Already this week (and it’s only Monday evening!) I have witnessed the rise and fall of a feckless nobody heralded as the next big TV icon. Injected into mainstream media by TV producers in search of profit, only to be dragged violently out again when the heat (allegedly) became too hot for the sponsors to handle, the Dapper Laughs story is one we’ve heard many times before. It is astonishing how we lap up a publicity trick if it hooks us with a shock tactic.
So basic and prurient is the individual in question, that I am loath to dedicate any more inches to his name than he has already been granted – but I am keen to explore the press phenomena that has catapulted him to fame, only to have the spotlight taken from him again.
From the miasma of a series of six second Vine videos, to the screens of ITV2 and headlines of the Observer, Dapper Laughs could hardly be described as a barrel of them. At best he is a Roy Chubby Brown for the millennials, and at worst well, others have put it better than I will. But what much of the left wing, liberal media has failed to grasp is that the likes of Dapper Laughs in the current political climate are like Hydra: the more of their heads you try to chop off, the more quickly and vigorously the next set sprouts in their place. His is a particular breed of extremism, in that he offers a means of release and empowerment to a particular type of disenfranchised man, at the expense and disenfranchisement of other people, in this case, women. His misogyny, and the crowd’s support of it, is a misguided, damp fart of an act of rebellion that smells like roses to people who haven’t had a voice in the mainstream media for quite some time. What ITV2 spotted in hiring Dapper Laughs was an untapped audience goldmine, and they sought to exploit it whatever the cost.
The question is how to out the misogyny without creating a means to drive an audience to the door of the perpetrator. Until axing the show, ITV and their like would have been enjoying the fruits of the war between those supporting him and those who stood against his bile. The reality is, until the sponsors turned sour, Dapper Laughs had a Kevlar rhino skin and a skull thick enough to keep him laughing all the way to the bank.
The comparison has been made already, but much like Nigel Farage’s perceivedly pint-weilding, frank-speaking team of purple-prejudiced merry men, Dapper Laughs is believed to speak with more honesty than others currently in the limelight. An attack on him is perceived to be an attack on those who identify with him, which has resulted in the kinds of trolling we have seen of writers who have stood up against his antics.
What we have witnessed today is a battle between reach and influence.
Mainstream political parties and media have ignored the existence of certain parts of society for too long, and have consequently lost influence over them. What both Farage and ITV2 have done is spot a willing flock in need of a shepherd and have seized the opportunity to lead it. Where neither Farage nor Dapper Laughs had reach, they had influence, which resonated with a crowd, produced word-of-mouth stories, and played to the left wing media’s own brand of fear-driven sensationalism enough to get column inches. Farage has been savvy enough in time, to have crafted this attention into political credence by playing the left wing media at its own game. As other leaders and MPs have stuck doggedly to their hackneyed PR lines, Farage has appeared to be the only human being sitting at a table of marionettes.
Where other comedy shows or political parties may have greater reach, this does not necessarily equate to the greatest influence. This is the age of David triumphing Goliath, in which the bigger they become the harder they fall, has become a truism that many brands are struggling to come to terms with. Both Farage and DL have moved from a position of comparative obscurity, to infamy – and, in the case of UKIP – gradual validity, encouraged by a growth in numbers and a bit of media-meddling.
Whilst Dapper Laughs will be little more than a flash-in-the-pan, what is clear is that as with UKIP, the level of attack levered against him has merely fuelled the crowd who have hailed him their hero, and legitimised their cause. These leaderless crowds are vulnerable and feel as though they have nothing to lose – a volatile and powerful combination.