SUCH is the nature of both the British justice system and the growing obsession with going viral, it is quite conceivable in 2023 that you can spend the morning in a police station and the evening chatting to Piers Morgan on his TalkTV show.
Now, admittedly, this is nobody’s idea of a particularly enjoyable day, or even a productive one, but it is still something that can easily happen and stands as evidence, when it does, of where we are as a society at this current time.
Just recently, for example, an 18-year-old Londoner went through this exact experience after a rush of notoriety came his way due to some TikToks going viral. In these videos, all of which he recorded and posted, the teenager could be seen walking into strangers’ homes without their permission, jumping on the back of an unsuspecting Jewish man, and asking various people if they wanted to “die” before pulling from his coat a bottle of hair dye the moment they ran off.
For social media, they all worked as perfect Monday morning fodder. Those of a similar disposition will have followed the unruly teenager’s numerous accounts and waited for more of the same, while the outraged let their feelings known ad nauseam until they too were accumulating the same kind of attention the teenager with lots of followers but no direction was after.
Piers Morgan, meanwhile, watched this unfold and adopted the role played by all powerful men in suits. Which is to say, he first denounced the actions of the TikToking teenager and then, when hearing he had been released from a brief tour of a London police station, set about partnering up with him and getting him on his show. He, too, much like the TikToking teenager and the outraged peanut gallery, suddenly saw an opportunity; an opportunity to gain attention, an opportunity to become the centre of it. It was, of course, all to be done under the guise of delivering a public service, or simply giving the public what they apparently wanted, but ultimately the goal was one now shared by both the judge and accused: reach as many eyeballs as possible.
Once that has been established, you can then be clever with it. You can openly condemn the accused to his face and even give it to him both barrels in a way that will gather online support and create eye-catching clips that can be spread like spittle from an unguarded sneeze. All you really have to do, with the boy in the studio and therefore under your control, is become so confrontational that those watching either forget or remain unaware of the reasons why you have decided to bring further attention to an attention-seeker purely for your own benefit. To distract from that, just keep shouting at him. Just keep pointing fingers. Just keep telling him he’s a very naughty boy.
Should they get their way, a similar thing will happen with boxers Conor Benn and Chris Eubank Jnr at some point this year. Like the troublemaking TikToker, notoriety has become a currency for the pair of them of late and Benn, in particular, has grown to understand this while trying to prove he didn’t deliberately take the performance-enhancing drug clomifene. With time doing most of Benn’s healing, as tends to be the case in boxing, his issue is now seen as neither a big deal nor a stumbling block as far as the progress of his professional career is concerned. It may have stalled his plans momentarily, and caused him to embark on some soul-searching, yet, to think in far more positive terms, consider how his profile has increased in the time he has spent away from the ring. Think, too, how the anticipation for his comeback (imminent, we are told) increases daily and how the anticipation for a fight against Eubank Jnr, which was cancelled last October, has never been greater.
That’s what Piers Morgan would say anyway. He would, on the one hand, condemn the failed drug test, just as so many did when it was revealed last year, and then, on the other, take a moment to think to himself, Okay, fine, but how can I now make this work for me? After that, he would gradually soften his stance on the test result and the ensuing drama, perhaps even teasing the idea of contamination, or moaning that these bloody tests pick up everything these days, or telling the world mental health is a real thing, don’t you know? He would then encourage Benn to soften his own stance and not be so antagonistic and villainous. Definitely, whatever you do, don’t hide away, though. In today’s world, that’s career suicide, I promise you. What you must do instead, right, is make yourself available and accessible and use bad publicity as a way of bolstering your brand and preparing yourself for the inevitable comeback. Then, when you’re ready, all it takes is one call to a sheikh and another to Chris Eubank Jnr, who has been waiting for you, and we’re back on: good guy vs. bad guy. Forget all the stuff Chris said about drugs when he lost the payday first time around. He was just trying to rile you and kick you while you were down. He doesn’t really care about that nonsense. He, like me, just wants to get paid.
In the end, so as to cut through the complications, he will have you convinced this is the only way of sorting it. He will have you convinced that a fight between the pair supersedes the need to get to the bottom of why it was originally cancelled and he will convince you, moreover, that the fight is one the whole country wants to see, despite the fact it was forced upon us like an unexpected tax bill when initially proposed out of the blue last year. There will be talk of bad blood and unfinished business and there will also be renewed talk of the two boxers’ fathers and what they did for the sport back in the 1990s.
And it is then, when hearing talk of fathers, I shall remember how the troublemaking TikToker skirted around that subject in his conversation with Piers Morgan and how in that moment, when he mentioned falling out with his mum but made no allusion to a dad, he looked never more like a lost little boy and never more vulnerable to the self-serving machinations of other dads who should probably know better.