Before we get into this post, here's a quick disclaimer: No, I am not about to go into masses of detail, re-hashing arguments that have already been played out on television and no, I'm not about to go into who was right and who was wrong in the now infamous row between Tony Hadley and "Lady" Colin Campbell on ITV's I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here.
But I am going to talk about whether being nasty has suddenly become far more acceptable, in recent years. In short, I don't care about the cause of the row. I care about the aftermath and the reaction from the public.
For my overseas readers and for those of you who don't watch the show, I will summarise very briefly: A socialite called "Lady" (and I use the quote marks for reasons that will become clear) Colin Campbell - better known as "Lady C" - had a blazing argument with Spandau Ballet's lead singer, Tony Hadley, on a reality television show. Now, if you want to, you can quite easily Google the events and find out exactly what happened and why. But, as I said, the actual root cause of the row isn't what's important, in terms of this blog. What's important is how it split the nation, in terms of the response to "Lady" C's general persona on the show.
The socialite started off hugely impressing me with her quick-wit, composure and gutsy attitude to the eating trial she had to endure early on in the show (for those who don't watch, she was made to eat cockroaches, turkey testicles and other such vomit-inducing fare). However, it quickly became apparent that if anyone got on the wrong side of "Lady" C, they would be subjected to a seemingly endless tirade of insults, swearing and deeply personal attacks. Whoever was right or wrong in the argument she had on screen with Tony Hadley, her decision to spit venom about his family - including suggesting that he surrounds himself with tarts (he's happily married) and making nasty comments about his children - was frankly unforgivable. Once the argument had taken place, any further comment from Tony was greeted with a barrage of increasingly personal insults - his weight, his lack of talent as a singer, his supposed low intelligence... Nothing was off limits, as far as this "Lady" was concerned.
And it wasn't just Tony. Anyone deemed to have "earned (her) disregard" found themselves on the receiving end of "Lady" C's vicious tongue. Former Blue Peter presenter Yvette Fielding was referred to as a "rabid dog." Ex Dragon's Den star Duncan Bannatyne was described as "an ugly old goat." She even referred to the viewing public as "oiks," yet claimed that she was a victim of "reverse snobbery" - cruelly judged because she has a title. Methinks the "lady" doth protest too much.
Of course, she's now out of the jungle and claims she left to protect her emotional health, following the "bullying" she experienced at the hands of her campmates. Playing the victim is a common tactic of those who can never admit to having gone too far with their own nastiness, so it doesn't surprise me that it's happening, here, especially since "Lady" C (a title that came to her through a very short-lived marriage) has a habit of conveniently accusing others of things she herself is guilty of; let's not forget that she point-blank refused to get involved in a challenge, because she didn't know what reward she'd gain, before refusing to carry out any further trials at all, yet she was very quick to accuse Tony of not playing the game properly when he wouldn't carry out a challenge for her).
But all of this is moot, to be honest. It's happened and she's gone from being a little-heard-of socialite, to an apparent reality TV star. The reaction from the public is what's been addling my brain.
Because, whilst - as you'd expect - plenty of people have been appalled by her constant personal attacks on her campmates and the arrogance she displayed on the show, there are seemingly just as many rushing to praise her.
When she violently laid into one fellow camper with a tirade that left him seemingly on the verge of tears, a massive number of people flooded onto Twitter, to cheer her for "slaying" him.
When she made her row with Tony personal by bitching about his family and his weight, thousands cheered her for "just saying what she thinks!"
People praised her constantly, with many openly saying they wanted her to win. Why? "Because she tells it like it is!"
Now, I am in no way in favour of being forced to keep your views to yourself. I have a blog because I want to air my views. We should all be open and speak what's on our minds. But there are ways of doing that without resorting to nastiness.
For example, I'm a huge fan of Doctor Who. I'm still in two minds as to what I thought of last night's season finale, so I went online to a fan page on Facebook, to see what other people were saying about it. One guy had said that he wasn't a fan. He said "the programme would've been better without that last scene at the end." Immediately, someone bit back: "The show would be better if YOU didn't watch it." This person went on to insult several others who shared the first guy's view. Her comments had several "likes." Apparently we "like" it when someone reacts with childish insults to a view they don't share. Stop the world, I want to get off...
There is nothing wrong with speaking your mind. We should celebrate and praise people who are strong enough to say "no, hang on, I don't agree with the majority opinion." It takes guts not to follow the herd, after all.
But the second you start hurling personal insults at people, any praise is no longer deserved. You can disagree with a view without slamming a person's looks, family members or intellect. In fact, if you have to resort to making personal attacks in a debate, I'd argue that you've started to realise that you're losing the argument and are thrashing around helplessly, when you should be keeping your mouth shut.
At the end of the day, flinging metaphorical shit at someone because you've had a petty row, or because they have a vastly different opinion from you, says very little about that person, but a whole lot about you.
And yet, we rush to heap praise on people who throw insults. "Lady" C was "slaying." She was "hilarious." She was "fantastic."
This is someone who, when told by one of her only friends in the camp that "everyone has a right to express their opinion," replied: "He (Duncan Bannatyne) has no right to express his opinion in front of me." Which most people with fully functioning brain cells will realise is utter bullshit. EVERYONE has the right to voice their opinion. That's what free speech is. We don't have to agree with them, but we certainly can't stop them. This is also someone whose only friends in the camp (due to her poor attitude, before you rush to her defence) begged her to stop throwing out "hate" and even referred to her personal attack against Tony and his family as "indefensible."
But a large number of people still think this woman is "a QUEEN!"
Why do we praise people who are capable of such nastiness? Why do we so admire what is, essentially, bullying? It's not just "Lady" C - there are plenty of people out there, famous for being cutting. We praise arrogance. We laugh at people who make deliberately nasty remarks about others. I'm not saying - in any way - that we should all be overly (and falsely) nice at all times. That would be ridiculous. I'm just saying that heaping praise on the "hilarious" nature of someone who insulted a person's children because she didn't like their dad is a very sad indictment on society.
People cheered "Lady" C for being able to hold her own in an argument, but the fact is that she couldn't. She couldn't argue her point without sinking to name-calling and nastiness. Doing that is the fastest way to lose an argument, rather than win it.
There are two sides to every story, of course. And I will always praise people who speak their minds and have a gutsy attitude to life. But let's praise people who can do that without resorting to childish name-calling.