When The Arbiters of Good and Evil Take Out Their First Target, They Will Come For You Next
Will You Align Your Views?
It might not bother you that Virgin Trains has stopped selling the Daily Mail. Perhaps you never read it anyway, or at least pretend you never read it so your mates won’t judge. Maybe you think it’s a despicable little rag read by Nazis and staunch Brexiteers who fancy Nigel Farage.
Perhaps you never travel on the West Coast mainline from London to Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham or Scotland. In which case I doubt very much a decision not to sell the Daily Mail concerns you in the slightest.
Given that only 70 copies of the paper were sold in a day anyway, you might wonder how any of us even came to hear about it. Well, the reason you know about it, the reason we’re even talking about it, is because Branson wants you to know.
Arguably, it was not a measure designed to pacify the internal staff who claimed the paper offended their racial, sexual or religious sensibilities. I am fairly certain train staff have bigger concerns – such as the guy trapped in the festering automated toilet.
It was a publicity stunt, just like any other; Branson’s way of denouncing all the sniveling Brexiteers he so loathes, and likely his way of taking revenge for the paper’s recent criticism over the taxpayer bailout of his rail network.
In response to Virgin Train’s decision, a spokesperson for the Mail said:
“It is disgraceful that, at a time of massive customer dissatisfaction over ever-increasing rail fares, and after the taxpayer was forever to bail out Virgin’s East Coast mainline franchise – a decision strongly criticised by the Mail – that Virgin Trains should now announce that for political reasons it is censoring the choice of newspapers it offers to its passengers.”
The paper has been kind.
Thanks to my time working on its hugely successful online counterpart, Mail Online, I know firsthand the pressures being exerted on the title by powerful lobbying groups determined to punish the business for its editorial line. Be under no illusion: THE most senior voices from some of the most powerful religious organizations are at play.
Virgin Trains says the views of the paper are incompatible with the brand. That the politics of the Daily Mail do not align with the politics of Virgin Trains.
So far, so fine. So what, right? It’s a private company. Virgin Trains can choose what it chooses to sell and to whom. That is its right.
But answer me this. What happens when the views of a Christian cake baker do not align with those of a gay couple who want to buy a wedding cake?
If it is right for Virgin Trains not to sell a paper to passengers who want to buy it, why is it wrong in law for an Evangelical Christian baker to refuse to bake a cake celebrating gay marriage? If this is the free market at work, are some more free than others?
The same with Twitter and its blue tick. Choosing to remove the blue tick from some voices is Twitter’s prerogative; it is a private company and if you object, you are free not to be a part of the platform. But if you censor some users, or stop verifying others for their political views, it does rather imply that the platform condones the views of those they continue to endorse.
And this is problematic. Who decides which views are good or bad; who is the arbiter of values, good or bad?
Is one political belief right? Another religious belief wrong? What happens if a company’s shareholders are Saudis, with strong Islamic foundations?
What happens if one powerful lobbying group with specific religious and political affiliations becomes the arbiter of right and wrong?
The lobbying group Stop Funding Hate is one example. It ramped up the pressure over the Christmas 2017 period, targeting advertisers of the Daily Mail, publishing the names of brands advertising in the paper, encouraging its own supporters to express their outrage on Twitter and by email. They encouraged people to contact the brands in question, “urging them to rethink” their partnership with the Daily Mail.
You might remember the High Street stationary retailer, Paperchase, being obliged to earnestly self-flagellate and genuflect in apology for having offered Daily Mail readers two free rolls of wrapping paper worth £4.75 from its stores.
“We’ve listened to you about this weekend’s newspaper promotion. We now know we were wrong to do this – we’re truly sorry and we won’t ever do it again. Thanks for telling us what you really think and we apologise if we have let you down on this one. Lesson learnt.” — Paperchase (@FromPaperchase) November 20, 2017.
The Daily Mail accused Paperchase of allowing itself to be “bullied into apologizing” and described the Stop Funding Hate organization as “a small group of hard left Corbynist individuals seeking to suppress legitimate debate and impose their views on the media.”
Most interesting of all is the choice of language used by Stop Funding Hate after the Paperchase adverts appeared:
“Many Paperchase customers will be disappointed to see them prominently aligning with the Daily Mail today.”
That word again: align.
One political belief system has laid claim to hope. So that if you read The Guardian, voted Remain, and think Corbyn is the equivalent of Father Christmas in Westminster, you belong to Hope and you are a GOOD person.
If you read the Daily Mail, voted Brexit and think the Tories are the right answer, you belong to Hate. And you are a BAD person.
How curious a thing, and incredibly divisive, too. Yet perpetuated by those who speak of a kinder politics, and religious authorities who preach tolerance and love!
What madness is this?
It is a narrative I reject and I encourage you to do the same. Standing with the 17.4 million who voted to take our country back, we were filled with hope. Hope for a future for our children in a Britain that mirrors the country our grandparents fought for. We had hope for a better Britain.
I don’t worry for the fate of a paper. But I do worry for the hundreds of staff who work there, regular people with families, mortgages and bills to pay. Good people trying their best to do their job and get home at night to have tea with their children. Friends of mine who are just like friends of yours.
And I am greatly concerned that many young people caught up in the excitement of protest and causes do not have a clear aim. What is the ultimate outcome they hope to achieve?
If you are one of those who celebrates the victories of Stop Funding Hate, if you cheered when Paperchase apologized, or applauded Virgin Trains’ decision to stop selling the Daily Mail, ask yourself: what next?
What is your aim? To close down the Daily Mail? Then what? Ask yourself: who’s next? Close down the Daily Telegraph? Or the Daily Express? Then what? The Times? Where does it end?
Keep trying to defund anything and everything that does not align with your political or religious view? And if you achieve your ultimate ambition, that we all think the same way, read the same news, share the same opinion – what separates us from North Korea except the size of our buttons?
If you carry the argument to its logical end point, along the way health, schools and services could all be rationed by your political views.
To access health, you need to prove you voted Labour.
For the school place of your choice, you need to show you supported Remain.
To use this train line, you need to show your Momentum card.
I am reminded of the funeral of Castro in Cuba, where billions gathered to show respect. But if they failed to gather to show respect, they had their ration books removed and the local coordinator responsible for getting people in place was beaten to a bloody pulp.
Look at the politicization of our health care system. How long is it before your access to treatment might be dictated by your politics? Or those delivering your care decide that you are a GOOD person or a BAD one depending on the political choices you make or the newspaper you read?
You watch Paperchase groveling to Stop Funding Hate; I see Castro’s henchmen making villagers grovel for their rations.
We are headed down a dangerous path. You might not care about whether Virgin Trains stocks the Daily Mail. But consider this: when they take out their first target, they will come for the next.
When they have silenced the brave few who stand up for what they believe in, be assured they will come for you next.
One of these days their target might be something that really matters to you. Will you align your views?
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