What ever happened to that Spectator article about Marcus Rashford?
You may recall the hoo-hah the other week about Marcus Rashford and a Spectator story. Rashford tweeted that the Spectator were preparing to run a story about him but strangely the story then never appeared. So what was it all about, and what happened to the story? Well I’ll have to take you back a few months...
The events I describe were born of a familiar cause. I speak of course of the seemingly never-ending search for ways to keep oneself occupied during lockdown. I noticed one evening that The Spectator, that much (formerly?) revered political journal, had launched a new enterprise, Wokeyleaks, heralded as “A regular column by an anonymous whistle-blower operating deep within the Social Justice Movement”, asking for leaks of “classified information” about “woke culture”.
I know what you are thinking; Ah that’ll simply be more lazy clickbait from a right-wing, culture-war-mongering magazine. Well, your thoughts are wrong! What they were doing with Wokeyleaks was actually rather brave.*
One has to admire the bravery, or audacity of a publication, previously edited by the Prime Minister and with Andrew Neil as Chairman, suggesting that it is no longer part of the establishment.
Bygone are the heady days where column inches were filled by the likes of Christopher Hitchens, Graham Greene, or my personal favourite, Debo, Duchess of Devonshire. In their place are now more nuanced intellectual heavyweights, like Brendan O’Neill, Douglas Murray, and Rod Liddle. These days rather than holding forth at Simpsons in the Strand, one is more likely to find the contributors of this noble organ spending their time in the trenches of Twitter, fighting on the vanguard in the new culture wars; I speak of course of The Tepid Wars.
For those of you unfamiliar with The Tepid Wars, there are many brave acts of resistance one can engage in to give two fingers to “The Establishment”. But perhaps it was The Spectator’s Rod Liddle who displayed the most courage, when he smoked, in his bedroom.
I digress, sorry. So The Spectator, keen to ensure they stayed hip, relevant, and down with the kids were trying something new - that which can send pillars of the establishment crashing down; investigative journalism!**
Wokeyleaks was asking for people to send in “anonymous” examples of “woke-culture war crimes” from workplaces, and other settings. Lol, what losers, I thought to myself (Can one think a lol? Remember, it was the second (or third?) lockdown and I was very bored). So I decided to amuse myself by sending them some fake stories. Surely they wouldn’t take this seriously, I mused, as I hammered out frankly ludicrous claims about the great and the good; and thought little more of it.
A few weeks later I was somewhat surprised to receive a reply.
The Wokeyleaks writer “Edward Snowflake they/them” (hahaha do you get it, very witty, lol) wanted to know more about the “gossip” I had. Out of all the bizarre stories I’d claimed to have, the one that interested them related to a certain Marcus Rashford and the talent agency he worked with at the time, Roc Nation.
I was surprised to get a response. Not surprised that The Spectator wanted me to enlist in the Tepid Wars, but more because of the content of my emails. But then The Spectator seem very interested in Marcus Rashford, (I like how they frame their headlines as entirely innocent rhetorical questions).
[At this point, just for the avoidance of doubt, I should make very clear that nothing in any of my emails was true, and I have had no contact with Roc Nation, Marcus Rashford, or anyone connected to them.]
I’d claimed Marcus Rashford’s interest in campaigning to keep free school meals was inspired by his mother being a member of the Communist Party who wanted to nationalise all food. But I’d also said (in the same email) that the food poverty campaign was nothing to do with Rashford at all, but was thought up by a bunch of wealthy white liberals at Roc Nation who had “opened his [Rashford’s] eyes to the reality of food poverty”. (Perhaps for The Spectator, relying on free school meals (FSM) as a child wasn’t enough to embolden you to action, it still takes the white middle classes to convince you?)
Things began to snowball. (Or should I say snowflake?? Hahaha lol). To give some idea of how seriously this was being taken, let me quote from an email from “Wokeyleaks” dated months later, on 1st June 2021;
I'm so sorry this is taking so long to make happen. We've been waiting for Fraser [Nelson, Spectator Editor] to read and approve. He finally has today and suddenly he's extremely excited. I don't think he had any idea. Now he thinks they might make it a cover and says it might be the best story Spec have or will run all year! Great news, though frustrating it's taken him so long! It also means that we have to go back and double check every thing [sic] with the lawyers. We're pencilling next week. Spec doesn't really do investigative stuff so this is all a bit new to them. So If I have any further questions from Fraser, am I ok to ping them over this week?
