I don’t know about you, but I hate it when people pay me for my work. It just makes it all about them, doesn’t it? Like that Siobhan Curham who ghost-wrote Zoella’s record-breaking gazillions selling Girl Online, outselling J K Rowling and Dan Brown. Gutting for her, it must be, being chained to that. Worse for Zoella, maybe, when the internet found out, but that’s by-the-by.
Money’s just such a downer for the creative juices. Personally, I can’t write until I’m so hungry I might pass out. I actually need that weak, borderline-hallucinogenic vibe before I really crack out the good stuff. And sure, yes, I could do that to myself with money in my bank account. But the flesh is weak, and I can’t promise I wouldn’t be tempted to nourish myself with something costly and high in fatty acids, like an avocado, or a slice of salmon. The People With The Money know this about creatives, and I — like the rest of the weak-willed, left-brained world — am so, so grateful for that.
For anyone hating, then, on the embattled Stephen Hull, editor of Huffington Post UK — who last week declared on Radio 4 that he is ‘proud’ that HuffPo, the multi-multi-million pound media empire, doesn’t pay the blogging cohort on which its enormously well-fed arse cheeks rest — I say: Woah. Guys. Step back. Let the man speak. He may not have eaten for LITERALLY DAYS. And carrying a moral load like that? Paving the way for the true, unshackled, uncompromised artist? This is a modern day Jesus. Fasting, on our behalf, in the desert. Teaching us how to BE. Showing us the LIGHT.
Listen to his words: ‘If I was paying someone to write something because I want it to get advertising, that’s not a real, authentic way of presenting copy. When somebody writes something for us, we know it’s real, we know they want to write it. It’s not been forced or paid for.’
This, people, is someone morally intact. The world is suddenly, irrevocably clear to me. Everything he says is 100% hashtag-unfiltered-I-shit-you-not true.
I write things because I want it to get ADVERTISING. Yes. THAT’S what I’ve been wanting. How blind I have been.
It horrifies me to think that without the likes of HuffPo, valiantly withholding financial assistance, I would, in a matter of moments, become a Zoella, or her BF/BFF: rolling around in the money baths I keep warm just out of blog shot and taking relentless selfies with the waxwork twin I had made for my bathroom — Madame Tussauds can’t have all the fun — and all the while, happily spouting any old shit that comes into my head for a bit of lolly.
So we should all, actually, thank Ariana Huffington and her evangelical recruit, Stephen Hull: for stopping this tide of filthy capitalism in its tracks. For looking down the barrel of commercial depravity – that sticky, fetid slope of moral social decline – and saying, just, NO. NO TO CORPORATE INTERESTS. NO TO ADVERTISING AS A FEE-PAYING MODEL. NO - BY GOD - TO HYPOCRISY.
Because what has investing in the written word ever done? Can we really, hand-on-hearts SWEAR that the long, celebrated history of funded investigative journalism — variously blowing the lid off war crime, human trafficking, Paedophile rings, and political corruption — isn’t just there to generate coin from Google ads? Can we really claim that funded art is a good idea in this age of shallow fiscal morals and sad, populist exhibitionism? No people. We can’t. Because money talks.
And that’s the lesson Stephen Hull has been sent here to teach us: creativity is pure and money is grubby; and the only entity able to withstand the burden of appropriate compensation is Huffington Post inc.
See how it protects the name of creative integrity with its steady diet of animal films and celebrity guest editors. See how it tirelessly rejects any pieces unworthy of this hallowed platform (four of mine, last time I checked, mostly relating to the rise of shady funding, mostly from scientology, in ‘independent’ media. Clearly, my bad).
It’s like that old truism, really, isn’t it – the one about prostitution being the thing that happens when you have too much money? HuffPo knows. Now we do too.