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Always look on the bright side...

Are you a victim of fake outrage?

Certain news networks and daily papers seem to think that the biggest threat to our modern, free-thinking society is ‘Cancel Culture’, or something that they refer to as the ‘Wokerati’. It’s not like there isn’t enough real world news to be reporting, what with confrontations going on in Ukraine, Palestine, Sudan and Haiti. It’s just easier to make stories up designed to trigger the credulous. The truth is, nobody’s going to denounce Santa or take your Easter eggs (or hot cross buns) away, so as not to offend certain minority groups. Britbox opened a can of maggots when they briefly dropped the “Don’t mention the war” episode of Fawlty Towers, but the maggots were back in the can within days. So, how much do we actually need our hyperbolic bogeymen?

Curly Scream

I was flicking channels a while back (I know I shouldn’t, but occasionally the ennui just creeps up on me like a ninja) when I spotted the bloke from ‘Coast’ (remember ‘Coast’?) claiming that ‘they’ wanted to take Christmas away from us. Neil Oliver is his name, and it took him just twenty minutes to blow all the credit and integrity he had accrued over the years, as he blathered on, melodramatically about a secret agenda in the media to play down the festive period, so as not to exclude people who don’t practise Christianity (Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Atheists, Pastafarians and all the other heathens). It was, of course, total fabrication. I looked into it and couldn’t even find the molehill that Mr Oliver was determined to make a mountain out of. But you can bet that a certain percentage of the TV audience took his ordure on board (hook, line and sinker, as they say), and made a point of spreading it evenly in the playground, or workplace, the next day. A complete lack of accountability, thinly disguised as freedom of speech, allows anyone in the media to say almost anything about anyone and anything these days.

 

‘Fact-checking’ on some of the more balanced news networks does its best to expose the fibs, but it’s hard for many people to accept that they were wrong, especially when they spent most of their morning ranting to their sewing circle or yoga class about the dangers of hot cross buns with ticks instead of crosses. When it comes to amendments to literary classics, (another modern habit that has a tendency to twist the knickers of many), one can only assume that P. G. Wodehouse, Mark Twain, Ian Fleming and Howard Phillips Lovecraft, to name but a few, would be grateful to their publishers for having the sense to realise that words (the n-word in this instance) can change their meanings over time. What was once an acceptable name for a dog or cat, is currently one of the foulest insults you can use.

 

So, fair enough. Roald Dahl’s adult fiction remains uncensored, but alterations to his children’s books have caused considerable gnashing of teeth. The words ‘fat’ and ‘ugly’ were dropped from a number of his classic tales, presumably to spare the feelings of the overweight or those whose physiognomy presents a tangible threat to the continued functioning of clocks. This is somewhat harder to justify. Editing ‘James and the Giant Peach’ or ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ is not going to stop little kids from calling each other names. ‘Children are cruel’ was a popular maxim when I was growing up, and you still hear it today (as well as kids calling each other ‘fat nerbs’ or... I could go on; it might even be fun, but I think ‘fat nerb’ is adequate to illustrate the point). So, editing Dahl is pretty pointless, but it won’t ruin his marvellous books for children born this century, as long as mum and dad can pipe down about it come bedtime. I’ve heard a number of commentators and pundits state that this isn’t about any one issue in particular. More that the whole thing is the start of a slippery slope that threatens to turn our society into something resembling Soviet-era Russia. This is, of course, completely ridiculous. That’s not how Stalin went about building his elitist Bolshevik dictatorship and selling fake communism to the proletariat: ‘Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others’, as my Dad would say. The world is not going through a golden age right now, far from it.

 

Things could be a lot worse, but that’s no excuse. There are plenty of us who love nothing more than a good grumble (that’s why we have sport!), but fabricating or exaggerating things to complain about is a waste of energy and time. It’s all just smoke looking for a fire.

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