I am so disappointed with The Guardian. This interview was an opportunity missed, and if The Guardian can fail a serious subject matter like this then I feel sorry for those victims of abuse hoping for an open and fair investigation into Westminster. They haven't a chance.
Argumentum ad hominem, means responding to arguments by attacking a person's character, rather than to the content of their arguments. I have been aware that over the years this has been a very effective form of propaganda against me. My voice has never been questioned, my story has never been told but my character has always been a problem.
I met Decca Aitkenhead from The Guardian at The Boundary Cafe in Southwark earlier this week. It had been over a week since the release of Getting Over The X and I had only done two interviews with newspapers. The Metro interview was over the phone with Andrew Williams and The Star On Sunday was also a phone chat with Susan Hill. Both were good articles and by two respectable journalists that I considered had been fair to me. This one with The Guardian was going to be interesting as I didn't know the person but I felt it was the right place for some of the things I wanted to discuss. The Guardian is a left leaning liberal paper - or so I thought.
I decided to look up Ms Aitkenhead on wiki and she had lost her husband in a tragic accident on holiday earlier this year and she had two small children. For some strange reason I thought she might be able to relate to the "shit happens' aspect of the book. Sadly, bad stuff happens but you carry on and I hoped that this came across in Getting Over The X. I was carrying on with my life - and it was clear she was too.
Tuesday morning was cold and windy but fortunately I had no need for my umbrella. I walked from the chilly morning air into the warm inviting smell of fresh coffee about 5 minutes late. Ms Aitkenhead was sat in the corner looking at her notes whilst photographer Sarah Lee and her assistant Luca was setting up lights.
I remarked that my guitarist was also called Luca but I couldn't hide my reluctance for having my photo taken straight away. I was tired and needed a coffee to wake myself up. This wasn't an X Factor photo shoot. I had no make up, no PR, no stylist and no moral support from the label who had it all sorted. I was on my own. I had just got off a train at the wrong stop and walked with google maps gripped tightly in my right hand. I am aware also that they still use photos of me from 10 years ago so it must come as a bit of a surprise when this old lump walks in. I hadn't had a good night's sleep either due to reading more propaganda in the mainstream media and so I wanted to see how the interview was going before committing to the photographs.
Yahoo were pushing the "bitter" narrative and I had spent the evening thinking about how I would go forward.
I am wondering that maybe this is the moment when it all gets sensible.
As I settled down and took my coat off it wasn't long before Ms Aitkenhead commented with surprise, that I "wasn't as angry in person as I am in the book." This was unsettling because I never thought that was how I came across in the book.
"Really? - where did you get that?"
She explained that the microwave dinner scene was an overreaction. This also threw me. The general reaction I've had from people has been a sense of disbelief, not that I'm lying, but at all the things that had happened and how well I've kept it together. Angry was not a word I expected to hear first thing that morning.
Ms Aitkenhead went straight into X Factor gossip mode. A fixation on the sexual details of The Closer interview was of interest, to the point she was willing to admit things her late husband always wanted to try to coax more details out of me. "You say you were like a drug addict in rehab" she says, when referring to the dressing room scene and smiling again. I go along with it but I'm thinking - "You've read the book - you know the seriousness of all this."
I'm hit with questions about X Factor, Simon, Sharon and Louis which compared to the topics relating to abuse, Max Clifford and tabloid manipulations seemed irrelevant to me and I let her know this. "Don't worry, we'll get to that." She laughed.
She pointed out that I had spoken about them in my book and laughed again. I had hoped that writing about the show was a way of setting the scene as a reminder to people or familiarising others with who I was and how I got to being here. The X Factor judges had an impact on my life but in the grand scheme of things Getting Over The X was actually not about X Factor. The X Factor was the backdrop for the main issues to unfold not an excuse to go over stuff people already knew. It was for me, a story of survival and perseverance with an acceptance of the challenges.
By the second paragraph in her piece, Aitkenhead has already misrepresented my view as to what went on during X Factor and then proceeds to make it appear that my reservations with The Sun were that of a conspiracy theorist. Instead, of mentioning "X Tractor" story or the "The Caffe Zero" headline she points to the morning after The X Factor final where my "humourless, arrogant, hubristic and resentful" persona appeared and could possibly be the cause of all this. Anyone who has read the book will know what I went through on final night and to make the following morning a valid indicator as to why my career was halted is laughable. She did however manage to quote me and set the tone with a touch of originality.
