The reaction to the Presidents Club dinner is a “moralistic hissy fit”.
Another moralistic hissy fit online, as the ‘Twitterati’, commentariat and other new-fangled guardians of decency once again fume against people for behaving badly or thinking differently.
This time the target of their long fingers and seemingly inexhaustible fury has been the Presidents Club.
For those Brits who live under a rock — lucky you — the Presidents Club is an annual get-together of rich and well-meaning men to raise money for charity.
It is in its 33rd year. It takes place in plush, posh venues like the Dorchester in Park Lane. And as befits a coming together of the filthy rich and exclusively blokeish it is not, shall we say, PC.
Yes, surprise, surprise, these moneyed men full of expensive plonk get a little debauched.
Worst of all, at least in the prudish eyes of the media class, young women are employed at these events to serve drinks and flatter the men’s fat egos.
The Financial Times, taking a break from blaming Brexit for literally everything that has gone wrong in Britain over the past 18 months, sent some undercover reporters to the Presidents Club.
They fed back that the men sometimes say untoward things to the young women and even proposition them. Perhaps next week these reporters will stake out a forest in Canada and confirm to the world that, yes, bears really do defecate in woods.
The fallout from the FT’s pearl-clutching exposure of the utterly unsurprising and completely legal behaviour at this charity-friendly event has been bonkers.
Twitter went into meltdown. Labour MP Jess Phillips talked about the Presidents Club as if it were a 21st-century form of slavery. Great Ormond Street Hospital gave back the money it got from the event.
And now, the Presidents Club has announced that it is folding.
Presidents Club Gala at Dorchester
The morally outraged, the weirdly prim and angry mob that lives online and loves nothing better than to rage against people or institutions that don’t share it values, will be delighted.
Yet as a result of their rage, less money will be raised for charity. Well done, guys. What does money for kids’ medical equipment matter in comparison with your sense of self-satisfaction at having toppled another thing that displeases you?
What comes next? Surely all the men who ever attended this event — yes, including you, David Walliams — must now be paraded through the streets so that we can hurl rotten tomatoes, or at least angry tweets, in their repulsive direction.This destruction of a charity event by gangs of the easily offended tells us a depressing story about modern Britain.
It confirms how empowered online mobs are. Through pooling their individual anger into a mass conformist cry of ‘NOT OK’ — the 21st-century equivalent of crying ‘blasphemy!’ 500 years ago — they can extract apologies from politicians, shame celebs out of public life, and bring charity do’s crashing down.These often time-rich, well-connected people are chilling public life, making it clear to everyone that if we say or do anything they find offensive, they will hunt us down.
It also confirms the ascendancy of a stiff, middle-class moralism on sexual matters.
First we had well-to-do female journalists making a national scandal of the fact that some male politician once put his hand on their knee.
Now we have the well-educated ladies of the FT expressing horror that young, largely working-class women sometimes use their looks to make money.
But why should the cushioned, increasingly sex-fearing smart set get to define what is acceptable in public life? Believe it or not, there are people out there — many people — who don’t think come-ons are harassment or that hands on knees are on a spectrum with sexual assault.
Finally, and perhaps worst of all, the Presidents Club scandal shows that modern feminism is very often anti-women.
The way the media are talking about the working women who served booze and massaged egos at these events is nothing short of disgraceful.
These women have been infantilised, treated as poor, pathetic, brainwashed creatures in need of rescue by their more switched-on sisters.Even as some of the women who worked at the Presidents Club say they didn’t feel abused, still the saviour feminists insist they were.
In other words, these working women don’t really know what’s in their best interests. They are overgrown children, to be chastised or improved by FT reporters, Guardian columnists, and Labour politicians.You know what? That is infinitely more insulting to these women than what those rich blokes might have said to them.
The final, terrible irony: the exposers of the Presidents Club rage against its sexism and yet they have unleashed a far worse kind of sexism — one which calls into question the very ability of working-class women to decide for themselves how to live their lives.
Brendan O’Neill is the editor of Spiked, an online magazine on politics and society that focuses on issues including political correctness, multiculturalism and censorship. Here, he explains why he thinks the reaction to the Presidents Club dinner, where female hostesses reported being groped and propositioned, is nothing more than Twitter being morally outraged and easily offended.