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Ash Sarkar, did you really go into journalism to do this?

Tom Winnifrith
Wednesday 16 December 2020

I do not agree with the politics of communist journalist Ash Sarkar and she says some remarkably silly and insensitive things. But, as a believer in freedom, I defend to the utmost her right to say and write as she pleases, just as I defend other figures such as Sasha Johnson of BLM. Her right is to offend me with her ludicrous views. I also have a lot of sympathy for Ash for the way that she is attacked.

I too suffer death threats, trolling and harassment. This week, someone who does not like what I write about shares, in that I expose fraud, took to the internet and decided to attack my mixed race 4 year old boy on the basis of his skin colour. Those who troll, threaten and harass journalists, whether they be glamorous young commies like Ash or sad and drab old libertarians such as myself, are beneath contempt. So I have some sympathy for Ash, not, I suspect, that she cares.

Over the past 24 hours, Ash started an incident which ended with the writer Julie Burchill losing a book contract with Hachette.  It started when Ash had a pop at Rod Liddle for a 2012 column when he wrote that he could not have become a teacher as he would have been unable to resist shagging the pupils, adding only year 10s’s and above (15+).  This was quite clearly a joke albeit one in rather poor taste and which commits the cardinal sin for a writer trying to be humorous, that is to say it is not in the slightest bit funny.

Ash had a pop at Rod on Twitter, saying one should not joke about such matters. Burchill waded in by asking how old the bride of the prophet Muhammad was. Ms Sarkar is a Moslem. The answer, of course, is nine but who cares and what on earth has this to do with Liddle? Burchill has made a career out of offending everyone possible from one of her ex husbands who she semi-trolled to anyone grieving Jill Dando to my fellow Irish. Our nation was – according to Burchill – synonymous with child molestation and supporting the Nazis.  

In short, Ms Burchill is an A grade tedious bore and often offensive in a very unpleasant manner. I must defend her right to be both although I’d rather eat my toenails than read her next book. But I am not sure I will face the choice as Sarkar, Owen Jones et al started a Twitter pile on against publisher Hachette and it has now pulled Burchill’s contract citing her Islamaphobia.

I am not going down that rabbit hole. Burchill’s tweet was ghastly and offensive but does that mean a book should be scrapped unless it too is as tedious and irrelevant as its author’s tweets?

My question is for Ash Sarkar. Why go after Liddle for a bad and unfunny joke he told eight years ago? Is that really what you went into journalism for? Have you, Ash, never told a bad and offensive joke in the dim and distant past? Not even one? I know you are a Guardian reader so don’t do humour but maybe when you were young? Surely journalism is about tackling what one perceives as the wrongs of today, not yakking on about trivia from another age.

I suspect that Ash might consider exposing Rod Liddle an issue of the age. Many on the left would be delighted if he was drummed out of Fleet Street and if that cannot be achieved by exposing his wrong think of today then maybe one might be tempted to resort to bad jokes from ancient history.

But this is not what journalism should be about. Yes we can have a go at each other but surely we do not delight in trying to get folks we disagree with fired? Ash and I might both agree that the gap between rich and poor in this country is widening badly and that Lockdown policies have, often as a result of what seems to me like corruption, made many rich folks even richer while screwing the poor.

Largely our solutions would be diametrically opposed but we might agree that these are the real issues of our age and what journalists should be exposing. Points scoring against our fellow hacks which might in the end deny them a platform is not what I entered this sordid trade to achieve and I think enough of Ms Sarkar that, upon reflection, I hope that she might agree.

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About Tom Winnifrith
Tom Winnifrith is the editor of When he is not harvesting olives in Greece, he is (planning to) raise goats in Wales.
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