Joey Barton, Michael Winner, and the modern paradox of mavericks and manufactured outrage

Just like the late restaurant critic, the tweeting philosopher-footballer generates strong, viral reaction - but satisfies a huge and growing appetite for radical views

Share

Several years ago, while sat in leader conference at The Independent (which is where we decide the paper’s editorial line), I had an argument with the then Deputy Editor.

The well-paid footballer Joey Barton had spent one of his evenings in 2007 punching a man in Liverpool 20 times before an attack which left a teenage boy with broken teeth. Unfortunately for him, the incident was captured on CCTV. In the office, I said Barton deserved a tough sentence. My senior colleague said he was a good guy – he “just had anger issues”.

Modern phenomenons

Earlier this week, when England were playing Brazil, Barton tweeted at Piers Morgan in a conversation about the footballer Neymar. “I’ll introduce myself to him if he ever decides to leave the sanctuary of the Amazon jungle league”. Cue Twitter storm and Barton apology.

I don’t actually think this particularly offensive. But his tweet, and what followed, illuminated two modern phenomenons.

The first is manufactured outrage. In the digital age, information can go viral – that is, spread extremely fast to reach huge numbers of people in a very short space of time. Outrage, being a strong emotion, spreads faster still; and as a result a quite imponderably large amount of nonsense is spouted very quickly.

In these circumstances, it’s best to do what Frank Partnoy suggests in the title of his fascinating book, Wait. Statements made publicly at a moment of high passion and emotional intensity often look silly in calmer times. A lot of the abuse directed at Barton for that particular tweet was unwarranted.

The second phenomenon is the role of the lovable but rude rogue. This may not be totally new. Michael Winner, who died recently, was feted as a great raconteur partly because he was so rude. In fact, he was often an unpleasant brute. Granted an OBE, he rejected it on the grounds that “an OBE is what you get if you clean the toilets at King’s Cross station”.

A curiosity

We seem to have an enduring tolerance for his successors, people like Barton (who is physically rather than verbally violent) and Jeremy Clarkson and Adrian Gill. That’s partly because in a politically correct age, when mainstream parties occupy a crowded centre ground, and a stifling consensus dominates public debate, rude people are considered mavericks, and therefore attractive.

Owen Jones, a columnist for this paper who endures horrible and stupid abuse online (he has over 84,000 followers on Twitter) found that when he went on Question Time, the audience hated the panel’s cosy consensus and responded well when he smashed it.

This is a modern curiosity. The demand for maverick opinion is huge and growing. But so too is the viral outrage at anything which pricks our sterile culture. Joey Barton personifies that paradox.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Syria's Kurds have little choice but to flee amid the desolution, ruins and danger they face

Patrick Cockburn
A bartender serves two Mojito cocktails  

For the twenty-somethings of today, growing up is hard to do

Simon Kelner
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones