Joey Barton continues legacy of Alexander Graham Bell and Oliver Cromwell
JOEY Barton, the QPR player more famous for what he does off the pitch than on it, is writing for the Times. Barton has bult up big following on twitter by way of his barbed tweets and insights into his mind and reading matter.
This is Joey Barton who said:
“I’m not just Joey Barton, the kid from Huyton who plays football for Manchester City and can do what he wants when he steps off the pitch. I have to take responsibility because I’m a role model for kids. And kids will look at that and think, ‘ If he can do that kind of thing, so can I.’”
Barton once stubbed a lit cigar into the eye of Jamie Tandy, a reserve at Manchester City. Barton beat up Ousmane Dabo on the City training ground, punching his victim as lay bloody and barely conscious. No violent trend in following the role model’s antics ensued. It turned out that people were not so easily influenced by Joey Barton, after all.
He was jailed for six months on May 20 for assault and affray. Did anyone beat up a man in the street because Joey Barton had? Barton attacked a 16-year-old, breaking the youngsters teeth. Did anyone do a Joey?
Joey Barton is not a role model. What he is is a man who wants to move on from his past and be better. As he tells it:
“Hopefully, in ten years people will look back and say, ‘He had a troubled first few years but he learnt from his mistakes and he never did those things again.’ Like Roy Keane. He had a lot of problems, going out drinking and fighting. It’s part of the learning process. You make mistakes and it’s how you deal with them. I made a big mistake and it was well documented. I just have to draw a line under it, accept I’ve done wrong and take whatever punishment has come my way.”
Off the pitch, Barton is a celebrity who understands that readers want one thing above all else: to be entertained. If he wants people to remember him a certain way, he needs a new angle. Unlikely to play for England or win anything with QPR, Barton’s career will be defined by what happens off the pitch. Right now it has been a story punctuated by violence. So. Twitter. Can it make us understand Joey Barton and serve as his open diary? He can’t physically assault people on twitter. Twitterland is a place of tight contraints and strict rules. It suits Barton.
The question is: can Joey Barton be a celebrity in anything more than 140 characters or less? Is he just a man best viewed in short one-way bursts created in private and viewed in public?
Today, Joey Barton writes for the Times. He gets 892 words:
Last year I realised no journalist was going to tell my tale truthfully. So I’m doing it myself
All journalists are liars? He gets it. Talk about the media and the media will notice you.
I am watching Cromwell, starring Richard Harris and Sir Alec Guinness, on my iPad. Set in England in 1645, it’s a fascinating watch, with meetings, discussions and lots of battles. But here’s the thing: the chain of command was a nightmare. Communication required horseback journeys from Cambridge to Oxford to London to Naseby.
The real Joey is educated. Look, no porn and poker. Barton is steeped in filmic versions of history.
Fast forward to 1876, Alexander Graham Bell is making the very first telephone call. Bell had been competing to win the race to invent and patent this technology and to connect the world. In essence the world has just become a much smaller place. The age of instant communication has begun.
Smoke signals, anyone? The mighty pen? The phonic alphabet? Speaking? Libraries? Hand gestures? Cuneiform writing? Homing pigeons? The postal service? Morse code? Surely other forms of instant communication came before the phone?
This brings us to the 20th century and the age of computing. This is an epoch when the world is reduced in size once again, but more dramatically than in any previous century. Why? Because of the internet. As of 2011, more than 2.1 billion people, nearly a third of Earth’s population, use the net.
It’s January 2012 and the world has shrunk yet again, for one simple reason: social media. I started tweeting last May having become increasingly disillusioned with the national media: their portrayal of me, their portrayal of football, their portrayal of the world. It was not completely false, but it was terribly distorted. Not that I was a saint. I had been guilty of various crimes and misdemeanours, mainly because of drunken stupidity. I take responsibility for all that. I have been punished and rightly so.
Twitter is not distorted? A conversation on twitter sheds more light than reading a few reprots from different news sources? Does social media alter and challenge prejudices? Or do we just find what we like and stick with it? Whose referral matters when you follow a twitter account?
