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Thursday, February 24, 2005
Home thoughts from a broad

One of the most interesting things about travelling abroad is to see how much home news is reported there. While in Australia, I listened to Aussie news – mostly arts orientated – and found that there were two items of note. The first related to Germaine Greer’s experiences with Celebrity Big Brother (predictable because of her Australian nationality) and the second, not so predictably, to ‘Jerry Springer – the Opera’.

The general Australian reaction to the Jerry Springer business was amused disdain, a view I shared completely. Here are two Airstrip One: opinion pieces.

This one, written before the broadcast, takes the pragmatic view:
It is going out at 10pm, after the 9pm watershed, with plenty of warnings about its content. No one has to watch it.
Quite. On the other hand, Mary Kenny takes the view that
God is big enough to look after Himself,
[assuming, of course, that s/he (tut tut Mary) ‘exists’], before going on in approbatory fashion about the protests.

The logical position on swearing is straightforward: it is totally absurd to have a whole set of words that everyone knows but no-one must say. I can understand people being outraged if offensive language is addressed specifically to them. This goes for non-swearing offensiveness too. However, whatever the nature of the material, if it is expressed generally, when people have the opportunity to ignore or turn away from the offending material, there is nothing to complain about.

The furore seems pretty futile; it looked even more ridiculous from a distance. I find it silly that slang words that describe nice things (‘fuck’ & ‘cunt’) become proscribed. It is far worse when moral arbiters want to interfere with artistic expression. As I said, it’s absurd to have a set of words that everyone knows but no-one must say; if you know the words you are already corrupted; if you don’t, there’s no harm done. But this one won’t go away. How about this?
A militant Christian group behind an email campaign which bombarded the BBC with 50,000 complaints over the screening of Jerry Springer - The Opera has pressured a cancer charity into refusing money raised from a gala performance of the musical.
Seen from Down Under, a country where ripe language is common, causing little offence, the objectors are merely silly. I wonder what they’re making of the way in which this issue continues to run. And as for the Ken Livingstone affair, words (almost) fail me. Perhaps a limited amount of regret is in order. However, it is clear from the recording that Ken made his rather inane comment before learning that his tormentor belonged to that privileged group, consisting of oversensitive twits, calling itself ‘Jewish’. (Why did the idiot reporter have to reveal that he was Jewish?) It would not now be inappropriate for the Mayor to tell his critics, Tony Blair included, to fuck off. Go on Ken, I dare you.

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