I liked The Office when it was on TV. I think possibly the writing on the American version was a bit sharper, but it always seemed a bit too glossy. I liked the slight grimness of the UK version. The footage of photocopiers. The sadness of it all.
I just don’t get it, I’m afraid. I’m sure it’s fun as a networking device for teenagers but there’s something a bit undignified about adults using it. Particularly celebrities who seem to be showing off by talking to each other in public.
If I want to tell a friend, famous or otherwise what I had to eat this morning, I’ll text them. And since I don’t need to make new virtual friends, it seemed a bit pointless to be honest.
But for whatever reason – and I’m sure it is nothing as “undignified” as him wanting to promote the second series of An Idiot Abroad or his new series, Life’s Too Short starring Warwick Davis – he recently decided to rejoin Twitter.
After returning to Twitter for just a few days, and despite only bothering to follow a handful of people, Gervais felt qualified to write an article for Wired about how brilliant Twitter was. Understandably, but also slightly shamefully, Wired published the article.
I’ve already discovered the best thing about Twitter too. Playing. Just mucking about for the hell of it. Although, I could technically count that as work. “Monging” about should be tax-deductible for me.
I use Twitter a lot, and as I read Gervais’ article, I couldn’t help but think that he wasn’t really talking about Twitter. The specific, brilliant qualities that I (and two hundred million other people) love about Twitter don’t get mentioned, and I think that’s because Gervais is either unwilling or unable to engage with Twitter on any useful or meaningful level.
Instead, he uses the article to talk about the relationship between art and critics:
There seems to be a real us and them battle with artist and critics. An artist moaning about critics is like a fisherman moaning about waves. Tough. They’re there. They’re there because artists are there. And in some cases vice versa. I think that’s because there’s limited space for successful creators.
Wait. “An artist moaning about critics is like a fisherman moaning about waves. Tough. They’re there.” OK. “They’re there because artists are there.” What? I thought the artists were the fishermen and the critics were the waves, right? So, hold on, now you’re claiming that waves are there because of the existence of fishermen? I thought it was, like, the moon which caused waves. You know, tides, and stuff. That’s caused by the moon, right? Not fishermen.
Ricky Gervais doesn’t get Twitter.
It’s become a horrible marketing cliché, but Twitter is about conversations. It’s about engaging with people. Instead, Gervais has used Twitter to fight a peculiar battle. He has apparently decided to take it upon himself to reclaim the word “mong”.
I’m not entirely sure why he has decided to fight this battle, particularly as it is obvious that he will never win. We’re living through a period of the largest and most visible displays of civil unease in decades. Cuts are causing immeasurable pain to families up and down the country, and it’s all being done so that the Government can maintain the lie that the current economic crisis was caused by people failing to pay their credit card bills rather than the reckless behaviour of a handful of city playboys drunk on their own power and immune to the consequences of their own behaviour. In this climate, Gervais, the multi-millionaire, has decided that of all people, it’s the mongs who are the most worthy targets of his satirical energy.
It all began a couple of weeks ago, when he started posting comments like this:
Some people evidently objected to his use of the word “mong”, but as he explains:
Just to clarify for uptight people stuck in the past.
The word Mong means Downs syndrome about as much as the word Gay means happy.—
Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) October 05, 2011
The meaning of words can change:
Well done everyone who pointed out that Mong USED to be a derogatory term for DS
Gay USED to mean happy.
Words change. Get over it.—
Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) October 16, 2011
As far as he is concerned, the people offended by his language can only be motivated by jealousy:
Don't give the haters any attention
Those people aren't really offended by the things I say- they are offended by my success.—
Ricky Gervais (@rickygervais) October 17, 2011
If there were any truth to this, then surely Twitter would constantly be outraged at Harrison Ford, or JK Rowling, or Colin Firth, or the thousands of other people who are more successful than Ricky Gervais. But this isn’t the case, because no-one objects to the innocuous Ford or Firth. And the obvious reason for this is that it isn’t success we are objecting to. We are objecting to what he’s saying. His words are offensive.
And there’s something unspeakably horrid about the direction of his argument. “Those people aren’t really offended by the things I say – they are offended by my success.” In Gervais’ worldview, anyone criticising those above them are motivated by jealously and so should be dismissed without further thought. For him, the only legitimate targets therefore are the weak and unfortunate.
I have no idea why Gervais is doing this. Even with the most generous of explanations (that he is somehow challenging our attitude to disability), he comes across like a clumsy, clueless, insensitive prick. There is a word for someone who engages in this sort of behaviour online, that word is “troll”. I suggest a new word: “Gervais”. He can’t object, after all, it has a new meaning now.