First they came for Georgy Pyatakov and then it was Peter Rabbit. Admittedly there have been 81 years between the Soviet purging of Pyatakov and the cultural Marxists' denunciation of Beatrix Potter's mischievous bunny, but there are similarities. Pyatakov faced his accusers in January 1937, a broken and wretched shell of a man, telling the court:
'I stand before you in filth, crushed by own crimes, bereft of everything through my own fault.'
Peter Rabbit also feels crushed by his crime, which in his case entailed throwing blackberries at Thomas (Mr McGregor's nephew) in the hope it might trigger a food allergy. Nathalie Newman, writing in the Guardian, accused him of 'allergy bullying':
To me, this scene sounds tantamount to allergy-bullying, which can be very serious. Last year, there was an awful story of a child who died after he was exposed to cheese at school. Allergies can be fatal.
Social media was outraged at the subversiveness of the scene, so too, the pressure group, Kids with Food Allergies, which issued a statement on Facebook, declaring:
'It is unnecessary for a film to show the characters intentionally attacking another with his food allergen to trigger anaphylaxis'.
Peter Rabbit was unavailable for comment but speaking on his behalf, Sony Pictures, said they 'sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologise'.
Kenneth Mendez, the president and CEO of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, also discredited Peter Rabbit and his Sony friends, ordering them in an open letter to 'examine your portrayal of bullying in your films geared toward a young audience'.
Bullying? Oh, the irony. The whole pathetic furore would be funny were it not for the fact that these bullies are getting more brazen in who they target. Barely a week goes by without the cultural Marxists banging on the door, for the moment, metaphorically, of some hapless soul or organisation who's acted or spoken out of turn. And no one is safe.
In December an apology was extracted from Lewis Hamilton after he 'gender shamed' his nephew, and in the same week Princess Michael begged forgiveness for wearing a brooch depicting an African figure to a Buckingham Palace lunch attended by Meghan Markle. In reporting the incident, the BBC, outrageously, thought it worth mentioning that her father had served 'as a major in the Nazi SS'. Still, the Beeb's bullying did the trick and the Princess's spokesman issued a statement saying she was 'very sorry and distressed that it has caused offence', adding that the brooch will not be seen again. Presumably it's being re-educated in a Siberian gulag.
Benedict Cumberbatch will know how Princess Michael felt. In January 2015 (a fortnight after the Charlie Hedbo attacks), the British actor was speaking of the need for greater diversity among actors. But Ben bungled it, talking about 'coloured actors' instead of 'people of colour'. He was hauled up before the people's court of social media and only the most heartfelt contrition allowed him to escape with his professional life: 'I’m devastated to have caused offence by using this outmoded terminology', whimpered Cumberbatch. 'I offer my sincere apologies. I make no excuse for my being an idiot and know the damage is done.'
Professor Tim Hunt wasn't so fortunate. Remember his quip in 2015 about female scientists? Who cares if he was a Nobel laureate? As Nikolai Bukharin discovered in 1938, past glories count for nothing when the purges begin.
There are other examples of this frightening new phenomenon too numerous too mention, from Michael Gove and his Weinstein gag to Paperchase's crime of advertising in the Daily Mail. But of all those who have been caught up in this modern cult of contrition perhaps none suffered as much as Dr Matt Taylor, the British physicist who in 2014 was a member of the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission.
Taylor's crime was to appear briefly and unexpectedly on television wearing a bowling shirt adorned with images of cartoon women in bondage gear and brandishing guns. Feminists were furious, and the scientist endured a Social Media show trial until finally, as crushed and as bereft as Pyatakov, he confessed: 'The shirt I wore this week, I made a big mistake and I offended many people,' he said through tears at a press conference. 'I'm very sorry about this'.
When Bukharin's luck ran out and he went from accuser to accused, he told the court:
'I consider myself responsible for a grave and monstrous crime against the socialist fatherland and the whole international proletariat'.
It didn't save him, so perhaps Peter the Rabbit should think himself lucky. For the moment there are calls from the Comrades to boycott the film but as yet no one has demanded Peter be made into a Pâté.