The story so far: Caitlin Moran (yes, all right: I know lots of you claim never to have heard of her, but she’s a bestselling author on both sides of the Atlantic and one of our most fluent and entertaining columnists) has been fighting a war to clean up the social media site you never use, Twitter.
But now she has been rumbled as a major source of offensive, potty-mouthed, insensitive Twitter chat herself.
And now, in response, Caitlin has felt compelled to launch into one of her increasingly tedious apologiae pro vita sua (Caitlin, Caitlin, you were SO much more fun in the days when you stuck to celebrities and vajazzling) to justify why, like, it’s OK for Caitlin Moran to make flip, glib, matey in-jokes about AIDs and gays and suchlike but not OK for anyone to be horrid to members of the righteous sisterhood like Mary Beard and Stella Creasy and Caroline Criado-Perez.
And now, Caitlin’s essay has been retweeted in a “put that in your pipe and smoke it, evil, right-wing Caitlin-doubters!” way by celebrity comedian David Baddiel, and celebrity comedian Dom Joly. And quite soon, I think we can fairly safely guarantee, it will also have been retweeted by celebrity astronomer Brian Cox, celebrity mathematician Simon Singh, celebrity Times whimsyist Hugo Rifkind, celebrity lefty and occasional scriptwriter Graham Linehan, et al. Why? Because they’re all part of the same great big self-affirmatory gang of the impeccably liberal-left-leaning luvviehood, is why. Once you become a part of this gang, it’s great because you never have to worry about saying the wrong thing on any issue ever again. You know what to think on “climate change”, because all you have to do is check what fellow club member Marcus Brigstocke thinks. You know what to think about bees and neonicotinoids because of what Vivienne Westwood says. You know what to think about fracking because Yoko Ono and Sean Lennon and Chrissie Hynde’s daughter don’t like it. Etc.
This is the same phenomenon I described when having a go in the Spectator at the ineffably tedious and oh-so-predictably lefty Russell Howard’s Good News.
What’s really irksome about Howard, though, is the mind-numbing, soul-sapping conventionalism of his politics. You just know that the first day he went to the subsidised bar on his economics degree course at the University of the West of England (Bristol Poly, in old money, I believe), he got handed the usual Middle-Class Student ****er’s starter pack marked ‘This is what you think’. There’ll have been a long section on how bad racism is, probably the worst crime in the world; one on Tories (‘tossers’); others on Israel and Palestine, the great recession (all the fault of greedy bankers and tax-dodging corporations, basically), the environment (v.v important!!), and so on. And young Russell will have gone, ‘Hey, I like the sound of this. It means not only can I spend the rest of my life feeling morally superior over all the scumbags who don’t agree with the Middle-Class Student ****er’s starter pack but also that I’ll never have to use a single one of my brain cells ever again.’
This morning – not as a trolling gesture, but in all sincerity – I invited my old mucker Caitlin to join in my Twitter campaign to #keeptwittertasteless (or #keeptweetstastless – I can’t decide which is better). The point I was trying to make is a serious one: that if you genuinely believe in freedom of speech, then an inevitable part of that freedom is the freedom to offend, be it Guardian hacks writing disobligingly about transvestites, or ungallant louts insulting Mary Beard’s looks, or Caitlin’s AIDS quips. After all, one person’s flip, daringly near-the-knuckle, mini-rebellion against our stifling culture of PC is another person’s dire, report-worthy offence. And since it’s all a matter of opinion, where do you draw the line? Who decides what is and isn’t “appropriate”? (Direct threats of violence are, of course, another matter. But those were already proscribed by the law long before Caitlin and her pals began their Twitter clean up campaign)
I find it slightly weird that I should need to explain this. (A similar problem exists with Leveson.) Why is it mainly just us right-wingers who are sticking up for the principles of free speech? Why don’t the left-liberal luvviehood get it too? Are they even capable of thinking an original, let alone brave, thought on any subject, ever?
- Murdoch, Hackgate, Climategate, the Guardian and the vile hypocrisy of the Left
- I’m trying to block out the suppurating vileness of Twitter
- Twitter: ‘Tweet’ went the birdy, and we did
- In praise of patrons – particularly mine