There’s been much in the media in recent years about the new and militant cancel culture threatening to devour our society and render us voiceless and gagged. All the same, the dark and vitriolic level it has now reached on social media sites such as Twitter is quite astounding and sinister.
At one time, celebrated authors might have thought they could escape the wrath of the new woke era but no way, José! As Sir Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, recently found to his peril, as did JK Rowling before him, you cannot afford to make glib and throwaway comments that touch on race, sex, religion or cultural mores. Nowadays, there is no forgiveness or love on Twitter, just unremitting hate, judgement and self-absorption. One must tiptoe as if in the cave of Cyclops and either grab a rock or get ready to run for your life.
And how did Sir Philip find himself the subject of so much opprobrium on Twitter? He made the mistake of defending Scottish poet and author Kate Clanchy, whose 2019 memoir, Some kids I have taught and what they taught me has unleashed an online storm, due to its apparent racist and ableist tropes. Pullman had issued a tweet likening those who judge books without reading them to Isis or the Taliban. Inevitably, the social media platform exploded in rage.
Pullman is the president of the Society of Authors which deftly distanced itself from the hiatus, issuing a “You’re on your own, pal” sort of media statement while Pullman scrambled to issue an online apologia – to no avail. Kate Clanchy herself did a tremendous amount of virtual self-flagellating and virtue-signalling, posting a mia culpa, cringe-making tweet beginning with ‘The last few days have been humbling…’ Oh please, pass the sickbag.
Is she humbled, really? That wretched word again which is supposedly there to demonstrate abject sorrow, shame, enlightenment and hopefully signal redemption. Unfortunately for both Pullman and Clanchy they are light years away from being forgiven by their detractors and should, in my book, self-gag, get off Twitter and lie low for some months. Valuable lessons will no doubt have been learnt by the pair if not a little too late.
Things can of course become even more inflammatory on this dangerous social media platform. A well-known and outspoken Essex publican with a huge following recently voiced strong opinions relating to hospitality, the British government and Covid that some seemingly disliked. A month or so later an arsonist set fire to his pub during the night.
So, much as I admire those brave enough to voice their opinions openly without fear of the consequences, I wonder whether they are wise. If being cancelled and stirring up so much grief, anger – and potential life-threatening physical violence - is the result, is it really worth it?
Amnesty for Geronimo?
It’s August, the start of the silly season, and so of course the sad death knell sounding for a loveable, handsome Alpaca named Geronimo, was bound to make headlines. Geronimo allegedly tested positive to bovine tuberculosis four years ago and DEFRA has finally won its legal case to have the poor chap killed.
The problem is that he may not have the disease at all as countless blunders of the same kind have been made by DEFRA before. The Alpaca’s owner, Helen Macdonald, is demanding the creature is retested but DEFRA, unreasonably, has refused.
Numerous animal lovers and rights groups have joined the fray including those whose Alpacas were needlessly exterminated by our incompetent government. Post mortems proved that legions of those slaughtered by DEFRA were free of all disease, causing heartbreak for the owners. The same muddle-headed testing regime has seen the murder – for want of a better word - of thousands of innocent badgers and the blood is firmly on DEFRA’s hands.
Fake positive results from the bovine tests – rather like the Covid 19 ones – are causing endless headaches but as far as Alpacas and cattle are concerned, their faulty tests mean death.
If Geronimo is denied a new test and is annihilated it will be a miscarriage of justice. But of course it is unlikely that the government will back down as it could find itself being sued left, right and centre by just about every farmer whose animals were killed by DEFRA, despite dodgy testing methods. The abhorrent and unjustified slaying of these poor defenceless animals is frankly another example of ineptitude and knee-jerk reaction, the hallmark of the current UK government.
Hot enough for August
Every year I rather dread August. I think it’s a psychological issue. The sizzling heat coupled with busy roads, restaurants and shops, and the lack of energy, inability to run regularly and mountains of work to complete in baking conditions, all take their toll. If I were a holidaymaker it would be different but I most certainly am not.
I have never been so busy and finding even a few hours to myself away from the desk is proving impossible. I am grateful to have so much work and I enjoy the stimulation it brings but oh for the soft, sweet sound of pattering rain and a cool breeze!
Anna Nicholas’s seventh Mallorca travel title, Peacocks in Paradise, is now available to purchase at all good UK bookshops & via amazon. Read Anna’s Majorca updates and reviews at https://www.telegraph.co.uk/authors/a/ak-ao/anna-nicholas/