Seven and a half years ago I wrote this post about my name. I noted that my name wasn’t unique; nor should it be really. It isn’t an especially odd name either so it shouldn’t be unique really. I mean, there were four other Marks in my year at secondary school, so it was never something I thought was particular unique. I also didn’t really like my name growing up, but that was never something I thought about too much.
I discovered around the time of the original post that there were a bunch of other Mark Shields’ who were far more famous than I. The main one is that there is a PBS Political commentator called Mark Shields who, as well as having a obtained the coveted bare Wikipedia page, is quite well known in the US. I tuned in a few times when I lived in Texas, just for fun, but it was never something that I really cared about. When I finally set up this blog as a full website a few years back, to help me with the radio show and stuff, I never expected that this would come back in a big way. And since the beginning of this year, I have had a steady stream of people get in touch with Mark Shields.
Not me, of course, but the PBS Political Commentator.
The really amusing thing is that there can be very little about both of us to get confused about. I mean, I do an ambient radio podcast type thing. He does PBS. I mean, we might have the same number of listeners and viewers… but the amusing thing is that it isn’t easy to message me and not realise who you are messaging. But the messages came in and slowly and surely, as the election cycle really ramps up and the Other Mark Shields probably appears more often and riling more people up, the messages get more frequent.
I’ve had messages about free college places, Trump, guns, and pretty much anything else. One such emailer, a lovely 90 year old man, appears to have previously worked with the Other Mark Shields in a past campaign, and talks to me as if we are old pals. Some of the messages are strongly worded political takes – one calling Trump’s ability to cause the Republican Party to capitulate to his every whim is called “mass suicide” of the party, and that it will pull the party down in it’s entirety. Another got in touch asking if I remembered “sleeding (sic) on Fogg St in South Weymounth when we were young lads”. I haven't had the heart to tell them I'm not who they think I am.
It isn’t all nice agreement-mail. There are a few "hate" mail messages, but nothing to be worried about. It feels like the Other Mark Shields attracts the top end of the troll spectrum, where they actually make valid points and write in actual English. One such message aimed directly at a segment that the Other Mark Shields had done about Clinton saying “with friends like these who needs enemies?”. It also rails against Hillary Clinton, using her broiling email scandal and the classified documents that were vulnerable to interception, and ends with a suggestion that the Other Mark Shields should retire, saying “as a surgeon I stopped caring for people when I turned 72 to avoid making errors that would hurt people – maybe you should do the same”. That is one of the most well written sick burns I've came across.
This week I was copied in on a letter than was sent into the Sacramento Bee, a newspaper in California that railed against a local republican convention. I wondered if it got printed this week but couldn't find out online without signing up to the paper.
Most, if not all, are sent through the Contact form on this very site. That is fine. Weirdly though recently a few have came through on my actual for real email address. The email link is directly above the contact form, so that should surprise me, but what it does suggest is that people aren't truly thinking about it - I mean, what political commentator has a @gmail email address?
I am not complaining either; it is amusing that more people get in touch with me through my website about the Other Mark Shields rather than my own podcast adventures. I suspect it is because he doesn't have a Web presence of his own, and my own adventures in SEO have made my site pop up near the top of Google results. I look forward to each message, and if the Other Mark Shields wants to get in touch, I’ll forward them on to him.