BBC Radio 4 Point of View - The Witch Hunt Culture - 2 December 19
The witch-hunt culture.
Three years ago the distinguished biochemist Sir Tim Hunt, recipient of the Nobel Prize, Fellow of the Royal Society and one of the jewels in the crown of British science, made a casual remark, during a speech at a conference of science journalists, which seemed to imply that women and men might not be equally suited to a scientific career. The remark was tweeted, and the mob got to work on it. Very soon Sir Tim found himself forced out of his position as honorary Professor at University College London, reprimanded by the Royal Society, hounded in the press, and subjected to a hate campaign on social media. Eventually he and his wife (a scientist of the same rank as himself) left the country to work in Japan.
This deplorable episode is one of many, in which a person’s character, career and livelihood have been attacked in punishment for a thought-crime. Social media make matters worse, of course. But it would be wrong to put the blame wholly on the ease with which malice and ignorance can now extend their reach across the Internet. We must also take account of political correctness, which both promotes hatred and also excuses it.