We can’t let cancel culture bullies win
BY SHABNAM NASIMI
How depressing that we now live in a merciless time where a distinguished broadcaster, Alastair Stewart, had to be sacked for quoting Shakespeare on Twitter. A minor altercation ended a lifelong career as a multiple award-winning ITV presenter and journalist without forgiveness and where his intention didn’t matter.
Stewart stated that he had to leave ITV because he made an ‘error of judgement in social media use’ after responding to a black man on Twitter with a quote from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure that included “angry ape” which resulted in allegations of racism.
Having spent yesterday reading through the hundreds of Twitter posts in support of Stewart, many noted that he had used the same quote in 2018 to someone who was not identifiably black. His only mistake would have been that he directed the quote at someone who only saw things through a racist lens. And even so, Stewart had since apologised for simply having a habit of using Shakespeare to make a point to those who were claiming to be experts in a certain field. It seems, however, we have allowed ourselves to be dumbed down to our lowest cultural denominator which has resulted in a Woke cancel culture that is too powerful – and he had to go.
I ask you this: Does anyone actually believe Alastair Stewart is a racist? Are we banning Shakespeare now?
I do not know Stewart nor have I ever met him. But since 2003, I would sit down with my father every night and watch as Stewart delivered the news for ITN in an incisive and authoritative manner. My father would tell me that a democratic society needs journalists like Stewart who relies on facts and represents citizens’ interest – this was something we didn’t have in Afghanistan. Shouldn’t ITN be fighting tooth and nail to hang on to him?
What does it say of the direction that our culture is heading towards – where we are supposedly encouraged to talk, discuss and debate with people who have different opinions to us and yet the morality police are constantly on the watch to shut people up. It has become lopsided and unfair.
We are all human beings and we all make mistakes. And, sure, the professional offence-takers may feel proud that they have been able to catch someone out but that they are deliberately damaging people who have families and careers. Being forgiving, understanding and sensitive is a virtue – and more importantly, so is considering someone’s intention before descending into a moral panic.
Cancel culture will soon back-fire. The late Sir Roger Scruton’s grotesque treatment by The New Statesman brought the matter more crisply into the public consciousness.
There is now a petition to have Alastair Stewart reinstated signed by 35,000 – and it matters because it shows that the power of the Digital offence-mob, their rigorously policed parameters and restriction of opinion won’t win.
After 40 years as a doyen of impartial journalism, Stewart should not have been treated this way.
Shabnam Nasimi is a Conservative commentator and the Director of the Conservative Friends of Afghanistan. Follow her on twitter: @NasimiShabnam