Cancel culture is a reflection of our society’s cowardice. The more institutions bow to the demands of an intolerant fringe, the more powerful these unrepresentative bores become.
The GB News boycott is a perfect example of this. A handful of tweeters, ginned up by the censorious hate group Stop Funding Hate, tweeted their dismay at companies advertising on the new anti-woke channel, and these firms actually listened to them. Kopparberg, IKEA, Specsavers, Octopus Energy, Grolsch, Moneysupermarket, Vodafone, Bosch and more responded like a rabbit in the headlights and pulled their ads before bothering to think of the consequences. That several of them have since tried to walk it back, following a backlash from GB News viewers, shows just how cowardly and unprincipled they are.
So much of our illiberal woke culture would be solved by a bit of backbone, by more people refusing to lend the cancellers the moral high ground. Which is why GB News chairman Andrew Neil’s monologue last night, pushing back on the boycotters, was a gale of fresh air. He turned the tables on those trying to bring his channel down: ‘If advertisers want to see real hate, they should have a look at the social-media postings of [Stop Funding Hate] supporters. They smear and threaten businesses and people who won’t do their bidding.’
He then went on to blast big business for doing the bidding of these campaigners. ‘Woke nonsense has reached the boardroom and corporate capitalism is becoming the useful idiot of bigots bent on censorship’, he said. Quite right. Woke capital is a menace to free speech. From Big Tech censorship to these advertising boycotts, corporations are now essentially enforcers of woke conformity. Their motivations for this may differ. Some of them no doubt buy into this stuff. Others mistake Twitter trends for what normal people care about. But the upshot of it is the same: corporate power being wielded to silence even mainstream viewpoints.
The swift and sizeable backlash to the GB News boycotters shows that ordinary people have had enough of all this. That Moneysupermarket, Vodafone, Bosch and Ikea have since tried to distance themselves from the boycott is no doubt due to the earful they got from their customers. After all, these firms didn’t just show contempt for GB News, but also for the people who watch it and the millions who share the anti-woke views the channel is trying to give voice to in the mainstream.
Well, jumping on the woke bandwagon now comes with consequences, as Neil made clear at the end of his monologue. He issued an open invitation to the boycotters: offer up your examples of the ‘hate’ GB News is supposedly spewing and then they can discuss it, live on air. ‘You’re in the politics business now’, he said, ‘that’s where you are when you succumb to political pressure. And then, like politicians, you have to be held to account.’
That they almost certainly won’t take up that invitation tells you everything you need to know. Cowardice is the fuel of cancel culture. All we need is a bit of courage to start pushing back.