Really excited. I think it will be a real splash. You should be proud.
Sent with ProtonMail Secure Email.
Soon a first draft, “Roc Nation and Wokewashing” arrived in my inbox from “Eddie Snowflake”, and I quote directly from it;
Mercifully Roc Nation apparently scratched an idea to have Prince Harry lend his support to Rashford by living on free school meals himself for a week (Bobby Sands eat your heart out).
Roc Nation, they say, regularly dictates the issues that their clients campaign on. Apparently, Andy Murray asked the company to help him with a campaign on alternative voting systems, but it was rejected as “too dry”.
Man City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne wanted to do a pro-EU protest, but that was “too divisive”. Another client was allegedly mocked in the office for proposing an anti-littering campaign. And a rising soccer star was keen to do something against the badger cull but apparently that wasn’t “controversial enough”.
(To clarify, the player who loves badgers was selected by googling FULHAM + ROC NATION).
I was disappointed they didn’t include every campaign idea. I suggested that one footballer had gotten in touch with Roc Nation and pitched a “cooking channel” but producers told him his menu was “too English”.
There were various email discussions of Roc Nation’s social justice strategy; again, I quote directly from the draft;
...our Wokeyleaker tells us that Rashford vetoed the worst of Roc Nations [sic] ideas such as a suggestion to collaborate with Fortnum & Masons [sic] to allocate food stylists to poor families to teach them how to feed their kids. Because extremely poor people love getting unsolicited dietary advice from the mega-rich, as Marie Antoinette discovered when she recommended more cake.
(Obviously another thing I’d entirely made up.)
I asked friends if they thought it would ever go to print - “Of course not. It’s clearly nonsense, they’ll never take this seriously. The Spectator has editors and lawyers. There’s no way this would get past them.”
Yet still the months passed and they were wanting more.
Naturally, there were questions that kept coming back. How did Rashford benefit financially from the campaign; and exactly how much had he donated to charity, (I can only assume they wanted to do a glowing article where they praised him for his generosity).
I don’t know what was in their email(s) to Rashford’s team, I do however find it interesting that there were allusions to the piece having a “financial benefit” focus (the draft I saw certainly did). When asked for evidence, I would say things like;
MR donated lots but I don't know details sorry, he's quite private about his own philanthropy (annoyingly)
I had other such hard-hitting revelations such as these;
the thing with MR is he is incredibly well liked. That kind of unassuming nature of his that masks something a bit more sinister (imo) underneath.
Notwithstanding this odd fixation on Rashford, I was encouraged somewhat by other questions. Because the article wasn’t about the culture wars, nor was it about Marcus Rashford. No, it was about the evils of corporate capitalism, and I think it’s very nice that his work on food poverty inspired them to investigate this (I mean it only took them ~193 years).
It’s Coming Home
And so we come to the Euros. I have to say I think one of the saddest things about this whole saga is how unpatriotic this Spectator contributor was, despite their magazine’s jingoistic proclamations.
As Snowflake informed me;
“I'm pushing for them to hold this until England inevitably crash out of the Euros”
As it happens, I’m sure we’d all agree that you can’t really “crash out” of a final.
The England team were soon hailed as the most popular people in the country, showered with love and solidarity. Even GB News took a knee. They were more revered than David Attenborough, more respected than the Queen, and only slightly less loved than Toby from Love Island. For Marcus Rashford himself, as you are aware, there were the Withington Walls, not forgetting the MBE, and beavers naming their cubs after him.
I resigned myself to knowing that The Spectator would give up on the story - surely it would be as ill-judged as criticising the RNLI.
And yet, I received this about a week after England “inevitably crash[ed] out of the Euros” © Edward Snowflake they/them 2021.
What a crazy week huh? The whole country loses its shit over 'racist' graffiti that turns out not to be racist at all. Shall we get this show back on the road now that it's died down a bit? I feel like this story pulls the rug out from under the feet of the left because it's not about race at all it's about corporate coopting of social justice so I'm not sure how they could complain - though they will obviously try to make it part of the culture war.
Later that very evening I actually spoke to ‘Edward’. Things were snowflaking and there was talk of going to print the very next day. (So soon after the Euros? But they had had this story for months!)
So I was giving Love Island the undivided attention it deserves, and my phone rang. That never happens! Who could this be!
“Yeah, what?’ (I always answer the phone politely)
“Um. Have you seen Twitter?” (This is my long suffering friend on the line)
“Can you go on Twitter.”
