BY FRANK HAVILAND
Allow me to declare an interest, or rather a lack of one: I couldn’t give a full toss about cricket. Therefore the cricketer Ollie Robinson represents something of a perfect storm; a storm of which I was blissfully ignorant, until the woke insisted I be offended by him.
For those still shamelessly untriggered, the promising England all-rounder made his debut against New Zealand last week, but has since been suspended from all international cricket pending an ‘investigation’ into tweets he posted a decade ago as a teenager; tweets which have coincidentally just resurfaced.
What are these tweets I hear you ask, so heinous they condemn a burgeoning career before it has stepped up to the crease? I have to confess, I was geeing myself up for some neo-Nazi sympathies, or at bare minimum the ownership of an M-People cd, only to have the cup prematurely dashed from my lips. Of all the allegedly ‘offensive’ tweets Robinson wrote between 2012-13, the raciest I could find were as follows:
- My new Muslim friend is the bomb
- I wonder if Asian people put smileys like this ¦) #racist
- Real niggas don’t let the microwave hit 0:00
Talk about anti-climax.
If you have to trawl through a decade’s worth of tweets to find something edgy, I’d suggest you’re not only struggling, you may need psychiatric treatment.
Sport has (historically at least) had the good sense to eschew the offence brigade. Take boxing: from Muhammad Ali’s views on mixed-race couples and ‘the white man’, Mike Tyson’s conviction for rape, and Tyson Fury and Manny Pacquiao’s biblical intolerance to homosexuality – whatever your view, they are undoubted icons of the sport, whose earnings / pay-per-view numbers confirm that the public are perfectly capable of separating genius and the flawed vessels in which it so often travels.
Such distinctions are not only in short supply among the wokerati, but fiercely rationed depending on which side of the political aisle you sit. The self-same people who claim to be offended by Trump’s ‘grab ‘em by the pussy’, or Robinson’s rather juvenile quips, do so on a selective basis. They won’t hear a word said about contemptible Stormzy lyrics, believe devoutly racist Labour MPs are beyond reproach, and would not even countenance reprisals for psychiatrists who dream of shooting white people in the head.
This latest installment of cancel culture does beg the question though: what exactly is the purpose of Twitter? As far as I can tell, the platform serves as a means to garner followers via pithy, humorous or controversial observations – i.e. those which attract attention. If it merely exists as a suicide pact should you ever become successful, it might want a rebrand. Furthermore, where exactly do we draw the line with such retrospective ‘justice’? Demand the last 10 years’ worth of internet browsing history be made available to employers before you get a job interview, that’d be a hoot!
For the record, when people ask where I draw the line on free speech: with the obvious caveats to incitement, nowhere. In fact, the more odious the opinion, the more I’d like the speaker comfortable enough to express it. There is little point in debate when controversial opinions are off the table, and I will always take the opportunity to defend my enemies on this issue, no matter how loathsome I find them.
More to the point, exactly what opinions, statements, or jokes are we ‘allowed’ to indulge anymore? Wokedom is already self-cannibalising, as the desperate struggle not to offend meets the desire to find offence in everything. If you really want to be offended, try my Twitter feed – 24-hours’ worth of which would debar me from every job in the land, and precisely zero for which I will ever apologise.
So by all means be offended by Ollie Robinson, but if you’re simultaneously demanding beatification for a scumbag like George Floyd and parole for Shamima Begum, I think you need to have a word with yourself (don’t worry, we’ll be going through your tweets next week). I also don’t think you’ve met many men.
In every park, in every school, in every university dorm, in every boozer in the world, you will find men talking just like this – talking when they don’t think they will be playing for England in a decade’s time. And for those saying they shouldn’t, just wait till you hear what women say!
Being offended doesn’t make you right, nor give you the authority to destroy someone’s career. Besides which, what do you want from your athletes – sport, or dogma? I’d have thought the vociferous boos greeting England football’s pansified kneeling should be clear enough, but with a second cricketer already facing an investigation, it would appear not.
Just play cricket, and leave the thought police back at the pavilion.