Striking up a conversation in a trendy north London café last week, says Jemima Kelly in the Financial Times, I was amazed at the response of a “fashion-conscious 28-year-old” when I mentioned the culture war: “God, I hate all the woke stuff that’s going on… cancel culture and everything, it’s terrible.” Stuck online during lockdown, I can think of countless occasions when anyone daring to challenge the rigid progressive consensus was “attacked viciously by online mobs”. Out in the real world, however, there’s more nuance and less “moral grandstanding”. Social media has magnified the voices of a smallish number of angry people shouting at each other, distorting our picture of what people really think.
My hope is that the “new puritanism” sweeping across the West will lose its power when the institutions currently bending over backwards to abide by its rigid rules realise the online social justice warriors they’re pandering to don’t really reflect how most people feel. In the coming months, if the end of lockdown goes to plan, we will return to offices, cafés and cultural venues en masse, and engage in more face-to-face discussions. As we do, “we might start to realise that we agree on more than we think”.
Quoted “Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field.” Edmund Burke in 1790