A man stands on a stage in South Korea. He is an Englishman of a certain age. He is there to give a speech not regarding human rights, or equality, or anything remotely political at all, but on Science. During the course of this speech he makes an ill-advised comment - in jest, as he goes on to point out - about female scientists, before going on to seriously praise them. What happens next:
A) People laugh awkwardly, but realising that it is a joke, and should be taken as such (however poorly it came across) they choose to focus on the praise that he heaps on female scientists.
B) People take a small amount of umbrage at the joke - there is a minor furore about it, but ultimately they realise that it is unfortunately something that men of that age are prone to do, and they swiftly get over it as, after all, it's just a harmless throwaway remark.
C) People lose their minds. The speech is misleadingly quoted, with the reporters deliberately omitting the part where he makes it clear that it is a joke, and his subsequent praise of women in science. The self-gratifying internet PC lobby work themselves up into one of their smug, indignant frenzies, calling for his immediate firing, and as per usual they get their way as he is forced to resign from his post at UCL.
Whilst option C may sound utterly farcical, that is exactly what happened to Sir Tim Hunt.
The sad thing is, I wonder how many of those keyboard warriors would have been so swift to call for a head on a platter if the roles were reversed and it was a female scientist making a joke about male scientists - not many, I would posit. This is the sad state we find ourselves in. The self-righteousness of the politically correct lobby now outweighs any semblance of free speech or opinion. If, for example, a left wing activist was being publicly hounded for their misrepresented comments, there would be public outrage and all sorts of Orwellian analogies drawn. As it is, though, a middle aged white man has lost his job because people who don't know him, don't work in his field, and couldn't be bothered to find out the entire story, decided that he deserved to be publicly shamed and have his career torn to shreds because of one ill-judged remark made in jest.
The most shameful thing about this is the reporting - the tactical omission of the following part of his speech, and subsequent complete lack of apology is unforgivable. He never stood a chance. The irony of the whole matter? That the only people who really had the right to be the tiniest bit offended - female scientists - stood by Tim Hunt and supported him.
Hopefully in the coming days, given the revelations regarding the misreporting that has gone on, Dr Tim Hunt will be reinstated in his various academic posts. Unfortunately, until we stand up and shun the idiotic cries of the PC lobby, there will be many more Tim Hunts to come.