There’s a tendency nowadays – a regrettable tendency, which does not distinguish it from a number of tendencies – for people to have feet of clay. When I was growing up we didn’t know much about the private lives of famous people, such as their political views or whether they were married or had children; but now it’s almost de rigueur for this stuff to be splattered all over the media as if we have a right to know. Everyone from footballers to politicians, from actors to TV presenters, has their private lives spreadeagled for our perusal – and god help them if we find anything wrong.
To an extent, with politicians it’s fair enough. If they have shares in a certain company and happen to lobby for legislation favourable to that company, that’s our business. If they campaign against gay rights but have had homosexual relationships, that’s our business. But the rest of it isn’t.
It’s also true that many celebrities court this kind of publicity, giving interviews about their private lives and writing revealing autobiographies. That’s their privilege; I don’t necessarily want to know.
But what bothers me is the way anyone in the media is held up as some kind of example; and then the moment they put a foot wrong they are utterly vilified. What bothers me is when a person is generally admired and then they are found to have an Achilles heel – and this brings the entire edifice crumbling to the ground. It’s very critical and judgmental.
Anyone in the public eye is subject to this merciless scrutiny – and god help you if you express a view people disagree with. I was disappointed in JK Rowling’s view of Jeremy Corbyn, but that’s her privilege; however consider the abuse Gary Lineker has been subjected to merely for wanting to treat refugees as human beings.
It’s horrid – and it’s getting worse.
I don’t believe someone like Trump could happen here – and yet someone like Katie Hopkins – Katie Hopkins herself in fact – happens every day. I choose not to watch her but I know she’s there, along with the thousands of twitter-trolls and facebook f-word-flingers and a seeming army of people for whom the mere fact of disagreeing with someone entitles them to hurl insults in their direction. And that’s not even touching on all the people for whom the word ‘Muslim’ equates to the word ‘terrorist’ giving them an automatic right – nay, even a duty – to attack anyone who appears to be Muslim.
How did we get to this? And more importantly, what are we going to do about it?
I really want to know.