Should people be banned from telling certain jokes; or, to put it another way, should people be banned from laughing at specific jokes? In the early books of The Bible (which I have recently re-read using the brilliant Catena app which has great commentaries from the earlier scholars of the church), God keeps taking offence because human’s keep offending. I must confess that when people started to become offended with Jimmy Carr’s new show, I started watching it. That is typical, as with Lady Chatterley’s Lover; once it got banned, everyone wanted a copy. I also must confess I got bored within five minutes of Carr’s stand up, and his well-known strangled dolphin laugh, like I get bored with Ricky Gervais who I find just as smug. There is an irony here, as both sides of the debate believe they are right. Personally, I am a fan of Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle. I can’t remember all his offensive jokes; they are legion. I just remember one was about disability. My son is disabled. Do I have more of a right to be more offended? Anyway, I don’t believe at the time of the media onslaught I was. Significantly, Boyle is a well-known political commentator as well, unlike the other comedians mentioned.
Once we start claiming areas are no go areas, then we are in the realms of the thought police which, another irony you may note, is akin to fascism. In the days of Nazism, the state controlled all media with the repeated propaganda of the righteous part of this. Is this what people want? Rather like the British Board of Film Censorship (BBFC), often it is the BBFC that orders censorship of films, whereas internationally no other country does. This was the case for the American film Kids (Larry Clark, 1995) which I have published on.[i] Are we a nation that is so sensitive, prudish, and easily offended that we need protecting? I never got as far as Carr’s controversial joke, so I am not defending him at all. I was merely bored, so I switched off. My central point here is the amount of noise that gets generated by the offended is drowning out everything else, so what is that noise doing? We can no longer have a dialogue. Each side has a heightened monologue through a battle of words and no one learns anything. And maybe that’s what those in power want, to keep people ignorant so nothing changes with the final irony being that those exploited remain exploited.