Waitrose and William Sitwell: Censorious Twitter haters score another victory - Press Gazette

Waitrose and William Sitwell: Censorious Twitter haters score another victory


There is something rather impressive about the way William Sitwell has lost his job.

He is a journalist so incapable of writing a boring a sentence that even when responding to a freelance pitch he couldn’t resist a flourish of hyperbole. To my mind his note was meant to amuse  – and maybe also to offend. But I think he will not be short on offers of work.

After freelance journalist Selene Nelson suggested a “plant-based meal series” to Sitwell, he responded: “Hi Selene. Thanks for this. How about a series on killing vegans, one by one. Ways to trap them? How to interrogate them properly? Expose their hypocrisy? Force-feed them meat? Make them eat steak and drink red wine?”

I guess he was making the point that a series of articles on how to make meals out of vegetables was not the most original idea in the world and Nelson would have to go back to the drawing board if she was going to make it into Waitrose Food.

Sadly it seems that it is outspoken editors, and even entire publications. that some would like to see killed off one by one.

When Waitrose was bombarded with Twitter messages from censorious vegetable lovers it quickly caved in, apparently pushing its multi-award-winning editor of 20 years to go. He stepped down with immediate effect yesterday in a move that was welcomed by the posh supermarket chain.

It is the latest brand to surrender to a vocal minority of Twitter users who feel they can dictate what other people choose to read.

It is an incident to file alongside campaign group Stop Funding Hate in the archive of digital attacks on press freedom.

That group dislikes the journalism of the Daily Mail, Express and Sun titles so much that it would like to see them snuffed out of existence by starving them of advertising. So far it has mobilised its army of Twitter tabloid haters to persuade Paperchase, Evans Cycles and Lego to withdraw promotional activity from certain tabloids in response to campaigns targeting corporate Twitter accounts.

It has been said to me “what if Sitwell was talking about Jews, or people from a specific ethnic minority instead of vegans?”. But I don’t think we can class vegetablism (hatred of those who eat vegetables that is) alongside racism, sexism and anti-semitism.

I’ve recently given up drinking alcohol. If I pitched an article about cocktails for teetotallers to the editor of a drinks magazine and he responded by saying: “I think all non-drinkers should be hunted down and ritually disembowelled one by one”, I honestly don’t think I would be offended.

Knowing how hard it is for freelances to even get a response from time-pressed editors I might even feel appreciative of the fact that he or she had bothered to respond to my email.

If Nelson was offended and upset by Sitwell’s comments she deserves an apology and has received one. In my view that is where the matter should rest.

Dominic Ponsford is editor-in-chief of Press Gazette.



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14 thoughts on “Waitrose and William Sitwell: Censorious Twitter haters score another victory”

  1. “Stop Funding Hate” is mob rule by any other name, and by giving them free reign Twitter encourages it, there is an entire industry on Twitter solely dedicated to silencing anyone the “stop hate” industry disagrees with, DePlatform Hate is another, HopenotHate yet another, see the connection yet ? All of these groups collude and conspire, I’ve seen evidence just this week of irrefutable proof threats were made to a company via Twitter, and when notified Twitter takes no action.
    Those who claim to want to stop hate, are the most hateful, the anti-fascists, have become the fascists.

    Good luck Mr Sitwell, and Waitrose ? Shame on you.

  2. I can understand the thinking behind Stop Funding Hate. Some of the front pages on the Mail in particular in the last few years have been absolutely indefensible, and unarguably contributed to the growth of a far right movement which culminated in the assassination of Jo Cox, the mowing down of Muslims outside a Mosque, and planned (but thankfully foiled) assassinations of other left-wing politicians. You would have to be either a complete fool or a complete liar to deny that certain newspapers’ overt attacks on Islam, on migrants, on Remainers, etc, have fueled that movement.

    But the problem with Stop Funding Hate is that all it wants is destruction. It is a militant movement which has absolutely no consideration or compassion, for example, for the many thousands of entirely innocent people who would be made redundant if these newspapers closed down – whose children would go hungry, lose their homes, etc.

    It zeroes in on occasional (and absolutely indefensible) heinous front pages, but uses those occasional instances to define entire newspapers or, indeed, an entire industry, making no mention of the fact that 99.99% of national newspapers’ content is in no way bigoted. Its entire ethos amounts to throwing the baby out with the bath water; it’s like the judge who sentenced a man to six months in prison for stealing a 50p bottle of water in the London riots. It has no sense of perspective.

    It also sees no distinction between the publication of individuals’ opinions and the publication of news content – and it occasionally decides that newspaper reporting which is 100% factual and accurate is ‘hate’. When you’re throwing a tantrum about the truth, it’s you with the problem, not the newspaper that’s published it.

    The other concerning thing about Stop Funding Hate is who is pulling the strings. The answer is, millionaires and celebrities with their own vested interests – just like Hacked Off, Byline, Impress, etc. If they had their way, we’d all be living in George Orwell’s 1984, banned from taking photos of anything in a public street, banned from accessing public record information, etc. They’re militant loonies who want to decimate the public’s right to know.

    So it’s hard, as a reasonable person, to take a position. Do these newspapers sometimes publish indefensible, dangerous content? Absolutely. Does that need to be stopped? Absolutely. But are the people leading the charge any better? Absolutely not. They’re equally dangerous and arguably moreso. They won’t rest until we have a total black-out of democratic scrutiny.

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