Why the hate for Samantha Brick?
She may have written a deluded article about being drop-dead gorgeous, but does that really deserve the twittered spleen?
I’d wager that on Monday few people knew who Samantha Brick was. Yes, she’d written a few faintly ridiculous articles before, mainly for the Daily Mail, that might have piqued somebody’s interest. (In one, she even boasted of how she was helping to combat childhood obesity: ‘When [my stepson] has overweight friends to stay, I automatically — albeit discreetly — reduce their portion size and won’t offer them dessert.’) But, outside of Samantha’s circle of friends (I’m assuming there’s more than one), she probably wasn’t very well known.
And then came that article in Tuesday’s Daily Mail: ‘Why women hate me for being beautiful‘. Since that seminal publishing event, there are few people without a broadband connection who do not know who Samantha Brick is. She’s that ‘pig ugly’ ‘bitch’; that ‘deluded cow’; that woman who looks at herself in a ‘beer mirror’. It’s fair to say that ‘Ugly Brick’s’ sudden fame is not being basked in.
Let’s give credit where it’s due. The editors and sub-editors at the Daily Mail are clearly masters of dramatic irony. After all, that’s the initial source of Brick’s simultaneous rise and fall: a disjunction between Brick’s self-knowledge and the superior knowledge of the audience. Because while Brick boasts of her ‘beauty’, of how other women view her as a siren-like threat, the pictures – and there are a lot of less-than-flattering pictures to go with the article – let the readers know that how Brick views herself might be a little different to how others view her. In short, she is not all that. She’s pretty normal looking, in fact. She tells one partial story, the pictures complete it.
Not that she helps herself, claiming repeatedly that women hate her for being ‘this pretty’. ‘Take last week, out walking the dogs a neighbour passed by in her car. I waved – she blatantly blanked me. Yet this is someone whose sons have stayed at my house, and who has been welcomed into my home on countless occasions.’ One suspects her neighbour blanked her, not because she’s a stunner, but because of the weirdly small desserts Brick gave her sons.
Still, as deluded as Brick is, and as ripe for the mickey-taking as that delusion may be, does that really excuse the humourless outrage which has followed in Brick’s desperately oblivious wake? This response is far more objectionable than Brick’s possibly misplaced self-confidence. And some of the abuse is just horrible: ‘Why’s everybody being so hard on Samantha Brick? Can’t we just show a little consideration and maybe gang-rape her a bit?’, tweeted one internet warrior. ‘Ahh samantha brick is her name!’, frothed another: ‘Fucking arrogant slag has been hit with a brick on that nose of hers!!’ No doubt the abuse is still proliferating as I type.
Now, while I’d always defend the right to be offensive, that is very different from approving of it, let alone agreeing with it. A right to be offensive is very different to an obligation to be rude. And with freedom of speech comes the freedom to judge what someone else says as rubbish, which is what I’d do with a lot of the post-Brick deluge.
Still, what’s revealing about the thousands upon thousands of bilious comments, these sharp fragments of twittered spleen (nearly two million and counting), is the complete lack of perspective. Stuck inside an ever-inflating bubble of contempt, tweeters and commenters seem unable to see how completely over-the-top the response is. It was a silly article. And it certainly provided something to laugh about. But the response has gone beyond that, and has bypassed a collective sense of humour en route. It seems that in a twitterstorm, where the immediacy of tweet, response and self-satisfied anger is everything, there is no perspective.
Even those responding without explicit venom seem unable to put up with the existence of Brick’s article: ‘Hilarious, I wish I had such an inflated view of my looks. Someone pls tell me it’s a spoof…’ tweeted TV magician Derren Brown. Lauren Laverne, presenter of the catastrophically smug 10 O’Clock Live, an unwitting satire on contemporary satire, felt Brick’s article was worth a stream of criticism: ‘Hey Samantha Brick!’, she shouted across the Twittersphere, ‘to be clear, I don’t think you’re ugly, or deluded. I think you’re a professional troll, who is saying stuff for £££. And as such it is perfectly acceptable to have a laugh about your ludicrous article.’ Not that there was much laughing.
Underpinning the OTT reaction to Brick’s article is something akin to a collective outbreak of intolerance, a refusal, that is, to put up with the existence of ‘this type of thing’. Just as fellow Daily Mail writer Jan Moir upset liberal sensibilities with an anti-gay screed written in the immediate aftermath of the death of Stephen Gately, so Brick has written something deemed to be similarly unpalatable – and therefore, like Moir herself, seen as a worthy object of mass bile. Brick, you see, is not just deluded, she’s too arrogant, too self-confident – and she’s getting ‘£££’ for expressing it. In this sense, intolerance and the drive to make everyone conform to certain, narrow cultural norms go hand-in-hand.
The one upside of this whole saga is that it’s unlikely Brick will be too upset about being the object of online hate. If her response, again published in the hit-hunting Daily Mail, is any indication, she appears to have the hide of a rhino (which is not a comment on her skin).
Tim Black is senior writer at spiked.
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