You’ve got to have masochistic tendencies to write an opinionated column every week. That much became clear when I received a bag full of hate mail after I had written a column in a Sunday newspaper about the new Sandton Square (to later become Nelson Mandela Square) back in 1994. Suddenly a lot of people were talking about me and they weren’t saying nice things. Instead of going into hiding as many of them hoped I would I came back the next week for another dose of controversy and again the week after that. In fact, I got strangely hooked on whatever chemical the body produces when it is under attack from angry readers. I still do but on the internet the fix is much more immediate. Readers pile in, bravely writing under pseudonyms, to tell you what a prize plonker you are. Some really go out of their way to be hurtful and insulting and you know what….I love it. There’s nothing like a batch of hostile comments on your website to set you up for the day.
Now I realise that any normal person would opt for a comparatively gentle career like bomb disposal or training tigers to sing the Hallelujah chorus but who wants to be normal? So, every week, I knock off a few hundred words knowing full well that some people will take everything I say at face value and get terribly angry. We appear to live in a country where people think irony is the stuff they use to make bridges. Which makes it much more fun for me because if everyone could understand the joke there wouldn’t be nearly as many apoplectic people firing off angry e-mails.
Of course, what the readers don’t know is that this is all a façade and I am, in fact, a mild mannered pussycat. I’m the sort of person who nods nervously in a restaurant and tells the waitron everything is great when it obviously isn’t. If the wine is corked I’m too scared to point the fact out to the sommelier and so I spend the evening drinking what tastes like damp cardboard with a touch of mould. If somebody drives into the back of my car I’m the one who does the apologizing.
The whole public image of cigars and whisky is a desperate bid on my part to be one of the roistering boys when, quite frankly, I would rather be tucked up by nine o’clock with a cup of Milo. I am, I have to confess, a painfully shy wimp in real life and it’s only when I get near a computer keyboard that I come over all demonic. And the reason for this is I wasn’t breast fed long enough as a child. As any psychologist would tell you, that has scarred me for life which is why I now demand attention by writing things that are designed to upset people. In other words, I am a victim and it’s not my fault. Remember that the next time you’re tempted to write in.
After being spectacularly sacked after 14 years of loyal service at the SundayTimes for writing what the editor called a “racist” article, David Bullard decided to move to the green fields of online journalism. He currently has three columns on the internet. He is a frequent after-dinner speaker and MC at corporate events. His last book “Screw it, Let’s do Lunch(published by MacMillan) sold over 14 000 copies with the authors proceeds going to charity. He is addicted to controversy and is a shameless self publicist. He has also been known to smoke the odd cigar, drink whisky and drive expensive cars very fast. He doesn’t dye his hair but he does whiten his teeth.