Naming And Shaming

Earlier this year, I had a very weird experience. It wasn’t something I ever expected to happen to me or to anyone I know in real life. I’m referring to real life, because the experience was online. I became the victim of a “name and shame” witch hunt on the internet.

I wasn’t guilty (if that is the right word) of the thing I was accused of doing. But that didn’t mean a thing to those hunting me. Hunting is the correct term to use, because that’s exactly what it felt like.

My hunter isn’t very well, or so I’m given to understand; they have issues. My hunter made something up about me, it wasn’t true and no matter how many times they repeat it, it still won’t be true. But that makes no difference at all, no smoke without fire and all that.

“Naming and shaming” in itself is problematic and makes no sense.  “Shaming” someone is impossible. You can’t be ashamed of something you haven’t done. You’re in your perfect rights to refuse to feel ashamed. No one can make us feel something no matter how they want us to. It’s a bit like trying to make someone love you. If the warm mushy feeling isn’t there it ain’t gonna happen. And if guilt is absent, then try all you want, there’s no embarrassment here.

We can laugh at the naiveté of old films where the evil lord or nasty sheriff kidnaps the beautiful girl and forces her to marry him (the path to true love is never smooth, is it?), but naming and shaming is not far off exactly that, both a ridiculous scenario. You might believe someone should think your way, but it doesn’t mean they’ll fall into line and do your bidding. And nor should they have to.

Naming and shaming is the modern day equivalent of the village stocks. It’s bullying, achieves nothing and it’s pathetic.

And yet, naming and shaming has become a national pastime. My hunter galvanised quite a following for her cause, turns out there are more naming and shaming hobbyists than I ever imagined. My hunter had hundreds of followers cheering her on. I know because I received messages from lots of them. And there’s only so many messages from complete strangers calling you a “f*cking c*nt” you can put up with before you start thinking about doing something about it.

I was invited by the admin on these groups to account for my actions, to defend the charges against me (their language, not mine), in a Kafkaesque kangaroo court. I told the admin the accusations were not true, what’s more they are and were defamatory. Makes no difference, they said. You have been accused.

I didn’t defend myself because I don’t think I should have to, but all of a sudden I’m seventeen again and studying Arthur Miller’s The Crucible for my A Levels. Only now I’m the witch and people want to burn me.

I reported these groups to the social media provider, citing community guidelines, only to be told that the people threatening to hunt me down weren’t breaking any rules. I challenged the decision. Two weeks later, they took one of the groups down. The admin promptly started another group, which I reported, and guess what happened? Social media provider says no.

I went to the police. What I didn’t know then and what I do now is that people can say whatever they like about you on the internet – or in real life – and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s a civil matter. No bobby on the beat would go and have a quiet word with my hunter and in any case, if they have issues then it will only make it worse.

Things have moved on since all this happened. My hunter’s main cheerleader has realised that she’s been had, sent me an apology via another channel. It was nice to get, but a little late. One “Sorry Cath, my mistake. Bygones!” versus so many “you’re a f*ckin c*nt”s doesn’t really balance itself out too well.

The people threatening me were more varied occupation and background-wise than I originally thought. I imagined each of them to be dossers and layabouts with too much time on their hands. The truth was exactly the opposite. A businesswoman who runs her own successful catering business and a NHS mental health worker were two of the main instigators in encouraging people to contact and abuse me. The majority of my hunter’s followers would get up in the morning, do a day’s work, have their tea, put the kids to bed then go on the internet and send me abusive messages, every night.

I’m talking in the past tense now, because all the people who were fuming and unable to sleep of a night time because they hated me so much have moved on. Found other people to target maybe or, as they put it, “shame”. Maybe Katie Hopkins came out with one of her classics. Whoever it is that’s the target of their ire this week, I wish I could thank them.

Every time I see the phrase “name and shame” now, I go cold. It gets bandied about so much. If a cashier at the supermarket doesn’t kiss sufficient customer arse, a delivery driver is ten minutes late, a kid’s teacher has the cheek not to give little Amelia a gold star, it’s…NAME AND SHAME. THEY MUST BE PUNISHED.  GET IT ON FACEBOOK. NOW. RT PLEASE.

Fact is, if you name and shame, you are a bully.

If you share a photograph of some random person with an equally random accusation attached, you’re a bully.

If you get offended by a minor infraction or imagine a slight from someone and go on the internet to slag them off, you’re a bully.

If you make something up about someone and encourage the world to pile on, you’re a bully.

