Twitter lynch mob goes for baboon killer AA Gill
But after Jan Moir, there are signs that Twitterers are learning to use their power more responsibly
AA Gill, the unreconstructed gentleman-columnist and restaurant critic, has put himself firmly in the sights of Twitter's liberal lynch mob by describing in graphic detail how he shot a baboon.
According to his tale, which accounted for half of his restaurant review in the Sunday Times at the weekend, Gill was in Tanzania where he shot the olive baboon (of the kind pictured above) from the back of a safari truck. "I took him just below the armpit," he writes. "He slumped and slid sideways. I'm told they can be tricky to shoot: they run up trees, hang on for grim life... But not this one. A soft-nosed .357 blew his lungs out."
But why did he do it? "I wanted to get a sense of what it might be like to kill someone, a stranger," Gill wrote.
Gill has an eye for a ratings-winning controversy - four years ago he tried to wind up the entire English race by calling them lumpen, louty and coarse - and as with the Stephen Gately-Jan Moir furore, Twitter has been abuzz with denunciations of Gill. "I once shot a dog turd to see what it'd feel like to shoot AA Gill", wrote one user.
Another contributor with an uncanny sense of what plays well on the internet, wrote: "NEWS: Jan Moir says she will have to eat a live kitten to regain her 'Biggest Twat' title from AA Gill".
However, there are signs that the potential for a concerted campaign against controversial columnists has been neutralised since Stephen Fry led the crusade earlier this month against Moir. In the fall-out from that furore, Fry wrote a mea culpa reflecting on the dangerous potential of Twitter campaigns if they are conducted by the "forces of religiosity and nationalism".
Today, Graham Linehan, a leading proponent of Twitter activism following his 'We love the NHS' campaign, pointedly wrote of AA Gill: "Put away those pitchforks! I just find it funny. Orwell fought fascists, Hemmingway hunted lions, AA Gill shot a monkey. Sounds about right".
In any case the condemnation has been far from universal. "I'm glad AA Gill killed a baboon, those things are scary and evil," wrote one supporter. Others pointed out that unless you are a vegetarian, you have no right to judge Gill.
However, Gill himself accepted in his article that there was "absolutely no excuse for this", pointing out baboon is not good to eat. Moreover, he refused to hide behind the "feeble argument" of culling and control - despite the fact that baboons are seen as vermin in parts of Africa - calling it a "veil for naughty fun".
"Some local people say it's ill luck to kill a baboon," his companion Josh told him. On the contrary, Gill may count himself lucky that he hit the send button after Moir. ·
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