Mid November: the opening night of Jim Bob’s UK tour. We were in Leeds, it was sold out and I was due onstage in five minutes. Jim and me were chatting backstage, Mr Spoons was setting up his guitar tech stuff and Marc was out in the venue running the merch stall, talking with punters. Then Jim got a text. It was a message from Miles Hunt out of The Wonder Stuff.
“Hey Jim,” it (approximately) said, “it’s Milo here, I see you’ve got a nice sold out show in Birmingham in a few weeks. Great! I’ve got an idea. How about me and Erica come and play a duo show as your special guests, then we can join you for encores? Let’s make a real night of it! We won’t need any money, just expenses. And I’m sure you can cut Chris T-T’s set for one night no problemo. I’ve spoken to the promoter, he’s well up for the idea. How about it?”
Instantly of course I was livid. Very upset, all bruised ego, desperately trying to act cool about it. Preparing the script: of course it’s no problem, whatever you want to do, Jim. In those few seconds Jim seemed bemused – I guess both chuffed and a bit put out by a presumptuous offer out of the blue – and also probably mulling the idea. In some ways it’s a perfectly reasonable suggestion, exciting even. Jim doesn’t want to upset me, I thought to myself, or mess with the tour planning. But, well, you know. Anyway, I had to go do this show and I was hating Miles quite a lot at that moment.
So I walked out to play my first set of the tour. It went pretty well in the circumstances, I’d say. I like Leeds a lot.
What quickly transpired after I finished was that Marc, sitting on the merch, bored in that quiet gap after he’d sorted out his merchandise stall but before they opened the doors, had occupied his time by setting up an entirely fictitious Miles Hunt email account, in order to send us this email.
We laughed a lot, I was very relieved and felt like a dick about how much I’d cared. But here’s the thing that keeps bringing me back to it, weeks later, many shows played and other adventures occurred (not to mention Christmas and new year). Here’s the thing:
Man, I loved Wonder Stuff when I was a kid. And we’re not pop star mates or anything but the few times I’ve crossed paths with Miles and Erica they’ve been totally ace. We had a whisky-fuelled night out a few years ago (again on tour with Jim) that left me almost dead – they were fantastic company.
Yet ever since the fake email joke – and this is important: even knowing that it was completely fictional and in the real world had absolutely nothing to do with Miles himself – if I search my feelings, I realise with a shock that I like him less than I did before it happened. I’m shocked at myself. It’s extraordinary to realise that knowing the facts hasn’t completely overcome the way my emotions were briefly rebuilt around a fiction. I like Miles Hunt slightly less than I did at the beginning of November (sorry Miles!) not only for no good reason but – even worse – for a reason I intellectually know to be solely prejudice on my part. I can’t switch it off.
To me, that is the power of the ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth’ everyone’s been boffing about since politics went sour. Even beyond unhooking us from what’s really going on: it is that shift in our feelings that we can’t even reverse when we learn the truth, which is why I believe it’s more dangerous and lasting than we realise, even now we’ve clocked that it’s everywhere.