But Twitter gave me an opportunity that I could not refuse. After years of interviews, it became clear that no journalist was willing to tell my tale. Anything I said, anything I did, was given an angle to fit in with the bad-boy image.
They wanted it to be entertaining.
Maybe they would be ridiculed by their peers or editors? I mean, someone would look a fool, wouldn’t they? I was an enigma. I was a guy who gave interviews that were totally contrary to expectation. I was able to string a sentence together and debate issues that went beyond Nuts magazine — and, yes, also capable at the time of mindless acts of violence.
There are plenty of erudite, intelligent and engaging footballers. Barton is right – what set him apart and made him interesting was his violent backstory. We do not need a footballer to debate issues beyond his game. What Barton says on football is interesting. He can offer insight the journalsits who need to cultivate and keep contacts might ignore.
They projected someone who was not the real me: it was the me that the press wanted to project. It seemed easier to interview me with the story pre-written. The only quotes that made it into print were those chosen to stir controversy. I realised that it was time to take control of my own output, to become the master of my own destiny. No longer would I allow journalistic interpretation to run wild without any accountability. I didn’t have many choices. I decided to tweet!
Controversy is entertaining. Barton knows that. His tweets are peppered with barbs. Very recently, he called his forme QPR manager Neil Warnock “embarrassing“. His curent manager, Mark Hughes, said, hopefully:
“Joey understands what happens in the dressing room stays there and I don’t think it will be a problem.”
Does he? Isn’t what goes on in the dressing room what we want to know? And don’t we all present ourselves in a stylised way? Is that the real Joey Barton on twitter or just a version of himself he likes. What he choses to include and omit are parts of his narrative.
At first, it was liberating. No longer could the media print a story about me without my having the opportunity to reply. I now had my own network, my own way of communicating directly. I no longer had to rely on interviewers to portray me fairly. I could now interact directly with people without the intervention of gatekeepers or newspaper editors with their own prejudices and agenda; no middleman with an ulterior motive.
Isn’t twitter the middleman.
Within two days, I had attracted 60,000 followers. Today I have more than 1.1 million. People have chosen to follow me on Twitter to find out for themselves who I am and to form their own opinions. This is true of anyone they choose to follow. I’ve been successful because I am honest and totally without spin. All you get is me. There is no agent, no publicist. And there should be no censorship of my opinions, whether from the FA or anyone else. Last week, for example, I innocently said that I fancied both Manchester sides to win, and the FA sent me a letter warning against inciting people to gamble and potentially using inside information. This is Orwellian. Freedom of speech is integral to social media. If people don’t want to follow, they simply click the unfollow. It’s that simple, some would say brutal.
Is freedom of speech what Joey Barton can and cannot say on twitter? Is that speaking truth to power? Isn’t freedom of speech the right to cause offence, not possibly influence betting patterns?
Of course, a lot of abuse comes with the territory. At the outset I was ridiculed, but I kept at it because I was sure that as long as I kept my integrity, people would eventually see the real me. Twitter is not about having my ego stroked, but to connect in the most direct and honest way with followers.
Ego. Followers. Id.
This is the medium of Generation Y, the kids today that will become tomorrow’s leaders. These are my people, the kids with fire in their bellies to take a stand and make a difference. I want to be one of them. It’s amazing what a few months of tweeting have done in comparison with years of press, TV and radio interviews. Public perception is the total opposite of what it once was. People are now beginning to see the man I am. It has reinvigorated my energy to stand for something in this world; something more than kicking a piece of leather around a field. Something bigger than myself. After all, it’s all about legacy — whether getting involved in the Hillsborough campaign or fighting for a new kind of social justice. History only remembers those that stood for something. Just look at Bell or Cromwell. They would have been avid tweeters.
Barton tweets at @Joey7Barton. He has yet to stand for Parliament.
Image: Queens Park Rangers’ Joey Barton mimic’s Luis Suarez after away fans chant he looks like a rat during the Barclays Premier League match at Anfield, Liverpool.