Are Brits too quick to take offence and condemn?


2:50 pm - December 8th 2011

by Chris Dillow    


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Take four recent developments:

– Joey Barton provokes “fury” by saying that suicide is selfish, with some of his critics invoking the weasel work “inappropriate“.

– Over 30,000 people complain to the BBC about Jeremy Clarkson’s “shoot the strikers” comment.

– Luis Suarez gives Fulham fans the finger, and they faint like Victorian spinsters.

– Emma West has to spend Christmas in prison, supposedly for her own safety after she gets death threats for her racist rant.

These events all tell us something sad about the British people – that many of us have become illiberal prigs, quick to take offence and to condemn.  I suspect there are three related pathologies underlying this:

1. Narcissism. Events are interpreted through a me, me, me prism. They give us the opportunity to demonstrate our delicate sensibilities and our “moral compass.“  This approach excludes curiosity. It stops us asking: “why did s/he do that?” (The answers are, in order, because: he’s got a point; he’s got a book to sell; he’s been abused for the last hour; she’s probably mentally ill.) We are all newspaper columnists now – in the sense of having a self-absorbed moralistic incuriosity.

2. Infantilism. We have become like children, desperate to seek protection against things that upset us. We’ve lost Samuel Johnson’s manly attitude to freedom: “Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth, and every other man has a right to knock him down for it.” Instead, we now look to the “authorities” to knock him down.

3. A hatred of disorder. Richard Sennett has described how people respond to chaos and uncertainty by constructing a “purified identity”. Instead of embracing uncertainty and learning from it, “threatening or painful dissonances are warded off to preserve intact a clear and articulated image of oneself.” This warding off consists of demanding that dissonant experiences be suppressed.

I say all this for a reason. When I said yesterday that the public’s hostility to redistribution was due to cognitive biases, some rightists replied that this was typical lefty arrogance. But what they ignore is that public attitudes are also hostile to liberty too. For me, both are a matter for regret.

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About the author
Chris Dillow is a regular contributor and former City economist, now an economics writer. He is also the author of The End of Politics: New Labour and the Folly of Managerialism. Also at: Stumbling and Mumbling
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Reader comments


?”The tabloids used to be adept at whipping the public into an infuriated frenzy: now we do it to ourselves.”
http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2011-12-04/charlie-brooker-on-black-mirror,-twitter-and-the-media

Cut out and keep guide to how to be angry on twitter
http://loveandgarbage.wordpress.com/2011/12/01/cut-out-and-keep-guide-to-how-to-be-angry-on-twitter/

These events all tell us something sad about the British people – that many of us have become illiberal prigs, quick to take offence and to condemn.

I think this has more or less always been true hasn’t it? It’s just that (regrettably perhaps) the views of the ‘silent majority’ aren’t particularly silent any more. Lets blame Twitter, that’s always good for a laugh.

3. Man on Clapham Omnibus

Personally if we had a society based on people of my class,attitude and political sensibilities I think society would be a much better place. As to chaos anyone looking at my front room will know I embrace it.
Dont even speak to me about that women who Sunny and I and any resonable person would ensure was universally villified, humiliated and thrown into jail. Hanging is just too good for some people. Now having said that I’m off to play with my trains.

Or perhaps the newspapers and other commenters blow up everything in order to attract attention and thus revenue. By all accounts the Clarkson flap was selectively quoted in order to generate outrage from people.

The right wing can dish it out but they can’t take it. The right attacks the left for so called political correctness, but hides behind terms like decency, and standards.

The same people who think jokes about brown skinned people and woman work themselves into a frothing rage if you do jokes about the royal family.

No real surprise. Hypocrisy is the major charcter defect of most on the right wing.

Cylux,

Or perhaps the newspapers and other commenters blow up everything in order to attract attention and thus revenue. By all accounts the Clarkson flap was selectively quoted in order to generate outrage from people.

Well, the infamous video only shows the second part of the conversation.

8. Chaise Guevara

People are far too quick to take offence and censor. Also, this article should be erased from the site and never spoken of again because of its unacceptably sexist use of the term “manly”.

