David Aaronovitch: Liberal Crusaders Have Become Bullies

Commercial boycotts of the kind orchestrated by Stop Funding Hate which seek to tell people what to people what to believe will serve only to dampen and impoverish public debate on key issues, The Times columnist David Aaronovitch has said.

Writing in The Times today, Mr Aaronovitch said the campaign was likely to cause resentment between different groups people who hold different views on key issues and would result in a chilling of debate on key issues.  

Mr Aaronovitch said: “My first objection is that the campaign is as likely to create resentment as change minds. Outside the liberal high-tolerance zones of cities and the audience of The Archers, that stuff about gay parents is probably what a lot of older people think (younger people, not so much). The readers of offending papers have to be argued with, not just told what to believe.

“My second worry turns out to be the kicker. Let’s suppose that Stop Funding Hate has an impact on newspaper content. How do the campaigners picture this happening? Do they see executives poring grave-faced over ad revenues before calling in offending columnists and telling them to tone it down, or else?”

The piece comes after Center Parcs announced it would no longer advertise in the Daily mail after a Twitter campaign orchestrated by Stop Funding Hate. Other advertisers targeted by the group such as John Lewis and Hotel Chocolat have responded by pointing to the dangerous consequences for freedom of speech if advertisers seek to influence editorial content in this way.  

Mr Aaronovitch concluded: “So much better, it seems to me, to engage and to argue rather than to silence or to ban. By all means tweet, leaflet or YouTube that X, Y or Z article you believe is mendacious and wrong. But boycotts of advertisers or sponsors are in the end a form of non-engagement — of bullying even. Even if done by people with “Kindness” on their shirts.”