Who is the worst person on Twitter? Is it Noel Fielding? Or Richard Dawkins? Or is it, as some people have claimed, Callum Hamilton and Dom Passantino, writers of the ongoing 100 Worst People On Twitter list? They talk about the media class, the Queen and being blocked by Ed Byrne despite not even mentioning him, in this interview where we try to figure out: are Callum and Dom what’s wrong with the internet? Or are they the solution? Deep In The Game continues apace – and the views expressed are those of the interviewees, not the publication, of course.
Can you explain what the 100 Worst People On Twitter is, to people who don’t know?
Dom Passantino: Hmmm. Pettiness in blog form. It’s basically 100 pencil portraits of why various members of Twitter’s good and great are making the world a worse place with their “content” and “brand”. We’re inverse social marketers basically.
Callum Hamilton: Yeah, I think there’s a particular cultural idea, a class, a demographic that we were really aiming for, which are at the heart of it though
DP: Yeah, there’s definitely lines to be drawn between maybe 85% of our entries
Who are the 85%?
CH: They’re basically the English media class
DP: The mythical media class. They’re like the middle class except with the few redeeming traits removed. Death by G2.
CH: In a sense it’s a group of people who have an increasing cultural monopoly on British public life. You can see this in the recent expansions into politics by a lot of the entries.
DP: If 100 Worst is for anything, its for an end to monoculture. I think… you probably won’t remember this but between 2006 and…. 2009 there was a free paper in London called thelondonpaper. And it was on all the tube trains and whatever. It mixed centre-right politics in the news section with Guardian Guide style shit in the entertainment section. So the front page was all “WE ARE SWAMPED BY ASYLUM SEEKING SCUM”, and then in the middle it was “check out the comedy stylings of Josie Long and the latest pop banger from Ladyhawke”. And someone has taken that as a guide on how to run a country.
CH: The thing is there’s not really a dissonance to be had there
DP: No there isn’t, but I think a lot of these people kid themselves that there is, that you can define yourself positively by culture. And then you end up with schmucks like Grace Dent being treated as Someone With Something to Say.
CH: A lot of people from that have ended up in various other places – in the same way the fall of the Byzantine Empire led to the Renaissance in Western Europe due to a lot of the refugees, the collapse of institutions like the londonpaper and other classic print media stuff, which is in retreat, has led to this kind of terrible birth of a wider, online-but-not-exclusively-so culture elsewhere.
DP: Elites are very good at co-opting, which is why monoculture is such a bad thing. Balkanise pop culture, imho.
Can you talk more about this idea of positively identifying yourself through culture? You mean people think that if they like the right music/arts/etc, they’re plugging into the good-guys liberal thing?
DP: Oh yeah. It’s why… like there was a thing today where some new EDL puppet popped up on Twitter. People were confused that an EDL member was following JME on Twitter. As if liking entry-level post-grime somehow inures you to racism.
CH: I think there’s this notion that, as these people expand into other things – look at all the shit bands and shit politics Graham Linehan propagates – then people believe that hype. He’s not just someone who can write comedy anymore, he’s a fucking philosopher-king.
DP: Twitter is creating a Joey Barton for every single sphere.
CH: It’s basically just a really childish form of hero-worship. I mean, the same people will probably read Nick Cohen columns saying what idiots some group of POCs are for supporting a dictator but then he’d probably expect them to take his opinions on restaurants and Glastonbury seriously.
DP: I think that’s what’s happened with the death of a lot of print media forms is that people now write across four or five different topic areas. So you get people who are basically third or fourth-tier pop culture critics, and they get to write about, say, feminism or race relations on a regular basis.
CH: I think part of this can be tied in with the odd narcissistic desire of a lot of people to want to be journalists. They no longer see these people as anything but their mates. Oddly, there are a lot of parallels with lad culture there – people going out of their way to appear to be one of the ‘lads’ (defined as anyone who shared their exact interests and doesn’t raise any criticism whatsoever). In many ways if there’s one entry to sum up the whole list, it’s not Linehan or Dent, it’s Sara Malm.
