Mr Andy Gray and Mr Richard Keys have revealed themselves as holding some rather Neanderthal views on the place of women on the touchline. Despite the furore surrounding their intended-to-be-off-air chat, I rather doubt that anyone is genuinely surprised. Did we all expect their private conversation to be bemoaning the appalling length of time it’s taken the footballing authorities to get around to including women in the list of approved assistant referees? With, perhaps, some erudite analysis of why it is that whenever women are involved in anything, the key issues to be considered are their age and their sex-appeal.
Evidently, the fact that there is no surprise in what happened does not mean that it isn’t to be deplored, but whatever it is, is isn’t news in any sense that retains the idea of new. But I wonder about the resulting tidal wave of disapprobation that has swept through everything from Twitter to the Today programme. On the same day that we all exercised our moral outrage on sexist football presenters, we all got hot under the collar as well about Melanie Phillips’ latest vitriolic and fatuous piece in the Daily Mail, which managed with what can only be described as extraordinary creativity to link homosexuality with arithmetic, history, zoology, Christianity and McCarthyism. Such brilliance deserves an award, surely, if only that for greatest amount of prejudicial cock in a single article.
There’s something almost Pavlovian about the ease with which liberal sensitivities can be provoked into these familiar paroxysms of disgust. It used to be “appalled of Surbiton” remonstrating about the use of the word “bloody” in a BBC sitcom. And how we all laughed at their predictable and blinkered outrage. Now it’s “sickened of Islington” fulminating against the PC crime of the moment. Soon, it will no longer be necessary for the actual meal of something-or-other-ism to be produced: the merest click of the door handle will have us all salivating. But we’ll be licking our lips not to write in the green ink of yesteryear – we prefer to use our spittle for the tweet of vituperation, the Facebook page of on-line activism.
What, if anything, is so bad about that? Nothing. Honestly. Well, nothing that is if you don’t mind that whilst we are getting our PC kicks crucifying some hapless and, to be sure, usually brainless, columnist or broadcaster, picking over the minutiae of every stupid word and thoughtless aside, there are more important and more significant things that we might be expending our energy on. Most of us have a somewhat limited capacity for doing something about the things in society we abhor, but a limitless capacity for talking about them. Sometimes I think that we on the liberal left are simply being manipulated by the Pavlovs of our day. Melanie Phillips and her ilk are throwing us the bones on which we feast with canine enthusiasm, whilst the world carries on regardless.