Sunday, February 17, 2008

So, poor Max Gogarty

That name rings a bell, I thought, when I saw the story in the paper today (and the opinion piece about it). Normally I try to avoid getting into one of those circular situations where the blogosphere incestuously feeds off itself, as if it actually mattered, but hey, I'm one of the few people that have read The Water Road. I practically know this guy.

And first off, I would like to say that the unfortunate Max has nothing but my sympathy, if only for the sick-making way his father wrote about him in that book. He's done well to recover from that, so good luck to the boy I say.

Secondly, just because he got a coveted spot on the Grauniad blog to write about his gap year (oh, just what we need, another gap year blog) and his father happened, occasionally, to have written bits for the paper, that doesn't mean we have to cry nepotism. It may well be that other people, equally well qualified, equally (un)interesting, didn't get the job, and it may be because of what his dad does that Max did - but it doesn't have to mean that his father pulled strings. It just means that he knew that there was a Graun blog, maybe that it was looking for contributors; he knows what it is to be a writer because he's grown up with it in the family. It would hardly be fair if it were barred to him on that basis.

No. 2 son has just had an offer from the slightly unconventional university where I work. I haven't pulled any strings for him - I'm not in a position to even if it wasn't in a completely different faculty and department anyway. But it's highly unlikely that he even would have applied if I hadn't got a job there, for the simple reason that it wouldn't have occurred to us. So Max has my sympathy, up to a point.

It's the reporting of the story I have to take issue with. The headline 'Hate mail hell of gap-year blogger'. Comments on a blog are not hate mail. They are comments on a blog. If it's your blog, delete them. End of story. I accept it can be disappointing, even upsetting, when people you think you know turn around and say something nasty - but in Max Gogarty's case these were total strangers. What he probably didn't need on top was his father weighing in on his behalf and adding his own sarcastic two penn'orth (but why am I not surprised?). Having a gap year, writing about it for a bit, and anonymous strangers voicing their opinions, no matter how vitriolic, do not constitute 'hell'.

Also, one does have to ask, if it weren't for his father's contacts on the paper, would this story have been printed? Do I see the hand of Gogarty senior in this? And if so, is he really doing his son any favours?

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