Why Is Everyone Being So Cruel About Holly Willoughby’s Alleged Kidnap Attempt?

The commentary on social media is truly disgusting, and says a lot about the way 'cancel culture' disproportionally impacts women.

Holly Willoughby

by Georgia Aspinall |
Published on

Today, a man has been charged over an alleged kidnap plot to murder TV presenter Holly Willoughby. He was arrested on Wednesday and will appear in Chelmsford Magistrates Court later today charged with soliciting to commit murder and incitement to commit kidnap.

A police guard has reportedly been placed outside Willoughby’s London home, which she shares with her husband (TV producer Dan Baldwin) and three children, as police continue their investigation. ITV are also providing round-the-clock security and support for her.

Holly was meant to appear on her usual presenting slot on This Morning yesterday but was forced to pull out after learning about the allegations. She is said to have been left ‘shocked and distraught’, according to reports.

‘This was an extremely fast-paced investigation, with many of our officers and national partners working overnight to secure these charges,’ Detective Superintendent Rob Kirby said in a statement. ‘The safeguarding of any victim is paramount, and we will continue to prioritise this and working with the Metropolitan Police Service as the investigation proceeds.’

On This Morning today, Dermot O'Leary said: ‘We are not going to talk too much about it, but Holly is on the front pages after police arrested a 36-year-old man over an alleged kidnap plot. He has now been charged by Essex Police.’ Fellow presenter Alison Hammond, who stepped in to cover Willoughby, added ‘We are obviously all shocked to hear the news and we want to send our love and biggest hugs to Holly and her family.’

Now, Holly Willoughby is a trending topic on Google with major breakout searches for ‘What’s wrong with Holly Willoughby’, ‘Where is Holly Willoughby today’ and ‘What has happened to Holly Willoughby’. Similar search queries appear whenever Willoughby is absent from This Morning, but the reaction on social media shows a much less concerned and empathetic approach.

As the 42-year-old trends on Twitter, countless people are sharing unpleasant commentary on the alleged kidnap attempt. Frankly, the tweets are too vile (and legally dubious) to include here, but they range from falsely claiming that she ‘staged’ the crime for public sympathy to questioning why anyone would want to kidnap Holly Willoughby at all. Then there's the jokes, dismissing the entire severity of the story, and proclamations that 'no one cares'.

The entire reaction is truly concerning, not least because it shows just how cruel people have become online that trolling a woman over her attempted kidnap is not just a few incel outliers, but an entire never-ending scroll of users. One must ask – even if it seems ludicrous to do so – what Holly Willoughby has ever done to warrant such a callous, cold reaction? When we already know - for example - how commonplace it is for women in the public eye to be stalked, and how deadly stalking and harassment can be for all women - there should never be space for diminishing, mocking or justifying in these conversations.

It’s telling that mere days ago, countless people sprang to Russell Brand’s defence despite being accused of the most heinous of crimes, and refuse to let ‘cancel culture’ take hold of him, but when it comes to a seemingly ‘disgraced’ female presenter (who has never been accused of anything remotely as monstrous as Brand), the same cancel culture bears down on her further even in her most painful, vulnerable moments. Do we only hold on to our ‘cancelling’ of celebrities when it’s women being burned at the stake?

What’s vital to remember here is that feeling sympathy for a person being victim of a kidnap and murder plot doesn’t mean you have to agree with all of their former actions and immediately reclaim them as some beacon of innocence and grace. While one might hope that empathy would soften some people’s hatred towards her, that’s also not necessarily something we should expect of people. What we should expect though, is that people don’t run to social media to profess their hatred of someone, spread rumours that they’ve staged their own kidnap attempt for publicity, or mock and dismiss such a horrific story.

To shout your hatred of someone so loudly at their most vulnerable moment shows a lot about the way misogyny and hatefulness underlines this entire narrative about Holly Willoughby’s reputation. If misogyny did not seep into this discourse, people would be able to acknowledge that she does not deserve to be victim of such a crime because of some professional or personal missteps. Whether you like her or not, we should have learned better by now that reactions like this can have a deadly impact.

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