NERVES OF STEAL
There’s an old mathematical adage that if you put enough monkeys in a room with some typewriters, they’ll eventually produce Shakespeare. A more modern observation (from my own empirical experience) is if you send enough jokes on Twitter to an Associate Editor of a left-wing national tabloid daily newspaper – let’s pluck a name out of the air and call it something like the Daily Mirror – he will eventually pass one of them off as his own.
On September 26th, in response to a tweet by a journalist I’ve followed for ages – why not call him Kevin Maguire – I tweeted the line Vote Lib Dems, get Tories to him. Not the greatest quip I’ve ever produced, but it was my quip nevertheless. So you can imagine my surprise on September 27th to read a tweet from Mr Maguire promoting his Mirror column (in which he regularly bangs on about social justice) with the link to it, followed by the tag line Vote Lib Dems, Get the Tories.
The insertion of the word ‘the’ failed to disguise the fact that the other words – ‘Vote’, ‘Lib’, ‘Dems’, ‘Get’, ‘Tories’ appeared to be the very same words – ‘Vote’, ‘Lib’, ‘Dems’, ‘Get’, ‘Tories’ – I had sent to Kevin the Gerbil the day before. Not to mention in the very same order. (Not much gets past me. Brownie Observation Badge, 1968).
I clicked on the link and read the column. There at the end of it was my line, bold as brass for all the world to see. (Well, readers of the Daily Mirror, anyway. Which only has a circulation of around 1,080,000, so why would I be bothered???)
Mr Maguire doesn’t follow me on Twitter, which meant I was unable to send him a Direct Message, so I tweeted at him publicly that I had in fact sent him that line a day previously. Read Kevin Maguire, Get Diane Messias, I wrote.
No response. I wrote again, telling him I’m a professional writer, and giving him the link to my website.
So I sent a letter to him at the Mirror inviting him to offer an apology, an acknowledgement, a cheque. Am currently awaiting a response.
In the meantime, he’s been the lucky recipient of a few pithy comments from me…yesterday, for example, he commented that a picture of him wearing white football boots was for a segment he did for a political programme on TV. So I asked him if he was sure those shoes were his, and alerted him to the fact that I was checking my wardrobe. (You’ll have to take it from me that sometimes I do actually come up with lines that are worth stealing).
Perhaps the explanation is that Mr Maguire really does have a bit of an identity crisis – for we both have silver hair, we’re both writers, and we both live in the very same area of SW London. (Must remind him that he’s the taller one. As most people usually are). But one of us enjoys a very well-paid secure, high profile job, is never off the TV, and has in excess of 44,000 followers on Twitter, whilst the other is trying to eek out a living from penning dodgy jokes about dodgy politicians (has recently added dodgy political journalists to the portfolio to broaden the scope a little), makes regular appearances at her local discount supermarket, and has attracted a small, but perfectly formed band of 129 loyal Twitter friends. Some of whom are foodstuffs. (Who knew banana smoothies liked political satire???)
Answers on a postcard with your guess as to who’s who.
I need to tell you that I did initially think of taking the Buddhist approach to this blatant example of plagiarism: I meditated hard on what the chances were of hitting him over the head with a stone Buddha, but sadly, no divine revelation materialized on how to logistically achieve such a spiritual aim. So, as we Buddhists often chant, stuff that for a game of soldiers.
I can’t imagine Mr Maguire dreaming of behaving in such a way if I was a household name like, say, Armando Iannucci (a former colleague at the BBC, who had the office next door to mine), or Rory Bremner (with whom I have worked a few times). Meaning, perhaps, that social justice is only applicable to those with fame and/or fortune. New Labour, New Morality. (I’ve marked that line with an identity pen, Kev. Just in case).
In one of those weird examples of synchronicity, a survey into penis lengths based on nationality was published the other day. Regular readers of this blog will know that it’s been some time since I’ve had a man in my bed; little did I imagine that my next encounter with the male anatomy would be with a penis called Kevin.