Ahem. I agree with you on points 1 and 2, but think point 3 is conjecture. If I declared that the sky was green or that Pot Noodles are the most delicious food in the world, people wouldn’t scream that I should be silenced.

I certainly think that censorship should never be a first resort, and that however offensive you find someone’s views or language, that shouldn’t make you feel as if you can gloss over any substantive points they make.

I think you’re right – and the most disturbing aspect to this is that people are so keen to be offended they often ignore the facts becoming offended by what they think Clarkson probably said rather than what he did say, for instance.

There also seems to be an increasing unawareness (is that a word?) of the effect these ludicrous spasms of rage have.

The day after a historic strike action that, I hope, will prove a turning point in the fortunes of this government, every paper carried a picture of… Jeremy Clarkson.

How did he become the story? By people who were supposed to be in favour of the strikes taking time out of their busy days to ensure they were taken off the front pages. Thanks guys.

Had very similar thoughts, but a slight quibble: is it really illiberal to take offence?

It doesn’t imply that you want to ban something or sack someone. It might mean that you want to persuade them to behave in a way that you consider less obnoxious…

@7 Indeed, I doubt that’s an accident either.

12. Alisdair Cameron

While the author makes some good points, I’d say also that the extent is overplayed. All of these instances received heavy meida (inc social media) coverage, thereby acquiring a momentum of their own. Are they indicative of some shift in general attitudes among the 65 million people in the UK? Almost certainly not: what could be the case is that they were considered newsworthy by a narrow few editors, vested interests etc, and they then engendered a reaction from some, the same people %age wise who would have got worked up in any period of history, just their outrage/condemnation is more visible and more easily communicated these days.

So the Clapham Omnibus goes via Kennington, then?

14. Tax Obesity, Not Business

I agree with you about narcissism and infantilism. Together they have resulted in a victim being the thing to be: being a victim gives you a kind of status, particular in left-liberal circles. Taking offence readily on other people’s behalf allows you to share vicariously in their victimhood status. Taking offence personally or vicariously is also a way of attempting to shut down discussion.

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 12 Alisdair

True; note that the OP cites 30,000 complaints as a large number. Absolute figures aren’t actually very helpful. It would be more useful to know what percentage of people watching the show complained, or how many complaints were made (after the story got out and people who hadn’t seen the show complained) as a percentage of the population.

Then again, how many complaints does it take to get a show taken off air, or someone less powerful than Clarkson fired?

16. Chaise Guevara

@ 14

You were doing so well until you tried to make out this was a left-wing disease. How many left-wingers do you think complained about that advert showing two men kissing? How many left-wingers do you think complained about Frankie Boyle’s graphic joke about the Queen?

The maximum number of complainants here is 30 000, less than 0.5% of the British population, so we cannot say that public as a whole are hostile to liberty, but would have to say a particular subset are hostile to liberty. Furthermore, this hostility was towards a particular expression of liberty that offended them, not the concept of free speech, so we would have to say this subset of the population are not universally hostile towards liberty (for a start, the same subset may support Messrs Barton or Suarez).

So what we can say is that a small subset of the British population, who need not be representative, are hostile towards liberty when it offends them but need to be hostile to liberty in a liberty versus control argument. And to make your final argument weaker, the largest subset of the population displaying this limited hostility to liberty was actually likely to draw its membership mainly from the same (somewhat larger) subset of the wider population that do support redistribution, as it is likely that the majority of the offended 300 000 were either associated with the unions or of that mentality that sees Jeremy Clarkson as some form of evil, both of which are likely (but not invariably) positions that coincide with supporting redistribution.

So the good news is we can avoid having to try and apply psychological theories to a sociological field (are you sure about this?), as the problem you identify doesn’t actually exist, and the closest you get to the problem suggests a corelation between belief in redistribution and belief in limiting liberty, although that might just reflect the samples we are using.

Just because a paper says “outrage” doesn’t make it so.

Over 30000 complained, or in other words over 62188761 didnt.

Fulham fans didnt faint, why use a satirical piece of fiction as evidence.

Is 300 odd words really enough to describe the mindset and why this maybe for 60 million people?

