BY BEN PENSANT
Every now and then a heart-warming example of human endeavour allows you to fleetingly forget the horror of being alive today. And my day was brightened by one such example last week when I read about the brave Dutchman who took on a supermarket chain over their micro-aggressive positioning of hate-filled newspapers where customers can see them.
‘Dear @waitrose, could you put the hate on less prominent display? It is making me feel most unwelcome in your shop. Please #StopFundingHate’.
With one Tweet, concerned citizen Sjoerd Levelt delighted everyone fed up with seeing points of view we disagree with every time we pop into Waitrose for an ethically correct snack that tastes like a pigeon loft. Because we’re not just talking about words here: we’re talking about dangerous weapons that assault, mutilate and kill.
‘I felt too intimidated by the display to say anything in store’ Sjoerd whined, echoing the familiar horror of trying to find out how many food miles were used to fly our lychees to Jesmond while being menaced by a knife-wielding pile of pulp-wood. But in a disgraceful act of cowardice Sjoerd was blocked by Waitrose. Our hero wasn’t giving up that easily though and swiftly sent an email to the managing director. When that failed our hero played the valued customer card, informing the manager it was his responsibility to deal with Sjeord’s comically low tolerance for offence:
‘I ask if you will do something about it’ he pleaded. Because when someone is offended it’s everyone else’s duty to rectify it and make them feel better. See, feelings are the modern left’s sourdough bread and organic butter. And if protecting those feelings means massaging our egos by demanding other people deal with our offence then even better.
Sure, there are things Sjeord could have done to alleviate the problem, such as buying a different paper, shopping somewhere else … or growing up. But who would that help? The hate-sheets would still be there for gullible fools to absorb and catch racism from, itching to draw blood like razor-toothed paper tigers. Because simply not reading publications we don’t like is no longer enough: we have to stop everyone else reading them too.
Predictably, Sjeord was abused online, with brainless insults such as ‘fascist!’, ‘spoilt child’ and ‘I hope they send you back a drawing of a penis’. Someone even suggested he should stick to shopping in Toys R Us, though I dread to think how threatened he would feel surrounded by far-right terrorists like Megatron.
But Sjeord had the last laugh when the Waitrose in question suddenly started folding Mails in half to obscure the bloodlust of the headlines, shutting up the trolls who had inundated him with hate for three days. As an ally pointed out: ‘It’s easy to mock when you’re not the one being targeted’.
Thankfully, decency prevailed and Sjeord became the newest member of a growing movement who’ve had their ruddy fill of free speech. And in an equally joyous story last month, brave Labour councillors Bernie Attridge and Kevin Hughes were inducted too after forwarding a motion to ban anyone from bringing The Sun onto Flintshire council premises.
The move was a show of support for the ‘Total Eclipse Of The Sun’ campaign, which sets out to avenge the victims of the Hillsborough disaster and The Sun’s lies by politely pressuring newsagents into not selling it. Because nothing signifies solidarity with the working-class more than taking away their right to sell or read whatever they want. The joy of modern-day progressive activism is that it doesn’t have to achieve anything.
To be seen to stand against the hate-sheets is all that matters to rack up the virtue credits, even if the only targets hit are autonomous grown-ups and their right to take whatever newspaper they like to work. That the subjects of their wrath – Sun staffers from 28 years ago, virtually all of whom have now left, retired, or gone to hell – will escape entirely unscathed is irrelevant. Stories like this give us hope. Who cares if all they achieve is making quasi-Stalinist Welshmen feel good about themselves?
Because we must embrace good news where we can, especially if it hurts the right-wing press. And as the freedom to read whatever we like slowly ends, the unwashed are gradually accepting it isn’t merely the content of The Sun that is offensive but its very existence; merely knowing someone, somewhere is reading it is practically an act of head-splitting violence.
The Stop Funding Hate campaign has grown in stature, its modus operandi – political censorship via corporate blackmail – delighting the same progressives who condemn Donald Trump for attacking press freedom.
Of course, SFH have pointed out repeatedly that their aim is NOT to censor newspapers. They just want them to ‘do better’. And if the only way to make them ‘do better’ is by restricting what they can say then so be it. As the SFH slogan says, ‘Don’t hate the media: change the media’. That their method of bringing about change – cutting off advertising revenue so newspapers are forced to stop speaking freely – is practically the dictionary definition of back-door censorship is irrelevant. It’s the destination that matters, not the liberal values that must be jettisoned to get there.
As SFH head honcho Richard Wilson put it: ‘It’s going to keep happening until the financial balance changes and we get to the point where they don’t make money by publishing these headlines, they lose money because advertisers walk away.’
Of course, SFH et al utterly fail to apply the same standards to the likes of The Guardian –which has printed numerous columns supporting Islamism – and The New European –whose very first front cover featured a cartoon dog calling 17 million people ‘idiots’. Because any fool knows there is good and bad hate. And the hate practised by extremist Muslims or middle-class Remainers is resolutely ‘good’. Luckily, despite the horror of modern Britain, one thing we can be proud of is that you’ve got more chance of finding an honest Tory than coming across a funeral pyre made out of books by Tariq Ramadan or Ian Dunt.