A Manipulated Living

Max Clifford was a publicist here in Britain, mainly for vacuous “kiss-and-tell” stories touted as news for red top tabloids. He was sentenced to 8 years in jail for sexual assault this week. If you want to know the extent of his depravity the judges closing statement detailing his disgusting crimes is published online here (Very loud TW claxon for rape and sexual assault. Not pleasant reading). Having never liked what I knew of the man before Yewtree clapped him in irons this made for incredibly unsettling reading but made me equally very pleased the massive shitbag is being put away and having a lot of his hard earned money siphoned off him.

What astonished me about his crimes was how ludicrously cartoonish Clifford was about the whole affair. Not only were his crimes, and comments of “No one will believe you” straight after, almost laughable in their ‘boo-hiss’ mentality of evil but his comportment during the trial, one of weary dismissal – shaking his head and laughing at the accusations, speaks of someone I can only ever think of as an actual “Villain”, like the type you get in fiction. A black hearted monster who does what he likes to get what he wants using a significant degree of wealth and power to hide his wrong doings. I always thought these pantomime antagonists in TV dramas and ‘Bizniz’ movies were the work of feverish conspiracists, how ignorant I was. I can only thank and praise the courage of the victims who came forward and were willing to testify against the man for ridding me and no doubt many others of our ignorance and bringing such a hideous man to justice. Sadly this cannot undo the damage he has done but will hopefully send a message to the many other people guilty of such crimes that they should not and will not get away with this type of despicable crime any longer.

Clifford was in a position of power, one he abused to gain sexual favours from girls and assault them. He manipulated them to get them in a position he wanted them. Pop psychology of the 21st century has been a mixed bag and it is difficult to see how much harm or good it has done. By and large it can be boiled down to a simple stratagem: We want and need comfort, food and attention. This makes manipulation surprisingly easy, offer someone something they want or need and you can ask them favours. Display yourself as someone who holds the keys to something they want or need and you can control them. You can see this across the spectrum of people who have your interests at the core of their own i.e. Politicians, Businesses, Advertising, Parents, Siblings, Lovers. We all do it in short. Whether we do it consciously or for good or ill it is easier for us to boil down the human condition to a simple equation so that we can get what we want or need. Admittedly that is a very cynical and pessimistic view of humanity but it need not be bad. In Max Clifford’s case it was very very bad.

The online community of British Youtubers is currently undergoing some pretty tectonic shifts due to some startling revelations about some leading lights in its community. It is quite a murky and hard to follow “Scandal” (as it is being flippantly dubbed by some) but I found this post especially helpful. In short a few of the leading lights (exclusively male) of the YouTube Vlogging community have been accused of sexual assault. Many of the claims are unsubstantiated and have been retracted, a LOT however a have not and legal proceedings are being pursued. The one that most caught my eye was the case of Alex Day. After these claims came about Day put up two posts confessing to the alleged assaults but not apologising. They are carefully worded and seem little more than a scared young man desperately trying to cover his behind and mitigate damage to his career that is ENTIRELY reliant on a million subscribers to his youtube channel. This scandal remains somewhat underground and has not been widely publicised. This makes me extremely uncomfortable considering this is a young man who has got into the charts (peaking at No.3), sells various products online that make up a considerable revenue stream and most recently and (the biggest kick in the balls to me) his recent signing to Penguin for a book which looks set to give him a long literary career despite the fact he has admitted to some of these claims. He has been notably absent online over the last month, presumably at the behest of his lawyer so further out of court settling can be done. This, to me at least, darkens some already pitch black waters.

