I was going to keep my mouth shut, but fuck it, in a roundabout-kind-of-way it the actions of both Elle Darby and Paul Stenson affect me, so here is my thoughts on the recent shit storm that was White Moose Cafe vs Bloggers.
For those unaware, Ms Darby is a blogger and ‘social influencer’ who emailed Charleville Lodge, the Dublin hotel owned by Mr Stenson, essentially asking for a complimentary room. Mr Stenson responded by sharing the email on the Facebook page of White Moose Cafe, another business owned by him, along with a cleverly constructed response which shames her for asking. The public was loud and aggressive in its opinion, to which a proportion of Ms Darby’s fellow blogging fans reacted by leaving negative comments about White Moose Cafe on various review sites. As things stand, the White Moose Cafe has banned all bloggers from entering its premises.
I blog. But I’m not about to defend Elle Darby because a) I don’t want to, and b) I simply can’t. Anyone who has ever read my blog will know that I occasionally accept meals in return for reviews. Although I keep my opinion honest, I recognise that this is seen as the dirty side of blogging and I am trying to move away from it completely for my own integrity. Never have I dreamed of approaching any business asking for free meals. I find the process demeaning and it tarnishes the reputation of the word ‘blogger’ for those such as myself, who do it out of passion. Ms Darby has defended herself via a video on YouTube which is 13 painful minutes of her trying to play a victim. Total poppycock. She makes a living from places like this saying yes to her emails. She is naive and, worst of all, ill-researched. She has emailed a business that has a history of vilification for Facebook likes.
You see, I’m calling bullshit on Paul Stenson, a man who now looks like a people’s champ for standing up to the pique-assiette culture of blogging and social media influencers. Take a look at the history of White Moose Cafe and he has hit headliners for altercations with vegans, gluten intolerant, and now bloggers. Each one of these have gone viral garnering significant interest and raising the profile of the cafe to almost 200k followers on Facebook and countless thousands on other social media platforms, which help to sell a sideline business of promoting products on their social media. Request correctly and the business has a rates book they can provide for showcasing products. For all the public hate he has given to ‘social media influencers’, Paul Stenson himself is one, albeit in a very aggressive manner to fractions acceptable for hate. He is Donald Trump in a green, white, and orange suit. He is building a wall and the bloggers aren’t paying for it, because according to him they don’t pay for anything. Look past the fake reviews on TripAdvisor and he is the owner of two very mediocre businesses – no wonder he has to turn to the lucrative world of product placement (which, interestingly, features no disclosure on any of his media accounts. Naughty, naughty). And what better way to draw attention to those accounts than by ripping vegans, dietary specific, and bloggers to pieces? Paul Stenson is a pre-Brexit Borris Johnston. He’s fooling everyone. The White Moose Cafe are using the increased traffic from an attack on a social media influencer to gain financial benefit via their own influencer channels.
Will he really ban bloggers? I seriously doubt it, and I’m willing to find out when I’m in Dublin in June visiting a couple of it’s top restaurants. And White Moose Cafe. In the meantime I’ll be dealing with this in the best way possible; by ignoring both of the businesses owned by Mr Stenson and forgetting that Elle Darby exists. Combined they are the ugly side of social media; one using her status to gain endless freebies, the other using nasty attacks to increase their own standing. Both only exist because we pay them attention. Me, I’m switching off and hoping they go away.