We’ve created a world of touchy fools whose only language is the internet’s yes/no, like/dislike

It is a strange, cabbalistic world out there in the celibate darkness of digital resentment forums, where people for good reason denied a platform of their own cling to the coat-tails of those published in the daylight, froth in envious rage, share one another’s small and bitter diatribes and as a matter of principle find nothing funny, not even when it patently is – as for example, Amis’s really rather fond description of “weedy, nervy, thrifty” Corbynites each “with a little folded purse full of humid coins”. It’s that word “humid” that does the trick and marks the writer his detractors will never be.

A bad habit has evolved, below stairs, of calling any writer with whom you disagree about anything a twat, and his or her books bollocks. As a tactic, this is poor. It weakens your argument if you can only admire art made in the image of your own predilections, and shows you have neither eye nor ear for art at all. 

As for snobbish derision, it is of noble ancestry, going back to Hamlet twitting Polonius, Pope, Swift, Wilde, Waugh: a line of scurrilous mirth whose slithering ambiguities make a Charlie of whoever can’t keep up. Equivocation is at the heart of literary insult, harnessing seriousness to comedy, earnestness to lightness, teasing the single-minded into taking offence. Sadistic? Yes, but then again no.