By Ben Pensant
As anyone who spends their life on social media knows, there is little to be happy about these days. From war, disease and famine to Trump, Brexit and white people, it often feels like everywhere you look there’s a life-threatening supremacist force waiting to oppress. But if you search hard enough there is good news out there – as the saying goes, for every fascist Muslim ban there’s a heart-rending poem about Jeremy Corbyn. And this was demonstrated on Friday as social media lit up with the joyous news that professional victim Jack Monroe had won their libel case against professional gob-shite Katie Hopkins after Hopkins got Jack mixed up with a different professional victim and – the horror – didn’t say sorry. No, really.
Yes, for those of you pre-occupied paying bills, feeding families and assaulting immigrants to notice, yesterday will go down in regressive left folklore as the day Jack The Giant Killer took on the Queen Of Mean and won. Or as it will be known among normal people: the day that lass who thinks she’s a lad fleeced 24 grand out of the mouthy cow off The Apprentice.
For the uneducated, this is the reason virtually every liberal on Twitter has spent the weekend celebrating as if Fidel Castro had risen from the dead, lynched Theresa May and demanded a second EU referendum in which only those with degrees in Gender Studies are eligible to vote. And it all started two years ago when Hopkins committed the heinous crime of getting Jack mixed up with Laurie Penny. Granted, most people would be furious if someone mistook them for Laurie, but that’s because most people aren’t as principled and polyamorous as her. No, it was the libellous content of Hopkins’ comment and refusal to apologise that got Jack’s goat, leaving them with no option but to take the migrant-baiter to court for saying something Jack didn’t like.
Hopkins’ monstrous tweet – which I won’t repeat in case anyone has a heart attack – accused Jack/Laurie of condoning the desecration of war memorials, going way beyond what most decent people from Islington find acceptable and barging straight into hate-crime territory. The fact that it was meant for Ms Penny – who coincidentally did condone the desecration of war memorials – was neither here nor there. So, instead of merely pointing out Hopkins’ mistake and making her look rather silly, Jack went for the jugular: ‘Dear @KTHopkins, public apology + £5k to migrant rescue and I won’t sue. It’ll be cheaper for you and v satisfying for me’. Unsurprisingly, Hopkins failed to apologise and deleted her original tweet, no doubt assuming that Jack – a writer – would be fundamentally against taking legal action against someone for something they wrote. Think again, horse-face. For Jack then brilliantly set the ball rolling on their two-year quest for justice, culminating in Friday’s confirmation that sending a tweet to the wrong person and not apologising for it is now so painful and dehumanising that nothing less than 24 grand – rising to 300 in costs – will make up for it.
But it wasn’t just the horror of someone saying something mean that had Jack fearing for their life. For a sinister knock-on effect of Hopkins’ refusal to say sorry were the death threats the flame-haired food-blogger received as a result. Because as the Louis Smith scandal showed, death threats are never the fault of the person who sends them. In this case it was the fault of a vile Tory who sent a tweet to the wrong person and didn’t say sorry; in Smith’s it was because he insulted Muslims everywhere by arsing about on a rug. But it all comes from the same place. And that place is Germany, 1933.
Predictably, so-called ‘classical’ liberals who value freedom over feelings have claimed Jack could have used their Guardian column to fight fire with fire and issue a stinging rebuke to Hopkins instead of penning heartbreaking tales about how they used to be so poor they once had to cook their own slippers. Others have suggested that as a fully grown adult they could have simply blocked, muted or ignored Hopkins, like most adults do when people on Twitter get on their non-binary tits. But why bother when you can take someone to court and earn more than most people make in a year in the process?
Because what the free-speech fascists don’t understand is how hurtful it is to not receive an apology. In fact it’s even more hurtful than being mistaken for Laurie Penny. Because to the modern left hearing the word ‘sorry’ is like devouring the most moorishly-addictive heroin known to womankind. Take it away and you’ll find us shaking and shitting on a burnt mattress in a damp bedsit before you have time to check your privilege. Receiving apologies is good for the regressive soul, but not because the person giving it is actually sorry. No, that’s unimportant and never happens anyway as very few people are genuinely sorry for upsetting folk who think corn-rows on white people are as offensive as a knee in the twat.
The reason apologies matter so much is because they signify that we have someone under our control; so terrified of offending us they’re willing to say sorry just to make us feel better. That’s power, folks – ignore it and you’ll be inside a courtroom quicker than you can say Roe vs Wade. Apologies feed the soul and anyone who’s ever watched Curb Your Enthusiasm – in which courageous snowflakes regularly demand apologies from Larry for his hurtful micro-aggressions – knows exactly how nourishing they are. As Jack brilliantly put it, leaving no doubt as to what really rankled them about the Hopkins episode: ‘LOL all the people wanging on about free speech re this case. SORRY would have been free speech. Like, literally free speech. Literally FREE’.
Despite the fact there’s nothing ‘literally FREE’ about being forced to donate £5,000 to charity in order to avoid being sued, this just shows how focused brave SJWs are on getting their own way by any means necessary, especially if those means involve backdoor blackmail. Because Jack is part of a generation and political class taught that if you demand something loud enough you earn the right to receive it, regardless of how illiberal you behave. It could be an apology from Katie Hopkins; a Jewish shopkeeper’s name; the removal of a Hawaiian hula doll from a taxi-driver’s dashboard. You name it, someone will have demanded it and they won’t let a little thing like common sense get in their way.
