I talk about a lot of stuff frankly on social media, but I do try to avoid discussing my own dirty laundry. I try to focus on general, more widely effectual subject matter. But this one time I'm gonna make an exception, because as ever, I would like truth to be out there somewhere. And it may well be my last 'piece' for a while - I have truly had enough.
Until very recently, I was a writer and Assistant Editor for a left-wing publication called 'Evolve Politics'. I'd written for them since February, and after making a positive impact, I was asked to be an Editor in May. I worked for the publication tirelessly, often through the day and night, and for very little financial reward. In fact, it was me raising the issue of remuneration that resulted in Evolve seeking out sponsorship so they could begin paying their writers a vaguely feasible wage. Something they subsequently got - in part - off the back of a piece I wrote that went viral to more than a quarter of a million people and was listed in several newspapers.
Then out of the blue I was sacked a couple of weeks ago.
Why? Allegedly because I was frank, and used bad language on a Facebook thread under a pseudonym: a deliberately comic and 'potty-mouth' satire account I run based on the character 'Malcolm Tucker'. In fact, only the guy in charge at Evolve even knew it was me: it was in no way connected or affiliated to the publication. I simply took on a 'troll'. It honestly never occurred to me that the boss would be 'holier than thou' as to reprimand me for bad language (that wasn't particularly offensive any way) from a private account, let alone from an anonymous one in defence of our own team. In fact, he went a step further.
He wrote a post effectively outing my pseudonym, dramatically apologising for my "appalling" behaviour. In other words he played the hero to parade his own 'integrity', and sold out someone working for him simply to court the praise of trolls - who mostly didn't know or even care what it was about.
Yep, I do enjoy the odd expletive, and I take few prisoners - I freely admit it. But I do know 'integrity': it's something I strive for. And it's something this organisation definitely doesn't have. I was extremely alarmed to read today that Evolve Politics have applied for an official parliamentary lobby. I found it very disturbing - the idea that such an organisation might garner that much influence, whilst simultaneously lacking any journalistic integrity whatsoever.
For me, that was the final straw. Let me say a few things about Evolve Politics' supposed 'integrity'.
The Man Behind The Curtain
What a great example of 'socialist ethics'. What a truly remarkable way to demonstrate how things should be 'fair', how people at the top shouldn't abuse their power, or behave irresponsibly without accountability. Evolve's owners take the lion's share of all revenue from all articles, leaving their writers with pitiful fees - and then preach of 'socialism'. They are frankly everything they claim to oppose.
But my demise within the organisation stemmed from previous run-ins. See, there is a dark secret concerning this 'influential' left-wing news outlet. Unlike The Canary, which is run by experienced journalist Kerry-Anne Mendoza, or even publications like SkwawkBox and AnotherAngryVoice, which are run by knowledgeable individuals with worldly perspectives, Evolve Politics is run by a young couple who basically know bugger all about anything outside their own very limited life experience. They are simply two hypocritical and petulant kids, who've become experts at grumbling and whipping up viral memes.
To be more specific, Evolve Politics is run by a chap named Tom Rogers.
I never met Tom, nor would he speak to me on the phone - he remains entirely anonymous for 'official' purposes regarding Evolve. He says it's due to debilitating illness. Out of respect and sympathy for this condition, whatever it is, I gave the issue a wide berth - letting a lot of his weird behaviour go. Including his sleeping all day/being up all night, his drinking binges, his forgetting of entire conversations, his frequent hypocrisy, not to mention his completely 'Jekyll and Hyde' temperament. But frankly, being ill doesn't give you the right to behave like an asshole. Or assume you can get away with it.
Jim Waterson never said that referring specifically to Evolve. He referred to a string of left-wing websites, among which Evolve were one. Tom took the comment of of context, twisting it to boost his own publicity. (Oh the irony.)
