A couple of weeks ago I read an article in The Canberra Times by Chris Wallace. She was writing of the furore created by knee-jerk journalistic reaction to Hilary Mantel's mis-quoted comments about Kate Middleton. Wallace still called her that, although she must be Kate Windsor or some such now, mustn't she? Or did she keep her name? That would be quite radical, but is entirely beside the point.
The point is not even Mantel's speech in question, given as the first of the London Review of Books' Winter Lectures at the British Museum and reprinted in full. The point is the haste of pundits and plonkers to comment on stuff about which they know nothing. The internet exacerbates this with abundant examples of trolling and ignorance.
It seems to happen a lot with literature, however. Governments and various authoritative bodies have often banned books because they don't like their substance or content. Usually they haven't read them. The people who pronounced the fatwa against Salman Rushdie claimed it was due to the blasphemy inherent in The Satanic Verses, which of course they had not read.
Folk frequently dismiss artforms such as opera or ballet, without ever having seen one. Similarly some claim to despise football without ever having been to game. Pundits are falling over themselves to mock the new Pope, yet most of them know nothing at all about Catholicism and have certainly never read the Bible. Some people vote for political parties without the faintest clue of their policies.
The internet spawns opinions - everyone seems to have one on just about everything. And yet many of them can't have a coherent conversation about the thing they claim to hate. And it is always hate. Softer sentiments don't stand out from the crowd. Sure, it can be fun to make sweeping statements (and of course I've done it), but I think perhaps we should be more conscientious about trying to uncover the whole story before spitting forth spiteful comments.
"Readers have responsibilities, not just writers. Paying proper attention and reading the whole damn thing before rushing to condemn is the least courtesy writers are owed." - Chris Wallace