Mark Dolan: If you've lost friends over your 'views' then count yourself lucky - they were never your friends at all

Mark Dolan: If you've lost friends over your 'views' then count yourself lucky - they were never your friends at all
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Mark Dolan

By Mark Dolan

Published: 26/02/2022

- 21:17

Here's my view of the world today...

Welcome to hell. A senior producer here at GB News, Lucy Jones, who works on the brilliant programme Dan Wootton Tonight, sent the following tweet today which has understandably gone viral, because it has touched a nerve.

It reads as follows: “my uni ‘friends’, today messaged me, saying they didn’t want to invite me to group meet-ups, because of my “views on Covid” & the company I work for. I really have learnt who my real friends are, over the last two years.”

Welcome to the age of intolerance. Welcome to hell. Terribly sad though it is, and deeply unfair and cruel, this is not a rare occurrence. Whether it's Brexit or Covid, trans rights or increasingly Net Zero, people are willing to discard years of friendship, because they've decided you don't have the “right” views. It's very sad, because in many cases these friendships go back years or even decades.

School friends, university pals, colleagues, drinking buddies, the guys you play cricket with on a Sunday morning, the girls in your football team or book club. Think how many shared experiences you’ll have had, with the people who are now shutting you out. Think of all the parties, that “quick drink in the pub” that became a whole afternoon or evening. Think of the late night phone calls, the secrets and inner-most thoughts shared. Think of the millions of WhatsApp messages, the selfies, the presents, the letters, the notes, the cards. Think of the tears, the laughter and the memories.

And all of that goes, because you thought this country should leave a political block based in Brussels? All of that goes, because you thought maybe lockdowns have caused more harm than good? All of that goes, because you're not sure how people are going to be able to afford the cost of net zero? Or because you believe you can identify however you like, but there are just two biological sexes. All of that goes, for that?

When did any of these things become so controversial they were worth the scrapping of years of friendship, or loyalty, time and commitment? It’s sad, because we give a large portion of our lives and a chunk of our souls, to the friends around us.

We invest in them, only for the funds to now be summarily withdrawn over nothing, in this new age of intolerance. For them to so readily discard all of that, in the name of closed-minded dogma – which is what it is - is a sign of the Times. It's where we are in 2022. Of course I've had loads of it. And I wouldn’t change a thing. If questioning the extraordinary, unprecedented measures we have seen over two years is controversial, unacceptable or problematic – if it’s problematic to challenge and ask questions, then I can't help you.

You may find what’s ultimately problematic is you. Since the beginning of time, as a species, we have argued, debated and through a hard won common ground, have forged a way ahead, together. Humanity and its unprecedented success, has been as a result of the competition of ideas. And that's what happened in schools and universities for millennia, before they became centres of brainwashing and divisive ideology. By the way just my opinion – feel free to disagree – I won’t cancel you.

And we know about the scale now of cancel culture, in which perhaps our greatest living author J. K. Rowling, is being gradually erased for pointing out that there are just two biological sexes, backed up by any Encyclopaedia or medical textbook you might seek to reference. And people are now cancelling each other. Friendship groups are ethnically cleansing non-believers, whether it comes to Covid, Brexit, veganism, the environment, trans rights. You name it. And so many who seek this cancellation of great public figures or of their own friends, claim to be liberal. They are just nice, caring people and anyone that disagrees with them is beastly and evil. Well I'm afraid not. When it comes to lockdowns, for example, my main objection is the catastrophic human damage and suffering that we’ve seen.

To watch once successful businesses shut down, to watch people losing their jobs, to watch kids locked out of school for months on end and not being able to have a kickabout in the park with their mates. To watch people not receiving medical treatment for worse diseases like cancer, because if it’s covid they don’t care. To watch that and not say something, to not ask whether this is justified or wise or will even work? That makes you a bad person? That shows a lack of empathy? For the relentless cheerleaders for tougher, harsher restrictions, you may find the absence of empathy is yours not mine. You could call them the bad people. Of course I wouldn't. Because it's all about opinions.

No one’s got a monopoly on the facts, on the science, on empathy and no one’s got a monopoly on the truth. Which is why we have to listen to each other more not less, expose ourselves to the discomfort of other views. Social media has created these echo chambers, in which people are insulated from discussion, debates and enlightenment. If you're a lefty, you should fill your life up with right-wing people - it'll be good for you. And if you're right wing, you should do just the same, with those on the political left. Which is how it used to be.

Back in the day, people would vote in general elections - Labour, Tory, Lib Dem, Green - the result would happen and hey ho, your side won or it didn't. And that was the end of it. Whereas now, the result of a public vote is just the beginning of years of turf warfare. Exhibit A: Brexit, where an attritional and damaging campaign to reverse the result, began the moment it came through. I think the growing popularity of social media, twinned with Brexit was a turning point. It set the template for the new age of intolerance. So if you've been dropped by friends, for your views on anything frankly, they weren't your friends at all.

Oh and if you're one of these people going around cancelling someone fabulous like my colleague Lucy Jones, then you don't realise what you're giving up. Your echo chamber will become an ever more toxic bubble, in which you are insulated from not just the fun of debate, of maybe learning something and of thinking, but you will ultimately be insulated, from the truth itself. The truth of life, which will always come out.

These supposedly lovely liberals, who are usually the ones doing the cancelling, are in fact deeply illiberal bullies. The cancellation of friends for not being “on message”, for having the wrong views, the “despicables” as Hillary Clinton famously referred to Trump supporters, is deeply wrong and counter-productive. In the end, Hillary lost. You may lose too – those cancelling, ultimately risk cancellation themselves.

So if you have lost friends in the last few years, at work, or within your social circle, count yourself lucky. With friends like those, who needs enemies.

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