I want to tell a little story of Facebook folk, and why I un-friended somebody for the first time. No names, so privacy boundaries not crossed. It began when a young(ish) woman (let’s call her SweetFace – because she has one) re-posted this comment, with her ‘Like’:
‘Seriously, the Daily Mail is chronically despicable; the epitome of everything that’s worst about England, and which that mean, respectable, hypocritical, high blood pressure, prim, stuffy, violently deluded segment of England sustains…It’s never overt with that rag, always snide, covert and coded, the disapproving rustle of net curtains from the lurking envious, sex-starved, racist, resentful, snide, respectable neighbour voyeur. It’s epitomised by Paul Dacre, that respectable, grossly over-privileged yet bafflingly angry white old cunt. It’s the daily white, respectable screeching noise of a nation that under the right conditions and without perpetual resistance would turn from respectable to fascist frighteningly quickly. Its readers simply aren’t dying fast enough.’
Naturally I found that – and her approval of it – appalling. So I posted: ‘Whatever you think about the newspaper and its Editor, that final remark about the readers is grossly offensive and shameful. That alone should preclude anyone with taste from ‘liking’ this post. Sorry.’
Please note there is no attempt to defend the paper, just the readers. I shouldn’t bother…but why should they be allowed to get away with such hatred of ordinary people? Well, naturally, I drew the fire. All too predictable. One example: ‘They’re a bunch of racists and so are those who write the garbage that they print.’ And so much more.
It went on, so (mildly) I posted: ‘Look, I write an advice column which addresses the emotional problems of real people. Because of that I have a particular insight into our wide and various readership. I am often overwhelmed by their kindness, warmth, compassion and intelligence . This is why I wish them all good health and long life. Search for irony all you like, but I am sincere.’
They wouldn’t have it, the haters: ‘I’m sure Der Stürmer had an agony-aunt, too; and no doubt given The Fail’s political support and affiliations at the time, those operatives even knew one another and exchanged party salutes.’
I was told if I had any morals I should personally intervene to change headlines etc. As if! And listen to this chap: ‘Be as pious and sanctimonious as you like. You enable, condone and profit from hate, filth, racism and bigotry. You should be skulking around in the shadows, praying to God no one knows what you do instead of getting all indignant. Christ, you’ve got some fucking nerve! How dare you? You’re a disgrace and you should be ashamed of yourself. If it was me, in your shoes, my contribution to this exchange would be, “Please don’t tell my mum I write for the Daily Mail. She thinks I clean the sheets in a brothel.”
I refused to get angry. What’s the point? Yet each week I read problem letters from the people they so despise – and meet them too. So once again…. ‘The readers are an extraordinary cross-section and defy cheap stereotyping. I know this as surely as I know my own hand. That is why I object to this prejudice.’ But here’s another male left-winger, who probably strokes kittens: ‘Cheap stereotyping’ ….? You write for that paper and you’re using that as a criticism of those criticising it? It’s a special kind of delusion one needs to operate that level of astonishing duplicity. If you make your living contributing to that hate-rag, you need a serious word with yourself.’
Publically I asked SweetFace if she condoned such abuse. This chilly response came back: ‘I’m of the view that if you work for such a nasty newspaper, people will have strong views on it. You must have known that when you first commented.’
Oh not so sweet face! In a private message I wrote: ‘I think you should at least have said that you do not condone abuse. I am proud of what I write in the Mail and despise the fact that so many on the left feel morally justified in heaping vile abuse on somebody like me, a 70 year old woman earning a living. I said at the outset that I was defending the readers not the paper.’
Next day I messaged again: ‘Well, you didn’t even have the politeness to reply to what is clearly a very upset message. I have a FB friend who is way to the left of you who once deleted a hostile comment, posting the explanation that he would not tolerate abuse of me on his wall, since he knew me to be both intelligent and full of integrity. But you clearly approved the bile that was spewed on your page, even though (I confess) it actually kept me awake last night. Why is it that left-wingers have to be so horrible? Stupid too, to imagine that I could have any influence over the paper. Last night, at a charity event I was making an appeal at, a middle-aged couple came up to me and told me how much they love my column: ‘It’s seen us through some bad times.’ All it needed was for you to make some gesture in the direction of the thought that I may do good. But no. Therefore you will understand why this FB ‘friendship’ is terminated – so I will never be tempted to open myself to such vileness again.’
I’m of the view that SweetFace and all her friends would be knitting at the foot of the guillotine and driving the tumbrils full of Daily Mail readers. I tell you, if they despise me for writing for my newspaper, their feelings are not half as powerful as mine – seeing right through their virtue- signalling to the sink-hole beneath.