Fielding and MissSpidey

Neil Denny of Little Atoms pointed out to me this piece on comedians using their fans to gang up on critics yesterday.

Being a public figure on the internet means having to deal with a barrage of abuse, which has been covered on this blog before, in my podcast interviews with Jonnie Marbles and Charlie Brooker.  It’s unpleasant and unnecessary, but people quickly become emboldened by the deindividuation that occurs when their identities are withheld, given that there’s no chance of getting a punch in the hooter.  Stewart Lee’s current show, Carpet Remnant World, involves a whittled down list of the most frothingly insane online critiques he could find on internet messageboards and social networking sites.  The “40,000 words of hate” can be viewed on his website.  They frequently seem unhinged, over-the-top and staggering in their lack of compassion and humanity – but such is the way with internet communication.  People vying for attention on a crowded medium quickly escalate the ferocity of their vitriol so their opinions stand out.

Except that if their identities are witheld, it’s not really “their opinions” that stand out, it’s those of WestKilburn47 or Shoopy or Trollsalot. But West and Shoop and Trolls still want their opinions to stand out, I get that. Still there’s something odd about investing your ego in an alter ego.

Noel Fielding decided to moblize his fans to go after a critic –

a form of safety-in-numbers bullying that cast fans and followers in the guise of a personal army, mobilised to defend the fragile ego of a lazy, uninspired narcissist.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, and I’ve previously written about Ricky Gervais’ penchant for the same sort of coordinated bullying.  Similarly thin-skinned, Gervais, while still new to the social networking site, quickly found that he could point his fans to negative reviews, and then pat these obedient, bile-spitting dogs on the head afterwards for fighting his battles.  Some of you, I know, will say ‘but he never actually asked them to do anything’, and you’ll say the same thing when we get back to what Noel Fielding has been up to lately, towards the end of this blog.  You have to decide what the reasons are for Gervais and Fielding posting these things – whether they know what the result will be – and then think about the approval explicitly given out afterwards.

That’s one of the complaints about the putative FT bullies, you know: that we do that. Well “we” don’t all do it, but it may be that some of us do, or do something like it. I’ve learned to try to be careful about that. On the other hand I think that as the level of venom goes up, the importance of relative size goes down. It’s not a straightforward calculation to make. Westboro Baptist is tiny, and feeds off publicity, but that’s not necessarily a reason to ignore it. So…it’s tricky. But the whole thing is worth keeping in mind.

(On the other hand I also see people who rant one minute about hugely popular FT blogs [? – only PZ and Ed are hugely popular] bullying smaller blogs, and rant the next minute about a comment on one FT blog [ok this one] that criticizes Dawkins. Wut? It can’t be both.)

There’s a lot more; read the whole thing. Toward the end we get Noel Fielding’s attack on MissSpidey – which sounds horribly familiar at the beginning stages.

Back to Fielding, and he’s now in a narcissistic rage over the whole affair, continuing to repeatedly tweet about MissSpidey, advocating a namechange from “Twitter” to “Cunt Platform”, and talking about how he’s a “horrible boy who likes to pull the legs off spiders.”  A fairly lame attempt at contrition is made, before he RT’s a supportive fan, then immediately goes back into “fuck em” mode.  Then we get a spot of victim blaming for good measure before, finally, Fielding thanks his followers for the support.

The support was, as you can see from what he chose to retweet, abusive and insulting towards MissSpidey.  She was repeatedly opened up to the hostility of 340,000 followers, many of whom are young girls who worship Fielding and his contrived, try-hard, drippy fucking surrealism.  Fielding personally set the tone early on to one of personal abuse, using MissSpidey’s avatar picture to make unflattering remarks about her appearance.  This thread was picked up by his followers, but they went further.  Much further.

MissSpidey was swamped by hundreds of mentions, from hundreds of users.  These tweets, as I’ve said, mocked her physical appearance as being “old” and “ugly” – in reality, she is neither.

Well I am, and it’s not a lot more fun being sneered at for that when you are than it is when you aren’t. Actually it’s less so. (That’s litotes.)