Bottom line? Tom does not stand by any of his work. He instead hides behind his girlfriend Jess - who's officially in charge, but actually does little. (If anything.) Her qualification is she's apparently got an English degree (something she often liked to remind me, like I was supposed to bow in awe) whereas Tom has no qualification at all, as far as I'm aware. But his anonymity allows him to share Evolve's pieces as a supposed 'neutral' reader all over social media, and ironically, comment anonymously whenever he sees fit. He also argues with readers all the time, but just deletes the comments if they're too clever and/or show him up - I saw it for myself.
Tom writes for Evolve under several pseudonyms, including 'Summer Winterbottom', 'John Corr', and 'J.D McGregor' - basically to make the coverage and contributions seem more than predominantly one disgruntled guy in his bedroom. And now he wants access to Westminster... it's almost funny. But certainly, for Tom to chastise (let alone sack) anyone else for commenting behind a pseudonym, is more than a bit rich.
It's the tip of the iceberg though.
Only days before, I'd been contacted by a former colleague at The Canary who informed me (out of courtesy) they were running a story directly calling out something we - and a few in the MSM - had covered concerning an alleged 'suicide bomber' and threats made by the 'Cornish Republican Army':
It was apparently hyperbole nonsense: something more than a few of our readers had responded to say:
I myself wrote the piece. But here's the crucial detail: I was actively INSTRUCTED to write it - by Tom. Literally given the sources to use, and Tom chose the wording of the headline down to the very last detail. (That's pretty much his main involvement at Evolve: to make memes, and decide which angles get plugged/how they'll be spun.) At the time of publishing, I was actually told off for trying to reduce the scandal/click-bait factor.
But I did take the claim by The Canary seriously. I believe in truth, and accountability. So I advised we should investigate, and issue a retraction/apology if necessary. The Editor's response? That it 'didn't matter'. That The Canary's story probably wouldn't gain any traction:
It was a shameless and quite appalling reaction.
Journalistic integrity matters. Especially for those who would report from Parliament.
Mistakes happen, but no-one with any sense of ethic should recoil from retracting them, or owning up to mistakes. In a nutshell, their hypocritical and self-styled intention to 'Evolve Politics' is a complete sham. Evolve are, in fact, no better than the worst of the manipulative right-wing MSM publications they spend so much energy decrying.
Those publications at least have to follow some level of due process though - both in terms of journalistic accountability, and employment practice. Another final straw for me, was recently seeing Tom post an article under one of his pseudonyms, haranguing The Sun for an article they'd retracted:
At the absolute peak of his pomposity, Tom postures over how noble his organisation is... yet again. Jeers at the tabloid for having to retract their mistake - eg: something he certainly didn't have the decency to do himself. I found it pretty sickening. You know when The Sun show up another organisation's lack of ethics, it's in trouble.
Tom was also outraged by supposed 'slander' when Evolve were accused by Media Guido of sharing an incorrect 'D-notice' story regarding Grenfell Tower. He put grand gestures all over social media, asking lawyers to get in touch, saying Evolve were going to sue for defamation etc. Trouble is, the claims were NOT wrong. Team members at Evolve HAD in fact shared the false 'D-notice' story. They'd just deleted it before anyone noticed. Yet again, Tom just wanted to look far nobler than he actually was, even if it meant taking hypocrisy to a whole new level.
Apparently for Tom, his team member's free speech and bad language were worth apologising for, even from an unconnected source. Even due a grand gesture of 'apology'. But researching and/or apologising for his own categorical misinformation and manipulation of news was not. Says it all really. Tom prizes his own sense of 'offence' as being more important than actual truth - the very definition of a 'snowflake', for all intents and purposes.
Regarding that same 'Cornish Republican Army' story - and more specifically Tom's intention to tell it the way he wanted - the same guy who supposedly fired me out of 'decency and integrity' also casually ASKED ME TO LIE. Days before, he'd asked me to throw in a made-up source/quote to justify his desired headline - to literally invent one out of thin air:
It was a request I categorically refused. See I actually do have a sense of ethics, and common decency.
