Bafta’s treatment of the black actor and director Noel Clarke was not only an “astonishing volte-face” – it was wholly unjust, says Matthew Syed in The Sunday Times. First, Bafta was so terrified of appearing racist that it overlooked complaints against Clarke, who has been accused of sexual harassment, verbal abuse and bullying by 27 women. Then, having given him an award, it stripped him of it without asking him for his side of the story because it was “terrified of being an enabler of sexual assault”. (Clarke has denied any wrongdoing.) Evidence and due process went out of the window. What mattered was to stay on “the right side of the latest arbitrary line drawn by the self-appointed guardians of moral purity”.
And all for nothing, because Bafta’s contortions to appease “the digital mob” are futile. “Like Saturn, the revolution devours its children,” Jacques Mallet du Pan said of the Terror in the 1790s. Hundreds of respected writers, journalists and others have been cancelled in recent months “so organisations could burnish their progressive credentials”. Just last week WW Norton ditched Blake Bailey, the author of a new Philip Roth biography, before allegations of sexual assault against him were even investigated. The publisher was willing to “eviscerate” an author’s reputation, and his book, to “send a signal”. We risk “sleepwalking towards an Orwellian dystopia” in which everyone thinks they’re dispensing justice when they are “making a mockery of it”. We need to take care, because “in time, it could devour us too”.