June 17, 2021 - 10:34am

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s blistering blog on the borderline-sociopathic behaviour of one of her former students after she dared to venture her opinion on transgender identities has rightly gone globally viral. A couple of years ago I had a similar, but much lower-status, brush with insane overreaction to stating simple biological reality. Adichie writes with searing accuracy about her students, but I’ve found it fascinating how a person’s colleagues and friends (and the subset where these overlap) react in these circumstances. So I’ve put together this guide for the cancelled, and those contemplating it. 

I’ve boiled it down to about six sets of people. (I won’t name names; it would be fruitless for obsessives to try to pin down who I’m talking about.)

1. Total unwavering public support. I had plenty of this on social media and in the physical world from readers and viewers who liked my work, but nobody in the ‘industry’ did this. But this didn’t surprise or bother me, for who can blame them? They have mouths to feed. 

2. Private support, public silence. By far the largest group. I received a torrent of supportive emails and calls from friends and colleagues in the media, all of them frank about having to say nothing in public out of fear for themselves. All openly gender-critical people will know this category well. Again, I cannot criticise them for it. But it is concerning. If even the most timid expression of personal regard for someone stating common facts could lead to Armageddon, then what does that leave us with?

3. Said nothing at all but disappeared. The more terror-stricken version of category 2. A small set who suddenly melted away like convective clouds. 

4. ‘Don’t mention the war’. People who didn’t say anything at all in public or private but just carried on being colleagues and/or chums.  

5. Full denunciation. I only received this — what we might call the Daniel Radcliffe Reaction — a couple of times, and their identities frankly I could have predicted (in fact I did, and I got it right). These were people fully signed up to ‘social justice’, who had to publicly denounce to keep themselves pure. (Despite long association and, as Adichie says in her examples, knowing full well that I was neither an idiot nor a fascist.)

6. Private support and enthusiastic public support of the exact opposite to their own private opinions. This was another very small set, but I find it the most psychologically fascinating of them all. I know a couple of people who are loudly dismissive of gender ideology and other modish nonsenses in private, but who support them equally loudly in public. These are the people I’m genuinely scared of, and that I do blame. They are uncanny, and have me reaching for the crucifix and the garlic. It’s these kinds of people, I think, who are largely responsible for the unholy cultural mess we find ourselves in. Beware Category 6!

Gareth Roberts is a screenwriter and novelist, best known for his work on Doctor Who.