This week I got trolled.
I had to take a good hard look at myself in the mirror.
But since I’d been doing a lot of that recently anyway this provocation merely added a new angle to the shit heap of doubt I was already pilling on myself.
Did I cry? Yes, I did. I got a bit choked up about it if I’m honest.
I was like a rabbit in the headlights.
The troll claimed, to their 12.5k followers, that I had ‘ruined’ the magazine that I used to edit, which has now closed. “Farewell to @magazinename a fantastic magazine brought to greatness by two fine editors and ruined by the one below” the caption read. There was an image of me speaking at seminar posted below.
My initial thought was: Christ, I look awful in that photo. A fairly typical response from someone who governs the images of themselves published online with a forensic eye. Then I thought: Wow, I must really be someone to be trolled to over 12,500 people. I’ve made it! Then I thought: Fuck this. I’m going to seek legal advice.
To fill you in on the background info, the troll was one half of a husband and wife couple who wrote freelance for the magazine I used to edit. I’d inherited a tangled web of commissions for them going about six months into the future. Paid by the word, they overwrote, had no understanding of grammar or storytelling (‘dinning table’ was one memorable offence), alienated clients, went on extravagant trips assuring hosts that the story would be published, and tried to direct me in content which was favourable to them.
As a young and untried editor, I was the ward of our great editorial director at the time. “Just fire them,” he told me in no uncertain terms. “Pay them a kill fee and tell them we’re not using them again.” He was a ruthless man; a gritty old timer who took no prisoners. Our meetings terrified me. I was always aware of the angry hot blush that would rear up my face as I sat opposite him trying to convince him of my strengths. I did somehow manage to win him over in the end.
A letter bullet pointing all the issues and ending our association with the couple was duly dispatched. Copies were sent around the department to other editors, many of whom had complained about the shit storm they had also experienced after commissioning this pair of clowns.
That was back in 2012. So imagine my surprise when I wake up one morning over four years later and find the venom still fresh.
These people are my parent’s age. A generation older than me. I find it astounding that, all this time later, they still want to take me down. I suppose they have caught wind of the fact that I’ve just gone freelance and they must think I’m a threat. Maybe they think I’m still really driven and ambitious. Ha ha.
For a while I sat at my dining room table thinking. Christ, why does shit like this happen to me? Why does nobody love me? etc etc ad nauseum. But rather than slope off into Eeyor’s gloomy corner I thought I should dust off the bayonet and come out fighting. Also I’m up to my eyeballs in talented lawyer friends. Top lawyers!!
Lawyer#1 told me to send a threatening email insisting the tweet be taken down. The tweet was libellous and damaging to my professional reputation, I wrote. By 3pm it was removed, but with no apology. Lawyer#2, a partner from a top international firm, was even more zealous and got several of his underlings to advise on the case.
The post may have been deleted eventually, but I’m stung badly. I’m not going to make any glib observations about how bullies can sit behind the safety of their screens and abuse people, but what I will say is that being attacked personally, to thousands of industry peers, is pretty horrendous.
I couldn’t even identify the person they were slating. I’ve lived a quiet freelance life for some months now; I’m so far from the strident young editor I used to be. And that was all a construct anyway. I was good at it, but I never thought it would see me home and dry. I am now “a bottom feeder”, as one of the other editors used to call the freelancers. I keep my head down and have absolutely no interest in raising my profile. I’m thinking about getting a bar job. I’m longing for the summer when I can drift downstream on my back. Productivity has not been great. A threat to this couple’s editorial empire? I don’t think so.