The Phillip Bloom Saga and "Trial by internet"

Many of you will have seen the news of a 'Twitter battle' between Phillip Bloom, perhaps the best known and certainly most successful stills / video hybrid website owner, reviewer and internet entrepreneur and two women accusing him of abuse (including physical abuse). Now whether these allegations are true, we cannot know. However, in Mr. Blooms somewhat skillfully crafted Twitter statement, I saw no comment that indicated that he was outraged at the suggestion that he had abused the two women, no statement that he had never once physically abused either these or any other women (or anybody else for that matter) or any statement to the effect that he unilaterally despised and was totally intolerant of any kind of abuse. Instead he mounted an attack on the two women, recounted a somewhat lurid tale of an incident involving one of them and tried to make himself the victim. So make of that what you will. I know what I think.

So is this yet another example of the low tone and sensationalist rumour mongering that pervades the internet? Well yes, of course it is. But is it a surprise, no of course it's not. Because that's what we have now. 'Trial by internet' is commonplace, just like 'Trial by television' was and is a fact of life. And Internet 'celebrities' who make vast amounts of money from people visiting their sites and people clicking on ads and buying stuff, cannot complain when the source of their income and the very word of mouth and internet chatter that has put them in the position that they are in, turns against them. 

It can be argued that we all have a right to privacy. But in many cases, including Phillip Bloom, these 'internet stars' seem to give up that right. He is always posting videos of himself in various places, telling us all exactly where he is and what he's doing and on many occasions uses his family to help along his commercial sponsorship deals. So, yes, I'm all for peoples privacy being respected when they make it clear that they wish to be known just for what they do and make every effort to keep their private life private. But if you publish everything you do, where you are and make details of your life and family freely accessible across the internet, can you then complain about intrusion? To paraphrase the cliche, 'Those who live by the internet, die by the internet.'

I'm sure part of this is the presumed (but unfortunately not borne out by reality) seemingly anonymous nature of writing on and for the internet. I'm sitting here typing this onto a screen, but when I press that publish button, it's out there for all to read. Now I'm pretty small scale, but even so the expectation is that several thousand people will read my words. Magnify that many times and you get some idea of Phillip Bloom's audience. And make no mistake his website is his living. With the amount of traffic he generates, the amount of advertising, affiliate deals and sponsorship deals he's involved in, he will be making a LOT of money from the monetisation of his site. And like it or not, he has to accept the negatives of that situation as well as the positives. 

Now whether the allegations against him are true or an orchestrated fictional vendetta, we cannot say. The truth may emerge, it may not. It may adversely affect his popularity either negatively or (somewhat bizarrely) positively. But I was interested in the final comments of his statement, in which he seemed to be pleading for his commercial partners not to forsake him, which again maybe shows what's really going on here. He's not Tiger Woods, who when his 'indiscretions' were revealed, lost millions of dollars in sponsorship deals, but it's a parallel situation, apart from the fact that the golfer admitted what he's done, whereas Phillip Bloom is denying it. As you would expect he would, given the nature of the accusations.

So am I showing double standards concerning this and hypercritically trying to say how much I think this kind of internet behaviour is terrible while at the same time enjoying poking my nose into someone elses misery? Well maybe I am, but isn't this just a consequence of the internet and what it does to us and how we now perceive the world? Because it's all there as soon as we switch our modems on, or our phone or tablets, or watches or even put on our glasses. Is it a case of too much information? Well maybe it is, but at least these days, celebrities, poilticians and anybody else in the public eye will find it more difficult to hide their unspeakable behaviour from the rest of us and the long established pattern of discrediting their victims and getting away with it is harder to achieve. Now it may well be the case that Phillip Bloom is the victim here, lets not forget that. But if he's not and is fact guilty as charged then maybe some good will have come from it. 

And in the end this saga will keep on going until peoples attention is diverted by something else, but not until somebodies reputation is destroyed, whether it deserves to be or not. It is of course a consequence of a rapidly developing culture where we all put our lives out there for people to take potshots at, wisely or not. And like it or loathe it, unless we all turn the power off, that's the way it will remain.