The danger in thinking it is safer to keep your mouth shut

At my age, I am entitled – and eminently qualified – to read a magazine called The Oldie. No-one disputes my right, as it is an easy way to dismiss me as no longer relevant.

These days there is an awful lot of dismissing. It ranges from ignoring news that does not fit a particular world view to ruining the careers of gifted academics who believed it was their role to speak out.

I’ve written before about being dismissed on a variety of charges, most of them beyond my control (Old white man guilty on three of four counts).

Dismissing, in its varying stages of severity and consequence, is another way of saying we have forgotten how to tolerate our fellow human beings.

In the September issue of The Oldie British historian A.N. Wilson (pictured above celebrating his admission to the ranks of septuagenarians, and otherwise known as the Oldie Man of Letters) devotes his column to “The strange death of toleration” and numerous examples of how “over the last generation, free speech has taken a battering”.

His column was prompted by a mind-numbingly stupid act by the 331-year-old Coutts Private Bank, which cancelled Brexit politician Nigel Farage’s account because of his polarising political views. I don’t particularly like Mr Farage or the way he goes about his politics, but I certainly wouldn’t see that as grounds to tear up his savings bank book.

However, the author of The Victorians and numerous biographies including those of Adolph Hitler and John Betjeman was much more concerned about the treatment of the Reverent Richard Fothergill (a real person) who, on a building society’s feedback page, objected to the promotion of trans and gay ideology which conflicted with his religious beliefs. Boof…his account was closed because the building society practiced “zero tolerance”. Continue reading “The danger in thinking it is safer to keep your mouth shut”

Media should be careful where they tread in 2022

An iconic photograph of Diana Princess of Wales came to mind as I contemplated the year ahead. It shows her on a dusty Angolan track, dressed in blast vest and visor, flanked by signs with skull-and-crossbones and a stark warning. I recalled the image because media this year will need to be very careful where they tread.

Care, of course, comes with the territory but the figurative landmines that media could face this year go beyond the usual hazards. Some will be sown by the Covid pandemic while others will take advantage of the frayed tempers that result of seemingly endless restrictions. Some will be planted by groups marching to the drumbeat of polarised opinion while others will result from the mistaken placement of measures to protect New Zealanders. And a few will be ‘own goals’, where the media step backwards onto their own devices. Continue reading “Media should be careful where they tread in 2022”