Interviewer: Mr Aull, thank you for coming in on such short notice.
Replé: It is no problem. I have a dedicated laptop signed into UCL’s email system to monitor for such an event. I never dreamed I would see such beauty again.
Replé sniffs and wipes his eyes.
Interviewer: Quite. This explosive email chain appears to be of a different origin to the original ‘Bello’ email from a few years ago, is that right?
Replé: Indeed. The first thread simply began ‘Bello’, as we all know, and was purportedly from the Provost, Michael Arthur himself.
Interviewer: But wasn’t, of course.
Replé: So the university claimed. This one, however, is from a recent graduate who is asking for information about their graduation ceremony – a graduate, mark you, who would have been present during the original Bello incident.
Interviewer: Are you suggesting this is a deliberate action?
Replé: I have learned to rule nothing out. Regardless, since then I have observed the chain moving through the classic stages of a ‘Bello’ chain.
Interviewer: Yes, your ‘Four Stages’ theory was acclaimed by the academic world in your book on the original incident.
Replé: Available at all reputable publishers for just twelve ninety-nine.
Replé adjusts his glasses to look more intellectual. It works.
Interviewer: Yes. Would you mind explaining the Stages?
Replé: Of course. The first stage is the ‘Reply All’ stage. The very first few emails in this case were genuine responses, but, crucially, they were sent not just to the sender but to everyone. From there, we observe the spiral downwards begin, as more and more senders ask that everyone else ‘stop hitting reply to all’ – while of course contributing to the problem by hitting ‘reply to all’ themselves.
Interviewer: That sounds unhelpful and what about the second stage?
Replé: In Stage Two, our resident comedians emerge. We begin to see memes, in this case repetitions of the classic ‘bello’ statement, as well as other jokes of varying dankness. Low-effort tweets by UCL’s Student Union are also commonplace.
Interviewer: We’ve seen enough of those.
Replé: Stage Three swiftly follows: advertisement.
Interviewer: The promotion of societies, websites, and so forth?
Replé: Even personal sales. The first advertisement I observed was someone offering to sell a pair of Nike socks. So deeply personal…
Replé looks unhealthily excited.
Interviewer: Fascinating. What about… Stage Four?
Replé: We have yet to reach Stage Four. It is the terminal phase of such a chain. Mailing lists.
Interviewer: My word.
Replé: Indeed. Sooner or later, someone will realise that they can sign the entire student body to online mailing lists. Porn websites, political parties, the One Direction fan club…
Interviewer: Disgusting. Fortunately it seems that the chain has died down, with no new responses for some time. We may avoid Stage Four after all.
Replé: What? No! It cannot end here! There are only hundreds of emails, not thousands! Not a single political party mailing list has been joined!
Interviewer: Yes, it seems that this time we may avoid a full repeat of the ‘Bellogate’ disaster.
Replé: But it is not finished! It must be completed! The work! The great work! All must see the light! Ball must bee, bust bee, bee, bee, bello, bello, bello…
Aull begins rocking back and forth in his chair, drooling gently.
Interviewer: Mr Aull… thank you?
Replé: bello, bello, bello, bello…
Replé Aull is the author of the bestselling book ‘Bello: Is It Me You’re Looking For?’
By Huw Steer