DP: Malm is definitely Callum’s Moriarty.
So by doing this list, which is probably fair to call quite snipey, are you going for the offenders themselves, or the people who identify with them?
DP: It’s like what we said in the Rob Delaney entry: if Rob Delaney never existed, there’d be another Rob Delaney along to replace him in that spot. These people don’t push culture forward. They get allotted into slots by it. So while the transgressors themselves are loathsome, it’s a bit like they’re the policemen in a riot. Yeah they’re assholes, but it’s the system that’s making them hit you with a billyclub. At least these people are making money from being shits. Their fans aren’t.
What gets the people who aren’t the British media class into the list? Pure offensiveness?
CH: Yeah, it’s not just an assault on that – there’s plenty of other things that are terrible about Twitter too, although they don’t always get the attention they deserve.
DP: I think mine and Callum’s interests and views are different enough to make sure we can hit other targets. He’s got his politics, I managed to insult two different wrestlers in the list
CH: Despite that, I’m quite glad of the fact we managed to do it but restrain ourselves from using it to settle too many personal vendettas.
DP: Yeah, I think I only wrote three entries out of a sense of personal malice.
CH: I mean, I did this and didn’t put Michael Cox in the list, that’s pretty impressive.
That’s a spoiler.
DP: “#1 worst person on Twitter: my ex-girlfriend. Stop talking about nail varnish”
CH: And any personal prejudices. Like, I don’t think I’ve mentioned Celtic once.
DP: Yeah, and I laid off northern Italians.
When I started reading the list I was assuming certain people would be on it, but obviously they ended up being higher up or not on it yet – I’m curious about how much research went into it before you started. Were you keeping a running list?
DP: Yeah… I mean when we started this off, it was literally just a long-ass Google Document with a bunch of names typed up as and when they irritated us. And the more people seemed to start reading the site, the more we thought “huh, better make this more orderly”.
Can you name some out-takes, and why they’re less terrible than 100 other people?
DP: A lot of people were taken out because they’d be repeating points made in other entries. So after having @LadHouse, we couldn’t really go for another generic “lad humour” account. After the writing on all the fake Ted accounts, we couldn’t talk about FillWerrell et al. There’s about 30 journalists who flit between the Times, The Guardian and The Indy who are indistinguishable between each other so we could only focus on a few of them. And the Sunday People’s Twitter account, which has just started in the past few weeks, is fucking terrible but isn’t bad enough to warrant being in the top 20.
CH: I mean even the other day we mentioned Dylan Jones, how he’s just a fucking awful waste of flesh but you just couldn’t write an entry about him. The only thing you could really say is “look at this utter ballbag, every single one of his opinions are uniformly terrible”. But how far is that from saying “Hey, Mumford and Sons, they’re really shit”?
DP: Especially when you get to the top 20, you have to have a visceral problem with someone or what they represent. I don’t think anyone in the top 15 is there just because they’re shit at writing 140 characters out. They all represent something greater. Or worse.
Were there any demoralising reactions? I remember Charlie Brooker having quite funny comments because obviously there is a crossover between people who want to read lists of giving out about people on Twitter and people who like Charlie Brooker.
DP: I’m not going to lie, there’s not one single person who got upset that I’m not glad we annoyed.
CH: Yeah, I’d agree with that completely. You say that, Karl, but the other thing is when you begin any project you’ll get people on board with it who you don’t really like, and as things have gotten on, I think we’ve gotten rid of a lot of those people.
DP: I managed to get blocked by Ed Byrne despite never having mentioned him during the entire list. Yeah, there were some people who turned up at the start who probably thought we were going to be all, “Yeah, fuck the Daily Mail, we’re cool we know what’s popping”, if that makes any sense. I think they just thought it’d be some sort of wacky cultish The Poke-retweeted shit.
