Column: Toxic Twitter and cancel culture - and the real damage it causes

We started the year with angry, excitable mobs tearing down statues of people whose views appalled them.

Saturday, 18th September 2021, 2:30 pm

Now they’ve moved on to tearing down real people for the things they say and post on social media.

Watching the angry mob stage pile-ons is deeply distressing.

The damage is real, and the scars may never heal, because words matter, and when they are used as weapons, people’s health - mental, emotional and even physical - suffers.

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Janey Godley (Pic: John Devlin)

I loathe the whole ‘cancel culture’ which pours out of social media like puss from a boil.

Disagree with someone? Cancel them.

Spot them on the bill for an event or gig? Cancel it.

Cancel culture, like woke, is another tiresome label thrown around by the moon howlers on Twitter, but, slowly, it seeps into everyday usage, further corroding the way we communicate.

Roy Chubby Brown

In 2021 it is no longer enough that they apologise for their words or actions - no, they must be obliterated, professionally and personally. The human equivalent of tying a noose around the neck of a centuries old statue and hauling it to the ground.

They who scream loudest - often small in number but vicious in nature - demand more.

Janey Godley is the latest to feel the toxicity of Twitter.

Her brand of stand-up comedy is pretty rough and the one time I saw her live it didn’t chime.

Some of what she said was just offensive and simply not funny, so no real surprise that historic tweets were unearthed last week to send her career into tailspin.

What she posted was hideous, and it was inevitable that her Scottish Government ads were pulled, and she donated her £12,000 fee to charity.

She also apologised, but the mob demanded more.

They wanted her out of her panto role. Days later she stood down by ‘mutual consent’ - interpret that phase however you wish.

The story then moved on to asking venues on her forthcoming tour if her gigs were still happening.

Godley’s Twitter account is now locked - step one in self preservation - and you wonder what is coming next for someone who gained a high profile on the back of voice-overs to Nicola Sturgeon’s daily briefings.

Another comedian, the equally crude Roy Chubby Brown, was cancelled last week.

In his case, a gig at a council funded venue in Sheffield was pulled, because the trust which runs it, had concerns over possible homophobic, and sexist content.

People complained and the powers that be melted like a candle because the “nature of the show didn’t reflect city values."

Those same people also took the booking. What were they expecting? A family friendly show?

Brown, like Godley have fan bases, and their gigs should go ahead whether I am, or would be, offended by their material.

Some careers never recover after the angry mob on Twitter has moved on to its next target. Their reputations are shredded and, while much of that damage is entirely self inflicted, we have to allow people to make restoration for their words and actions.

Call them out, challenge and condemn them by all means - and Godley has zero defence for her tweets - but the Twitter sport of tearing people to shreds is deeply disturbing and wholly unedifying.

And it has to stop.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Fife Free Press.