James Delingpole

When trolling pressure groups cause real harm

It’s normal, healthy and civilised to make kids kiss granny. Why do we listen to these loons?

18 January 2014

9:00 AM

18 January 2014

9:00 AM

My grandmother, Nanny Nancy, is 99 and going strong. But it can’t be denied that while she’s all there mentally, physically she’s not the lithe young thing she was in her 1920s adolescence. I mean no disrespect to my beloved grandmother, but if we’re honest, when Michael Bay is casting his next blockbuster and it’s a choice between her and Megan Fox for the female lead, well… .

It’s not just me who has noticed this: the kids have even more so. When they were younger, especially, and I asked them to kiss their great-grandmother they’d react — as so many children do when confronting their older relatives’ decrepitude — as if I’d invited them to snog a bird-eating spider.

‘Kids, try to make it less obvious, would you?’ I’d say. ‘You might get more money next time.’ And sure enough, little by little, over the years, my kids have learned the art of what some might call hypocrisy but which I would call basic good manners. They have learned that sometimes to make loved ones happy it is necessary to put your own feelings to one side.

But apparently I’ve been sending the wrong message. You may have read about it in the papers the other day: someone called Lucy Emmerson from something called the Sex Education Forum intimated that forcing kids to kiss granny is akin to setting them up as future rapists and rape victims.

‘I believe learning about consent starts from age zero,’ Emmerson said. ‘Intervening may be awkward… but it is necessary if we are truly to teach children that their bodies are their own and that their instincts should be followed. Suggesting alternatives to the child such as a high-five, a hug, blowing a kiss or a wave puts the child in control.’

Nice troll work, that Lucy Emmerson! If I were trying to draw media attention to my toothless, worthless, two-bit campaigning organisation, that’s just the kind of outrageous garbage I would come up with too. Newspapers love this stuff because it generates traffic (the Mail’s internet version had 7,300 shares); fringe groups like the Sex Education Forum love it because otherwise no one would ever hear of them.

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Where, though, do you draw the line? Is there not a danger that the more frivolous and unwonted prominence our media gives to these demented cultural Marxist pressure groups, the more likely it is that their ravings end up one day being taken seriously?

I’m thinking, for example, of the recent campaign by a ragbag of authoritarian lobbyists who imagine that it’s the government’s job to dictate how much a business can charge for its produce.

Among these groups were the British Medical Journal, the UK Faculty of Public Health and the Royal College of Physicians. All were deeply aggrieved by the government’s decision last year not to impose a minimum price on alcohol. And the reason for this, they claimed, was that the coalition had been nobbled by the drinks industry.

Now I can see why, were you, say, an editor at the Guardian or the BBC, you might imagine that this constituted a worthwhile story. It is, after all, an article of faith among such types that free-market capitalism foments social injustice and therefore deserves to be regulated out of existence by the benign hand of big government.

But it wasn’t just the Guardian and the BBC who ran with this story. It got quite a bit of play right across our media, conservative and left-liberal alike. Which would have been forgivable, I suppose, if there had been any merit to the campaigners’ claims. Was there though? Let’s briefly examine the evidence.

In 2012, the University of Sheffield Alcohol Research Group made an announcement — widely promulgated by the media, including on a BBC Panorama programme presented by Joan Bakewell — that the introduction of a 50p per unit minimum-price regime on alcohol would save the lives of 50,000 people in the over-65 group in the next decade.

This figure, on closer examination, turned out to be bunkum. Even the Alcohol Research Group was forced to admit this, blaming ‘human error’. Mistake or no, it was very much of a piece with the Research Group’s other work in this field. A subsequent investigation by Chris Snowdon and statistician John C. Duffy for the Adam Smith Institute found that the Research Group’s computer models were deeply flawed and the evidence in favour of minimum alcohol pricing was ‘to all intents and purposes nonexistent’.

Not that this stopped David Cameron chipping in his tuppenny ha’penny’s worth. A minimum price for alcohol, he declared in 2012 — quoting statistics he’d taken from the Sheffield group — would help ‘reduce drinking in those who drink the most’. If the price were 40p a unit, he said, it could mean ‘50,000 fewer crimes… and 900 fewer alcohol-related deaths a year by the end of the decade’.

Well, we can only assume that wiser heads in the coalition eventually prevailed because the minimum alcohol pricing plan was subsequently shelved. Now, if you were of a paranoid, leftist, conspiratorial frame of mind you could, I guess, blame this turnaround on the influence of the ‘130 meetings’ the drinks industry has conducted with the coalition. Or you could, as I would argue, see this as one of those rare occasions when our government actually bowed to evidence and commonsense in its policymaking.

Never a day goes by without ‘campaigners’ and ‘experts’ bringing out a new report which shows conclusively why we should all be forced by the government to give up booze/fags/fatty food/sugar/carbon dioxide/fun generally. Given the massive disruption these schemes would cause to our lives were they ever implemented, surely the very least our fearless, frank media — supposed bulwark of our freedoms — ought to do is subject this hysterical scaremongering to proper scrutiny.

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Show comments
  • right_writes

    If one can suspend one’s sense of reality for a moment and if there is any truth in the kind of statistics that these people/organisations come up with.

    And if we all act decisively on their ever so sensible advice (whether that be free or paid for), the effect on our welfare state will be overwhelming.

  • Hilary

    Good lord, Delingpole is a shockingly dull writer.

