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

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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd end the war on drugs

Patrick Hennessey
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month  

General Election 2015: Politics is the messy art of compromise, unpopular as it may be

David Blunkett
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power