The Spectator

Letters | 26 May 2016

Also in Spectator Letters: Facebook; Verdi; toilets; TVs; bullfighting

Leave’s grumpy grassroots

Sir: James Delingpole should join us at a Remain street stall. He would soon be disabused of his idea that Remainers are ‘shrill, prickly and bitter’ and Leavers are ‘sunny, relaxed and optimistic’ (‘What’s making Remain campaigners so tetchy?’, 21 May). We can often spot a likely Leaver by their angry expression. As we offer a leaflet with facts about the EU to counter the lies and distortions our acquaintance has imbibed from the Leave campaign, we are lucky to escape with anything less offensive than ‘Piss off’. If a leaflet is taken, we often see it torn up. At the grassroots, Leave is certainly grumpy.
David Woodhead
Leatherhead, Surrey

The giant forum

Sir: Brendan O’Neill argues that Facebook has a duty to uphold freedom of speech because it is ‘effectively the biggest public square in history’, in addition to being a private company beholden to its customers and shareholders (‘The internet’s war on free speech’, 14 May). Alas, a public square implies freedom ‘from’ as well as freedom ‘to’. Facebook grudgingly respects the latter but has never had any intention of honouring the former. It is more like a for-profit panopticon: enrolment is typically grudging, escape is seemingly impossible, fights break out at regular intervals, and the staff spend most of their time scrutinising and profiling the inmates. Mr O’Neill suggests that ‘being turfed off the site […] seriously degrades your ability to be an engaged public person’. Public? Certainly. Engaged? Perhaps. But it’s not the users who are doing the engaging…
Harry Holt

Silenced by Verdi

Sir: At the heart of Michael Tanner’s invective against the operas of Verdi (Notes on, 21 May) seems to be the notion that they, unlike those of the writer’s beloved Wagner, do not require a similar ‘level of concentration or post-performance thought’, as if that were the most important criterion for evaluating an opera’s success.

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