Thursday, 17 January 2013
Nowadays the media is full of angry hordes declaring that they've been insulted and belittled by some columnist or other and laying into the unfortunate person with unbridled viciousness as if they have no right to express their opinion at all.
The attacks go way beyond simple hostility to include demands for sackings and resignations, death threats and venomous personal smears.
The columnist Julie Burchill has been the focus of a sustained campaign of hatred after her article last weekend which dropped a number of unkind and unsympathetic remarks about transsexuals.
A tidal wave of offended readers complained loudly about the article, calling her bigoted and transphobic, threatening her with all sorts of dire fates, and even calling for the article to be deleted and the paper's editor to be sacked (and yes, believe it or not, the article WAS deleted).
Whatever you think of Julie Burchill and her constant aim to be as controversial as possible, it seems to me that the reaction to this article is way over the top and completely inexplicable.
Surely she's entitled to express her opinion, even if it offends people; she's entitled to dislike transsexuals and insult them, however idiotic her prejudices; and she's entitled to a fair hearing without attempts to shut her up and censor her writing.
I find the concerted bullying and intimidation from her critics far more disturbing than the original article, which was just a typical example of loud-mouthed, potshotting journalism, not to be taken too seriously.
What worries me is that this sort of vitriolic mass vendetta is no longer isolated but is becoming routine. And freedom of expression is being abused in a most sinister way.
PS: An excellent article on freedom of expression by Suzanne Moore (who has also been attacked for saying that women aspire to be like Brazilian transsexuals)
PPS: The Press Complaints Commission is to launch an inquiry into Julie Burchill's article, after receiving 800 complaints.
Pic: Lea T, the Brazilian transsexual model