    • David Kay

      so says a dull troll

      • Hilary

        Nice one. You truly are one of the great wits.

  • IceKareem

    From my vantage point in Canada it appears that the UK is nearly submerged in this kind of nonsense, made even worse by the fact that those spewing it are in the public trough up to their collars.

    I keep waiting and hoping that you’ll shake it off but if that’s going to happen it won’t be with the same old crew running the show.

    • manonthebus

      It’s not a problem with government, although we have quite a few of those. It’s a problem with people. We have many thousands of inhabitants who, by their choice of reading (if only) and TV viewing, show perfectly clearly that they can be taken in by any old rubbish that is spouted forth in newspapers or on TV.

      • neilcraig

        I disagree – it is absolutely a problem with government.
        There always have been and always will be nutcases who want to tell is what to do.
        The problem is that government is now funding them. Almost every such busybody, promoting more government control & regulation (& more government parasites employed doing so) turns out to be working for “charity” or “N”GO funded by the taxpayer. From WWF, FoE, the BBC, ASH, anti-salt campaigners, Bernardos etc etc they are just advertising agencies for state parasites.
        “the primary purpose of any government programme is to pay government employees and their friends, the nominal purpose is secondary at best” – Pournelle
        In which case more advertising money to feed false fears obviously comes well ahead of the official purpose.

    • Eddie

      Gosh, but in Canada, you are years ahead of us in the hysterical paranoiac child abuse stakes. When I went there, the only children I saw were behind high fences in school playgrounds. So many are diagnosed with fake disorders too and put on drugs to make them easier for career mummy to cope with. Maybe if they ran around outside more they wouldn’t be hyperactive eh? Or obese.
      This utter hysteria about child abuse has lowered our quality of life – when a father feels nervous touching his own children or being alone with them, something has gone seriously wrong.
      It is all caused by 2 things 1) the feminisation of our society; 2) the Americanisation of our society and its evolution into a psychobabble Oprah-land of hysteria and self pity.
      One further point: most child abuse is done by family members, yes, with hardly any done by stranger danger; however, one third of abuse is child on child action. So mummy, maybe YOUR child is a paedo eh? Shall we fit all kids with CCTV cameras in the middle of their foreheads then?

  • Ivan_Denisovich

    You might want to keep an eye out and let us know who at the Telegraph is popping out for a glass of lemonade with Ian Gilmore. I believe that newspaper to be fully behind the alcohol prohibitionists.

  • mikewaller

    This is a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. How can a polemicist like JD, in good conscience, attack another such simply because her idee fixe is different from his? As is frequently pointed out, in most cases the perpetrators of child abuse are known to their victim. So pressing your children politely to kiss all your relatives and friends is a less than smart idea. On the other hand, it would be tragic if such small intimacies with those who genuinely have the child’s interests a heart were declared unacceptable. This therefore means that good parent has to exercise judgement. If a child balks at kissing a particular adult, let it pass until you can speak to the child, alone. If the answer is “Because last time he/she touched me somewhere he/she shouldn’t” you jump one way. If it’s “Because she has a beard” you jump another. Sadly, week after week, this degree of conceptual sophistication seems quite beyond JD which is why I think he should be dog-housed alongside Ms Emmerson.

  • anyfool

    The same type of rubbish research used by the global warming brigade, Cameron is either a gullible fool or a liar, maybe both.

  • dalai guevara

    James, you are your own worst enemy sometimes.
    Let’s examine what you have been up to in recent months. Did you criticise windmills for working too well (what nonsense), UKIP for coming out with inept energy policy rubbish, aristocratic landowners for opposing any form of progress – be it with regards to housing, business development, HS2 or fracking? No, you did none of these things. What did we have to endure? Bird cull stats, phamphlets about toads and Antarctic excusions whilst it’s +15c in London in the middle of winter?
    You just will not get to the bottom of anything that matters, the essence of a subject – you chose to divert into a meander of irrelevances making your readership take the eyes off the prize.

    Fair deuce, that will attract trolls and those who disagree with you. You reap what you sow.

  • Eddie

    The REAL harm caused by trolls is not that groups try and influence opinion – which has always happened (just look at the lucrative lobbying industry which parasitically feeds off that whale of a Westminster village – and our taxes, ultimately).
    The REAL damage done is that threat to freedom of speech and expression. IMHO no-one should ever be arrested for stating anything online – except perhaps incitement to kill (incl terrorist recruitment). Sadly, the police have seen social media as an opportunity to boost arrest stats, though no figure is available as different laws are used (Harassment act 1997; Malicious communications act, others). Thousands arrested every year though – and why? Revenge-motivated reporting by self-pitying victimhood-craving attention-seekers who could easily block anyone on Twitter, Facebook, texts, emails etc.
    This is not only costing us millions per year, it is also diverting police from REAL crime (i.e. our useless plods are no longer doing their job properly), and moreover, I is creating an atmosphere that I find horribly reminiscent of states under communism (or fascism). Yes, the police really knock on your door in the middle of the night and drag you away – for saying rude stuff on Twitter, emails etc. Very worrying.
    A bit of commonsense and some repealed and revised laws wouldn’t harm, We should be more like the USA where freedom of speech is always protected. We should just grow up and accept others have different views from us, even if we think them ‘offensive’ (you can be arrested in the UK for posting on emails, Twitter etc ‘offensive’ views – incredibly. Not threatening, not abusive, just ‘offensive’. How very SS.)

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