Chaise,

You were doing so well until you tried to make out this was a left-wing disease. How many left-wingers do you think complained about that advert showing two men kissing? How many left-wingers do you think complained about Frankie Boyle’s graphic joke about the Queen?

I think your criticism depends on how you read ‘particularly’, as there are clearly left-liberal groups who do fetishise offence in a way that right-wing groups generally do not – but my view here might be because I do not see conservatism as a particularly right-wing virtue (I know too many racist, homophobic left-wingers – obviously not left-liberals though…). It may be I am downplaying the existence of religious groups and the like on the right, but to be honest they are an American, not a British, phenomenon, and the major churches in the UK are hardly given to right-wing positions.

20. Chaise Guevara

@ 19 Watchman

He’s talking about the fetishisation of perceived victimhood, not offense, which is very common in right-wing circles too (both conservative and libertarian). Actually, they’re common in ALL circles, that’s the point. Playing the victim is one of the oldest tricks in the book; even if someone doesn’t feel sympathy to you for it, they might be wary of criticising you in case they look bad.

It’s just irritating how many people on LC can’t agree with an article without adding the caveat: “of course, this is really a problem with people who disagree with me…” Confirmation bias, anyone? These threads abound with pointless mass ad homs against “the left” and “the right”.

19 As usual you talk crap. The right is the most politically correct. But it has not the guts to call it that. Hence it hides behind decency, and standars.

But your post demonstrates the rights fantasy world wher it thinks its superior to others. No surprise from people who think they are born to ru

Nobody does victimhood like the middle aged white male. It is the basis for Clarksons entire act. “Poor little me can’t speed, and drink drive where I like.

Racist! 1%er! Boil them in oil! I bet they will find a way to blame the jews!

Chaise,

You’re right there actually – I was so focussed on what the probably meant I missed the victimhood rather than offence substitution.

Sally,

Grow up – both sides of the political divide have plenty of illiberal fools who oppose liberty, of those who insist on ‘correct’ manners or the like and of professional bigmouths who make a living out of saying things (often which they deliberately ham up). The issue here is not right versus wrong, but whether Chris is correct that the public are in general wrong.

25. Man on Clapham Omnibus

I think the pathological approach has a certain number of limitations. Ultimately all people see the world from their own standpoint. Philosophically we have moved little from the fundametal strictures of Decartes in this respect. In so doing individuals are naturally conservative and interpret the world from their experiences or from information which generally reinforces those experiences. Rather than disorder I would suggest people are resistive of uncertainty and change, particularly changes they do not understand. Is cognitive bias just a fancy term for all this.If so it gets us as far as the now defunct term ‘false consciousness’.

26. Man on Clapham Omnibus

@13 I think you meant Kensington. But if you didn’t the 109 will get you there!

I think it’s true. The outrage sometimes dwarf’s the crime that was commited. The ross/brand/sachs row did’nt stop even after andrew sachs got his appology and said he was happy. It can be oh so tempting to sing to the media’s chosen chorus.

I don’t think either left or right has a monopoly of feeding frenzies and I have an instinctive horror of them whatever the source. Having said that it seems entirely reasonable on a liberal sight to treat the beam in our own eye as a priority. I was embarrassed at how many dutifully agreed to rise to Clarkson’s childish bait and boost his DVD sales but I’m appalled that two young children are going to spend Christmas in care because their 40 watt bulb mother happened to have her bad day captured on youtube.

Dont need to grow up. Just need tory hypocrites to be more honest.

The rights humour levels are very juvenile. Fart jokes, and bongo bongo land is about their level.

Tom: Had very similar thoughts, but a slight quibble: is it really illiberal to take offence?

It doesn’t imply that you want to ban something or sack someone.

Agreed. When I took offence at Clarkson’s comments, some people on Twitter said how this compared to my view on racist Tram woman. I pointed out that I simply didn’t want the law involved in either case. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have the right to be offended by either incident. Surely the illiberal act would be to get the law to ban either of them?

also, the `herd’ mentality. Safety in number’s.

Where the state passes laws to legitimise the taking of offence and to punish offenders, the increasing infantilisation of society becomes exaggerated. Thus, homophobic or racist offence is taken to be of, somehow, a different order of insult to any other.

