Last Saturday, the high-street chain Paperchase ran a promotion in the Daily Mail offering two free rolls of wrapping paper. Nothing objectionable about that, you might think, even if the design was migraine-inducingly awful. I have lost count of the number of times I have been dragged into this ghastly emporium by my daughter on a weekend in pursuit of some over-priced piece of tat. Not recommended if you are nursing a hangover.
Later that day, the left-wing lobby group Stop Funding Hate launched a fusillade against Paperchase on Twitter for having the temerity to advertise in Britain’s second-best-selling daily newspaper. ‘Is a Daily Mail promotion what customers want to see from @FromPaperchase?’ it asked. The answer was presumably ‘no’ because Stop Funding Hate’s reason for existence is to bully large retailers into withdrawing their ads from right-of-centre tabloid newspapers in the hope of destroying our free press.
Paperchase responded by tweeting a request for its customers’ views, at which point hundreds of hashtag activists piled in, castigating the company for thoughtlessly advertising in a newspaper with a paid circulation of 1.4 million and a readership of four million. What was Paperchase thinking? After this forensic scientific poll, Paperchase then issued a statement apologising for its appalling error: ‘We’ve listened to you about this weekend’s newspaper promotion. We now know we were wrong to do this — we’re truly sorry and we won’t ever do it again. We apologise if we have let you down. Lesson learnt.’
It is hard to know where to begin with this one. Is the chief executive of Paperchase really so dim that he thinks a handful of Corbynista trolls on Twitter are representative of his entire customer base? If I were a shareholder I would question the judgment of an executive who risks alienating four million potential customers in order to placate a few bug-eyed fanatics whose idea of an ‘amusing’ gift would be a pencil case bearing the legend ‘Theresa May, Jeremy Will’. Last time I checked, Paperchase doesn’t sell those.
Earlier this week, Richard Wilson, director of Stop Funding Hate, appeared on Newsnight to explain why his group had launched this campaign. Seemingly, it was because the evil Daily Mail had dared to question Topshop’s decision to scrap women–only changing rooms in favour of gender-neutral spaces as part of its ‘commitment to equal opportunities and non-discrimination’. That, too, was a response to a campaign on Twitter.
According to Wilson, it is ‘transphobic’ views like this that are ‘fuelling’ ‘hate crime’ on ‘the streets’. ‘This isn’t just stuff that people find offensive or disagreeable, this is stuff that’s actually having a real impact on people’s lives,’ he said. How did he know? ‘Experts’ had told him, apparently. I don’t suppose it occurred to him that this infantile level of debate could easily have been turned into a headline in the Canary: ‘Defenders of female-only changing rooms fuelling hate crime, experts say.’
Needless to say, Stop Funding Hate has never tried to dissuade anyone from advertising in the Guardian, in spite of the fact that it printed an article by Seumas Milne two days after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre lecturing New Yorkers on ‘why the US is hated with such bitterness, not only in Arab and Muslim countries, but across the developing world’ and publishes borderline anti-Semitic cartoons by Steve Bell. Then again, if Stop Funding Hate gave a fig about anti-Semitism it would turn its fire on the unions for donating money to the Labour party.
In the days following Paperchase’s capitulation, several journalists took to Twitter to say they were going to boycott the chain. More power to their elbow, but I’m inclined to boycott Twitter, which is doing its best to encourage the censorious left to use it as a platform to silence dissent. I’m not just talking about its decision to ban alt-right pundits such as Milo Yiannopoulos. The social media giant recently announced it would be withdrawing its blue ticks – until now, confirmation that people are who they say they are — from those whose views it disapproves of. James Delingpole, expect to be de-verified.
At least Paperchase has solved the problem of what gift paper I should use this Christmas. I am going to carefully wrap all my presents in old copies of the Daily Mail.
Toby Young is associate editor of The Spectator.