Hard left VS hard right = a bloody mess
I've had a fair bit of unfortunate stuff happen in the past few years. Everyone has their cross to bear of course, but certainly, it's been no picnic. Changing careers dramatically from touring musician to writer, I put my heart and soul into my work for Evolve - hoping to make a difference. And I think I was beginning to. I was making waves in all the right directions, and a lot of people seemed to enjoy my style and candour. To have it all whipped away and to be back to square one in a heartbeat - simply down to the petulance of one unhinged guy? Well, it's actually pretty painful to be honest.
But in truth, writing for an organisation constantly looking to whip up scandal and/or a one-sided narrative was also pretty painful.
Things went wrong when I started to challenge the 'click-bait' direction and the megalomania of the young chief. I'd supposedly been invited on board at Evolve specifically because of my desire to seek a 'middle-ground', to look at both sides of any argument. And also - ironically - my fairly frank writing style. But like the 'snowflake' he sadly is, Evolve's Editor-in-Chief Tom Rogers can't handle any scrutiny or 'independent thought' whatsoever. His glorified blog caters for very little more than a howling 'Corbynista crowd': there is no nuanced or balanced reporting to be found. And I do say that as someone who actively supports Jeremy Corbyn (on most issues, if not Brexit).
In fact, I see how people like Tom (and even myself, to a degree) have been responsible for growing levels of intolerance in this country too. Perhaps not on the same level as the tabloids, or the right-wing menace that currently blights us. But part of the problem nonetheless. It's not even that there aren't a couple of decent writers at Evolve. For example, the other Assistant Editor, Matt Turner - a recently graduated politics student - is a very intelligent and reasoned individual, and he writes regularly for The Independent. But he too is young. And he certainly doesn't pull the strings at Evolve. He's frankly just a name to give Tom and Jess' pet project a level of 'legitimacy' - and he gets pocket money in return. And sadly, however competent Matt is, when the top of the tree is rotten, most of the fruit falling off it is pretty rotten too. The idea that Evolve are now posturing to be taken seriously as a legitimate outlet, I find utterly jaw-dropping. Yes, this piece may seem like 'sour grapes', but frankly I don't care. I want anyone and everyone to know the truth and what this new breed of 'hard leftist' actually looks like. Because wanting people to know the truth, and fighting for the underdog is why I got into this writing malarkey in the first place.
I'm very tired of all the arguing, the division and dishonour. So much shameless and unapologetic hypocrisy. Hard leftists are almost as bad as the far right - it's true, I can't deny it. No-one's listening to anyone any more. The art of compromise, weighing the value of what someone says (as opposed to which team they support) - even free speech and humour are being entirely lost. Political writing has led me down quite a bleak road, I must say. I've engaged with hundreds of thousands of readers in the past year, but still I doubt most respectable outlets would employ me: I am stained by the association. So a year of work has - ironically - just been to put money in other people's pockets. 'Socialists' like Tom and Jess.
If the likes of Evolve Politics are given access to Westminster, it will truly be the death of any sort of journalistic standard in this country. I'm not saying that new voices and representations aren't desperately needed... but let's just make sure they're vaguely competent and vaguely ethical, eh?
A pecking order in all things
In closing, I would like to offer a paragraph from a piece I wrote for Evolve - again, now quite ironically - referring to The Daily Mail, and the 'regime' of Paul Dacre:
"There is a pecking order in all things. The people at the top always call the shots: their will is the ultimate goal, and everyone below them fears for their livelihood. Feudalism becomes the natural order, unless legislation prevents it. “Fairness and accuracy” don’t come from those lower down the food-chain following directives blindly. Those ethics only arise when lowlier people dare to question the autonomy and agendas of their superiors, even if it’s to their detriment."
I kinda proved my own case in point.
What's next for me? Who knows. Maybe I'll give the music another go after all, however old and ugly I happen to be. All I know is trying to be a 'voice for good' has got me absolutely nowhere - the world is a bloody mess, and I personally feel more disillusioned and angry than ever.
I just never thought it would be with people supposedly on the same 'team'.