By George Simms
“Last week, I was cancelled” wrote Nigel Farage in the Mail on Sunday. For the love of God, not this again.
I’ll start by adding that the Mail on Sunday is a newspaper with a circulation just short of 800,000. The articles written in it then go onto (by some distance) the most read news site in the UK.
Taking time from his busy schedule of recording pro-IRA cameos, screaming indignantly into the metaphorical void on GB News and screaming into the very real English Channel, Great Britain’s mouth ulcer told the Mail that ‘the vindictiveness of the cancel culture mob knows no limits”. What have the woke brigade done now, I hear you ask?
Farage’s outrage stemmed from a disagreement over his Christmas fundraiser, ‘An Evening with Nigel Farage – The Man Not the Myth’. This was booked to be held at Preston Grasshoppers Rugby Club. Club members, as in, the people who keep this fifth-tier club running, had expressed their displeasure at old Nige’s scheduled appearance.
As a result, the Grasshoppers, who made it clear they did not organise the appearance, but were to be used strictly as a venue, ultimately cancelled the booking. They wrote, “We are an inclusive club and it wasn’t the right thing for us”. Sounds vindictive to me.
Farage’s recent antics mark the latest example of what is becoming a trend of high-profile straight, white, British males over 50 using their unwaveringly huge platforms to decry cancel culture and ‘wokeness’.
Just so we’re all on the same page, those who are perpetuating cancel culture are ‘woke’. ‘Woke’ means being alert and sensitive to structural prejudices, or anti-free speech, or cultural Marxism, or, well, whatever you want it to at this godforsaken point in the rasping death rattle of culture.
Former Monty Python and Fawlty Towers star John Cleese is someone whose work I hugely respect. His comedy was innovative and his approach to cancel culture appears innovative too, becoming perhaps the first person to actively ‘cancel’ themselves.
After art historian Andrew Graham-Dixon was apparently ‘blacklisted’ by the Cambridge Union for doing an impression of Adolf Hitler at a debate, Cleese cancelled his own upcoming appearance at the Union. I’ll admit, I’ve struggled to follow the logic on this one.
Cleese himself had done an impression of Hitler in ‘The Germans’ episode of Fawlty Towers. Released over 40 years ago, it is still considered by most a great classic episode of British sitcom.
He could have, of course used his appearance to extol the virtues of free speech he clearly cares about so deeply and open an active debate with Union members. But where’s the headline in that?
21-year-old Cambridge Union President Keir Bradwell’s response to the Graham-Dixon incident was slightly confused. Despite saying nothing on the night, Bradwell initially announced that Graham-Dixon would be blacklisted from speaking at the Union. He then U-turned from the supposed ‘blacklisting’ in a Times article promoting free speech principles, stating that Graham-Dixon’s conduct – talking over other speakers – was the reason why he would not be welcome to return to the chamber. He emphasised that the Union does not have a ‘blacklist’.
Now, the Cambridge Union is a slightly bigger platform than a Preston rugby club, but neither of them exactly equate to enough people to constitute a ‘cancelling’. Perhaps a minor postponement, but we’re talking more 20 minutes to fix the floodlights than a points deduction for going into administration.
The phenomenon currently known as cancel culture has been almost completely facilitated by social media. It is a direct product of people having a place to publicly utilise their freedom of speech and the perfect example of individuals using their free speech to express opinions they hold. What Basil Fawlty and the woke Alf Garnett call cancel culture is actually just the voices of millions of people who never had an amplifier for their opinions before. They’re not being cancelled, they’re just not as popular as they thought they were.
Before social media, they didn’t have to hear the voices up and down the country muttering expletives at them into the television or over their morning newspaper. Yes, people may have been egged occasionally, or yelled at in the street, but who isn’t?
Social media has convinced people everywhere that their opinion now deserves to be heard, in the same way that an adult life of celebrity and adulation has convinced Messrs Farage and Cleese that their opinion should be revered as if nectar of the gods. There’s a strong argument that both groups are heavily misled, but that’s a conversation for another day.
Cancel culture is only ever seriously discussed by those who lament their place as its victims on their massive platforms, or in national newspapers, or on TV shows. A recent Deltapoll study found that half of Britons don’t even know what cancel culture is and fewer than one in 20 could name a celebrity whose cancellation they supported.
To be truly cancelled, surely a majority of people would need to support said cancellation. When only 4% could even name someone who they think should be cancelled, it’s clearly nowhere near as significant an issue as it’s touted as. I’d love to think that this would come as a relief to its aforementioned victims, but something tells me that may not be the case.
With a government sleaze scandal, food shortages and a heightened terror threat, Britain has much bigger issues to deal with than cancel culture. Farage, Cleese and a barrage of newspaper columnists and Twitter users would have you believe very much the opposite.
Now Mr Farage has helped deliver Brexit, I ask him nicely, without a hint of cancellation, to let us sovereignly starve to death in peace.
Illustration: Elle Fitzgerald