Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens has prompted a social media storm after likening those “squawking” about the Westminster sexual harassment scandal to “Militant Islamists”.
The veteran writer’s column appeared in Sunday’s newspaper and online as British politics is engulfed in accusations in the fall-out from the Harvey Weinstein allegations.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon has quit and the Conservative Party, Labour and SNP are all probing claims made against their representatives, including an accusation that Jeremy Corbyn’s party ignored a rape allegation.
It was the provocative headline on Hitchens’ piece - “What will women gain from all this squawking about sex pests? A niqab” - that fuelled disbelief on Twitter.
The headline drew comparisons to a widely-shared and similarly-derided Charles Moore column in the Telegraph a day earlier.
“This scandal shows that women are now on top. I pray they share power with men, not crush us,” the headline of his piece ran.
The headline alone was enough to draw fierce criticism.
One of Hitchens’ defences was that most commentators on Twitter had not read the article, and he suggested they were basing their outrage on the headline alone and deliberate misinterpretation.
But many people had read the piece, and objected to various aspects of his argument.
That included his argument that men and women objecting to harassment have “lots in common” with “Militant Islamists”. Some simply couldn’t comprehend the comparison.
Hitchens also argued feminists have a wider agenda.
While he says he welcomes the “wonderful new equality between men and women, which is one of the great changes for the better in our age”, Hitchens fears for the “militant destruction of marriage and the traditional family”.
“Many of those who claim to seek female equality have another, much fiercer objective. They actually see men as the enemy, the ‘patriarchy’, to be overthrown by all means necessary, and replaced by a feminised society. They also see marriage as a machine for oppressing women. Their objectives moved a lot closer last week.”
Some pointed out this, again, was overblown and men were just being asked to be “less awful”.
Hitchens goes on that those calling for equality also “sneered at restraint and manners” and now want those customs to return.
He argues the values once enshrined in marriage separated “us” from the “Islamic world”, and the niqab alluded to in the headline.
One Twitter user countered that this assumed there was no harassment before society was “liberated”.
Hitchens then imagines the lengths men in Westminster will have to go to ensure they do not face accusations of harassment. Again, it is dismissed as a “laughable” way to act.
But aspects of the column did garner praise, notably his argument that Britain faces bigger problems than the allegations that have rocked Westminster.
Hitchens in turn confronted his critics, arguing many were “twisting” his words and that people were failing to explain their counter arguments - even though many had.