Then it took a more sinister turn, and MissSpidey found that her address had been tracked down and was being published by the “FieldMice”, who were also threatening violence.  Then she started to receive death threats – Noel Fielding was, as you’d expect, copied in on much of this by the fans seeking his approval, so presumably knew what was going on.  MissSpidey tried to counter the avalanche of hostility by using the official mechanisms in place for doing so: she started to block and report the users, eventually ending up suspended from Twitter for “aggressive blocking.”  I know, isn’t it?

MissSpidey suffers from Cyclothymic disorder.  Twitter was a vital support network for her.  With that suddenly taken away – through no fault of her own – and with a continuing barrage of hateful, hurtful messages being continually delivered to her, MissSpidey lost hope.  She tried to end her own life.

Not such a good outcome.



  1. brucegee1962 says

    Aggressive blocking???


    My interest in Twitter began at 0 when I first hear about it. (Brevity isn’t my strong suit, and I doubted I had much to say that I could fit into 142 characters.) It’s been going down steadily ever since.

  2. eric says

    I am not a twitterer, so someone will have to explain to me why you aren’t allowed to regulate who uses/posts to a channel that you, yourself, create. That makes no sense to me. Its like insisting that no one be allowed to set up a spam blocker on their email account.

  3. Gen Fury says

    MissSpidey tried to counter the avalanche of hostility by using the official mechanisms in place for doing so: she started to block and report the users, eventually ending up suspended from Twitter for “aggressive blocking.” I know, isn’t it?

    What the actual everlasting fuck?

    I literally don’t have words.

    I hope Miss Spidey is okay.

  4. says

    It is the same two issues over and over again: “death by 1000 cuts,” combined with the fact that peer approval gives people the social permission to escalate beyond petty harassment. And of course it gets worse when people blame the victims and support or condone the activities of the victimizers.

  5. Aratina Cage says

    Aggressive blocking? Blocking is the way to stop people who are following you from following you on Twitter. It breaks the chain. What the hell is Twitter thinking by stopping people from doing that?

    And, yes, the very thing that started this fiasco was one woman being a critic of one man’s behavior as a sort of teaching moment for other men who might have unthinkingly done the same. Then we got our own Fieldings (Smith & Co.) out doing their dirty work. And so it goes.

  6. S Mukherjee says

    Noel Fielding sicced his fans on to a critic? What a piece of shit he is! I used to like watching ‘Mighty Boosh’ and so on, used to think he wasn’t too bad a chap. But then again, he’s very pally with Russell Brand, who is another piece of shit, so I should have known.

  7. says

    I suppose there can be such a thing as aggressive blocking – such as when husband of “wooly” bumblebee tweeted me with “Blah blah. Bitch. Don’t bother replying, you’re blocked.” It seems aggressive to combine namecalling and blocking in one efficient tweet – especially when it’s a first contact as well as a last.

    But other than that…

  8. says

    I apologize for addressing my comment to Greta instead of you, Ophelia. I honestly have no idea how that happened, as I knew (and know) quite well that this is not Greta’s blog. Not sure where my brain was…


    I’ve been reading through the comments, and I saw one that fascinated me

    I enjoyed reading the blog post because it goes to show what damage a charismatic individual with loyal followers can do – the individual in question being one “Miss Spidey”!

    As several posters before me have pointed out, “Miss Spidey” is well known on Twitter and in the political blogging scene for deliberately provoking arguments, resorting to very nasty attacks herself, then making a big song and dance about being the poor victim of “bullying” (in her world, not agreeing with her is seemingly the same as bullying?!).

    There are always claims of emails or threats sent to her by whoever she is having a go at at the time, be it by text, email (how would these people get her phone number or email address?), further helping to turn her loyal followers against her chosen victim.

    Nary a week goes by without some impossible personal tragedy befalling “Miss Spidey” and her tweeting and often blogging at great length about it. Anyone who dares to question her often contradicting and increasingly bizarre stories is quickly hounded down by her loyal followers, after which she predictably deletes all evidence of her aggressive behaviour, melodramatically proclaiming to have to leave twitter “because of bullying”, but always returning within a matter of days.

    Now I do not expect a comedy blog author to be familiar with this repetitive and predictable pattern of attention-seeking manipulative behaviour, but a little research would surely not have gone amss?

