Monthly Archives: March 2018

Why I stopped working for Alexander Nix: Part Three

n.b. In a breathtakingly daring move, it appears that I’ve leapt straight from, ‘Why I stopped working for Alexander Nix: Part One,’ to, ‘Why I stopped working for Alexander Nix: Part Three.’ This is (somewhat) explained down there a bit. But even though we’re not at part two, we are at least somewhere. Usually on here when I write “Updates to follow,” or “Next time I am going to be writing about this, this and this,” the updates don’t follow and we never get to hear about the this-es. So this is something, at least. 

When the Cambridge Analytica/Alexander Nix scandal (properly) broke early last week and was the lead item on BBC News at Six, I was sitting in my Nan’s living room with my Nan and my Mum.

“LOOK, LOOK, LOOK” I said to them, drowning out the opening clangs of the BBC News, “THAT’S Alexander Nix. THAT’S who I used to WORK for.”

I’m not sure my Nan believed me. I’m not sure my Nan thinks I’ve worked for anyone.

Then, a few minutes later:

“…and we now go over to our North American technology reporter Dave Lee…””

“I KNOW HIM TOO – Dave Lee. He reads Pitching the World.”

My Nan reached for her phone book and started to turn to the page marked, “NUMBER FOR STEVE’S SECTIONING”

“Oh, this is big,” I said. “And weird. Big and weird – and check out what I’m reading.”

I went into the kitchen and fished out of my bag the book I wanted them to check out.

“Look – The Nix.  This is big and weird. Not the book, the news.”

Most of the above is true. It’s true that I did find it all a bit big and a bit weird. It’s true about Dave Lee and working for Alexander Nix, too. The bit about my Nan having a page in her phone book marked, “NUMBER FOR STEVE’S SECTIONING” is (probably) not true. And I am reading The Nix. I’ve even got the book with me now, see:

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That book and this post, earlier. 

So I was a little heady last week. Let’s be honest, I’m a little heady every week. To deal with these headiness I sought some kind of sanctuary in Pitching the World and wrote, “Why I stopped working for Alexander Nix: Part One,” and (somewhat) promised a part two. On Tuesday I sat around and tried to write that part two but flapped up. I tried again yesterday and flapped up some more. For example, yesterday I wrote stuff like this:

But it turns out that I am worse at leaving companies than I am at whistle-blowing because, a short while after coming back to London, I started working for them again. After slinking off, I slunk back. Some moral conviction that was. But SCL Group did plenty of well-grounded, interesting and socially benign work and I liked (and still like) doing this kind of work and was happy to work on a per-project basis. But after a while I ended up quitting again. Then I went back. This little pattern, this moral-dance, continued for a while. For a couple of years I periodically freelanced for them, mainly writing copy. Then, a couple of years after St Kitts, I went back to work directly for Alexander Nix: I started work on Monday morning, went to the pub for lunch on Wednesday afternoon, had a raft of pints, took my drinking to the park, turned off my phone for two days, and never went back.

And I also wrote stuff about finding Alexander Nix being “funny, engaging company” and said that although he used to be part-monster (we all are), in the years since I stopped working for him he appears to have transitioned to, well, if not quite full-monster then something pretty close. And yet, I wrote yesterday, when I used to know him he was involved in “a lot of good work.” He also got me a job writing for £3 a word.

I know: far out.

This aborted part two read like something I would have written had Alexander Nix tied me up in his basement, surrounded me with remote-controlled cat bombs, and was whispering in my ear, “Write that I was funny and engaging company and that I was involved in a lot of good work otherwise I’m detonating these cat bombs.”

And that’s not quite what I wanted. What I really wanted to say was that I stopped working for companies and people like that because I wanted to concentrate on writing things that helped people. But despite this being true, in the intervening years I’ve catastrophically failed: granted, I’ve written a handful of things that I’m proud of, but the bulk of my published work has been throwaway, morally-neutral, unimportant puff.

So where does that leave us? I suppose in one sense it leaves us here, at Pitching the World. This project is actually one of the few things I am proud to have done and from a number of messages I’ve had, it has actually helped people. One editor, who I later worked for, said that reading about the break up of my marriage on here actually enabled him to deal with his divorce better. So that’s something. And a number of people have contacted me saying that by presenting myself in a fizzy, haphazard, often lazy way they feel better about their fizzy, haphazard laziness. So I suppose that’s something, too.

Something, but not enough. Updates to follow.

 

 

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Why I stopped working for Alexander Nix: Part One.