“No. Why? What’s happened?
“Marcus Rashford has tweeted about The Spectator doing an article on him tomorrow, about how he has financially benefited from the FSM campaign. That’s not your thing trolling them is it?”
“What???” [long pause] “Have people noticed it?”
“Well...it has about 20,000 retweets so far so yes.. I think so.”
It had indeed been noticed, and it seemed the whole world was united in supporting Rashford.***
About the same time, I saw that I had messages from “Mr Snowflake” asking to speak URGENTLY. It seemed the stakes had changed, the story (now) had to be “watertight” (presumably as their editors were being trolled on social media).
The Conference Call
So you know how it is. One minute, you’re getting ready for bed, the next you’re in a conference call with Fraser Nelson and Freddy Gray of The Spectator. I wondered, did Fraser and Freddy always work this late or had Rashford’s tweets panicked them so much they couldn’t sleep?
Apparently Fraser Nelson had googled me, and couldn’t find me. Does one exist if they are not on Twitter nor LinkedIn? Is this the tree falling in the forest philosophical thought experiment for the 21st century?
I realised I was probably done for. But I had come this far. I said, after a probably long “erm”; something along the lines of, “I’m not on social media and there are hundreds of Lizzie Johnsons”. I waited with baited breath to see if they would test my poor football knowledge, seriously just one question and I probably would have stumbled, it would have been that easy for them. But nothing – no, they simply wanted a brief history of my time at Roc Nation, so I invented some huff.
I could go into more detail on the call itself, how the emails I had sent were described as “proof”; how they were doing somewhat of a hatchet job of rewriting the article during the call, but I think the following exchange speaks for itself;
“But look if you were actually a wind-up, I think we would have worked it out by now” - Fraser Nelson
“If you are, hats off to you!” - Freddy Gray
I thought it had been fairly obvious but perhaps I expect too much. I mean I’d included references in the fake emails to various wits, whether they be Felix Dexter, Delarivier Manley or Jonathan Swift. (Plus my email avatar was a portrait of Swift’s companion Vanessa, and my initials were “JS”).
After the Twitter storm died down, they seemed.. quiet... so had the unthinkable happened? Had The Spectator been cruelly silenced by the woke mob who want to nationalise children?****
They continued to get in touch asking me to meet with them; in trying to convince me, they compared our situation to WikiLeaks. I invested in a burner phone, started calling “Snowflake”, “H”. The last I heard there were discussions relating to how they go about presenting Roc Nation with the text from an episode of BBC Comedy series The Real McCoy, and asking them for comment.
I did a few days later receive a “genuinely unifying” (“Snowflake’s” words) draft with the following edit;
I think Rashford is a hero and believe he is sincere about his campaigning and charitable work. I think that his UK free school meals campaign did great good.
I’m no “journalist” but who could have predicted that a magazine encouraging people with an axe to grind, to send in anonymous emails about “woke-culture war crimes” could end badly? And who knew that the very greatest defenders of free speech in The Tepid Wars would back down so quickly after some critical tweets?
Suffice to say I live in fear for my life. Will I be cancelled for making stuff up about a national hero? Will I end up incapacitated after Darius Guppy is sent round to teach me a lesson? Have I wasted months of my life? (Well obviously yes, but at least it was mildly diverting).
Find out more about the Child Food Poverty Action Taskforce: https://endchildfoodpoverty.org/
How to help: https://endchildfoodpoverty.org/how-can-i-help
*I mean I have always considered The Spectator to be brave. I speak of course of The Spectator (1711) which among other things gave column inches to anti-slavery opera Inkle and Yarico. The Spectator (1828 - present day) are also brave, but perhaps not in the same way.
**I have to say I wonder at this strategy. It’s not like I am a subscriber but unlike a lot of the media out there, The Speccie hopped on the subscriber business model early on and seem to have done a pretty good job of it. They thus avoided a multitude of evils namely, it taking ten hours to read anything on a news site because there are so many huge ugly advertisements for cars and other such evils of capitalism, that struggle to load, (I assume you know of whom I speak). And don’t get me started on the Graun, I mean stop reminding me that I’ve read your articles for free to try and guilt me - it’s not going to happen!
****I’ve read and reread these comments, and I still don’t understand what he means by “nationalising children”. But hang on a second, what’s this? The Speccie also wrote about Nationalising Children as far back as 2005! How sinister! Quick get Guido on the case!!