle, just as they do every week from their special holding pen in the HIGNFY studio. Hislops arches an eyebrow and twiddles his rollerball aloft before entering the hallowed halls of the Eye…

 

… The production room is abuzz. Everywhere there are clippings, snortings, sniggerings, papers, branded mugs, mags, scissors, snickerings, nudges, winks, drinks, gits and legover merchants. The Boy Scouts trot through their tunnel and up the rigging like powdermonkeys to await their master at the tip of the tower. A rattling lift takes Hislops up to the toppermost floor and into Editorial, where his beatified little team of comic masterminds is already gathered, as they are every Tuesday fortnight, ready to create their inimitable satirical blackmagic.

Hislops inserts himself into the biggest chair, prongs his elbows on the table with rollerball pinched in both finger-sets, and looks quizzically about him. Here is Booker: hunched, wheezing, older than Satan, but still with that glint in his eye. There is ancient Ingrams, back in the fold again, rough as a badger’s yet always ready with a cracker. And there’s Continue reading

Johann Hari – What I Did on my Holidays

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Those who have been following the remarkable case of the plagiarising, Wikipedia-manipulating Independent journalist Johann Hari  will know that he has handed back his Orwell award (the plaque that is, not necessarily the cheque) and gone back to journalism school to learn how to write proper.
His first assignment of the term was, naturally, to pen an account of his summer entitled What I Did On My Holidays. In an exclusive for The Dabbler, Noseybonk has managed to get his hands on the manuscript, which received a grade of B-.

 

What I Did on My Holidays – by Johann Hari, aged 31

My holidays began in grim circumstances, with the death of a great artist and dear friend. I’ll never forget my first meeting with Amy Winehouse. It was 2006, and we were sitting in the snug of The Spiked Armadillo, her favourite pub in Camden. Over a tanqueray and tonic, I asked her about the rumours of her problems with alcohol, then not widely known.
“They tried to make me go to rehab,” she told me.
“And what did you say?” I asked, surprised.
“I said no.”
“No?”
“No!”
I believe I was tapping my pen in a classic motown rhythm. We both paused, looked at each other and started humming. I can’t in all conscience claim direct responsibility for her breakthrough hit Rehab (I point-blank refused Amy’s demand that I take a writer’s credit). But, given what happened to Amy – her great success, and her inability to handle that success – neither can I entirely wash my hands of all blame for her tragic early death. If you demand high standards of others, you have to be just as damning when you fail to uphold them yourself. Therefore, even though I still stand by the quality of the songs we co-wrote, I will be returning the numerous platimum discs, MOBO and Grammy awards that we won for our albums Frank and Back to Black, and enrolling on a course, at my own expense, at music school. I apologise to all concerned.

 

It wasn’t long after Amy’s demise that I broke the News of the World phone hacking scandal, a story which rocked the world of journalism only slightly less than my difficult but ultimately courageous decision to return my Orwell award even though I still stand by the triumphant and ultimately true article that won it.

It brings me no joy to make moral judgments about my fellow members of the journalism profession, but if you Continue reading

Lifestyle special: Matching wine and drugs

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Noseybonk is away this week, conducting an interview with non-plagiarising columnist Johann Hari for a special piece next week. In his stead, guest society correspondent Jasper Huddlestone-Huddlestone picks his favourite wines to go with cocaine. 

It was during one of my periodic binges when I realised that my little brother, Tobias, had surpassed me somewhat in the sophistication stakes. We’d been at the White Horse in Parsons Green all afternoon hitting the Pimms and charlie quite hard with some of the old gang from Bristol. After closing, we continued back at my place off the Fulham Road. I fished out a bottle of half decent St Emilion – Ch. Teyssier I think – but just I was opening it my brother looked at me and said with a withering sneer: ‘Oh dear Jasper, don’t you know it’s white wine with cocaine?’ The girls, India, Scheherazade, possibly someone else, giggled. I felt this small. 

He was right, of course. The St Emilion tasted awful. There’s something uniquely horrid about tannin when you can’t feel your teeth. Still every cloud has a silver lining and all that and it got me thinking about what is the best wine to go with cocaine? After much experimentation I have come up with some rules: 

  1. No tannin. See above.
  2. Not too sweet. As decadent as it sounds to drink d’Yquem on a drugs binge, they really don’t go together. I know I‘ve tried.
  3. Not too acidic. Most of my friends go for Veuve Cliquot for these late nights but it really is beastly stuff. All that acidity is almost as bad as tannin and makes your mouth ache the next day. I find even the best champagne pretty much unbearable after a bottle.
  4. Not too bland. If you’re going to be drinking in quantity then you want something with a little bite. Pinot Grigio will not do!
  5. Not too expensive. I know, I know, it sounds ridiculous because the whole point of these evenings is to show off but when you’ve got your flat full of giggling totty do you really want them drinking the good stuff?

 So here are a few suggestions: a just off-dry German Rieslings – preferably a Rhine rather than a Mosel as they have more weight; unoaked Burgundy with enough maturity to round off the acidity, a good St Veran perhaps; a chilled red, sorry Tobes, but sometimes a red wine does go with cocaine, such as a nice Fleurie or my own favourite red Sancerre (but not a white – much too acidic!).  

These wines tick all the boxes being dry, distinctive and lively. They’re bound to impress your friends, hangers-on, floozies etc. My top choice, however, would not be any of these. Instead I take a leaf out of my Uncle Peter’s book. Whenever he had a problem choosing the right wine to go with something or whenever he had problem full stop, the answer was sherry. There’s something about a good fino that sings with powders. Is it any wonder that cocaine is so popular in Spain?

 

Illustration by The Spine. Noseybonk can see you.