Online abusers want attention. We really ought to stop giving it to them

I’m going to write, belatedly, about the grim episode over the weekend, in which a female campaigner, Caroline Criado-Perez, received a furious round of abuse on Twitter for successfully lobbying to get Jane Austen’s face on the £10 note. A distressing amount of the abuse involved threats of rape. Understandably there has been a horrified…

Alas, Mel Smith

If you’re my age, you might remember Not the Nine O’Clock News and Alas Smith and Jones with some fondness. After Mel Smith’s sudden death – at just 60 – was announced yesterday, various of his great sketches went around the internet, including the wonderful one above (“It’s a whoop, Professor! A whoop of gorillas!…

George Orwell: really not all that

Oh I know. I am contractually obliged, as a journalist, to say that George Orwell was the greatest genius ever to have lived, and – more importantly – how he’d definitely agree with me on whatever my pet topic of the day is. Anyway. He clearly was one of Britain’s greatest ever writers; an extraordinary…

On sex, other kinds of sex, and gay marriage

Hurrah! Gay marriage has been made legal and we can all marry our dogs and our brothers and so on. But something’s been bothering me for a while about it all, and now seems the time to bring it up. Apparently one of the main objections to it has been that the creators of the…

I don’t ‘love’ the NHS, and neither should you

Do you love the National Health Service? I don’t. I think it does a very good job. UK citizens have a life expectancy of over 80 years. We are more likely to be fit, active and healthy in our later years than ever before. There are hundreds of factors involved in that, but the NHS…

How much of top-level sport is clean?

After last year’s Olympic games, a columnist for CBS Chicago, Dan Bernstein, wrote an article saying that doping is widespread in top-level sprinting. To think otherwise, he wrote, involved creating “fairylands of childish naiveté. It is indefensible ground. The province of suckers”. He quoted Carl Lewis, himself a great Olympian, as saying “For someone to…

What good does owning a £1m doodle do a university?

From Friday’s Daily Telegraph: Everyone doodles, right? Surely. When you go into a meeting, you bring a pen and a pad to look professional, as though you’ll be taking notes or have prepared points you want to make. Then you write down the first thing someone says (“Action plan. Step 1: Draw up action plan”),…