By the time you read this I may well have been prodded with a ricin-tipped umbrella, or mowed down by a car, or been blown up by a remote-controlled cat-bomb. This is what happens when you spend years shredding your mental health: something big happens in the world, something that you were a part of, so when you see a cat ambling towards you on a near-empty street your first thought is, “BOMB CAT?”

Let me explain.

Back in 2009, in the opening post of this blog I wrote, “Let me explain,” and went on to detail (somewhat) my previous life as a political speechwriter and how this harebrained scheme, Pitching the World, came about. Here is what I said:

“Prior to be stoned in Darwin, Australia I was a political speechwriter in St Kitts, the Caribbean. I left that job for reasons far too complicated and numerous to go into right now, but the main reason I left that job in St Kitts, the Caribbean was to go back to being a freelance journalist. That’s right: at possibly the worst time for freelancers I left my prestigious, well paid and more-exotic-sounding-than-it-is job to go back to journalism.” 

And so with Alexander Nix, Cambridge Analytica, SCL Group and that particular St Kitts election campaign screeching across the news, perhaps now is the time, some eight or nine years later, to go into those complicated, numerous reasons.

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 Umbrellas, earlier. 

But perhaps now isn’t the time, perhaps last year was.

Last year I was sitting in a Jacuzzi in a health club – borderline homelessness, even after eight years, can sometimes be glamorous – and I thought about drawing a curtain across this blog with one final post. Now readers, I was going to begin, I just want to say thank you. Thank you for all of the support and the comments and the offers to buy my never-to-be-written book. And not only do I want to offer my thanks, I also want to offer my apologies for often conducting myself in a lazy, haphazard and monstrous way – it’s just that sometimes I am a lazy, haphazard monster. I try not to be, but I’m a bit of a let down, to be honest. Yet this project has been very dear to me, and you all have been very dear to me, it’s just that all these years later I am still in psychological, emotional and financial ribbons and, come on, I think it’s time to draw a line under all of this. Things haven’t really worked out. I grind my teeth until my gums bleed. My drinking has ballooned. Other recreational peccadilloes have ballooned. While all the good stuff – relationships, my career, industry, health – have anti-ballooned. This is what happens, I suppose, when you leave prestigious, well paid jobs. Anyway, bye.

That’s what I wanted to write. I’m quite glad now that I didn’t.

Although last year, as silly as it might seem to me now, thinking about writing those words began to overwhelm me. Particularly the bit about things being dear to me. “Oh, good,” I thought, “we can now add Jacuzzi to the various other items – boiled eggs, hamburgers, pillows, voids – that I’ve cried into.”

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The only free photo I could find of a Jacuzzi (and I’m not even sure it is a Jacuzzi) earlier. 

Thankfully for me and for other guests of my health club, this Jacuzzi-crying soon stopped and segued into something better. I began to think about leaving my job as a political speechwriter in St Kitts, the Caribbean, and the reasons for doing so. And I thought that instead of writing a meandering, well-trodden final post about how Pitching the World has been an abject failure, I would instead write a post about how even though my life has fallen apart, I’m pleased that I left the Caribbean and pleased, too, that I no longer worked for or with Alexander Nix – that I might, in fact, be a good, honourable man. With piercing accuracy, I was going to call this post, “Why I stopped working for Alexander Nix.”

Because officially, I left that project on moral grounds. Unofficially, I also left on moral grounds. I’ve just re-read the email that I sent after leaving which begins with, “Gentlemen, You deserve an explanation as to why I hot-footed it out of there,” and ends with, “I feel terrible to have let you down. If it wasn’t for these bloody morals, I wouldn’t have done.”

Far out.

Do I publicly want to delve into these bloody morals? Why am I even writing this? It certainly isn’t any kind of expose. And I’m pretty sure it isn’t a clumsy attempt to piggyback upon Alexander Nix’s notoriety and raise my profile. I don’t really care about my profile – I don’t even have a profile, but if I did I wouldn’t care about it. I suppose what it might be is some sort of public record in case I get blown up by a remote-controlled cat-bomb. Or it might just be a neat bookend to my Pitching the World project. Opening post: I left my job as a political speechwriter in the Caribbean. Closing post: I’m actually quite glad I did.

Beady-eyed readers will have noticed that this is called, “Why I stopped working for Alexander Nix: Part One.” This suggests there is going to be a part two – possibly even parts three, four and five. Let’s see. I’ve had a few beers since starting to write this and am starting to feel a little heady.

Anyway, bye.

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A remote-controlled cat-bomb, earlier.