And not just in Britain.

It was almost amusing to see the appalling Sepp Blatter having to apologise in the face of a global tidal wave of criticism after he suggested that one player’s comment to another, in the heat of battle, might be sorted out with an apology and handshake after the match.

And yet…….

Fuck off, you fat/little/jock/ginger/dego/paki/black bastard.

These are all expressions you might expect to hear on a football field when one player runs his studs down the shin of another,and all refer to the physical or ethnic characteristics of the tackler, yet only the last two (or possibly three) would be considered to be “illegally” offensive.

Yet is it not likely that Anton Ferdinand has noticed that he is black, Luis Suares knows he is of Mediterranean descent and Alex McLeish would be unsurprised to be referred to as a ginger Jock?

And would “fuck off you poof” be considered homophobic only if the player concerned was openly homosexual?

Frankly, who cares? We all need to grow up.

@ 27

The outrage sometimes dwarf’s the crime that was committed.

Disablist comment, I’m afraid.

Suuunnneeee!!!!!

34. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

I was embarrassed at how many dutifully agreed to rise to Clarkson’s childish bait and boost his DVD sales

I don’t think that’s exclusive to either ‘side’ in this particular debate though is it.

Clarkson is an act, he’s realised he can capture the lucrative ‘embittered white man’ market if he pretends to be a bit of a twat and in fairness he’s very good at it. This is particularly evident if you go back and watch the early series of ‘new’ top gear where he’s nowhere near as bad.

However, the sort of people who can watch an old man pretend to know something about cars for an hour whilst moaning about lesbian cyclists are just as desperate to buy into that persona as unison were last week.

http://www.sabotagetimes.com/life/why-i-feel-liberated-by-clarksons-anti-pc-tirades/

For me the Clarkson thing was more about the BBC than Clarkson. Would the BBC allow a left wing comic to go out at 7pm and do jokes about Thatcher’s death?

Case closed your honour.

Alan Sugar never said anything on air that was political ,yet the whinging tories had him hauled of TV during an election. Yet they allowed Clarkson to write a piece in Top Gear magazine during the local election which was political in content. As always with the conservatives it is the hypocrisy stupid.

36. Tax Obesity, Not Business

@16:

OK, fair point. I’ll withdraw my “particular (sic) in left-liberal circles” in 14.

However, right-wingers complaining about Boyle’s jokes or pictures of men kissing is an example of offence taken by people at something they disapprove of. It’s not to do with playing the victim or sharing in an oppressed group’s perceived victimhood: it’s more that they think male homosexuality is immoral or that criticising the Royals is disrespectful and anti-British.

@20: “He’s talking about the fetishisation of perceived victimhood, not offense…”. Actually, I’m talking about both. Many animate their sense of offence by fetishising perceived victimhood.

The fetishisation of victimhood is worthy of more discussion. Curiously, it seems to lead to a form of exhibitionism in which people compete with others to be seen as greater victims and more oppressed. Gays used to be quite prone to this; but as homosexuality becomes more accepted, and most people cease to be concerned with what others are doing with their genitals, it seems to be diminishing. The disabled lobby strikes me as increasingly prone to this I-am-more-of-a-victim-than-you stance.

36 “However, right-wingers complaining about Boyle’s jokes or pictures of men kissing is an example of offence taken by people at something they disapprove of. ”

Thanks for making my point troll. That is conservative hypocrisy in all it’s glory

Interesting OP. I thought I was the only one being driven nuts by these shrill calls to censure and ban. Last friday night I listened to the worst hour of radio I’ve ever heard, when Stephen Nolan on Five Live was trying to get Jeremy Clarkson sacked for his crass comments about people commiting suicide under trains.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/dec/03/jeremy-clarkson-people-trains-selfish

Owen Jones who writes on this website was Nolan’s guest on the show and he too was condemning Clarkson in the strongest manner. He was completely appalled he said.
It really was the worst bit of radio I’ve ever heard, and Nolan continued to bleat on about it the following night and kept giving out the Samaratans number and actually said he didn’t even want ”to promote” throwing yourself under a train as a pretty good method of commiting suicide so didn’t want to talk about the numbers of people who do it. And was inviting people to phone in with suicide stories.
It was dire, and quite exploitative I thought.