Alex Day is an advocate of Timothy Ferriss’ “4 Hour Work week”. Ferriss is one of those motivational speakers with a headset mic that I am universally suspicious of. The quick fix mentality that can be so damaging to expectations in real life, like a lot of self help to be honest. I have followed Day’s “Journey”, as his publicity likes to call his video feed, for a few years now. I was introduced to him when he made a series of funny videos where he read Twilight aloud and mocked its shoddy writing. Since then he has become a master of his own “brand”, vlogging his way through selling a self-made card game, a music career, music video career, travelling the world, giving a TED talk, a producer of consumables on the lucrative DFTBA website and latterly a writing career. A stratospheric rise I confess to being very envious of. He was achieving goals I had wanted to at nearly 10 years younger than me and without signing contracts to record labels or revoking personal control. But he was being something I am not. Something I am useless at. He became his own publicist. He knew exactly how to control not only his own mentality to get what he wanted but also the massive online following he had. A massive following that was something like 80% female and under 18. These days that sets alarm bells ringing. It didn’t use to. The teenage girls who flocked to Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones, James Dean, Marlon Brando were sweet young things who were infatuated with their respectable and responsible idol with thier muted sexuality. Those days are gone as we know the risks. Or rather the adults do. Teenage (and younger) boys and girls still have their infatuations and it still only takes someone to abuse their position of power and subsequently manipulate them and we’re back where we started.

Day is a manipulator. A bloody good one. He is selective about his image and what he is portrayed as. He has his wikipedia page locked to prevent changes to it for instance. All people in the public eye and especially online offer the smallest amount of themselves for scrutiny. We are all manipulators to a degree. I include myself in that. Grumbling Misanthrope I may be but I still watch Warner Brothers cartoons and eat chocolate buttons of a Saturday morning. At 29. Day is in a position of power, a relatively small one admittedly, but he had the eyes, ears, hearts and minds of over a million young people. We now know, by his own confession, he abused that position. The crimes may be “lesser” in the eyes of some, he may not have been as prolific an abuser as some, none of this means he should get away with sexual assault.

And yet it has gone quiet.

It has been over a month and little is being done or said regarding the claims. Of any of the youtubers accused. I personally am worried this will blow over with the next scandal and the youtubers accused of these crimes (they are criminal acts, many of which count as rape and include severe penalties) will simply remerge from their bomb shelters to the adoring sunshine of their fans who are none the wiser. Without putting too fine a point on it, Max Clifford relied on that mentality and he is now in a jail cell on multiple counts of sexual assault that he was convicted of in a court of law by a jury of his peers. Big or small celebrity, big or small manipulator people accused of these crimes should, nay MUST, be investigated. Clifford’s conviction gave me hope. Day’s absence and silence surrounding the accusations takes it away. The worst part is it puts paid to the constant argument given by supporters of Clifford and other Yewtree convicts that “That’s what it was like back then” or “it was a different time” or “its not like that anymore”. Wrong. That’s exactly what it is like now and it hasn’t changed.

A similar thing happened on my Social Media app of choice, Vine. The luminously wonderful Jessi Smiles got into a very public relationship with Curtis Lepore, who had close to 4 million followers between them, only to break up very swiftly and mysteriously a few short weeks later. Nothing was said until January when they were both in court due to Lepore’s alleged rape of Smiles. The flak Smiles received from Lepore’s fanbase was disgusting but equally the support was inspiring. She never once slandered anyone, got into a fight or argument, but remained stoic and stuck to her guns. Some sort of settlement was reached that lessened Lepore’s charges resulting in no jail time but community service. Point being, he is guilty of rape but got off lightly. Vine has nothing like the pull of Youtube or the audience numbers so if a REALLY small time celebrity like Lepore can achieve the dizzy heights of getting away with sexual assault, where does that leave us?

As any advertising company will tell you, an advert or commercial is not there to force you to buy a product. Nothing can override personal choice, we have the wonderful ability to choose, what an advert does is it makes us aware something exists. That is a powerful tool. If we only know one brand of toothpaste from one advert we saw we’ll choose that one over the others as it has some made up bullshit about how its the best to its name. So in an attempt to manipulate *you* I make this post and urge you to circulate it to let people of the internet remember, make people aware that this is still happening and that the victims are absolutely supported and are not seen as liars or attention seekers and that the people who made them victims, their attackers, deserve our scrutiny and ultimately justice. I commend anyone who has come forward in whatever medium about any form of sexual abuse. I have no personal correlation but I am a human being and find the crimes reported deplorable and don’t want to see such acts continue let alone THRIVE in the darkened trough of shit that the internet can be at times. Please, please, please share this or at least tell others what you have read and know that I support anyone brave enough to come forward. Clifford’s conviction should be showing that the system is not designed to protect the criminal but the victim. That people, criminals, like him do not get away with it.