    Since most of “Miss Spidey”‘s sob story about her alleged suicide attempt is based on the story of her dramatic rescue by the now deleted twitter user @WestLib, a quick check of said user’s cached Twitter profile ( would have revealed that they claim to be ”Owner of award winning cider distillery” and their cached tweets to user @SLACK_TV clearly show that @WestLib claims their business is based in Ilminster, Somerset.

    @WestLib and “Miss Spidey” have also claimed that @WestLib used to live in Woking, where “Miss Spidey” heroically assisted her with her cancer-riddled husband and later moved to Somerset, where they now run this award winning business. Or rather she runs it on her own as her husband tragically “died” sometime since @WestLib last surfaced in May this year, that time oddly enough also to defend and back up another nasty story “Miss Spidey” had cooked up.

    Funny, then, that the ONLY licensed cider distillery in Somerset – one of only three in the whole country! – is a business at, The Somerset Cider Brandy company. Who have not only been based in the same location for decades, but are a large family business who have incidentally never heard of this @WestLib person.

    Now either we should believe that this wonder woman @WestLib somehow is too stupid to know what kind of business she actually runs (since she does NOT run or own a cider distillery either in Somerset or elsewhere) and yet she single-handedly runs this wonderful successful business and looks after her children all on her own, or maybe, just maybe, those who pointed out that @WestLib was clearly a sockpuppet made up by “Miss Spidey” were actually on to something.

    Being a victim of suicide attempts myself (back when I was 13 and 14), I’m loathe to call into question the story of MissSpidey’s attempted suicide. I know what it’s like to come up against skeptics in that regard and it sucks big time.

    At the same time, however, I have seen the behavior this CB talks about before, albeit in a different context.

    I used to frequent the forums of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. There was one user there who was a… I think the term is “professional victim”. She (for the record, I use “she” because this is how she identified herself on the forums) had this really bad habit of claiming to be bullied whenever somebody disagreed with her. Her favorite thing to do would be to talk about how she accepts evolution and all that, while defending idiot Creationist trolls like supersport and nouveau (also a pathological liar, but that’s an off-topic discussion… feel free to try and find them on the forums if you want; it’ll be linked below) from the rest of us simply calling supersport and nouveau out on their constant lies (and, in the case of supersport, calling out his lack of humanity for posting a horrible screed on the obituary of a deceased member TWICE before having his IP banned from the site). And then, when we called her on her defense of them, her response, no matter how politely the post she’d respond to was written, would be to scream “STOP BULLYING ME!” and report the post.

    In fact, she inspired an outburst from me. I regret a part of that outburst (“Until then, you wouldn’t know what bullying was if it was raping you.”… and then refusing to apologize for it afterwards… I didn’t realize I was THAT big of an idiot at 23. Wow I am so sorry… I’m not even going to attempt to defend that… fuck :(), but she had worked me up with this constant shit to a point where I couldn’t control myself.

    So, as much as I don’t want to be skeptical of the story of MissSpidey’s suicide attempt, I’m also rather familiar with the type of behavior CB pegs on her.

    That said, it’s noted that MissSpidey suffers from Cyclothymic disorder. That would explain the behavior, including the suicide attempt, if CB is telling the truth, and I would further argue that perhaps Twitter is not the best place for someone suffering from Cyclothymic disorder, especially if this is where you’re looking for a support group (which provides some pretty sad commentary about your family, quite frankly… how alone does a person have to be to seek support on Twitter?… I feel so bad for MissSpidey in this regard). My mom’s best friend suffers from it, and she (my mom’s friend) is terrified of online social media in general. She won’t touch Facebook, Twitter, or any of it, and her psychiatrist thinks that’s a good thing. Though she also has a huge offline support group, including her psychiatrist, her family, my mom and her family, as well as my brother, my dad, and I, and so on. The idea that MissSpidey was using Twitter as a support group makes me think she had few, if any, offline supporters, and that is, quite frankly, rather depressing.

    Anyways, that’s my $0.02… this is a complicated situation, to be sure…

    And for the record, even if CB is telling the truth in that comment, this does NOT excuse Noel’s behavior, and I apologize if it seemed like I was defending him. Fuck Noel for what he did to MissSpidey. Neil’s point about “proportionate response” is best echoed in that timeless Spider-Man sentiment “with great power comes great responsibility”. Famous people should keep that in mind… always… and Noel failed miserably in this regard.