The John Terry ‘racism on the fotball pitch’ case is showing Britain up to be a laughing stock (IMO). It’s pathetic that the police want to bring a criminal prosecution.
As bad as the tram woman being in prison.

I see the original post does a link to Spiked-online and Frank Furedi.
They have been ”banging on” about this kind of thing for years, as can be seen from that 2003 article. But they are usually ignored out of hand on LC, or dismissed as ”contrarians”.

Liberal Conspiracy played it’s part in the Clarkson ”shoot the strikers” fiasco, even when it was more than plain that the guy was just being his usual self and certainly didn’t mean it. It was refered to in an OP here as ”dog whistling”.

@35. Sally: “For me the Clarkson thing was more about the BBC than Clarkson. Would the BBC allow a left wing comic to go out at 7pm and do jokes about Thatcher’s death?”

In the early hours one morning in 1990, Channel 4 broadcast a Yugoslavian “art film” which showed penetrative heterosexual intercourse. I missed it and have always wondered why it was not shown a few hours later as part of The Channel Four Daily. Typical Channel 4.

@34. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells: “However, the sort of people who can watch an old man pretend to know something about cars for an hour…”

Less of the “old man”, please. Not because I am offended, but because it is inaccurate. At 51 years of age, Clarkson is about half way through his adult life. The odds are that he has another 20 or 30 years to actually learn about his subject.

41. Chaise Guevara

@ 24 Watchman

“You’re right there actually – I was so focussed on what the probably meant I missed the victimhood rather than offence substitution.”

Looking back, it was my fault – I made the switch from victimhood to offense in the post you replied to.

42. Chaise Guevara

@ 36 Tax Obesity

“However, right-wingers complaining about Boyle’s jokes or pictures of men kissing is an example of offence taken by people at something they disapprove of. It’s not to do with playing the victim or sharing in an oppressed group’s perceived victimhood: it’s more that they think male homosexuality is immoral or that criticising the Royals is disrespectful and anti-British.”

OK, but many right-wingers play the victims too. Take “I live in this country but they give all the benefits to immigrants” or “the soldiers fought to defend us and now these hippies are having a go at them for it” or “I work hard only for the government to take all my money and spend it on slackers”.

Some or all of those might not be the version of right-wing that you personally identify with, of course, but that’s the point.

43. Chaise Guevara

@ 28 Jimmy

“I don’t think either left or right has a monopoly of feeding frenzies and I have an instinctive horror of them whatever the source. Having said that it seems entirely reasonable on a liberal sight to treat the beam in our own eye as a priority.”

Fair point that, but only if it’s not misused. I don’t particularly want to be held to account for other people’s negative behaviour just because they and I both use the term “liberal” to describe ourselves.

@OP, Chris Dillow: “Narcissism. Events are interpreted through a me, me, me prism. They give us the opportunity to demonstrate our delicate sensibilities and our “moral compass.“ This approach excludes curiosity. It stops us asking: “why did s/he do that?” (The answers are, in order, because: he’s got a point; he’s got a book to sell; he’s been abused for the last hour; she’s probably mentally ill.) We are all newspaper columnists now – in the sense of having a self-absorbed moralistic incuriosity.”

I follow the argument until Chris mentions newspaper columnists.

Newspaper columnists are not necessarily incurious. They might write some headline raising drivel after researching the background. Acknowledging the limitations and incomprehensibility of privacy law and libel defence in the UK, I expect that newspaper columnists understand it a bit; or that they have lawyers to proof read. The facts are somewhere…

With blurry eyes, please switch your focus.

The rough stuff is daily elsewhere. Tweeters and Popbitch commentators are unmoderated, and their “knowledge” becomes “truth” by transmission.

Newspaper columnists might report a hypothetical story of Chris Dillow disavowing his love of Leicestershire with this comment of mine: “Dillow does not rate Soulsby”. I think that my statement is true, but I can’t prove it. It is an opinion.

Soulsby might challenge me because his supporters rate the opinions of Dillow highly.

