Roisin Murphy, and why you should never, ever apologise to the mob

I’m going to start this piece by presuming that there are many, many readers who, like me, had never heard of a woman called Roisin Murphy until this week. Or perhaps even until you clicked on this piece. It is necessary therefore to begin the piece with some of the basics.

Roisin Murphy is a singer songwriter who had some significant success some years ago as one half of the pop duo Moloko. You’ve probably heard, for example, their dancefloor hit “Sing it Back”.

Anyway, that time has passed, and Murphy is a 50 year old mother of two with a facebook account, and apparently normal opinions. A few days ago, she posted the following comment on facebook, on the topic of whether it is right to provide puberty blocking drugs to transgender children.

“Puberty blockers are fucked”, she said. “Absolutely desolate”. “Big pharma laughing all the way to the bank. Little mixed up kids are vulnerable and need to be protected”.

As opinions go, it is strong, but not particularly controversial: Indeed, the UK Government and other jurisdictions have moved to ban puberty blockers for children entirely, on the grounds that they may lead to infertility and other problems, and that children are simply too young to fully comprehend the consequences of the drugs.

That comment was then picked up by the entirely demented trans rights campaigner Aiden Comerford, who shared it on his twitter/X page, seeking to whip up an outrage:

We do not need here to account for all of the abuse that Roisin Murphy received, but suffice to say it was significant. And, feeling the pressure, she apologised. Profusely:

Apologising is, and was, a mistake.

First, apologies to mobs never appease the mob. They do two things instead: First, they cut you off from all the very many people who supported you against the mob in the first place: Roisin Murphy now has no allies, because she cannot be seen to accept support from the very many people who agreed with her in the first place that “puberty blockers are fucked”. An apology for holding that view could hardly be considered genuine if she were to continue accepting support from other people who hold it.

The second thing it does is to place you in the hands of the mob, and hand over total power to them: You have done the equivalent of pleading guilty in a court of law and asked for mercy. Courts, at least, customarily dole out mercy. Mobs never do.

Once the apology has been made, you can expect several reactions from those who demanded it. They will call it insufficient:

They will flat out refuse to accept it:

They will demand your full, and public, re-education:

Is Roisin Murphy in a stronger position because she apologised? No – she’s in a far weaker one. Not until she abases herself totally, and makes a public proclamation recanting her heresy, will she be accepted back into the fold. Meanwhile, the very many people who would have supported her are now offering support she cannot accept without looking like a hypocrite.

The only way to deal with mobs demanding apologies for an opinion you hold is, and ever has been, to tell them to get stuffed. That is because a mob – especially an online mob – is not power but the illusion of power. That’s the whole appeal of being part of a mob: It provides a person with the delusion that they have the power to make and break other people. Some loser with a keyboard suddenly getting intoxicated with the notion that he and others like him can force the famous people to bend to their will. When you do bend to their will, it does not inspire mercy – it inspires more mob like behaviour.

What would Murphy have lost by refusing to apologise? Some fans, certainly. And yet, she would have gained more. This is the same mob that has tried, and failed, to break JK Rowling. They are a minority amongst the public, and they know it – which is precisely why tactics like this are employed.

Murphy should not have apologised. No doubt, she has advisors – and if those are from the arts world, they probably sympathise with the mob here – who advised her to do so. Those advisors gave her terrible advice, which is a pity.

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