Vigilantism goes viral: the rise of the online petition

I once thought of the internet as a place of unlimited free expression. In this surveillance age, it should be the wild west of free speech. But something unexpected happened when the first generation condition in the culture of PC from playground, to desk, to citizen matured and took control online. They grouped together, multiplied their idiocy and sense of divine righteousness and mobilised, with frightening zeal, to judge, prescribe and control.

Nagging liberal twitter mobs, armed with online petitions and exclusive accesses to the moral high ground, are increasingly seeking to punish and silence anything not in accordance with their own personal tastes and illiberal politics. In just one year, their targets moved from criminals to comedians, to respected political commentators and right-wing whistle blowers. And each time, wider society and law enforcement utterly capitulated.

Last week, the fastest ever online petition was gathered to stop Ched Evans getting a job and paying tax. It was the sixth such brought against the rapist, and it halted, once again, his return to work. It did so with chilling ease.

Dapper Laughs is not a rapist: even worse, he’s a man said to have the power to turn thousands of ‘potential rapists’ into actual rapists. There’s so much wrong with this view I can hardly get in to it here, but rape is a specific and vile act of violence not to be trivialised like this, and men are not helpless victims of their environment alone.

Regardless, he comes nowhere near the caliber of Jim Jefferies and countless other comics before him. But he rose at the wrong time and incurred the wrath of Twitter mob and was selected as the embodiment of the so-called ‘rape culture’ the UK is currently consumed by. In reality, he’s just a vacuous buffoon who’s made a career telling recycling old jokes told by virgin schoolboys and rugby ‘lads’ since the dawn of time.

Pushing boundaries and touching taboos is central to most comedy, and when the culture police come to shut it down, they often just don’t get the joke. Essentially, his crime was that a vocal minority didn’t find him funny. They wore their ‘offence’ to him on their Facebook pages like a fashion statement, bleated as loudly as they could on Twitter, and bullied him into a grovelling apology on Newsnight.

Thankfully, he realized how spineless he’d been and has since attempted a comeback.

In this bizarre world of online activism, it’s not just hot-headed feminists blindly attacking rapists and ‘potential rapists,’ though. The same website used so effectively against Evans and Dapper, Change.org, was also employed last year to help silence an esteemed surgeon turned whistleblower and critic of the NHS.

Last year, Dr. Meirion Thomas wrote a series of articles. The first criticized out-of-control health tourism. So biting was it, it prompted a full investigation initiated by Health Minister Jeremy Hunt. Thompson then promptly criticized Hunt himself, and then the structure of the NHS. He also highlighted, whilst stating he is a ‘feminist,’ that of female doctors (who make up 60 per cent of doctors under thirty), comparatively few rise to consultant positions. An assertion of fact, which must surely be considered and accounted for.

“Stop Prof Meirion Thomas disrespecting GPs, female and overseas doctors in the media,” the petition was titled, and claimed (wrongly) that he had broken GMC rules. “This man has offended so many people on so many levels. He has also written blatantly misogynistic articles prior to his latest offensive and misinformed diatribe,” read the comments.

The collective ‘offence’ and Twitter rage of the left-wing doctors was ultimately enough to trigger a train of events that led to a gagging order being placed on Thomas by his employer, The Royal Marsden, and to him losing his Professorship at Imperial College.

The thing about the PC social justice police is that, by way of their very existence, they believe they hold the moral high ground – that’s how they know their opponents are ‘incorrect’ and ‘dangerous’ to start. They can’t be challenged. You can’t rationally engage with these people, because they believe they have exclusive access to objective truth.

They speak with unabashed confidence; they are on a mission to save society from its ills, and so, by deduction, you are a bigot for even debating them. Speak out for the rule of law, and you are a ‘rape apologist’; defend Jeremy Clarkson, and you’re a ‘racist;’ defend the freedom of comedians, and they’ll call you a ‘misogynist’; critique the NHS, and you may well be a ‘murderer.’

So much has been said of late about the right to offend, but the truth is the British people lost that right many years ago when the state officially adopted the doctrine of PC. ‘Hate speech’ laws exist all over Europe, laws that represent themselves as a sort of ‘group libel,’ but in reality make discussing, critiquing and mocking culture and politics the preserve of the ‘correct.’

Today, though, its not just the state who defines who is ‘correct’ and who is censored. Mob rule and vigilantism – made possible online – is becoming the norm.


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