Last week Max Gogarty, a 19-year-old gap-year student, had to shut down his backpacking blog on the Guardian, after users swamped his one and only posting with vitriolic comments. His crime? Being a bit posh. (Sort of.)
Gogarty had been engaged to write a blog about his (self-financed) trip around Thailand and India. Sadly, internet thugs noticed that there is an occasional contributor to Guardian.co.uk called Paul Gogarty, and assumed that the paper was funding a lavish trip for one of its own.
This is sad on several levels. First up there's the faceless bullying of a 19-year-old by people with nothing better to do, of course. Add in a healthy dose of hysteria on the behalf of the sort of people who post to Wikipedia first and fail to ask questions later.
There's the oh-so-wearisome class hatred. And finally there's the naive assumption that any publication has the cash to send youngsters on nepotistic global jollies. Trust me: we wish. We don't all work for the Daily Planet, you know.
The blog attracted almost 500 nasty comments on Guardian.co.uk before it was closed. And Gogarty was even added in to the Wikipedia entry for 'nepotism' (alongside George Dubya, for Chrissake).
Clearly internet publishing is a two-way street. And if an obviously bright adult chooses to put his head above the parapet he has to accept the consequences. Gogarty is currently accepting the consequences in Mumbai, so I suspect he's coping with the situation.
But it's just dull. Plain dull, dumb and ugly to attack a blog posting because a kid is too precocious. There are any number of much less worthwhile cranks, weirdos and self-publicists who fill the web with their own sense of importance. And most of them haven't managed to persuade a national newspaper to give them a byline. To paraphrase Freddie Mercury, this is the web we created, we made it on our own.
Spamming even these people with hatemail is cretinous because at best it will only make them feel more important. Which reminds me, if anyone wants to post vitriol below: feel free. Please. Go on. Is there anybody there..?