Christina Patterson: Why boasting about who, and what, you know is bad for your 'brand'

 

Share

It makes you wince for their mums.

It makes you, when you hear that they talked about their friends, who seemed to include the Prime Minister, and the royal family, and maybe the Pope, and maybe Jesus Christ, and about how all these people could prove very, very helpful, hope that their mums were far away. Somewhere, perhaps, where you wouldn't pick up a newspaper and find your child on the front page. Somewhere, for example, like Uzbekistan.

It makes you think of all the times their mums would have told them that they shouldn't grab the biggest bowl of jelly, or hog the parcel, or steal the prize. It makes you think of the smacks for porkie pies, and the lectures on playing nicely, and on not showing off. It makes you wonder if their mums looked back on all of this, and thought they might as well have spent 18 years watching daytime telly.

It makes you wonder if, while their mums were telling them how to behave in ways that would make sure they sometimes got invited to other children's parties, their dads were telling them that their mum was very good with the washing machine, bless her, but she didn't have all that much idea about the world, and how to get on in it. And that if they did want to get on in it, the best thing they could do was ignore every single thing she said.

Perhaps that's why some of the men who worked for a company headed by a man who used to advise Margaret Thatcher, and who were secretly filmed by reporters, said that they knew lots of powerful people "very well". Perhaps that's why, for example, one of them said he knew the MP Rory Stewart. Who didn't seem to know him. Who said, in fact, that he had "met him once, for 10 minutes".

And perhaps that's why people whose job it is to make sure that children are tested fairly on their studies, and who were also secretly filmed by reporters, started telling teachers about things they knew that teachers didn't. Like, for example, the questions that would be on exam papers. And perhaps that's why one of them even said that what they were doing was "cheating". But said it in a way that made it sound as if this was something that made him proud.

And maybe that's also why people who go on a TV programme to audition to work for a man who's much more famous for being grumpy than for the computers he used to sell say things like "I've got an IQ of 170", and "I've got raw business talent", and "I'm the brand", which sounds to some of us a bit like saying that you're a cardboard box, and other things that must have their mums telling their friends that it was only someone who looked a bit like their child, and sounded a bit like them, and happened to have the same name, who was on the telly last night, and not anyone who was in any way related to them.

And maybe that's also why some people, when they go on Twitter, and when someone sends them a message saying that they liked their book, or their column, or their shoes, will send it to everyone else who "follows" them on Twitter, so that everyone else can see how much someone they've never met likes the book, or column, or shoes, of someone they've also probably never met, but can also see, from the phrase in little letters at the bottom of the tweet, that the person who wanted them to see the praise was the person who got it.

And perhaps that's why people you meet at parties, at friends', at weekends, in your time off, and neighbours you've barely spoken to, who suddenly invite you for Christmas drinks, send you emails saying how lovely it was to meet you, and also happen to add that they've just started a new business, or written a new book, and perhaps you, or some of your "friends in the media", might be interested in "featuring" it in some way, so that you suddenly realise that what you thought was a nice chat, though you're not sure you'd call it "lovely", was, in fact, a "networking opportunity".

When these things happen, and people act as if it's completely normal to say you know someone you've met once, and to drop hints about information you have that you think the other person doesn't have, and when people think that everyone else should know anything nice that anyone ever says to them, and that a mince pie with a neighbour is a great chance to sell your products, or yourself, you can't help thinking that maybe the mums were wrong, and the dads were right. And so was the young man on TV, who said he was "the brand". Maybe now we're all "the brand", and maybe every conversation, every phone call, every email, and every tweet, is a chance to build it.

Some of us hope not. Some of us think that if you're going to boast about knowing things, or people, you should probably actually know them, because it doesn't take long, in an age of smartphones and Google, to find out if you don't. And because if you don't, it makes you look what you were trying very hard not to look, which is stupid. Which is bad for your business, bad for your "brand", and very embarrassing for your mum. But some of us can't help also thinking that the world would be nicer if just a few more people thought it wasn't such a great idea to boast at all.

A sow's purse from a pompous snob

You shouldn't blame someone for their accent, or the fact that they look 58 when they're 42. But it's a little bit confusing when a man who was born in 1969 speaks like someone who's been locked in a cupboard since 1863. In a debate in the House of Commons this week, the Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg suggested that council "busybodies" should wear bowler hats. He "feared" that all the silkworms in China had "failed in their effort" to turn the "pig's ear" of the Bill into "a silk purse". He thought traffic wardens looked as though they had been "dragged through a hedge backwards". He was very, very keen on the word "indeed". It's possible, of course, that he didn't mean to sound like a pompous snob who's entirely reliant on cliché, but if I'd forked out for all those fees at Eton, I think I might be feeling short-changed.

Let us now praise some famous men

When a Yorkshire lad helped out in his dad's newsagents, and when he worked as a wireless mechanic, and then as a gardener, and then as a nightwatchman, he can't have known where he would one day get his name. But this week, Ted Hughes joined Shakespeare, Johnson, and Keats, in Westminster Abbey's Poets' Corner, where his name will last as long as stone lasts, which is usually a pretty long time.

"Let us pray," said the canon of Westminster Abbey, as part of an unexpectedly moving ceremony, "for those who by their work inspire others to contemplate beauty." And let us also contemplate, he might have added, but didn't, the difference between celebrity and fame.

c.patterson@independent.co.uk / Twitter.com/queenchristina_

React Now

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

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone