Is there such a thing as bad publicity?

In the age of social media, was Oscar Wilde right about the only thing worse than being talked about? If you’re a publicity-hungry proprietor using social media to promote your business, is there a line you should not cross? Is there a point beyond which your hunger for controversy damages your brand? Or is everything you say – no matter how offensive – just grist for your own publicity mill?

A man who definitely seems to believe there is no such thing as bad publicity is Paul Stenson. He’s the proprietor of Dublin’s White Moose Café and he recently stirred up an online storm by making what could only be described as deliberately offensive and misogynistic comments about banning women from breastfeeding in his restaurant. (This is a moronic and illegal policy: mothers breastfeeding in public places are protected under the Equal Status Act (2000).)

Stenson has been at this all month. I’ve just trawled back through his social media accounts and dear God it’s depressing that a grown man gets his kicks mocking women, saying the word “tits” and setting his followers on anyone who calls him out on his bizarre prejudice.

Two weeks ago, he was on Newstalk to double-down on this idiocy. The journalist Suzanne Campbell was listening and tweeted a quote from him: “If you want to breastfeed go out to your car or to a public toilet”.

The journalist and food critic Tom Doorley responded “The White Moose Café. Remember the name. And avoid it.” When Campbell suggested “Only childless hipsters welcome”, Paul Stenson replied “Sick of old boring farts like you, Suzie. Keep those tits in ya hear me?”

Attacking women, by using misogynistic language and telling people they need to get a sense of humour, appears to be standard operating procedure for Mr Stenson, as a dip into the open sewer that is his restaurant’s Twitter account will show. (One tweet sees him actually mock a woman over the size of her nipples. This guy’s a real prince.)

Stenson’s followers were quick to come to his defence, the most articulate of them howling that his comments were clearly humourous and meant as satire. On Facebook they told Stenson that they found his sub-Trumpian trolling to be hilarious. On Twitter, they lined out to tweet abuse at Campbell and Doorley, and Stenson wasn’t slow to endorse their behaviour by liking and joining in.

The journalist Philip Boucher-Hayes – who is married to Suzanne Campbell – did a Companies Office search on the White Moose Café and discovered that one of that company’s directors is Anne Stenson. He decided to write to her and ask her how she felt about her son’s online behaviour.

Aside from the comedy value of telling Stenson’s Ma on him and imagining the atmosphere at the next board meeting, Boucher-Hayes says there was a serious purpose to his letter.

“I brought it to her attention that the social media accounts of the business she was lending her reputation and support to was abusing women,” he said last week. “As her son has shown he’s deaf to the requests of civilised society, I asked her to talk to him about how it is and isn’t acceptable to talk to women generally and mothers in particular.”

(Before going to press on Tuesday, I asked Boucher-Hayes if he had received a reply from Anne Stenson. Nada.)

In the interest of fairness, I asked Mr Stenson on Twitter “Did you think at all about moderating your misogynistic language and your business’ illegal prohibition of breastfeeding?”

He replied “Nope. Did you think at all about moderating your ability to be a self-righteous wank stain?”

An unambiguous answer, I think you’ll agree. Still, though, I suppose I did manage to distract him from the woman-hating, if only for one whole tweet.

Interestingly, the barrister Fergal Crehan tweets “Once (met) someone who worked in the White Moose Café, said it was classic David Brent situation, they all hate the boss, he thinks they love him.”

To be fair, it is at least possible that the person Crehan met was a one-off unhappy employee, but the mention of Ricky Gervais’ character does seem apt. There is a strong David Brent vibe running through all of Mr Stenson’s attention-seeking social media pronouncements, a lack of self-awareness and a resentment which is shot through with an awkward, giddy and tone-deaf neediness.

Paul Stenson can’t be faulted for trying to raise his business’ profile. However, he has done so by being abusive to women, which is an interesting way of communicating with just over half of your potential market.

Such behaviour is sometimes based upon what psychologists refer to as “Male Superiority Complex”, whereby feelings of inadequacy are countered and masked by delusions of superiority. Thus, male insecurities tend to manifest themselves along predictable lines of rage and misogyny and find expression in aggressive bluster such as shouting “this is my business” or “this is my sense of humour”.

Ultimately, for all of his boorishness, Mr Stenson’s behaviour is attention-seeking and, in writing this, I am open to accusations of playing right into his hands. I concede that point and argue that it’s worth it if there is such a thing as bad publicity.

In the midst of this latest furore of his own making, Stenson rather defensively tweeted that his was the most “liked” café on Facebook. It will be interesting to see if he can translate that notoriety into business or if he’ll be left with a busy Facebook page and an empty restaurant.

Paul Stenson’s online fans – many of whom seem to be small, right-wing accounts based overseas – like what they see as his political incorrectness. It remains to be seen whether Stenson will be able to monetise their approval, especially if those of us who actually live in Ireland and whom he would accuse of lacking a sense of humour – i.e. those of us who think misogyny has no place in public discourse – decide to stay away in our droves from an establishment run by a man who – by the evidence of his online behaviour – thinks very little of women.

I won’t be supporting the White Moose Café. That might have something to do with my respecting and liking women.

I don’t know about you. What do you think?

Is there such a thing as bad publicity?

  • shamose

    You aren’t the brightest tool in the shed are you Donal O’Keeffe?

  • Matt Farrell

    i love how ‘wank stains’ like yourself take this so seriously, its clear as day that he is a troll yet you still bait him. Furthermore he does not actually ban or do anything he says its all for online humor and anyone stupid enough to bite only increases the places popularity. How about go find a new mother take them there and see if he actually bans you if he does go bonkers you actually have a real story then rather than trying to act professional by writing an article based on a satirical facebook page

  • Jim Rogers

    After reading all the posts on Facebook for the White Moose, I managed to get there when we visited Dublin. Nice place, decent food, friendly staff, and the women at the table next to us seemed to be having a fun time on their extended lunch. As an American liberal (I hate Trump,) I’d go back if I ever get to Dublin again. Lighten up!

  • Wayne laird

    yeah its all actually trolling, he doesnt mean what he says and that having to be explained to you takes away from the fact, he has let woman breastfeed in his cafe and as someone pointed out that not one person has been subjected to anything at his cafe that he says online, not one case, so please go and get offended online and promote his business which is actually a respectable establishment, not to mention busy as hell now, i go by twice a week and its always packed

  • DrakhorT

    Oh bugger off, Donal O’Queefe.

  • philip

    Yeesh talking about having to have the last word, just let it go…

  • Jacqui Wall

    Crying 😂 I’m telling your mammy on you 😂

    I don’t live in Ireland. I WILL however be visiting shortly, purely to eat at The White Moose Cafe. Interesting how all of the “journalists” (and I use that self proclaimed title very loosely) who are up in arms appear to be men….where are all the droves of women lining up to berate and create? 🤔 Could it be that us women have a sense of humor and satire? Or do we have better things to do than jump on a bandwagon in an attempt to raise our own profile? Hmmm😉

  • Zoë Whitfield

    Oh FFS.

    This article takes itself so seriously it’s nauseating. Take a break from the masturbatory smugness and get a breath of air. Maybe go for a walk or a cup of joe. Unclench a bit. Get a tad more perspective.

    You come across as following a personal grudge, not holding a chivalrous banner for women everywhere. I can’t speak for all liberal females, but so far I don’t see my sisters tearfully applauding you.

  • Frederike Fischer-de Maar

    As a woman, I’m not offended by Mr. P. Stenson. However, I feel completely offended by you in this article right here. I am tall (1.76m) left-wing politically speaking and yes overseas. I can buy beautiful shirts from The White Moose Cafe, so we oversea-accounts can bring the money in the till. I’m very glad to hear that his ma didn’t give Boucher-Hayes the attention the poor man so wanted,. Again, I don’t feel offended at all, I don’t want to breastfeed in public. I don’t want to see it where I eat. Not all people are alike, so don’t treat us women as if we were one individual. No such thing as bad publicity, but bad writing? What do you think?

    • Sian Morton

      In that case I think you would be sorely disappointed in the white moose cafe I am pretty confident that mothers can breastfeed freely as they choose in this establishment.

      • Frederike Fischer-de Maar

        I don’t think I’ll ever get there, honestly. Not because of breastfeeding though 🙂
        I just wanted to point out that not all mothers want to go hanging their boobs out every time their gold-shitting offspring gives a little expression of dissatisfaction. Not all women are alike, that is the only thing I was offended by. And you know what? If I see a woman breastfeed I simply move my chair a bit, or walk another way. To each his/her own. Thanks anyway for the warning 🙂

  • Evert Bopp

    Hey Donal, seeing that you coward;y blocked me on Twitter ages ago I’ll ask you this question here: What homophobic jokes did myself & Kate tweet?
    Or are you just making this up safe in the confidence that your merry little band of right-on social justice warriors will gallop off into battle full of moral outrage without doing any fact checking?
    You really are a little special snowflake aren’t you?

  • Murigen

    Do you not understand sarcasm or dry humor? And here I thought the Irish (and the Scottish) invented it! You need to get your sense of humor retooled or at least admit you aren’t intelligent enough to get it. 😉

  • Justin Chaos

    “I won’t be supporting the White Moose Café. That might have something to do with my respecting and liking women.”
    Good luck with women respecting and liking you back wank stain

  • Andy Coe

    This article is great. I think Donal O’Keeffe is actually a bit of a genus. He writes satire with such intent that one might easily believe there is sincerity in his words. Written as if he thinks he’s the first person to criticize Paul’s (pseudo) controversial stance at the white moose. He plays the part of a sad, bitter, wannabe-journalist with such conviction, going to lengths to display his characters lack of research and understanding. Even printing it in a publication with such a tiny reach, while piggybacking on The White Moose’s own satire-loving audience! Brilliant! Bad publicity certainly doesn’t exist for this legend, I hope to see him in his own Brent-esque column in a wide-reaching, reputable newspaper in the future! Bravo!

  • Sian Morton

    I am usually tarred with the latte-sipping lefty brush so this is a nice change for a middle-aged English-born Australian woman with an British sense of humour who has been amused and not a little bit baffled by the outrage generated by the White Moose Cafe. There are certainly a lot of headless chooks carrying on out there in social media land.

  • G Mc Garry

    Lighten up for God’s sake, look at his page, most women have found his satire to be quite funny too.

    There’s plenty of other problems in our society you could be directing your disapproval at and you pick this??Jeasus you’ll be up in arms against Waterford Whispers next.

    Mr Stenson’s right, Boucher Hayes is a bit of a Wank Stain

  • Skin

    Misogynist? How about all the women who support him and like his humor? Who are you to tell someone else at what they should be offended about when it comes to them? Are you so full of yourself? This article is pathetic.

  • Peter Rosmann

    Wow…. Now you told him! I’m sure his mammy is spanking his misogyny filled bottom as I type. And then he will change his errand ways.
    Only one quick question: you did do your research properly by sending a mother to breastfeed in his cafe only for her to be charged €5 corkage or thrown out? It’s just that you failed to mention that in your article…
    Because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t be the intrepid investigative journalist you proclaim to be, you would be just a attention seeking wank stain.

  • ckzs

    Why those social justice warriors are so incapable to take a joke? How stupid one should be to think that Paul is actually prohibiting breastfeeding on his premises? Hes misogyny as well as anti-veganism is a JOKE. He is simply playing with the sensitivities of political correctness in social media, he likes to annoy “professionally offended” as an amusement, it is just FUN – have you heard about such a concept? If you find his humour not to your liking, you can just move along – why all this pathetic whining and complaining (denouncing Paul to his mother was hilarious)? I guess there is a certain cognitive malfunction in particular brain areas that produces the types of people like the author of this article.

  • Justin Chaos

    Hey wank stain…what’s your real job…on the dole with enough time to write for a piece of shit blog that nobody gives a fuck about?
    Very much like you…or you actually expect people to believe you’re a real journo ???
    Congratulations on standing up for women, still…you’re a creepy old fart and that’s not gonna get you any pussy, so stick to the wanking and the odd whore when the dole check arrives.

  • Colizgg

    I really hope for your sake that you’re trying to out troll Stenson with this. Because no one without a serious psychological issue would be stupid enough to take the White Moose seriously.

  • Callaghan Ignorance

    Donal O’Keeffe is totally humourless. As for quoting SJW lawyer, Fergal Crehan – give me a break.