"If you want to read a blog to get a sense of what is going on in Hong Kong these days or a blog that would tell you what life was like living in colonial Hong Kong, this blog, WALTER'S BLOG, fits the bill." Hong Kong Blog Review
"J.K. Rowling also displayed a willingness to stand firm in the face of the howling mob."
"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is problematic on many levels. Her name for starters. Then you have the lack of representation of dwarfs of colour, plus no cross-gender dwarfs and the patriarchy thing that runs through the story-line. It's got to go.
That’s an opinion expressed on Twitter. There is also talk of banning "Gone with the Wind" and "Zulu" — for the obvious reasons. But Basil Fawlty — "Don't mention the war" — for now, gets a reprieve. Basil is back but with a warning in case you take offence.
Am I the only one who thinks it's all getting a bit bonkers as the puritans of wokeness dictate what we can and can't see, hear and read. And don't you dare complain, or you'll be next. Let me be clear, the awful death of George Floyd raises serious issues, and yet within days the whole saga has degenerated into the puerile.
And nobody comes out of this unscathed. Even that bastion of wokeness The Guardian newspaper may need to shut itself down. John Edward Taylor used the profits from slaves on his cotton plantations to found the paper in 1821. Owen Jones and his mates should be ashamed.
Some of this is playing out through "cancel culture". Before the Internet dominated everything, we had something similar called "sent to Coventry" or the silent treatment. As a kid, this meant ostracised from the group for a perceived infraction. Sometimes this could be distressing, especially during those fragile teenage years. Maybe I'm wrong, but the girls seemed to use this penalty more than the boys. For the guys, a fight would usually resolve the issue, while the girls went in for psychological torture of their victim.
I'm told the term "sent to Coventry" has its origins in the English Civil War. Captured Royalist troops were dispatched to the Parliamentarian jail in Coventry, hence the expression.
The Internet, as it's done with most things, has amplified the whole activity. At school, any impact came limited to a locale, but also because people forgot and soon moved on. These days you have no such luck. The vilification has developed into a full-scale onslaught with trial by the many. It's all recorded and kept ready to regurgitate when another round of bashing is necessary.
Meanwhile, old TV shows, movies, songs, books, statues and anything you can name is up for re-assessment by the self-appointed unwoke finder-generals who stalk the Internet. Their approach is simple: think the way we do, or we will destroy you because you are part of the problem. Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, decided to join in. He has appointed himself as judge and jury. His approach action is facing some challenge.
David Walliams and Matt Luke of "Little Britain" fame have had to throw themselves to the ground begging forgiveness for their earlier comedy shows. In the current climate, such genuflecting is compulsory for people in the entertainment industry if they wish to work. But there are notable and compelling exceptions. Ricky Gervais defends his right to offend people and rarely backs down. As he puts it "Just because you're offended, doesn't mean you're right."
J.K. Rowling also displayed a willingness to stand firm in the face of the howling mob. Rowling has repeatedly stood up for women’s rights when she perceives that militant transgender types are seeking to encroach. In June she wrote on Twitter criticising an article's use of the phrase "people who menstruate" instead of saying "women". This all stems from the belief by transgender activists that "men can menstruate", when they can't.
It was awful to watch actors piling in with criticism of Rowling. Daniel Ratcliffe, Harry Potter himself, displayed no loyalty when he jumped on the bandwagon. Actress Noma Dumezweni initially expressed support for Rowling but then changed her stance when the mob went for her — bullying pure and simple, with adults playing. Rowling and Gervais come shielded to a degree by their celebrity status, which confers the ability to get their message across. Ordinary folks have no such options.
But why the fascination with trashing someone for holding a different opinion. The psychologists tell us many factors are play. First, people love to see someone higher in the food-chain fall from grace. In part, this is envy plus an earned self-satisfaction from seeking the moral high-ground.
At a primitive level, as social animals, we all want to be part of the group, because that confers protection and status. When we join in the targetting of an individual, we show our solidarity and that we conform with community standards. The social rewards are immediate and gratifying and the dangers too distant and abstract. "You could be next" does not compute for most people.
Often this is unthinking or rote behaviour. Ultimately, taken to its extreme, it can lead to genocide and other extremes of human responses.
The people on the receiving end of the "cancel culture" can suffer terrible consequences. Careers ruined, relationships gone, and psychological impacts are possible. Caroline Flack was not someone on my radar until she committed suicide in February this year. Flack fell from grace as a TV show presenter following allegations she'd assaulted her boyfriend.
The later social media firestorm ripped through every part of her life, picking apart and dissecting the minutia. Of course, the gutter press joined in the feeding frenzy that led to the poor woman taking her life. That she'd already flagged up her mental health issues didn't cause anyone, including the newspapers, to back off. If anything they revelled in it.
A demonstration of the power of this process came last week. A lady was recorded spitting in the street and verbally insulting people who challenged her. Within a matter of hours, she's identified as a Hong Kong civil servant working for the Government Flying Service. Soon links to her previous public appearances appeared as people set about exposing her conduct as unacceptable in these Covid-19 times. No doubt she now regrets her actions.
During Hong Kong's current troubles, we saw doxxing, the cousin of the "cancel culture”, used to menace officials and police officers. This phenomenon gathered pace when protesters turned up at police officers wedding seeking to disrupt the event.
In the end, the judiciary issued an injunction to protect the data of police officers. It didn't stop the doxxing, but it has consequences for those who dare to challenge the rule of law. These tools of intimidation work both ways. In Hong Kong, it didn't take long for pro-government types to expose their opponents. Those who'd joined the online shaming found themselves suddenly on the receiving end. As I've said before, once you deploy a weapon be ready for it to come back your way because purges tend to rebound with unforeseen consequences.
In the West, there are signs that the silent majority of the population will not continue to accept the unfounded labels and claims thrown at them. Politicians responding to online trends need to remember that people are far from cowed in the voting booth, as Hillary Clinton and Britain's Labour Party found. Simply put, people won’t imbibe on the idea they have some kind of historical guilt.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.