If Katie Waissel makes a credible attempt on her own life, will X Factor audiences finally be happy? I only ask because I just can't see why else they boo. The human voice is capable of evoking pretty spectacular and primeval emotions: Waissel's singing evidently arouses everything from joy through tears to irrational hatred; booing, by contrast, is easy – and it only provokes fear, confusion and despair.
Just like the chants of football hooligans bent on violence, the collective boo recalls our primate ancestors when they were spoiling for a fight. There is something atavistically frightening about a vocal group of enemies: it is tribal, ugly and utterly brutish, and it shouldn't be tolerated any more than any other bullying.
We've all seen contestants leaving the Big Brother house as a baying mob howls its disgust. They're usually lone young women and they mostly look scared to death as they try to hide their tears. For an individual to stand up in front of a crowd at any time takes courage, whereas those people who hide in a group to boo their ignorance should be ashamed. I've no idea about the moral purity of Katie Waisell, but compared with these howling monkeys she looks like a winner.
Praise be to the initiative of a group of United States publishers which has begun monitoring book sales – not those won, but those lost. The group wants readers to record the book they wanted to buy, the reason they didn't buy it (price, unavailability, picture of an ugly dog on the cover, and so forth) and what they did instead (downloaded it illegally, for instance).
Would it be too much to hope that British retailers will catch on? If we could point out to M&S that, when there are only size eights or size 18s left every time anyone tries to buy anything, ever, that's losing them sales? Or tell Karen Millen shop assistants to stop chasing us out into the street with their "help"? I have a dream, of shops that sell us what we want to buy. (I know it's not much, but I'll start work on world peace after I find some pants that fit.)