James Griffin 's Opinion

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

James Griffin: Angry internet people

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

It didn't start out as an experiment. It was a test, at first. It was me, acknowledging this is an election year by giving myself the task of taking each of the major (and minor) political parties who will be players in the 2014 General Election and writing a column about each of them, having a go at them when they dared to stick their heads above the parapets. I started at the bottom, with the Conservatives. I wrote a faux letter, answering the Conservative Party call for candidates.

It was a fun column to write. And then the column was posted online and the comments started coming in. John Lex told me I "tarnish my reputation" by coming "from an extremely biased, leftist, communist, socialist point of view". Wow. Both communist and socialist? Who knew taking the piss was so revealing of my true nature?

According to Voice in the Wilderness, I revealed even more about myself in this column, because he could "sense an underlying fear". Luckily Gray was there to balance this by pointing out "that James Griffin knows nothing".

This is probably closer to the truth. Then there was Clodhopper, who suggested I "might like to try the Greens".

So I did, I wrote about the Greens. And now what had started as a task had become an experiment in seeing what reactions I would get. And sure enough, from being communist and socialist one week I was, according to Wiseacre, now part of the "corporate media" who were "trying to perpetuate a depiction of the Green Party as kooky, crazy and dangerous". Actually, I was trying to have a laugh and the "kooky" stuff largely came from the MP profiles on the Green website, but we won't let the facts get in the way of a good opinion.

The Green Party column helped me identify a couple of trends that remained constant across all the columns. The first was that I was in no way funny. Gandalf from St Heliers, a serial critic, pronounced me "boring and not really witty"; David from Wellington labelled me "not even vaguely amusing"; while Stuart from South Korea lashed me with possibly the worst insult known to humanity, terming me a "wannabe Cameron Slater".

Look, I won't pretend that being abused for work I take great pride in doesn't sting. It does. But in terms of accusations of not being funny I've long since learned to man up and deal with that by understanding that there are many different senses of humour and sometimes people get angry when what you write doesn't fit with their definition of what is funny. Heck, I've written for television for coming up to 30 years now, where heaps of people hate everything you do all the time while taking great pride in telling you they 'never watch television'.

The other trend I noticed, as I moved on to Act, was a perception that I somehow had a pro-National agenda going on. Countryman from Hokianga, when I wrote about Labour, put it most succinctly when he asked "when do we see another nasty would-be comic article, this time about JonKey? Or is he your paymaster?" Or maybe, Countryman, I was saving the Government for last, because that is kind of how dramatic structure works?

Much like the Internet Party itself, the reaction to my Internet Party column was underwhelming. Metal Soprano called it "...the sort of rant I would expect my 11-year-old nephew to write." I passed this on to my editor and apparently negotiations are underway for my replacement.

I then skipped New Zealand First because I believe that if you write the name 'Winston Peters' three times in a column it summons him from his dark realm, or he summons you or something, and then he owns your soul and I quite like having a soul.

I guess if sensitivity to being mocked is any indicator of public opinion and therefore electoral success, then Labour will bolt in this election. "What utter media-biased drivel," said GregGory; "Conservative politics putting the boot into the left," thundered Luke Mason; "A pathetic attempt to ... downplay the effective launch of Labour's Variable Interest Rate policy," roared Dean Reynolds.

Still reeling from the virtual tongue-lashing I had received from the Labour faithful I braced myself for the blue backlash as I moved on to the Nats.

And then practically nothing happened. As of writing this column there are a piffling six comments sitting there and only one "load of drivel". What is going on, internet angry people? Where are your howls of protest? Come on, I crave your lashings. But as I wait for the blows to fall, I will take comfort from the words of Res publica, who urged me: "don't give up the day job." This is my day job.

- NZ Herald

James Griffin

James Griffin is a columnist for Canvas magazine.

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