BBC presenter Danny Baker tweeted an old black and white image of a couple walking with a sharply dressed chimpanzee. He captioned it "royal baby leaves hospital." It obviously never occurred to Baker that the mother of the child Meghan Markle, has mixed ethnic heritage. Obvious to me anyway, cos Baker is no dummy. Had he realised it, he'd have never tweeted the picture. The twitterati PC police swung into action. The screams can be heard halfway around the world. Sack him! Arrest him! Ban him! Murder his first born! Ok, nobody said that last one.
Here's a flavour of the outrage. Outrage is all the rage, on social media. The professionally outraged patrol the site day and night searching, always searching. For what? For any opportunity to take offence on behalf of someone they've never met. It's a sport now. And when you strike gold, anything goes. Doxing (publishing private information including the address of your target), demanding they are fired from their place of work and insisting that they are banned from social media are all commonplace. Lovely isn't it? They went for Baker yesterday. Here's a few:
"Imagine thinking that tweeting this would end well in 2019. Guess that's Danny Baker cancelled, then... "
"I’m assuming that The awful #BBC5Live Danny Baker programme will be cancelled. Please. #5Live."
"@BBC remove that racist pig Danny Baker for sending out that racist picture about the new #Royal baby. Disgraceful."
RACIST RACIST RACIST Danny Baker should be given today to resign and clear his desk.
'If he is still there at 16.59 @bbc MUST FIRE HIM! I'm disgusted by the hate and racism inherent in his Tweet Unforgivable HE's not fit to be a broadcaster employed from the public purse.
Racist pig, ban him, fire him blah blah blah. Thing is though, Baker wasn't aware of Markle's heritage, or at the very least, it didn't occur to him when he posted the picture. It's just a funny picture. As soon as he was informed that it could be perceived that he was comparing her baby to a chimp he said; 'Sorry my gag pic of the little fella in the posh outfit has whipped some up. Never occurred to me because, well, mind not diseased. Soon as those good enough to point out it's possible connotations got in touch, down it came. And that's it. Now stand by for sweary football tweets.' Sadly mate, that's never it.
This is about much more than Danny Baker. It is about the imposition of thought policing and self censorship on everyone. Billions of us use Twitter and Facebook. We've been deliberately kettled there. I've spent many radio shows discussing this. And how easy it is, with all of us in the one place, to influence and ultimately modify the way we think and act. Think about it. 10 years ago, if Baker had published the picture on a noticeboard at work or at school, there'd have been a few laughs. Yes, maybe someone would've said "d'ya not think that's a bit racist Danny?" He might've said "ya know, I never thought of that, I'll take it down." End of story.
Not today though. Social media has ushered in a sort of global groupthink. We are being conditioned to fear saying (thinking) anything that the group deems to be controversial or even different. This inevitably leads to self censorship, which in turn leads to a loss of individuality and independent thinking. In the end, you'll have no right to ever be wrong and I'm not saying Danny Baker was wrong. I'd have said "fuck them" and left the tweet there, but then I don't have an employer to answer to either. Social media is doing that which it was engineered to do, destroy robust and reasonable debate. Feminists are being banned and losing their jobs for Tweeting that a man who identifies as a woman cannot be a lesbian. Gender identity politics is just one issue. Younger men and women around the world (who live online) are looking at how independent thinkers are treated when they stray from the groupthink designated righteous position on anything and they're saying "fuck that, I'm not getting involved." Worse than that, they feel compelled to seek out opportunities to signal to the group that they are virtuous and worthy of membership. There ends freedom.