Luckily, the modern left had Jack’s back, taking to Twitter in their thousands to demonstrate their understanding of free speech is every bit as acute as their knowledge of fascism:
‘A reminder that Twitter is not conversation or ‘bants’ but a form of publication for which you can be held to account’
‘Message to fellow trolls: go easy on the hate’
‘First Milo now Hopkins: are the hate peddlers finally losing it?’
‘Katie Hopkins: A lying peddler of hatred, the worst of Britain’s press in human form, finally gets served justice’
The eagle-eyed will have noticed the last two were not from Tipper Gore and the ghost of Mary Whitehouse but Laura Marcus and Owen Jones. Needless to say, like most Guardian journalists they fully support free speech apart from when they don’t, which tends to happen when the person exercising it is an obnoxious columnist who gets someone mixed up with someone else then doesn’t say sorry.
Laura chipped in with another gem later, ecstatic about the new censorious era this judgement will usher in: ‘Monroe win sets new precedent for social media’ she gushed, overjoyed at the prospect of an Orwellian future in which making a mistake and not owning up to it is not only poor form it could also cost you 300 grand. The message to non-left-wing trolls who have the nerve to be bad losers is clear: rudeness costs, so belt up or cough up.
And anyone suggesting Laura and Owen may have written mean things about public figures which could also be construed as libellous is wasting their time. Because anyone who’s followed their careers knows they couldn’t write anything hurtful if they tried: partly because they’re both decent and middle-class, but mainly because no-one ever remembers anything they write. Apart from these tweets, though even I’ve just forgotten what they said or who sent them .
The other two came from Gary Lineker and Billy Bragg, working-class boys done good who share Laura’s belief that freedom of speech only applies to left-wing people they like. Of course for Gary – a high-profile supporter of political censorship-via-corporate blackmail as espoused by Stop Funding Hate and Section 40 – the censoring of people who say mean things is water off a duck’s arse as it’s a not a situation he will ever find himself in. This is partly due to the fact that he’s a decent liberal who loves refugees and only says bad things about people who deserve it. But mainly it’s because if he was fined for saying something mean he’d make damn sure he’d already signed up to a scheme that allows him to avoid paying it. Still, considering some of the terms he’s used to describe Leave-voters he should thank his lucky stars they’re all too thick to realise they’ve been libelled.
As for Billy, as a deluded Corbynite there’s nothing he loves more than seeing a Daily Mail employee suffer, and it’s to his credit that he sees no contradiction in supporting punishments for people who say nasty things despite the fact he’s spent most of his career saying nasty things about Tories. Still, you can be sure that Billy’s hero Woody Guthrie – no stranger to having his words suppressed – will be spinning in delight that one of his biggest fans is such a vocal supporter of censorship.
But these messages were just a fraction of the warm wishes extended to Jack in their moment of victory, as right-thinking social media came together to redefine what it means to be a British liberal in 2017. And if there’s one thing we can be proud of it’s our fair and fantastic libel laws, which not only allow food bloggers to sue obnoxious columnists for mixing them up with someone else and not saying sorry, but also enable rich, powerful men to quash news stories exposing their nefarious activities. Rich, powerful men like a certain orange-hued pussy-grabber who’s been making adults cry since November.
Indeed, despite being the new Hitler, one thing us regressives have to begrudgingly admire the President for is his opposition to free speech and love of litigation. He may be the devil but it’s hard not to envy a man who uses his new-found power to be every bit as illiberal and censorious as we would. But fear not – we’ll get out chance and when we do we’ll make Donald Trump look like Lenny Bruce.
Because we will only be truly free when monstrous acts like saying mean things to the wrong person and not apologising for it are outlawed altogether. Apart from when the mean things are said by people we like, such as Guardian columnists, New European headline writers and every decent tolerant liberal who’s ever called Trump supporters uneducated white supremacists. They get a pass by virtue of espousing a more moral brand of meanness. And as luck would have it, they have little to worry about with regards to blackmail and litigation as their enemies are significantly less likely to act like censorious cry-babies and take them to court for mixing them up with someone else and not saying sorry for it. The pussies.
But that’s a vision for the future, the bold utopia in which we’ll be basking come 2020 when St Jezza has cruised to Number Ten on a winning ticket of charm, principle and appealing to people who think I, Daniel Blake was a documentary. Until then, I’ll leave the last word to theyperson theirself, who took to Twitter to thank their supporters and clarify once and for all that their main beef was less to do with getting they mixed up with Laurie Penny than it was to do with someone having the nerve to ignore their demands and not say sorry:
‘And this is why I fight. Not against free speech but FOR it. These bullies will not scare me into silence. I will write and write and write’. The fact that Jack could have saved theirself a lot of bother by doing that in the first place instead of deciding to sue and sue and sue just shows how right they is. But one fantastic upside is how it has inspired Jack to rediscover their mojo. We need more voices fighting the good fight, especially now Owen Jones has retired from social media having done his bit to promote the culture of offence-taking and covert censorship exemplified by brave thems like Jack.
That the hate peddlers tried to bully Jack into silence when any idiot knows blackmail and lawsuits are much more effective just shows how much they underestimate us (the hate-peddlers, not Jack). So I’d like to thank Jack and the courageous liberals who offered they them support for proving that the world can be changed by people who think the going rate for making a mistake and not apologising for it is 24 grand.
I hope you’re all thoroughly proud of yourselves.