When envisioning ‘cultures’, I imagine Tibetan, Islamic, Western or Yakult. In our woke times however, another has gatecrashed the party: ‘cancel culture’. As a rancid interloper, the prevalence of ‘cancelling’ those who we disagree with, who don’t fit our narrow world view, is becoming ever more frequent and in vogue, as we advocate free speech, yet rally against it venomously when slightly differing opinion presents itself.

JK Rowling has recently been ‘cancelled’ for daring to question whether ‘sex’ was determined by biology. Agree or not, JKR has earned the right to air her views despite those she made famous, notably Harry Potter Radcliffe and Emma Watson aiming fire back.

China, in days past, trod a similar path to tackle supposed transgressors of those who dared to question Chairman Mao’s teachings: forced to attend ‘struggle sessions’, protagonists were then made to apologise for their previous beliefs to save being ostracised from society, or, as we now call it, ‘cancelled’.

In Massachusetts in the 1600s, the Salem trials accused 200 folk of being witches, some as young as four years of age. The mass hysteria, similar to today's woke manifestations, resulted in 19 hangings and one death by ‘pressing’.

Although no one is directly ‘dying’ in cancel culture, being exiled as the mob turn their backs will undoubtedly result in mental health issues. Freedom of speech is enshrined in article 10 of the Human Rights Convention yet now seems to be ridden roughshod over. Varying bodies at notable seats of learning have been flying in the face of the convention by no platforming, or exerting pressure to no platform, luminaries as diverse as Germaine Greer, Amber Rudd and activist Peter Tatchell. I know Tatchell and have had robust yet respectful discussions with him: His crime that led to an LGBT officer refusing to share a platform with him at Canterbury Christ University was his having signed a letter against no platforming in the Observer, which was deemed to have incited violence against the transgender community.

‘Cancel culture’ can, and does, adversely impact the livelihoods of those ‘accused’. Radio presenter Stuart Peters was suspended from Manx radio after stating he was not ‘privileged’, whereas grandfather Brian Leach was sacked, then reinstated, by Asda after sharing a Billy Connolly Jihadist skit on his Facebook page. There should be a disconnect between free speech and professions that are totally separate from the topic in question.

I too have ‘suffered’ from such cultural tomfoolery. It is the job of a columnist, at whatever level, to have an opinion. By sitting on the fence, you may as well not bother and go find a different way to while away the hours, and yes, I am aware, that some people will enjoy my musings, most couldn’t give two hoots, and a proportion will hate every utterance: fair enough.

Online, in recent weeks I have been accused of being both extreme left and far right, a terrorist, a plagiarist, a t*at, a master debater, a fascist, and peculiarly a ‘failed actor’ (the one and only time I acted was as Happy the dwarf, aged five. Sadly, the beard glue resulted in a rash leaving me looking more like Grumpy). Another tagged the publishers of this newspaper group claiming I had publicly written that he was a specific area of the female anatomy. When, I challenged this blatant mistruth, he admitted he had outright lied to get ‘the mug’ Ellis into trouble.

The go to ‘threat’ however is the fact that I am a teacher. I teach business in a secondary school and would like to think I am rather good at my job. I have great relationships with students and achieve good grades. The one rule I have remained true too is to keep my profession separate from my writing and, despite this and the next paragraph, I have been successful over the years of disassociating the two entirely.

The insults outlined above were based around recent columns about statues, overpaid footballers and irony. After each has gone online, profession-based comments have read: "I wouldn’t let this **** teach my kids", "this idiot should not be let anywhere near children" and of my "spewing far-fetched thinking into the classroom". To clarify: Whilst teaching about Profit and Loss Accounts or the Boston Matrix, surprisingly, I don’t think "Cease the curriculum and let's have a class debate on statues or overpaid footballers!". These two jobs are separate entities and we should all be free to live a life and hold an opinion, within the bounds of decency and the law, unshackled. I once knew a teacher who was a naturist, yet he never stood in front of his class Billy Bonkers. Another was into battle re-enactment, but didn’t bring medieval weaponry into the classroom, and, well, you catch my drift…

So, carry on disagreeing as I read the comments section and I bite my tongue until it bleeds. I, like many others, refuse to be ‘cancelled’ and we will continue our opinionated ways. It’s simple: if you don’t like it, don’t read it. Instead, either agree or disagree, and engage, respectfully, but leave the threats of cancellation at the door for those whose views deviate from your own.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher