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:
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.