Dillow might argue that his blog never mentions Leicester city governance explicitly.

Just argue and think and shake hands, acknowledging that you still think and feel differently.

One major problem is commentators. A few decades back, how many commentators would you have had? A few on the Times, a few on the Guardian…Now we have a small private army on Comment is Free alone. They have to get outraged at silly things; even if there are subjects their colleagues or their rivals on another paper haven’t covered, they’re too ignorant to explore them. Outrage is easy.

46. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

Less of the “old man”, please. Not because I am offended, but because it is inaccurate. At 51 years of age, Clarkson is about half way through his adult life.

With his weight? Don’t fancy his chances.

51 though – would have had him down for knocking on 60.

The odds are that he has another 20 or 30 years to actually learn about his subject.

Pah, namby pamby nonsense, learning about stuff is for yoghurt munchers, real men read from a press release.

@46. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells: “With his weight? Don’t fancy his chances.”

Rich, tall with a touch of aristocracy (perhaps, sneering). Those genes or social attributes do you good for longevity. His down attribute is smoking.

@45. BenSix: “Outrage is easy.”

Journalism is hard. It is easy to write. It is harder to write something so that an editor says “Just look at this, please.”

49. So Much For Subtlety

16. Chaise Guevara

You were doing so well until you tried to make out this was a left-wing disease. How many left-wingers do you think complained about that advert showing two men kissing? How many left-wingers do you think complained about Frankie Boyle’s graphic joke about the Queen?

Don’t know. But this woman has been jailed. Glen Hoddle got fired.

The Left’s intolerance is vastly worse than the Right’s. They think it is reasonable to bring in legal penalties. The Right by and large does not.

Even if the Right did, they would not get their way. Frankie Boyle? Still working on the BBC I notice. Bernard Manning was denied airtime for decades. Despite being hugely funny – voted in the Top Twenty all time greatest comedians I think, even though he wasn’t allowed near TV programmes since the 1970s. When the Right is offended by something gross – bad comments about someone’s grand daughter for instance – the complaints amount to nothing.

This is true right across British life. Frank Ellis states his belief that Africans aren’t very smart. He is fired despite his tenure. Eric Hobsbawm devotes his life to Stalinism – including supporting a German victory over Britain in 1940 – he even says that the murder of millions is justifiable. He continues to teach, honoured by all. Zygman Bauman goes one step further – he works as a political officer in Stalin’s Army, and then joins the Polish offshoot of the KGB to hunt down his fellow Poles who oppose Stalinism. Still there, admired by the British Left. They don’t care about the blood on his hands. All Ellis did was express an opinion.

We have British journalists who accepted money from the KGB and its offshoots. They are in perfectly good stead with the Left. Although in fairness Richard Gott did resign as an editor over payments from the KGB. But it is held against people like Cameron that he once took a study trip to vastly less bloodthirsty and democratic South Africa.

We have British politicians who proudly supported the Soviet Union still in good standing with the British Labour Party. While, of course, Enoch Powell was forced to resign over a few words.

Like it or not, this is a party political matter.

50. Chaise Guevara

@ 49 SMFS

“Don’t know. But this woman has been jailed.”

No, she’s in police protection. It’s things like this – twisting the truth until it becomes a de facto lie – that make me disinclined to trust the things you say.

“Glen Hoddle got fired.”

Yeah, that was pretty unreasonable. Was it the left that did it, though? I thought the left was all about freedom of religion.

“The Left’s intolerance is vastly worse than the Right’s. They think it is reasonable to bring in legal penalties. The Right by and large does not.”

What legal penalties, beyond upping sentences for existing crimes (which I agree is unreasonable)? You can’t go to jail for racism.

“Even if the Right did, they would not get their way. Frankie Boyle? Still working on the BBC I notice. Bernard Manning was denied airtime for decades.”

I think Bernard Manning’s shtick was considered offensive by a broad swathe of the population. He was working in the wrong era, not on the wrong side of the political divide.

You seem to be assuming that the left has a monopoly on disliking bigotry. It doesn’t.

As to the rest of your post, you MAY have a point. I’ll think on it. However, given your usual approach, I suspect that you’re either quoting selective examples, attributing examples to “the left” without good cause, or both.

