This is an amusing, ridiculous, and absurd story. But more importantly, it’s an example of how a story can grow from a snowflake into an avalanche. Particularly when the media is interested in nothing more than creating click-bait to enhance its bottom line.
It started with this tweet:
The next day I was contacted numerous times by Harry Shukman, a London Times journalist, wanting to know if I was responsible for a letter sent to the Kensington and Chelsea borough in the UK purporting that singer songwriter Robbie Williams (the former Take That star) has been mocking Jimmy Page (of Led Zeppelin fame) with ridiculous stunts because Page has been trying for five years to protect his historic mansion from potential damage that could be caused by Williams’ proposed construction of an underground pool next door.
In other words, he wanted to know if the whole thing was a hoax perpetrated by me.
This is after The Times had spent days covering every nuance of this story and had spilled an enormous amount of ink, in words and photos, on it.
And they were not alone. Scores of other journalistic heavies weighed in on the story. Here’s just a sampling (h/t Daniel):
Not wanting to derail the ever-growing story about this rift, I didn’t respond. When I finally answered the phone I didn’t confirm nor deny that I was involved. However, just because I’m me, I told Shukman I’d appreciate it if he would hold off on writing about this for awhile. I said I had several balls in the air and would like things to play out a little longer. The next day, January 15, The Times printed this story:
The Times also printed this article by Robert Crampton the same day. Since it requires a subscription to read the whole article, the section where he declares that the whole thing is a hoax is excerpted below the image.
Crampton article excerpt:
“…Sadly, this story was indeed too good to be true. Williams, while perhaps irritated by Page’s opposition to his home improvements, did nothing of the sort. Neither did Williams, as the original story went on to suggest, dress up as Led Zep’s legendary frontman by ‘wearing a long hair wig, and stuffing a pillow under his shirt . . . to mock . . . Mr Robert Plant’s beer belly that he has acquired in his older age.’
Would that Robbie had done that, but he didn’t. The story was a hoax. Page may well get upset having to endure the tunes of his band’s early Seventies rivals or he may not. If he does, I suggest he just blasts Westlife and Boyzone tracks back over the garden fence in response.
I guess I should have known that this purported celebrity set-to wasn’t kosher. In real life, even in Holland Park, neighbourly disputes tend to follow a far more prosaic path. Rather than arguing about swimming pools or musical tastes, my experience indicates early-morning hammering, unwanted Amazon packages and cheeky boundary-wall transgressions are where it’s at.”
I then received an email from Sally Guyoncourt, a journalist at jpimedia.co.uk asking:
“The Times is reporting today (15th January) that Joey Skaggs has admitted the complaint to Kensington and Chelsea Council about Robbie Williams and Jimmy Page was his hoax. Has Mr Skaggs admitted that to be the case?”
This was my reply:
Thanks for asking. I neither confirmed nor denied my involvement to The Times reporter. I did not say that I falsified a complaint to the local council, nor that I’m pleased the prank worked so well.
There are some journalists who can hang themselves with dental floss. I believe the reporter contacted me because of this tweet: http://bit.ly/2CwZJ0U.
This is a small example of what’s happened to facts and truth in the media. We live with a constant barrage of alternative facts, fabricated fantasies, and slanted opinions designed to grab our curiosity and make us click through stories to buy, believe or do something.
One of my missions over the years has been to point out the fallacies of an irresponsible media. Some projects have taken years to develop, some have just fallen into my lap.
I’ve successfully hoaxed British media numerous times over the decades. Baba Wa Simba is one example (see the video produced by Channel 4 at the bottom of the page). Another you might enjoy is the Fat Squad which the BBC fell for hook, line and sinker, although that video is not on my website. I’ll send it to you if you’d like to see it.
I’ve not seen anything further about this story from any of these players. All the publications that were pursuing this story with such a vengeance appear to have dropped it like a hot potato. No retractions, no apologies. But don’t worry. They all got exactly what they wanted. Tons of clicks to their stories and their advertisers.
So, where does that leave Jimmy Page and Robbie Williams who have both been massively maligned by both the news media and readers who can’t refrain from weighing in on any controversy? Do an online search for “Jimmy Page Robbie Williams” and you’ll see what a wild ride they had.
This reminds me of another time when I was implicated in a story that I may or may not have had anything to do with. Check out “Scandal in Slovenia here.