Thursday 11 July 2013
It's not something we like to contemplate as we airily exchange views with like-minded souls - the lurking troll* who views and spits and goes back to his (it's surely always, or nearly always 'his', not 'her') befouled nest to pour out bile against someone who's never knowingly harmed him. It surfaces in a much more public way every day on Twitter and Facebook, the latest scandal involving horrible abuse of the Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli. To compare greatly awful with small, I came up against some unwelcome knowledge a couple of days ago.
One thing I learned several years back, having been warned all too often by the diplo-mate, was to stop going in to the school playground of message boards - other than those of soulmate bloggers - because the bullies would always shout the loudest. On Parterre, the most waspish of them all (is there anything nastier than an opera queen crossed?), I didn't learn quickly enough. I'd dared to say I thought Christopher Purves was a better Wozzeck than Matthias Goerne. This, of course, goes against the grain of the anti-English contingent on that very Metcentric site. I can take a couple of howls of derision, but one poster, a certain 'Drew', started dogging every explanatory step I took. I was, it transpired, after a mountain of increasingly vitriolic responses, like some weird little old lady from Des Moines who didn't realise how provincial she was.
Enough. Out. Gone. I was aware this abusive personage had a blog, which Parterre had linked to, called 'andrewandjoshua'. He purported to be an attorney from Chicago whose ma and pa were everything to him and who had a nice boyfriend called Joshua who mirrored back his every thought. And boy, were those thoughts poisonous, on performers and works of art he hated and harmless ordinary folk who didn't share his ultra right wing views, all of this expressed in a peculiarly stiff and self-regarding style. Again, one look was enough. I didn't go back.
On Tuesday, with - as I've already explained - the laptop in rehab, I found the quickest route to fiddling with my blog was simply to enter my own name on the iPad's Yahoo facility (I don't often go Googling myself, I hasten to add, though I won't say never). Up came a tranche of pictures very different from the ones I usually get on Google. One was half of an image I'd posted of myself in my shalvar kemis, dressed up to sing G&S's Nightmare Song at the local church; the other half, Father Martin Eastwood, had been excised.
It turned out this picture had been posted on, wait for it, not andrewandjoshua but joshuaandandrew, as an example of terrible English dentistry. You laugh; so do I, because I have more than once been told that my teeth are like Prague's Jewish cemetery, but frankly it's never bothered me enough to do anything about it. The abuse, though, after the announcement that this was 'David Nice, of London', got a bit nasty: 'It is a very brave man - as well as an alarmingly fruity one - who would display himself in such a way and then publicise the repelling results'.
This edifying series on 'Adventures in British Dentistry', which has been sitting there unnoticed by me since 2009, continued with another photo, which could only have come from my blog again, of my friends in the Merchant Quartet. The mockery was the same and oddly, there was once again one comment in a very similar style agreeing with Joshua/Andrew. Further photos of 'morons' were put up for no other reason than that Joshua/Andrew didn't like their looks or their political views. To which, of course, the only answer is that there's no such thing as an ugly appearance, only an ugly soul (which in a few cases may lead to the former, but that's a different issue).
More recent abuse was hurled at a 'hillbilly' violinist who'd left the Minnesota Orchestra for the excellent - though in J/A's view low-grade - Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra because he wasn't prepared to put up with a 43 per cent pay cut (this is a whole other area I'm glad my attacker has directed me towards, because the detail of what's gone on in Minnesota beggars belief). I found further personal attacks against me over on andrewandjoshua which managed to label me an anti-Semite - the very thought! - and a degenerate of low intelligence (usually in the imaginary conversations held in the messages section).
My lawyer friend Isabel did some quick and effective detective work. She tracked down a brilliant deconstruction of the a&j/j&a looking-glass world on well-respected Chicago critic Andrew Patner's site The View from Here (which has also educated me on the sorry case of decent critic Don Rosenberg v the far from perfect Welser-Most). He, too, had been playing Sherlock Holmes, though as he writes he may only have got as far as being Watson - as are we are all until the perpetrator is uncovered (and frankly, if he isn't, it hardly matters, though it would be fair to witness some sort of exposure). Scroll down the above link to Andrew P's site to get the full story.
I won't repeat it. Suffice it to say there would seem to be no Chicago attorney - Isabel exploded several of the claims there - no boyfriend, no loving parents, at least as recounted on the phantom site. All the commenters with the curiously similar style and giveaway vocabulary are Andrew 'Norman Bates' Vanz having an imaginary conversation with himself. He does exist, of course, in some very dark place in America, but his power to harm has somehow dissolved with the picture thus built up of a sad soul projecting evil thoughts.
The good in all this is that I've had a delightful exchange with the admirable Andrew P and shall be very happy to meet him in the UK when he visits**. Of course I know I shouldn't feed the troll, and the purpose of this entry isn't to solicit any 'poor you's, but forewarned is forearmed: others who have tried to hunt the slanderer down, which I've no intention of doing - and of course even if I tried Google would do nothing about it - have had various e-tamperings, so if you ever receive anything weird or offensive purporting to be from me, let me know.
Anyway, hello birds, hello sky; it's been a sunny day tending to the newly-returned weeping mulberry in the back yard, writing up reviews of the weird Britten Canticles performance last night for The Arts Desk and of Sakari Oramo's fascinating Elgar Two for the BBC Music Magazine, basking in the friendly e-mails from Cheltenham folk following the appearance of the festival review which has only bolstered happy memories. Sweetness and light to you all. And of course I'm not going back to the offending site or even giving the troll headspace if I can help it. You might all like to flood our mystery man's blog(s) with pictures of imperfect dentistry, of course. On the other hand, best not feed the troll either.
*Tanya Gold in The Guardian, writing on the latest bout of obscene misogyny: 'To call them trolls make them sound almost magical when they are actually lonely, fearful and dumb – in the truest sense'.
**Update - alas, I was shocked to hear that Andrew died suddenly in February 2015.
Second image is from that fabulously unsettling French masterpiece of a film Le Corbeau; the last is one of Byam Shaw's illustrations for The Pilgrim's Progress.