IS it just me, or is there so much fear and doubt circulating online these days, it’s almost as if an atmosphere of anger is being stoked by a race of half-reptiles so they can feed off the negative energy this creates?

My favourite incident of righteous internet fury of last year came in December. The story went like this.

The New York Times Book Review runs a By The Book series, the format of which is for “interesting” guests to list the books that are on their nightstands at the moment.

One edition featured Pulitzer-prize winning author Alice Walker. Among other titles, Walker chose the book And The Truth Shall Set You Free by David Icke, who was once a BBC sports presenter, but who now writes and talks about how an inter-dimensional race of reptilian beings have hijacked Earth and manipulate events to keep humanity in a state of fear.

Cue fury. The key grievance among the complainants was that Icke’s theories are regularly accused of being anti-semitic – a claim he denies – and that the paper had published Walker’s recommendation uncritically.

“By allowing Walker to recommend it to readers, you gave her and the book a forum to disseminate hate,” one complainant wrote to the paper. “At least provide a corrective by informing readers about the anti-semitic nature of the book.”

So the target of this person’s ire wasn’t Icke, or even, particularly, Walker herself, but the New York Times. The critics apparently wanted the NYT to qualify the recommendation, even though it wasn’t their recommendation to qualify.

The outcry was such that the NYT was forced into publishing a response. Pamela Paul, the editor of The Book Review, wrote of the By The Book column: “The people’s answers are a reflection of their opinions, tastes and judgment. As with any interview, their words tell us something about them. When we interview anyone, whether it’s a public official or a foreign leader or an artist, The Times isn’t saying that we approve of the person’s views and actions. We’re saying we think the subject is worthy of interviewing.”

I found this refusal to bend reassuring. But then she wrote something that smacked of wishful thinking. “Readers have ... learned something about the author and her tastes and opinions. I think it’s worthwhile information for them to know. Our readers are intelligent and discerning.”

Intelligent and discerning? Clearly, a number of readers weren’t intelligent or discerning enough to take a piece of information as it stands. They needed it condemned, “called out”, so no-one could be in any doubt that it was “problematic”.

Obviously there’s a balance to be struck on stuff like this. Every day, news organisations make editorial decisions about what is and isn’t appropriate to publish. But this desire to turn a newspaper into a gently paternal gatekeeper, policing morals and protecting delicate sensibilities, I find a bit baffling. People (especially the young) surely used to rebel against and mistrust authority; now the instinct of many is to appeal to authority to offer protection from ideas they perceive as threatening. This same curious thread runs through a lot of arguments these days about free speech, trigger warnings, and the airing of controversial views.

Personally, the bleating of the objectors has a strange effect. Far from joining in their condemnation, a part of me wanted to go out and petulantly buy the whole of Icke’s oeuvre. A tiny gesture of defiance against the howling children whose incessant noise echoes through the digital corridors of the internet. I didn’t, of course.

I get the arguments. That just as it’s the right of some to cause offence, it’s the right of others to object – loudly and angrily, if they wish. A rambunctious public discourse is healthy. But when the target of indignation shifts away from the ideas themselves to the rights of newspapers to print views uncritically, without some kind of editorial note (which must, presumably, always conform precisely to the moral outlook of the mob), then the conversation becomes slightly more chilling. Is such censorship really the route we wish to go down?

So as we move into 2019, how’s this for a resolution: to relax a bit more, to count to ten, to accept that others will have differing – even bizarre – views, and to go and look at pictures of baby animals whenever we feel the desire to police what others are doing and saying.

Only then will we starve the Anunnaki of the negative energy they feed on, and free the planet from their reptilian tyranny.