SARAH VINE: Banter of any kind might now be seen as 'abuse' but going after ogres like Sir Philip Green misses the real villains like Harvey Weinstein
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/arti ... lains.html
About 700 years ago, when I was an eager young newbie working on a tabloid newspaper, I occasionally had to visit the compositors' floor in the basement of our Fleet Street building.
This was a wild and smoke-filled place, dominated by bearded blokes whose skills with 'hot metal' are long since forgotten.
They were known as the 'beer monsters' — both on account of their thirst and their terrifying reputation for 'monstering' hapless emissaries from upper floors.
It was something of a rite of passage to be sent down there, into the inky bowels of the building. The language was blue and crude and no one was spared.
But, nerve-racking as that was, I can honestly say I never felt threatened by those men.
Yes, they were rough and rude and smelled like badgers — but sexually intimidating? Not a chance. They would have been utterly bemused by the notion.
I was reminded of those days when Philip Green — who is accused of committing various acts of brutish behaviour by anonymous former employees — attempted to disentangle himself from the web of public outrage by claiming that many of the things he'd said were only 'banter'.
'I've been in business for more than 40 years,' he told the Mail on Sunday.
'There has obviously from time to time been some banter, but as far as I'm concerned that's never been offensive.'
Naturally, his protests fell on deaf ears. If anything, he provoked further outrage from feminists who claimed he was belittling the experiences of his 'victims': a crime known as 'second abuse' (even before the first has been proven).
But, whatever the precise details behind those non-disclosure agreements, I do feel some small shred of sympathy, even for an ogre like Green.
Banter of any kind is now seen as 'abuse'. Banter of the kind I learnt to deal with in my 20s; banter of the kind that so many women of my generation grew up with. A bit risque, a bit naughty, a little daring or close to the bone.
Funny, even, provided you have the same sense of humour. The problem here is that, clearly, some of Sir Philip's employees did not. Hence the complaints.
Yet, unless or until he is exposed as something more villainous, I am tempted to conclude that Green's chief error was in employing one too many snowflakes.
I should say, at this point, that I am by no means an admirer. I thought the way he behaved over the closure of BHS was utterly vile and rapacious.
The fact that he shamelessly flaunts his wealth in the most crass and ostentatious of ways does not help, either. He is vulgar, brash, rude and intensely obnoxious. But is he a career sex pest?
I'd wager he's more likely just a socially awkward man of a certain age and a certain generation who struggles to communicate with women, especially young ones.
He's also clearly a bully with an abrasive style of doing business and is as petulant as he's childish. All very unpleasant traits. But not the same as being a new Weinstein.
He is, like those 'beer monsters' of my youth, a relic of a bygone age. Someone whose past behaviour now leaves him exposed in a fast-evolving post #MeToo climate.
A piece of rotting, low-hanging fruit ripe for revenge-seeking feminists too wrapped up in their own mission to tackle the real villains. Of which, as we saw again this week with the revelation of yet more grooming gangs targeting underage girls, there are plenty.
When we're living in our sanitised utopia — mentally cleansed of all impure thoughts, sipping our vegan chai lattes and looking forward to another thrilling weekend of meditation — we may even find ourselves missing the days when we could have a bit of banter.
Or, at least, I will.