'“and I don’t like the Sun, but I was talked into it, ’cos apparently I mustn’t appear bitter,” he says, rather bitterly.'
In the next paragraph she groups three separate occasions together. The dressing room scene, the final night rehearsal and the eve of the final dinner. Two of which were totally serious and then the microwave dinner which had an element of humour thrown it. She could have used the following line from the book which summed up the absurdity of the situation that makes me laugh.
"What have I become? I'm 35. I'm sitting in a mansion trying to impress a guy who turned up late to his own microwave dinner party. Why wasn't I saying ‘what the fuck's this shit?’"
The piece makes no effort to reflect my thoughts or the development of the events but instead throws together a mishmash of clippings onto the paper to confuse the reader and make it appear that the book is an irrational whinge that can't be taken seriously.
But the most upsetting misrepresentation in The Guardian piece was the positioning of the historic abuse away from the book as if it was some incidental, an explanation for my 'paranoia' and "heartbreakingly delusional" behaviour. It wasn't clear if I had just confessed this at the interview, an interesting fact discovered through investigative journalism or actually linked to The Closer and Sun interviews that were stopped by Max Clifford. Even though I hadn't spoken about the details I alluded to it as "demons" throughout the book and only give light at the appropriate time; the article tried unsuccessfully to replicate this.
Due to historic abuse, I felt my life had turned towards a period of unconventional and some would think sleazy existence and it's why now I don't like being controlled. In 2005 I had a number one single and a number one album, I was the first winner of The X Factor. I was ready to talk about something close to my heart in a position of strength and confidence. So I spoke about it but I was closed down, and when you are not heard you close up. Worse, is when you are blamed and even bullied. Max Clifford's conviction was a major event for me but when Ms Aitkinhead asked "Come on Steve, you must have been delighted that Max was in prison?" I wasn't playing the game. I'm not happy about that. Relieved yes, happy no. I joke about it now and again to make it seem ok, but it wasn't. I did however tell The Guardian that earlier this year I had approached the police to report my historic abuse but failed to be heard. Due to procedure and my unwillingness to give my name I never got to speak to anyone at Surrey or the Met directly. I didn't blame the police, it was just another "shit happens" situation. We touched upon the abuse but I said "I don't really like talking about it." - and quickly she left it. It was evident that she was never really interested in that part of my story, especially in the right context of the book.
So instead of addressing these things, she misrepresents what I said about my wife's album and what I said about my small but loyal fan base who funded my new album to make me appear delusional. She also neglected to mention that ten years on and despite "fundamental misunderstanding of how the media works" Getting Over The X went to number one in iBooks biographies.
I'm not looking to be a star now and I never was. The book was about setting the record straight - that's all. Where I go now, where life will lead me nobody knows, but I'm in a much better place than I've been in many years.
'His book mentions “battling my demons” a lot, and it seems clear to me that he has mental health issues,'
In a book of 90,000 words or so, and covering 30 years of my life I say "demons' just four times. Once, when referring to my teens and then again later in life - but this and an interview from an unqualified journalist is enough to make such a strong allegation.
Sadly, this is ultimately where the agenda lies. When I met Ms Aitkenhead she believed I was an angry man and by the end of it she says I have mental health issues and is concerned for my welfare but she never asked me about my children, my home life or my wife.
I have had over 30 years to discover who I am and this woman has worked me out in 90 minutes - and told the nation what she thinks. Through faux concern for my wellbeing this was for all sense and purposes ad hominem, resulting in a 'please go away and seek help' type line.
'It seems to me that the public eye, let alone the X Factor stage, is the last place where Brookstein should be. But he refuses to give up and walk away, “’cos then they win”. For his own sake, I wish he could.'
Strangely, I managed to appear on The Wright Stuff the week before and resisted any urges to stick pencils up my nose and say "wibble" - so I wonder if being away from the public eye is for my sake or someone else's.
Last night I was informed by a friend on Twitter that the Star On Sunday article has been taken off-line. The Metro article is yet to go up.
The Guardian piece is very much available and is in print today.
Getting Over The X and my new album Forgotten Man is available to buy from here or Amazon.