If you encourage bullying, you’re a bully.

(That last point is very important.)

I have a short story in “What I Remember”, a collection of short fiction to raise money for the organisation Everyday Victim Blaming. You can buy the book in both e-book and physical book formats here.

Anthology news

It’s always nice to have my work included in anthologies. Alongside the crime novel I’m completing I’m working on a number of flash fictions, and am so happy this week that two new books are released both carrying my work.

I have a flash in What I Remember, a collection of short stories to raise money for Everyday Victim Blaming, who relentlessly challenge the institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse. You can buy the book in both e-book and physical book formats here.


If you’d like to know more about EVB, then pop on over to their website.

Also out this week is Twisted Tales 2015, a collection of twelve flashes,  winners of this year’s competition. I’m chuffed to have a story in this book for two years running. It is out today and available here. You can read about the book and my contribution in an interview I gave to editor Annie Evett here.

TT 2015

Coming up in November I have a flash fiction entitled “How Humans Make Love” in the new Slim Volume : This Body I Live In (Pankhearst), edited by the ever wonderful Kate Garrett.

Slim Vol Body

Also in November I have a flash fiction inspired by the song Wondrous Place by Billy Fury published as part of Silver Birch Press’  When I Hear That Song series.

In addition, I write a column for Liverpool’s The Guide, covering books, music and pop culture. You read all about it here.


Cath Bore

Cath Bore:

“Waterbirth”, my piece on the refugee crisis, for the Writers For Calais Refugee Anthology.

Originally posted on Writers for Calais Refugees:


Summer days are magic, the sun high up, blue sky over his head. He zones in on the blue. It’s beautiful. He twirls all the way round, the sky’s blue everywhere! He stands straight on his tiptoes, stretches as far as he can and goes tall. He can see the sea! It’s blue like the sky, bright blue over the line, dark blue below. Imagine blue water! Imagine water. Imagine it, cold and clear, dribbling down his throat. Gulping it fast, gobfulls, loads of them. Then sipping slow, neat, showing everybody he’s got good manners after all.

He goes towards it, slow at first then faster. It’s a long way. He keeps on, walks for miles and miles, over mountains and hills, round bends, down steep slopes and up, his calves hurt, stretched then shrinking, toes flexing, muscles straining.  He stops under a sky turned navy. His throat hurts…

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Cath Bore – Author in the Spotlight for Twisted Tales 2015

Cath Bore:

I have a flash fiction in Twisted Tales 2015, out next month. I talk about it here:

Originally posted on Annie On Writing:

Cath Bore is based in Liverpool UK, a writer of fiction and fact. She is published in the UK and US. Cath is our Author in the Spotlight this week and has a flash fiction story included in the upcoming Twisted Tales anthology.

Cath Bore June2015

The title of your flash fiction.

Friday Roses. 

What was your initial motivation or prompt to write this story?

I saw a Facebook meme about an elderly couple. The husband died then every Valentines Day afterwards the wife received flowers; he’d pre-ordered them before he passed away so she knew he loved her still. Everyone was, “oh, how romantic”. I saw another side; what if he was cruel to her when alive, and wanted to stalk her beyond the grave?   

What sort of message of feeling are you hoping you leave your audience with?

As writers it is our duty to make the reader question things…

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Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder

I’m writing a new fortnightly column Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder for The Guide in Liverpool, a tie in with the television programme on BayTV presented by Jay Hynd and Ellie Phillips. In the column I’ll be covering popular culture – books and music, with other bits too.

the guide

Presenter Jay Hynd and I go way back, in our days at Liverpool’s City Talk 105.9 we did so many early morning shows. It’s so ace to be working together again.

cath and Jay1

My first column is up now, if you’d like to take a look.


Everything You Need To Know About being a Labour Party Member.

It’s so good to see lots of people – thousands – joining the Labour Party after yesterday. Being a Labour Party member is kinda sexy now, and a bit hip – and I like it. I could get used to this.

If you join The Labour Party you also get to hang out with amazing, confident and gloriously gobby women like these:
If you join The Labour Party you also get to hang out with amazing, confident and gloriously gobby women like these:

So welcome, everyone.  I always say being in The Labour Party is a bit like a religion, sometimes you have the strongest faith in it so intense it produces tears, on other occasions you wonder “what the fuck am I doing here?”  So many highs and lows, but it’s the highs you crave, like a drug.

