Watt’s treatment provoked justified outrage among his peers. “These sorts of encounters are becoming commonplace for reporters in #ageofrage,” was how Sky News’ presenter Adam Boulton put it. While he is right to be concerned, to contextualise the event as part of a generalised “age of rage” is misplaced. There is a difference between irritating online debate on all sides of the political spectrum, and physical harassment of journalists carried out by the far right.
Physical harassment of journalists – by anyone, whether of the right or the left – isn’t actually the point. It’s that physical harassment is the wrong thing.
Sure, journalists – I guess I can include myself among that number now – like to think of themselves as pure and wondrous and defenders of this and that and different. But the offences are violence against the person, ABH, GBH, things like that. They’re offences whether carried out against a journalist, a janitor or a Juventudi. The offence is the violence, the harassment, not the person it is being carried out against.
This even being true if you are Andy Ngo.
We even have phrases which encompass this idea, civil liberty, human rights perhaps. The important part of that second being the human bit – they’re things that apply to everyone, not just those self-proclaimed to be doing socially useful activities.