Hello, Damian. Speak later...
Many people only write blog posts when they have something interesting to say, and they are not too concerned with the number of hits they get. Others, however, are under contract to write 1000 words each week, and they lie awake at night worrying about their hit count.
Things are particularly bad at the Daily Telegraph, where the influx of a new generation of unreadable bloggers has made the blogs editor look very foolish. Some bloggers have been very successful - for example, cheeky Tom Chivers knows precisely what his largely conservative audience wants to hear, and writes exactly the opposite. Although he tries to give the impression that he spends his days discussing Che Guevara while drifting along in a cannabis-induced haze, the fact is that he is a stalwart of his local Conservative club; most days he takes the 7.53 from Surbiton, wearing a pin-striped suit and carrying a rolled-up umbrella.
Tom Chivers and his friends on their way to work.
Other bloggers recruited have been less successful. William Handsome, the etiquette correspondent, recently hit the scene with a fascinating post on "Should you blow your nose on your neighbour's sleeve in the Underground?" however, his follow-up post, "Dropping your trousers in church is only for Harrovians and other oiks," was rejected for being too Catholic.
A Harrovian is removed from the Brompton Oratory.
Which brings us to poor Damian Thompson, author of a book on addiction called Apologia Pro Vita Sua or, in the English translation, I'm sorry, I can't stop eating Ryvitas. Reduced to writing Saturday columns of ever-increasing fatuousness, he took the unusual step of hiring Phil Istine, a professional troll, in order to keep discussions going on his blog.
Phil Istine is a solitary man, whose main hobbies are snooker, drinking, and stealing underwear off people's washing lines. But he has a dazzling array of anti-Catholic sockpuppets, designed to provoke the traditional readership of the "Holy Smoke" blog into paroxysms of rage.
"I like to maintain an on-line presence," says Phil.
Among Phil's 100+ sockpuppets are such memorable characters as Phil, the lapsing Catholic, who hates traditionalism; Daryl, the faithful post-Vatican II Catholic, who hates traditionalism; Deborah, the liberal Anglican, who wants women bishops and hates traditionalism; Pau, the homosexual priest who stalks other posters and hates traditionalism; and Wendy, the lovestruck girl who wants to seduce a monk, but - and this is a neat touch - hates traditionalism.
Phil is of course immune from banning, as he is on the Telegraph payroll; moreover, anyone who criticises him or points out what he is doing is also banned. "I've had a good bag recently," boasts Phil. "Two Anglican priests, one retired schoolmaster, a young wife, and a Welsh anaesthetist. The more respected they are, the harder they fall!"
J.B. Priestley - banned because his writing put Damian's to shame.
Others who are immune to banning, as their witless remarks make Damian look good in comparison, are the notoriously senile Australian harridan "Anti Moly," or molybdenite (herself a skilled user of sockpuppets), and her sidekick MickyRoss the biologist, who recently pleaded guilty to 24 sample charges of mollusc-molesting.
But Damian's days are surely numbered, and, if so, then Phil will be looking for a new outlet for his trolling skills. If you can, please offer him a job on your blog.
Stockport bus station. Hang around here, and you'll soon find Phil.