Rape culture is damaging to everyone and is still alive and strong. The internet is a wonderful way of damaging or even ending this despicable and outdated doctrine. Please keep the conversation going, please keep talking about this, please don’t keep quiet if you have been abused in any way. There is a MASSIVE community out there ready to listen and help. Any google search will give you mountains of supportive websites but the official ones can be best to begin with:  http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/  or  http://www.thesurvivorstrust.org/ or  https://www.victimsupport.org.uk/. I still think the wonderful http://everydaysexism.com/ can be an informal and anonymous way of getting in touch with other victims or at the very least similarly minded people and telling your story. I realise this is a 30 year old privileged white dude telling his grandma to suck eggs but I don’t care. I’d rather just one person found this and found the links or heard some support and took a positive step for their own well being or the conviction of someone responsible of sexual assault than just sit back and watch this crap happen over and over again.

Thank you to LexCanRoar for bringing the whole youtube thing to my attention, and thanks to Johanna for making that thorough and illuminating meta post. Lindsey Williams seems to be a central figure in the whole thing and has made some equally illuminating videos posts about the whole thing. Also please follow my friend Jessi Smiles a paragon of stoicism and strength who is funny as all hell and just plain lovely. Finally I would encourage anyone who is upset by these claims to contact youtube, Vine, twitter, DFTBA, wikipedia and any other website or company that is tacitly condoning sexual assault by leaving accounts and profiles of those accused of sexual assault untouched. Do so in a respectful manner, hysterics gets nobody anywhere. Thank you in advance to anyone who does so and thank you to all those who have already come forward.

I believe her.



4 thoughts on “A Manipulated Living

  1. “The teenage girls who flocked to Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones, James Dean, Marlon Brando were sweet young things who were infatuated with their respectable and responsible idol with thier muted sexuality. ”

    I hope that was ironic, because with the exception of The Beatles (to my knowledge) and James Dean (unless, like Nicholas Ray, he raped the underage Natalie Woods) all of the above were – or included in their band – rapists, child rapists or predators. And even regarding the Beatles, John Lennon was a violent wife beater. Also, in interview in the wake of the Savile revelations, McCartney only ever stressed that the Beatles did not have sex without anyone under 16, never addressing the question of whether any of the fans they had sex with in America were children under 18.

      1. Ah. Sorry. I’m not always good at catching irony.

        I do wonder why a lot of rock stars of yesteryear haven’t been investigated, frankly? I mean, with the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, they don’t even *need* to be investigated – they can just be arrested! Particularly depressing that Zeppelin were all awarded life-time achievement awards from Obama just a year ago.

        I must admit to finding it hard to wholly let go of Elvis though. Like Michael Jackson, he seemed weirdly innocent despite his perversities. I don’t “like” the man or think he was a good person, but I will admit to finding him fascinating.

  2. P.S. Where do you stand on close-in-age relationships? I often find it weird to think that in California where the age of consent is 18 with no close-in-age exemption, there must be hundreds of thousands (at least) of highschool statutory rapists. I find it odd that something which is an incarnation of absolute evil / the blackest crime, can be totally legal just one state along. I guess I haven’t grown up with different states because I’m English so I don’t quite get the mentality, but I really think the age of consent should be standardized (probably at 18 with either a 3 or 5 year close-in-age exemption, or some kind of sliding scale like in Holland).

    As it is, I feel the temptation to write-off most Californian artists since the average age of loss of virginity is apparently 17, so it seems relatively likely that any given Californian male is technically a child rapist. I love Sparks, but considering Russell Mael still sung about 17-year-old girls well into his 40s, I wouldn’t be massively surprised if he had committed statutory rape. IDK.

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