Last Saturday 22nd June, my wife, along with two other guest reviewers and a presenter, was on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Review show. In the mix of events to discuss was Toy Story 4. I listened to the programme on Saturday evening and again several times later. Everyone is entitled to their opinion whether they love or loathe something. Disagreeing with one another is part of life. It is a human right to have an opinion. But when you attack that human right so fiercely, what emerges is the most vitriolic bullying on social media and that is never acceptable. And when those who do the bullying get their evidence totally wrong, and a whisper of inaccurate facts escalate into a mountain of undiluted, dangerous hate, social media has a lot to answer for. This week has shown me the most detrimental use of social media.
Stella’s comments about the film were simple; better representation for everyone, more diversity, whether toys or human. That is the essence of what she, and other reviewers said. However, Stella has been singled out and has been gravely misquoted on just about every media platform, with death threats on Twitter and toxic insults directed at her at every opportunity.
Good Morning Britain decided it would make good material. Devon Live wrongly reported that Stella had spoken to the presenters of that programme when she hadn’t. She had nothing to do with the programme, it was Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu who was on the programme. Devon Live still hasn’t corrected their on line copy, crediting Stella, not Dr Mos-Shogbamimu with the latter’s words. And today Toby Young has tweeted in the most offensive way, which is what I expect of him. All these horrid comments confirm for me that Stella is right to stand up for and defend equal representation. The likes of Toby Young never cared about inclusion or diversity, it is not part of their remit.
Stella has also been called a film critic, which she is not. She very occasionally reviews films, she is no Mark Kermode. She has been outrageously misquoted as saying Disney is racist, which she definitely did not say. When challenged, the bullies on Twitter said they hadn’t heard the programme. So where did their misinformation come from? One of our tabloids, that’s where. From there it went to a broadsheet and on it goes, the inaccuracies snowballing and giving way to yet more hatred, the kind I hope I never have to witness again. Words do hurt and create damage.
The events of this past week have left a bitter taste in my mouth. Human behaviour has once again let me down, proving to me that they, the bullies, the haters, the angry crowd who has been given carte blanche to say what they want, how they want and whenever they want, try to silence those of us who do speak out, those of us who do not honey coat everything we see or hear, who try to be inclusive and defend diversity.
Apart from the intense bullying, which has pretty much kept going for almost a week, I ask myself if we cannot stand up for each other what chance do we have of living in any sort of peace with any sort of tolerance, accepting our differences while trying to make a difference? The truth is, we don’t.