William Sitwell, the editor of Waitrose Food magazine and MasterChef judge, has been forced to quit his job after upsetting a vegan in a private email.
The vegan — a freelance journalist called Selene Nelson — had emailed Sitwell proposing to supply a series of vegan recipes to the magazine.
Sitwell replied flippantly:
“Thanks for this. How about a series on killing vegans, one by one? Ways to trap? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat? Make them eat steak and drink red wine?”
Miss Nelson chose to take such enormous offence at this joke she decided that the only option was to publicise it at Buzzfeed.
As the result of the furore Miss Nelson helped generate, Sitwell has now lost his job. It’s clear from Waitrose Food magazine’s statement that he was given little choice in the matter.
William Sitwell has resigned from editing Waitrose magazine for making a joke about vegans. pic.twitter.com/N5kb9v9rQ2
— Rupert Myers (@RupertMyers) October 31, 2018
As with so many social-media-generated witchhunts, the Sitwell case is proving to be a very effective litmus test as to who are currently the world’s ghastliest, most sanctimonious, humourless people.
Selene Nelson — who, unsurprisingly, has written for Salon, HuffPo and ThinkProgress — definitely qualifies with the defiantly unapologetic response below. In older, better times a twentysomething freelance journalist struggling to make her name for herself might have been slightly embarrassed about costing a man the job he had held for 20 years. But not our Selene:
It wasn't a 'private' email. I emailed William Sitwell in a professional capacity, as the editor of Waitrose, to the email address he publicises on his website, about a feature for Waitrose magazine. This wasn't exactly a private exchange between two friends #Vegan #Waitrose
— Selene Nelson Ⓥ (@Selene_Nelson) October 30, 2018
Lots of other tofu-munchers are wading in to dance on the grave of the bad carnivore and his horrid joke at their expense.
William Sitwell has resigned! Bye binchhhhh. pic.twitter.com/d4npf3Ya9E
— vegan the robot (@vegantherobot) October 31, 2018
As you can see, the campaign to have Sitwell fired has been whipped up by vegan activists, many of whom will have written to Waitrose pretending to be really offended and threatening to withdraw their custom.
His words amount to hate speech.
— Proud Ⓥegan (@GrahamCD62) October 30, 2018
Note also that canting use of the phrase “hate speech.” We’re talking, remember, about a flippant email reply by a bored editor to a pushy freelancer trying to pitch a rubbish idea.
If that’s hate speech, then it’s a wonder any journalist anywhere still has a job. It also makes you wonder what Selene Nelson — if she really is that thin-skinned — is doing trying to make a career in journalism in the first place.
As so often, Julia Hartley-Brewer has called it right:
This is getting absurd now. Sitwell made a joke. A JOKE. A FUCKING JOKE. If we can’t laugh at vegans, who the hell ARE we allowed to laugh at? We have GOT to stop these ridiculous and sinister witch hunts by the offendotrons with nothing better to do. https://t.co/HlNYOFlweh
— Julia Hartley-Brewer (@JuliaHB1) October 31, 2018
But then, Julia Hartley-Brewer comes from the generation when journalists did journalism, not political activism; and when they were judged on the quality of their work, not on how many snowflake nonentities they managed inadvertently to offend.
The decision by Waitrose — and John Brown Publishing — to ditch a capable, high-profile editor after 20 years in the job just because one or two weird, hair-shirt tofu-munchers got upset is corporate cowardice of the most craven kind.
The Change.Org petition to get Sitwell fired was signed by just 2,143 people.
That’s 2,143 people out of a total UK population of 66 million.
Does Waitrose seriously think those people are a representative sample of their client base?
People go shopping at Waitrose — whether vegans or no — to buy their groceries, not as an act of affirmation for the holding company’s politics.
I’m so annoyed I’d boycott Waitrose myself. Except I like the fact that horrible, whiny student types can’t afford to go there — which means I’m never, ever likely to bump into anyone like Selene Nelson, at least not with any luck.