I heard Victoria Coren call for the extermination of children who make a nuisance of themselves on transatlantic plane flights in the programme Heresy on Radio 4.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b017x0vt

“children have an excited wonder about the world around them which is marvellous to behold, unless they’re sitting next to you on a transatlantic flight, in which case I say – “smother them”.” (12.20)

I think this is a tongue-in-cheek tentative testing of the waters following the Clarkson affair. As yet, I see no mustering of outrage against her by the offendorati. Shortly afterwards she approaches another big taboo, she says “You blame it all on Jesus (Lucy Porter having said ‘I blame it all on Jesus’), David blames the Jews, Richard, it’s your turn with the Muslims”. To mention Islam or Muslims in a comedy programme is very daring, even if the person addressed does not take up the challenge. There is loud laughter in the audience when she says this. I would surmise that Richard, and others made some interesting gestures or grimaces. It would have been nice to see them. Incidenttally, any idea when the Muslim answer to Life of Brian, namely a pastiche on the life of Mohammed, is coming out? No, no, it’s OK folks! I was just joking!

52. Chaise Guevara

@ 51

“Incidenttally, any idea when the Muslim answer to Life of Brian, namely a pastiche on the life of Mohammed, is coming out? ”

It’s been out for awhile. Buy it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Satanic-Verses-Salman-Rushdie/dp/0963270702/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323425781&sr=8-1

Glenn Hoddle? The England manager that the Sun and others had long been baying to be sacked on account of not delivering the world cup, until the convenient excuse to attack him due to his religious beliefs came up? That Glenn Hoddle?

Personally it looked more like a callow attempt by right wing newspapers to occupy the “moral high ground” with pretences of actually being offended by what he said, while getting exactly what they wanted:- ie another England manager destroyed after they’d built him up. But ymmv.

I think the point about whether any of the people are mentally ill – and hence what we get is a mob of people poking fun at and attacking someone who really should be deserving of a quite different reaction – is an important one.

That’s why I’ve stopped laughing at the stories about daft 999 calls as I fear too often it means laughing at someone for being ill: http://www.markpack.org.uk/27807/ive-stopped-laughing-at-funny-999-calls/

“Are Brits too quick to take offence and condemn?”

Yes, this last week or two have been a stain on the reputation of the public, especially the Left who I always considered to be more reasonable and less knee-jerk than the right…but clearly are not.

56. Leon Wolfson

No, far too little. We should be standing up to the Tories.

57. Shatterface

Yes, this last week or two have been a stain on the reputation of the public, especially the Left who I always considered to be more reasonable and less knee-jerk than the right…but clearly are not.

This has never been a left-right issue, it has always been left/right authoritarian vs left/right libertarian issue.

Manufactured ‘offence’ has always been the wedge through which authoritarians force through censorship.

As Stephen Fry says, ‘You’re offended – so fucking what?’

58. Shatterface

It’s been out for awhile. Buy it here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Satanic-Verses-Salman-Rushdie/dp/0963270702/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1323425781&sr=8-1

No, thats the Muslim answer to Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.

I want to see Katy Brand’s The Imam of Dibbley though.

59. Chaise Guevara

@ 58 Shatterface

“No, thats the Muslim answer to Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.”

I assumed that the product in question didn’t literally have to be the Muslim version of Life of Brian. Although that could potentially be interesting.

60. Tax Obesity, Not Business

Chaise Guevara @ 42:

“OK, but many right-wingers play the victims too. Take “I live in this country but they give all the benefits to immigrants” or “the soldiers fought to defend us and now these hippies are having a go at them for it” or “I work hard only for the government to take all my money and spend it on slackers”.”

I don’t disagree that many right-wingers play the victim. But I think we are now talking about definitions – about our respective use of words rather than about things or behaviour – of ‘a grievance’ or ‘playing the victim’.

The tedious saloon-bar statements you list seem to me to be examples of grievances (legitimate or not, according to your point of view) rather than examples of playing the victim card.

The middle one, in particular, misses your mark, as it’s a grievance about lack of respect for an institution and its members who largely serve nobly the ignoble ends of their political masters. I see no hint of claimed or vicarious victimhood in it, but perhaps I’m missing something.