You’ve entered a world where as campaigner  and activist, if that’s how you choose to be involved, grassroots and all that, you’re handing out leaflets and having long in depth conversations about wheelie bin collection and dog shit on pavements.  With door knocking (yes, we knock on doors, asking residents about needs and concerns) you learn responses to stock phrases people learn from Facebook – stabbed his brother in the back, not a cigarette paper between you, you sold all the gold, the Moslems are taking all the houses.

Of course with our new leader that may change, and I hope it does. Because those stock phrases really do need changing.

You’ve entered a world of meeting men in car parks on grizzly Saturday mornings to go out on the door knock, of curry night fundraisers and bingo (I won two bottle of House of Commons whisky once, not too shabby).

You’ve also joined an organisation which bonds you, it’s thicker than blood, we have “intense debates” with each other – we wouldn’t be socialists if we agreed on everything, what’s the use in that – but at the end of it, The Labour Party is thing that keeps us together. It’s the invisible thread linking us that other parties don’t have and it’d oddly beautiful. The thread gets a bit frayed from time to time, but it’s still there. It never quite breaks. There’s nothing quite like it when dozens of you turn up  the next day after a late night call to arms, ready to hit the pavements and campaign, clip boards clasped against chests.

Anyways, comrades, I really hope to see you in that car park on Saturday morning. Bring your waterproofs just in case, but me, I’m praying for sunshine.


Autumn – my thoughts…

My thoughts on September:
Ah, the longing for autumn, here it is! (fuel bills, the colour brown, things rotting and the cost of Xmas fast approaching). Erm, hurrah.

So I wrote this:


Last winter was a long one, the only colour outside offered up by balding grass or an evergreen bush overplaying its hand, plastic privet leaves perfect and even shaped, factory line fodder. Winter smells of nothing, but in summer warm murmurs of flowers, soft and malty, puff out the gentle scent of pollen. Bees flit from flower to flower like the rest of us aren’t here, they carry on whether we watch them or not; it’s reassuring like meat sizzling on barbecues firming from raw pink to brown. Something’s always burning during summer, our neighbour’s brazier coughs out smoke after dark like he doesn’t expect anyone to notice.  He chucks in all sorts. I reckon he goes around collecting bits of rubbish from people’s bins just so he has something to burn.

‘If he didn’t burn stuff every night I’d worry about him, wonder if he’s alright.’ I believe this even though the smoke dirties our windows something terrible.

‘It stinks,’ you say.

You roll your eyes and I do the same back. I’m conceding the point because this summer you’ve made the effort, we’ve turned feral for the first time, taking lazy strides and dozing instead of sleeping. Every movement brings out beads of sweat like bubble wrap on your upper lip and trickles into your mouth but I don’t hear you complain. Thick salt water burns my eyes, hair stiff and sticking to the scalp, but shoving one’s hot head under a cold tap full on is one of life’s great unspoken pleasures.

‘Do you know what, it is,’ you agree, shaking your head from side to side like an enthusiastic puppy and showering me with droplets.

Everything is messy this summer and I love it; buttercups spread bright yellow chaos across the lawn. ‘They’re only weeds if they’re growing somewhere you don’t want them to,’ you say. I smile at your joke because it was funny when you said it two days ago and because the weeds out back are out of control, golden dandelions a foot high. We marvel at the size of them.

‘It’s like the Day of the Triffids.’ I laugh as I come up with the comparison.

‘Dandelions the size of your face,’ you say.

Yesterday you compared them to a plate. You’re learning not to love summer exactly but not mind it too much. You’ve let go this year as much as you ever do, it gives me hope when you turn up on time at the restaurant instead of being twenty long minutes early. This August is hot and clammy, thick grey cloud like a giant duvet in the sky holding the heat in, so you leave your jacket at home.

You enjoy cold meats for your starter, claim they soothe the way a spicy curry works the opposite way in winter. Opposites attracting, cool on hot, both extremes coaxed towards a happy medium. I yearn for ice cream, but you complain it freezes your teeth and face. Cold meats it is, then. We amble on with slices of ham and you run out of things to compare the dandelions to, still reflecting on my face.

‘I yearn for the structure of term time and knitted jumpers,’ you say, in an unguarded moment on the way home.

As your words spill out, loose and careless, we both know it’s the end. Without me saying anything you sniff an acknowledgement and I mirror your sniff, a relief to us both you don’t have to pretend anymore. The winter comes soon after, its chilled tart air snapping and scratching at me but I cope well enough and anticipate the spring.

(first published in The Fem, 2015)