Monday, 8 December 2008


I imagine everyone in the UK (and doubtless a few others) have heard of the Ross/Brand affair. Two BBC radio personalities (during a show) phoned a random actor and left messages on his answering machine alledging that one of them had sex with the actor's granddaughter. I'm not sure what comedic value they were hoping to extract from this, they probably just got caught up in their own mighty egos and forgot that they were hurting someone who didn't deserve it.

I condemned their behaviour because it was thoughtless and hurtful. However, thousands of people (how many of them had listened to the show?) complained to the BBC. It isn't clear what they were complaining about: that the BBC broadcast a cruel prank; that there was sexual content; that it tarnished the memory of a beloved actor.... I don't think it matters. What they were complaining about was 'offence'. Where have we heard this before? Today, all you have to do if you don't like someone's point of view is complain that it is offensive and watch the dissenters be forced to apologise.

Don't believe me? Have a look at this:

Several comedians have been publicly criticised in the wake of the Russell/Brand business, all because of some claim of 'offence'. This particular one is typical in content but remarkable for a number of reasons.

First, I can see nothing that could particularly offend anyone other than Matthews herself . Carr expressed his opinion that Matthews is 'rough', by which I assume he meant 'unattractive'. He is entitled to his opinion and it should end there.

Apparently it didn't and he felt it necessary to apologise for any 'offence' he caused. There's that word again.

Junior Justice Minister Shahid Malik wasn't amused. I'm not sure why he felt it necessary to say so, but in his statement he managed to disqualify himself from the position of Junior Justice Minister (and MP of Dewsbury):
"The timing couldn't be worse. I think most people think it to be both sick and insensitive and people will be disgusted with him at a time when many people are looking very closely at the comic/comedian profession anyway."
I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that most people don't think it is either sick or insensitive. Shannon is surely in the hands of someone more fit to look after her than her mother. She's safe at last and we have a rare happy ending. It seems entirely appropriate for people to joke about Shannon's mother, but you know what? That's just my opinion. I can't get excited about anyone's opinion - least of all my own - and neither should anyone else. These days we are all bombarded with people who clamour to tell us we are causing offence in one way or another.

This is the analogy I referred to in the subject. The religious people who tell us what we can and cannot say and the political people who tell us what we can and cannot say are rapidly becoming one and the same. The culprit is this word 'offence' and the way we've been conditioned to respect anything that for no reason claims respect

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