61. So Much For Subtlety

50. Chaise Guevara

No, she’s in police protection. It’s things like this – twisting the truth until it becomes a de facto lie – that make me disinclined to trust the things you say.

No she is not. She has been denied bail. Despite asking for it. Because of death threats. Threats we can assume do not come from the Right. She is, as I said, in jail. That is where they put people who have been denied bail.

Yeah, that was pretty unreasonable. Was it the left that did it, though? I thought the left was all about freedom of religion.

Since when has the Left been about freedom of religion? Most attacks on religion have come from the Left since the French Revolution. That was not noted for its tolerant approach to Christianity. France has struggled with the Catholic Church ever since – but only from the Left. Communism was worse.

It was unreasonable, and can you think of anyone on the Right to led the way?

What legal penalties, beyond upping sentences for existing crimes (which I agree is unreasonable)? You can’t go to jail for racism.

Yet. You can however be fired, evicted and otherwise driven from your employment. As we have seen any number of times. You can be fined. The situation in Canada is worse where you can be denied the right to speak in public ever again on certain topics. But we are getting there.

I think Bernard Manning’s shtick was considered offensive by a broad swathe of the population. He was working in the wrong era, not on the wrong side of the political divide.

His schtick was offensive. But I don’t recall the Right demanding he be banned. What is more, he was voted by the British public to be one of the greatest Stand Ups of all time, so he was offensive to a large swathe of British people. Just the educated London-based elites I expect. Enough to get him banned from the BBC. Unlike Frankie Boyle or Jonathan Ross and his grotesque side kick. Who were also offensive to a broad swathe of the British population.

You seem to be assuming that the left has a monopoly on disliking bigotry. It doesn’t.

I agree. But the Left tends to think this is dealt with by law which the Right tends not to. Which is why it was a Labour government that introduced the last effort to restrict free speech with the Religious Vilification Act.

As to the rest of your post, you MAY have a point. I’ll think on it. However, given your usual approach, I suspect that you’re either quoting selective examples, attributing examples to “the left” without good cause, or both.

Think away. In the meantime name me three right wing sociologists still working in Britain. I will point you again to Dr Bauman – hero of the Left – despite the fact that he has actual genuine blood on his hands. To the general indifference of the Left. That a BBC reporter and now Green candidate took free holidays from the East German government? No problem for the Left at all. The Left continues to defend Cuba. The list goes on and on and on.

62. Chaise Guevara

@ 60 Tax Obesity

“I don’t disagree that many right-wingers play the victim. But I think we are now talking about definitions – about our respective use of words rather than about things or behaviour – of ‘a grievance’ or ‘playing the victim’.

The tedious saloon-bar statements you list seem to me to be examples of grievances (legitimate or not, according to your point of view) rather than examples of playing the victim card.

The middle one, in particular, misses your mark, as it’s a grievance about lack of respect for an institution and its members who largely serve nobly the ignoble ends of their political masters. I see no hint of claimed or vicarious victimhood in it, but perhaps I’m missing something.”

This is all special pleading – you’re just using the terms “playing the victim” and “a grievance” to describe the same behaviour in different people. It’s No True Scotsman – the moment I provide an example of a right-winger playing the victim, you declare that this isn’t REALLY playing the victim and push it into this new category.

The “victim” claim in my three examples, in order: claim of being unfairly deprioritised, claim of being unfairly criticised by ungrateful people, claim of being “robbed” or at least treated like a cash cow. The last example is especially instructive as it’s often used by people who earn six-figure salaries to claim that they’re being forced to pay money they “can’t afford” to support people who earn a pittance.


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Are Brits too quick to take offence and condemn? http://t.co/WsSXdyrK

  2. Bleam

    Are Brits too quick to take offence and condemn? http://t.co/WsSXdyrK

  3. Jonathan Watson

    RT @libcon: Are Brits too quick to take offence and condemn? http://t.co/jcAtpxvN << No!!! How DARE you say that!

  4. Jamie

    Are Brits too quick to take offence and condemn? http://t.co/aY6O0m8D





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