  9. CB says

    Nate, this may also be of interest. Just to add of course actual death threats etc and bullying are not ok, however I have been aware of Miss Spidey’s online antics for over two years, and originally started out believing her and trying to help. I still want her to get help, just not for the same drama she originally reeled me in with.

    I wrote it in response to Neil asking why @Westlib being a sockpuppet means the suicide attempt didn’t happen.

    How does a sockpuppet account prove the suicide attempt didn’t happen? You’re right, it doesn’t.

    But the fact that it was a fake account, likely run by Miss Spidey herself, or someone in on it for a laugh (I had forgotten about the @LibDemsPointing account she started talking about herself in 3rd person in to back up another of her “victim” stories – thanks Reb), who announced having driven all the way from Somerset to rescue Miss Spidey from a suicide attempt, with contradicting information about when this supposedly took place, makes it highly unlikely.

    Miss Spidey herself on her blog claims to have been released from hospital on Monday morning, yet several people saw her tweet on that morning (incidentally she had just tweeted a link to an article on a suicide attempt after cyber bullying). But @WestLib, who claims to live almost 3 hours away from Woking in Ilminster, supposedly rushed to her rescue that morning, took her to hospital, then announced she would be allowed home by five pm that day. Amazingly, @WestLib was tweeting to be back in Somerset within an hour of leaving Miss Spidey, who not only was allegedly let out of hospital within hours of attempting to kill herself, but was soon announcing to have a brand new diagnosis of Cyclothymic Disorder.

    How fabulous is the health service in Woking? So quick!

    Anyway, this is a subclinical form of bipolar, yet another disorder she had been claiming to have been diagnosed with for months, while making one excuse after another for why she doesn’t get any treatment whatsoever, or indeed take any medication.

    I cannot tell whether Miss Spidey has either disorder, what I can tell though is that she clearly has something wrong with her, and whatever that is, it causes her to make up a lot of bullshit online to get attention and sympathy, while simultaneously getting to attack others online and try to destroy their lives by spreading very nasty rumours about them having sent her death threats.

    She’s accused dozens of people, often people whose name and location she knows, of having sent her similar threats, by direct message (which you can’t unless she follows you on Twitter), blog comment or email, always claims to have reported this to the police, yet nothing ever came from it. Right…

    Anyway, she needs help, she needs to wean herself off the attention-seeking bandwagon, she needs help ridding herself of this addiction to drama and lies. I genuinely hope she gets this help before she hurts any more people.

    But I don’t think people like you who just propagate her fake stories and pour sympathy at her many Twitter accounts are helping. You’re just feeding a bottomless pit who has no intention of accepting the help offered by so many.

  10. One Way Monkey says

    Nate – WRT Twitter as support. I have a rare and severely disabling neurological disorder. I have an amazing partner, friends are understanding, my family tries their best, but sometimes I just want to let off steam, or talk to someone with the same condition who truly understands me. When I’ve been in hospital I could tweet about being scared or sad. I could tweet at 4am, rather than texting someone and waking them up.

    Sometimes it’s just nice to know you’re not the only one, that you can stand in your metaphorical garden and chat over the fence with someone impartial.

  11. says

    Jafafa Hots…

    No one (not even CB, as far as I can tell) is defending Fielding’s bullying. For me, this information is just a reminder that there are two side to every story.

    If you ever want to hear my side of the story on my grade-school years and being bullied to the point of developing an acute social phobia (possibly a mild agoraphobia; but at least bad enough to keep me from interacting very much in social situations and finding myself always anxious to end them, if I decide to go at all), and why I blame myself for a hell of a lot of it, email me. I’d be happy to tell you.

    Fielding never really apologized for his behavior, and it was wrong and indefensible. But, again, it appears that this story is much more complicated than it seems on the surface.

    One Way Monkey…
    Thank you for that insight. I apologize for my comment. I never thought about it like that at all, which only proves that still have a long way to go in understanding those less privileged than I.

    Thank you.

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