Grace Dent: I could criticise Justin Bieber. But I'd rather not be monstered by his 35 million Twitter followers

Plus: Wasn't that nice of Miriam Clegg's God to sort out a place at one of London's best state schools? And: why home printer ink refills are the new champagne...

Share

An almost palpable glee can be felt from British grown-ups right now over pop star Justin Bieber’s ongoing catastrophic British PR drive.

Bieber, no longer that cheeky pop chipmunk with the horizontal hair and undescended balls, is nowadays a lumbering, petulant man-boy displaying levels of brattish conceit which Roald Dahl would tone down in a second draft.

“Worst birthday,” the poor pop-twink harrumphed last week to his 35 million Twitter devotees – the Beliebers. Shortly before, he’d been presented with a very expensive Batman-themed customised motorbike, to sit alongside last year’s $100,000 Fisker Karma sports car.

“Bieber’s Terrible Birthday” – and I can already envision this in paperback in the children’s section, illustrations by Quentin Blake – consisted of a tour of several opulent London venues, most of which Bieber was either asked to leave or flounced from, for a variety of reasons which were NO FAULT of his own. It was the media, the club-owners, the restaurant-owners, the world conspiring to thwart his simple needs.

So I’m not entirely certain who we blame for Bieber traipsing on stage at the O2 on Monday at 10.35pm, two hours late, to perform to an audience of mainly 11-year-old girls at a venue miles from anywhere, which a Belieber could only attend if some poor chump grown-up waited outside in a Volvo until after midnight. But I’ll guess it wasn’t Justin’s.

Maybe big boys tricked him into thinking it was earlier than it was? Maybe a family pet ate his tour schedule? Perhaps his trousers – which he now wears so hysterically low they display the entirety of his underpants – prevented any sudden movements, making his long knock-kneed shuffle to stage a Herculean venture? But why would adults slightly relish a minor Bieber backlash? It’s only pop music.

Sure, being incarcerated over a long drizzling British summer break with a six-year-old intending to play Bieber’s global hit “Baby” upwards of 897 times – occasionally stopping dancing to look one dead in the eye and say, “I need to tell you something… I’ve got the Bieber fever”… – might be vaguely sinister, but I wouldn’t wish the boy harm.

However, I will say that there has been something rather disconcerting about the very modern rise of Bieber, buoyed by his internet army. For a long time now, among writers, the first rule of discussing Justin Bieber has been: Do Not Criticise Justin Bieber. It’s not worth the stress. At the merest hint of a slur, Bieber’s Twitter followers will make one’s life sheer unmitigated hell, submerging one’s inbox and Twitter stream with boggle-eyed abuse, threats of death, reasons why you are a “5uckin Uglee Hore” and other less affable bons mots.

As an adult, I finds this wearisome and a bit worrying. I remember back in 1983 being infatuated by John Taylor from Duran Duran, but I contained my affection to weeping in a back bedroom over a copy of Seven and the Ragged Tiger and at no point upped the ante to threatening to kill Mark Ellen at Smash Hits for mocking my beloved John’s burgundy mullet. My mother was besotted with Frankie Vaughan in the 1950s. At no point did she pen a number of short vitriolic personal messages threatening to rip the face off his fellow fans, unless she’s kept this side to her very quiet.

But the haste in which Bieber fans form twitchfork mobs and turn on each other – demonstrated this week when 15-year-old Courtney Barrasford had a Twitter message to the star retweeted – is quite fascinating. Crucially, there is no set precedent in pop for what the Bieber camp has created. This is a wholly modern tale of pop’s global reach in the age of social networking, spurred on by erratic hormones, major marketing and a largely silent leader who rarely tells his devotees to pipe down.

Bieber’s record company, minders and staff are completely ill-equipped to deal with the trolling and abuse carried out every day on their star’s behalf. In fact, just like Bieber flouncing out of Cirque Du Soir last week, they take no responsibility. So please let me have a little good-natured chuckle at Bieber’s “Worst Birthday”, because I’ve watched this phenomenon growing and there’s not a lot to smile about.

Wasn’t that nice of Miriam Clegg’s God?

Congratulations to Nick Clegg on managing to secure a place for his child at The London Oratory, an exemplary state school delivering education which “at all times serves as a witness to the Catholic faith”. Clegg’s wife Miriam is a Catholic, Clegg is an atheist. Gosh, Miriam’s God certainly smiled down on them the day they filled out those forms. What were the chances – in a city as vast as London and with only 160 places on offer –that Clegg’s child would get a place? Praise be! God is great!

Ok, Clegg’s God isn’t great. He doesn’t believe in God, but let’s not fret about details. The school clearly doesn’t! However, having myself attended a staunch CofE infant and primary school, I do wonder if Nick Clegg has any idea how much biblical wotnot this sort of education hard-wires into tiny minds.

Thirty years later – rarely ever setting foot in a church – my brain is still cluttered with parables, psalms, hymns and a curious urge to make pacts with an omnipotent invisible friend. I can’t do quadratic equations but by Christ can I fashion a Christingle light from just an orange, a candle and some leftover ribbon. If Clegg is planning on biting his tongue in the face of all this Godliness and mumbling, “That’s nice, son”, he may have a harder slog than he thinks.

Printer parties will be the next big thing

Ink refills for home printers are so idiotically expensive these days – a report this week says – that printer ink costs far more drop for drop than the best champagne. Oh, and we’re not imagining that cartridges die quicker than before. The best-selling HP300 has just 5ml of ink, sells for £13 and can print only 200 pages.

Gone are the days when Bollinger and diamonds were the drippings of the mega-rich. These days, I’d be impressed by anyone who invites me over on Saturday night to watch them rattling through a ream of A4 – double-sided, full-colour, high-res.

Twitter: @gracedent

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dom Joly owns a pig. That thinks it's a dog.  

I'll bow out. Let Wilbur, the pig that thinks it's a dog, bring home the bacon

Dom Joly
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'