Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard has been censored. Gagged. Had it's mouth zipped like the gimp from Pulp Fiction.
I wouldn't call it a reprimand, but it was made clear to me today that I am no longer permitted to mention the name of my employer on these pages. Furthermore, I am not allowed to include the name of my employer on my Facebook profile if I am then going to go on to describe a negative experience at work. I don't write about work very often anyway. There is very little humour in getting up half an hour before you go to bed, and then spending eight hours or more staring at spreadsheets or processing travel claims. Very little mileage in publicly alienating people who probably have it in for you anyway. It's a battle that is unwinnable. Believe me I would much rather be writing about falling out of my chair or leaving my wheelchair wheels at home than anything that goes on in the office. Yet should I feel the need to write about my occupational travails in future I will have to do so without revealing the name of my employer. Failure to comply might very well result in my being blown to bits by an out of control robot built for law enforcement, but more likely they will settle for informing me that I am in breach of their internet usage policy. Presumably persistent breaches of this policy will result in their corporate behemoth foot connecting with my backside. The Thought Police have pulled down my pants and thoroughly rogered me.
It seems that my employer does not want to be linked in any way to the fact that I sometimes have a shitty day within their exalted premises. That's bad press. Apparently there is such a thing as bad publicity. But there are a couple of things about this. Firstly, I am a depressive. It is perfectly possible that I could fall into a vault of tits and chocolate and still have a shitty day. Less likely than during a day at work, but still possible. There is no rhyme or reason for a depressive, no logic. I don't know why I feel shit some days, and my employer really shouldn't feel so responsible. It is not necessarily a reflection on them. Secondly, how many people do they think will get a negative idea of the organisation from my columns? I noted darkly earlier today that over the last few days I have seen at least five photographs of food on Facebook which have received twice as many 'likes' as anything I have ever written. I'm so small time that you can barely see me. An average of about 70 people visit these pages when a new article is published, many of whom no doubt take one look, think what the fuck is this, and go back to the 27 episodes of The Chase that they have in their Sky+ planner. Yet my employer still wants to silence me.
All of which throws up wider questions about censorship. On the whole I am dead against it, but even more so if it affects my own work. If someone wants to watch mindless violence or sweaty sex then that is their choice. Likewise if I want to write and therefore inform a third party that actually work was quite crappy today because certain people who always remains unnamed in any case are behaving like arseholes, then I should be able to do it and be left in peace. This column might be of piddling importance in the grand scheme of things but for me it is catharsis. A chance to blow off some steam, write down words that I wouldn't say in front of my mother, and generally release tension. Without it I would probably end up rocking backwards and forwards and dribbling for large parts of my day, and I would be incapable of serving my employer in any case. Removing the name of my employer may seem like, and probably is a small price to pay to allow me to go on steam-blowing, but if we are to censor it in this fashion then where will it end? Maybe with my employer enjoying even further input into this tin-pot operation. Maybe I could email it to the press office and have them check over it before I hit publish. Or perhaps they could write it for me. No doubt they have an army of monkeys sat at keyboards just waiting for the nod to take over the creative side of Memoirs Of A Fire Hazard. Well, they might if it were that important.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are my own and do not represent those of my employer, for whom everything is fluffy and wonderful and criticism or the merest hint of employer dissatiscation is anathema.