Monday, November 17, 2014

Age of Intolerance

At some point soon I hope to be able to look at the movies I watched in the weekend before last's exploitation movie marathon, (there was no repeat performance this last weekend: I confined myself to catching up with a seventies James Garner movie, several episodes of Barney Miller - an American sitcom which used to be used as a late night filler by ITV back in the day, but deserved better - and listening to Atomic Rooster, because I'm so down with what the kids are listening to).  However, right now I feel moved to comment on the shocking levels of intolerance which seem to prevail these days.  No, I'm not talking about the appalling persecution of comedy genius 'Dapper Laughs' which saw him driven from ITV2 and the web by hordes of humourless gits who just couldn't grasp that his misogyny was 'ironic' and his rape jokes just 'banter' - they obviously all had too much time on their hands because they weren't getting enough, on account of being 'too ugly to shag.'  I'm more concerned by the hate campaigns which seem to greet any public figure (and sometimes not-so public figures) who expresses an opinion that the 'Twatterati' and their ilk don't like.

Most recently, we've seen the athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill receiving threatening tweets because she doesn't agree with the idea of convicted rapist and sometime professional footballer Ched Evans being re-employed by Sheffield United, where there's a stand carrying her name.  Conversely, we'd earlier seen Judy Finnigan enduring online abuse and rape threats against her daughter merely because she'd pointed out that said Ched Evans had served his prison sentence and therefore was entitled to try and put his life back together, (she also, in a poor choice of words, claimed that the rape he'd committed had been 'non-violent' as the victim had been drunk and incapable at the time, I understand the point she was trying to make, but I really don't think that you can have degrees of rape - either sex is consenting or it isn't).  In a somewhat less emotionally charged example, tennis player Andy Murray was on the receiving end of internet abuse for having the temerity to say that he was voting 'yes' in the Scottish independence referendum.

In all of these cases (and many more I could cite) we simply have someone expressing a not unreasonable personal opinion with which the rest of us might, or might not agree.  If we don't agree, fine. We can always express our counter opinion in an equally reasonable way if we feel strongly enough and can be bothered. But we still acknowledge the right of the person in question to hold and express their opinion.  But increasingly, it seems, those who disagree feel that it necessary to hurl a stream of abuse, invective and threats at anyone expressing an opinion they don't like.  Reason doesn't come into it: those holding a different opinion apparently must be intimidated into silence.  Differing opinions cannot be tolerated.  Whilst I've highlighted the role of social media users in this, the mainstream press are just as bad in this respect, particularly when it comes to political opinions.  The abuse isn't just confined to celebrities - just look at the comments under news stories on newspaper websites, or on personal blogs, whenever a differing or unpopular opinion is offered.  In my more paranoid moments I suspect that these apparently increasing levels of intolerance for other people's opinions is part of some establishment plot to stifle debate and prevent current political and economic orthodoxy from being challenged.  I imagine that all those tweeters and posters are actually Security Service agents.  But that's just crazy talk.  That said, the alternative explanation, that through a combination of growing levels of ignorance and increasing levels of pro-establishment propaganda being put out by the media, people are just growing less tolerant of difference, is far more disturbing. 

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