These are dangerous times for the rights and safety of the individual. Social media acts as judge, jury and executioner. Quick as a flash, in a few short clicks, a reputation can be destroyed. Sometimes even a life.
It was a social media campaign that last year ultimately led to the beheading of Samuel Paty, a teacher in Paris. His killer, a young Chechen Muslim called Abdullakh Anzorov, had been incensed by online posts from a parent at the school where Paty taught, denouncing him for showing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a lesson on free speech.
The parent, the father of a girl in Paty’s class, published the teacher’s name and the address of the school on Facebook and YouTube, demanding his sacking and urging his followers to act.
Not only did the school’s headmaster effectively add fuel to the fire by offering an ‘unequivocal apology’ before any sort of sensible investigation had taken place (an all too common knee-jerk response in today’s frenzied cancel culture); the similarities with the Paty case are also, quite frankly, terrifying
Only later did it emerge that the girl had lied to her father about the whole incident. She wasn’t even in class that day, having been suspended for truancy.
Thus the lies of a troubled 13-year-old disseminated by her father cost a man his life.
That is the frightening reality of that case.
No wonder that the teacher at Batley Grammar in West Yorkshire, who earlier last week was suspended following accusations of Islamophobia, has reportedly – along with his wife and children – gone into hiding.
Not only did the school’s headmaster effectively add fuel to the fire by offering an ‘unequivocal apology’ before any sort of sensible investigation had taken place (an all too common knee-jerk response in today’s frenzied cancel culture); the similarities with the Paty case are also, quite frankly, terrifying.
Both centre around the use of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in lessons, although in this case it was part of a Religious Education class; and both have led to a climate of intimidation fuelled by dangerous rhetoric online.
The man leading this campaign, Mohammad Sajad Hussain (who runs a charity called Purpose Of Life, allegedly dedicated to community harmony) called the decision to illustrate the nature of blasphemy in the context of an RE lesson with the cartoon ‘clearly sadistic’ and ‘terrorism to Islam’.
He published his accusations, together with the teacher’s name and the address of the school, on Twitter, before doing the rounds of the TV and radio studios repeating his allegations. Such behaviour is not only contemptible, it is also completely disproportionate to any alleged offence.
By acting in this way – and by being allowed to do so – Mr Hussain has potentially exposed this teacher to serious danger without himself being subject to a shred of accountability. There ought to be a law against it.
Actually there is, but it is selective and doesn’t apply to everyone.
It’s only if you happen to possess the necessary ‘protected characteristics’ – disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity – that being accused of wrongdoing without any evidence can be called a ‘hate crime’.
The law, in this respect, is itself discriminatory in favour of certain people. Who do not include ‘burly Yorkshire lads’, as this teacher has been described. But, I ask you, what is more hateful: doing your job as a teacher? Explaining to a classroom the truth about religion and prejudice? Challenging young minds to think independently and intelligently about these important issues? Or hurling unfounded accusations at someone, whipping up a hysterical climate of loathing, publishing their personal details online and exposing them and their family to all sorts of risks – just because they don’t happen to believe the same things as you?
Ricky Gervais perhaps puts it best when he says everyone has a right to believe what they want to, and everyone else has the right to find it ridiculous.
That is the fundamental principle of free speech and it should apply in all our British institutions – especially schools.
Because this madness has to stop, before someone else gets hurt.
Porn culture’s to blame for school abuse crisis
also have no doubt what is to blame: internet porn. Free and hardcore and almost impossible to police. And now we are reaping the whirlwind
An epidemic of sexual abuse allegations is sweeping Britain’s schools. Hundreds of girls have come forward to accuse male pupils of serious harassment, even rape, and some boys have been reported to police.
I have no doubt that many of these claims are genuine. I have heard accounts from my own children of what goes on, and some of it keeps me awake at night.
I also have no doubt what is to blame: internet porn. Free and hardcore and almost impossible to police. And now we are reaping the whirlwind.
Teenage boys whose sexual knowledge comes from watching adults engaging in behaviour well beyond the realms of normal interaction, and who adopt the values of this abusive world in their attitudes towards the opposite sex.
Meanwhile, teenage girls feel pressure to mimic the porn-pop icons of our time such as Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, by dressing and acting in ways far too precocious for their age.
The result is a perfect storm: boys raised on a rape culture who, as teenage boys have always done, struggle to control their urges – making them extremely dangerous; and girls who project an image of confident sexual empowerment, but who are really, like teenage girls have always been, just a mass of mixed emotions – making them extremely vulnerable.
All desperately sad.
● Lockdown has generated a lexicon all of its own, most of it deeply irritating. My new pet hate is ‘being remoted into’, as in, ‘Clive is self-isolating but he’s being remoted into via Zoom for the 11 o’clock’. Remoted is not, and should never be, a verb.
● After the Europe-wide hysteria over unfounded claims that the AstraZeneca vaccine caused blood clots, it seems people are now using the jab as an excuse for almost anything. The UK’s drugs regulator, which monitors side effects, has reported bizarre reactions, including yawning, failing to stick to a diet, flatulence, weight gain and daydreaming. Don’t tell the French or the Germans – they’ll have another meltdown.
● Like millions, I tuned into Line Of Duty last Sunday at 9pm – and by ten past had given up. I know this is blasphemy, but it was unwatchable. The entire script was a mess of cliches punctuated by cryptic pronouncements delivered with faux solemnity by a cast, including Kelly Macdonald who seemed as depressed by the pointlessness of it all as I was. I might as well have been watching the Alex Salmond inquiry.
● Whoever these Kill The Bill protesters are, they can’t be all that clever. If there is one thing guaranteed to banish any scintilla of sympathy the British public might have for their alleged cause, it is violence against defenceless animals. Throwing fireworks at horses is barbaric, and a real measure of the kind of scum they are. So will Labour condemn them?
● The first tweet by the co-founder of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, has sold for £2.09 million as a ‘non-fungible token’, a new type of digital asset. Is that something to do with magic mushrooms? Because I can’t think what else would explain this surreal lunacy.
● Sales of motorhomes have soared as Brits plan their staycations. I’ll tell you what’s also off the scale: sheds. Seems everyone wants a garden office/den these days. I’m desperate for one to stick my teenagers in, and like a fool I’ve left it too late. One company I spoke to said they couldn’t manage anything before the end of June, while a second firm quoted August. Another summer of smelly trainers and pizza to look forward to!
Own it, Sharon!
In her new memoir, Sharon Stone (pictured) now a youthful 63, says she was tricked into it and horrified when she realised what was on screen
When Basic Instinct was released in 1992, that famous leg-crossing scene scandalised the world (oh such innocent times!). In her new memoir, Sharon Stone now a youthful 63, says she was tricked into it and horrified when she realised what was on screen. Isn’t it funny how, ever since #MeToo, all these once ballsy man-eaters have taken to recasting themselves as shrinking violets?
Stop making excuses and own it, woman. You’ve nothing to be ashamed of. As Hollywood’s wittiest sex siren, Mae West, put it: ‘When I’m good, I’m very, very good. But when I’m bad, I’m better.’
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