It would make sense to be anonymous, but you’re not. Why not?
DP: It would have just been so… lame if we were
CH: We’ve not pushed our own personal shit through the account either, though. The identification is one-way.
DP: We’re not the Burial of Tumblr. It would be lame for us to decry cults of twitter personality and then make a big thing about who the writers of the site are.
So the twist is not that you are number one.
DP: If I had a pound for every time someone had made that gag…
CH: You’d have about thirty-eight pounds.
DP: …well, I’d hire a hitman to kill Chris Addison.
CH: Which, yeah, would probably be enough to do that.
DP: That’d cover it in fairness. Get a couple of lads from the estate, no heroes, pop pop.
Is there a twist, or is Graham Linehan just sitting on the throne there throughout the months of build?
CH: There’s no big twist.
DP: I think if you’ve read the list so far, you can probably work out who most of the top ten are, basically by working out who we haven’t written about so far. We’ve eliminated the footsoldiers and it’s just the caporegimes of shite that are left.
I was gonna ask you to explain who you are individually at the top but I didn’t. Do you want to do that now or not?
DP: I’m Dom Passantino, I was briefly involved in the media class for six months in 2006 and have been trying to purge myself of the stains ever since. Helen Lewis gave me her card at a networking event. She’s gone places has that girl.
Unsure whether Callum’s silence implies he doesn’t want to jeopardise his career somehow or that he’s gone to the toilet.
DP: I’m assuming one of his vassals is trying to strangle him on Crusader Kings 2.
I usually do a quickfire round but you kind of cover a lot of ground on the site. Is it worthwhile for me to just name people so you can make quick jokes?
DP: Go for it, I know how hard it is to fill word counts.
DP: Really needs to close her mouth in photographs. Presumably being homeschooled she never had a teacher tell her she’d “catch flies”.
DP: His son is a lot, lot worse.
Ireland as a whole.
DP: Great bunch of lads?
CH: Sorry, back. I had gone to the toilet, you were right
Okay roll this back to where you explain who you are for a second.
DP: Callum’s now going to respond to the last ten minutes worth of questions
CH: I’m Callum Hamilton, I’m a football writer. There’s not really much more to say than that.
Back to quickfire round for two minutes and then we’re done. Queen Elizabeth II.
CH: I maintain that even with the whole history of the institution of the British monarchy, expecting us to read ‘she’s a style icon’ with a straight face is the absolute zenith of sycophancy it has ever attracted.
DP: Remember when her sister fell asleep in the bath and died? The fuck was all that about?
CH: Oh yeah, also, if you’re gonna use that Celtic bit, I’d just like to say, I’ve got no ish with Ireland, Gerry Adams is my favourite guy to follow on Twitter.
DP: Yeah, between Gezza and Tyson Fury, Ireland’s Twitter game is tight.
CH: Also I find Irish sports journalists to be the least objectionable.
Okay that’s it. Do you have anything to mention apart from the blog?
CH: I think maybe there’s something to be said about the fact me and Dom have both had slightly disconnected, Walt-Disney versions of the immigrant experience, and so we’re kind of in the position where this shit is still foreign to us but we’re nonetheless not quite disenfranchised enough to have too much heavy shit going on to have a pop at them?
DP: We’re on the periphery enough to treat it with contempt, but involved enough to understand. We’re the Bill Bufford of the middle classes.
To clarify, you are Scottish and Sicilian respectively, with readers presumably able to figure out which is which by surnames.
DP: Yeah, and when the Scots and Italians get together, it’s always a party. Lord Forte, Paolo Nutini, all those dead drug dealers
CH: Lou Macari
DP: And Lou Macari’s dead son
CH: I mean, just look at the Wikipedia page for Scots-Italians, there’s like 2,000 people who have their own pages out of a population of probably only about ten times that.
Follow the 100 Worst People On Twitter as it moves into the top 10 and, presumably, Graham Linehan’s lofty perch.