Vegangate – why the Waitrose editor had to go and why this is about much more than food

Louder Than War LogoSometimes you get to feel the scales tipping.

Of course it’s hard to feel sorry for William Sitwell, the Waitrose food magazine editor who had to resign due to vegangate.

He was the editor whose overreaction to a pitch from Selene Nelson, a freelancer, about running an article on the sharp rise in veganism created a media storm.

She had pitched an article, inspired by Waitrose’s announcement that plant-based sales had soared 85 per cent. The pitch was met with a snarky reply which claimed that Sitwell would be more interested in commissioning a series about “killing vegans”, to “expose their hypocrisy” and “force-feed them meat”. Hum. Hilarious.

Unluckily for Sitwell the story went viral. The old media could have kept a lid on this rudeness but in 2018 the real media is no editors and freelancers, it’s online its everywhere.

Part of the reaction saw that I nearly had to go on Good Morning Britain yesterday for what looked like a great segment taking on some silly columnist from Dublin who was harping on about vegans being hypocritical for flying in planes and all being bandwagon jumpers – a mix up of arguments that would make no sense in a primary school playground.

I was ready to calmly deconstruct another foolish example of the spoilt but was replaced at the last minute by Adrian Chiles! Adrian tuned vegan three months ago ironically after I had helped talk him into it..

It’s not that most vegans are touchy. In my years of plant munching I’ve hardly met anyone who gave a fuck about what I ate and I’ve never lectured anyone on what they eat unless they asked. Like Adrian Chiles did. The issue here is end days of the privileged white male bully culture that is part and parcel of Anglo American life and is the real problem here. Those spookily white men are getting the fear and their end of days tantrums are wrecking what’s left of the planet whilst they can. We are a decade away from a self imposed Armageddon caused by these arrogant dim uber Lords and we need new thinking not snarky replies hidden by keyboards, privilege and a misguided power. Speaking to many women activists in the USA recently I was entranced  by their talk of a post Trump world. They were planning for what to do after these giant male babies are removed from power and they were inspired by the reaction on the street and the way things are changing beyond the ivory towers.

The old guard, old school whose birth right seems to be to condescend and hector and bully are typing their last missives. This whole flare up has all the modern battle lines drawn out – a generation gap, a yawning culture gap, how editors treat freelancers, older man vs younger woman, meat vs vegan, old v new.

The old school in their ivory towers are in the last days of their Rome.

Like Trump’s America these scared white men swaggering around whilst the world shifts. Could this be the last days of bully culture? the old way of doing stuff that seems also far away from the new generation coming through.

Things are changing fast out there and these privileged bullies are a dying breed. Unfortunately the old school tie will protect them a bit longer. I doubt Sitwell will be signing on in some broken northern town this week. But the culture scab has been scratched again. The odious behaviour slapped down, and the support for the freelancer and veganism in general shows a culture shift is taking place without the permission of the well healed spoilt overlords.

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  1. Perfect response, as usual, John. It’s less the content of Sitwell’s remarks than the context: a work communication. We should all be free to eat what we please, or pitch ideas, without this kind of dull and gassy attempt at workplace “humour”. I’ve worked with people like Sitwell. They make a long day at work longer.

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