Over the weekend much ribaldry was had with and among the usual suspects on the Twittersphere whose utter refusal to be offended should be applauded and held up as an example to all. At the very heart of Englishness is Tommy Atkin’s trench humour, the ability to poke fun at the devil himself and make light of any disaster. Nothing – and I do mean nothing – should ever be considered to be beyond parody or too sensitive to be the subject of derision for comic ends. Of course there is the issue of taste and timing but no matter how lewd, crass, angry, vindictive or even plain untrue the joke, it is entirely a matter of personal choice whether you don the victim hood and take umbrage.
When I was growing up one of the staples of the comic repertoire was the German joke: Bosch, Fritz, Square-headed sausage-eaters and hanging out the washing on the Siegfried line were all perfectly fair game. Two world wars and one world cup, no gag in which German efficiency was ridiculed was verboten. And the Nazis themselves were ripe for ridicule. You could even joke about the concentration camps; ordinary kids did so in playgrounds up and down the land and it was okay because it was just words and we had won the war. At least we thought we had. So where did those proud if crude principles go? When did it become not okay to joke about absolutely anything and who got to decide exactly what was off limits?
The media currently has a massive hard-on for Ukip once again, as if at some silent command they all sent out their flying monkeys to gather up any snippet, any ancient, yellowing copy that could be spun as some form of hate propaganda. If you were incapable of critical thought you’d have to conclude – from the evidence proffered - that every single malcontent harbouring racial violence had signed up to don swastikas, click their heels and salute Farage the Führer. So when Ukip’s Newport branch sought to appeal to the British funny bone in a Dad’s Army nose snub to the EU’s invasive ambitions it was a gift to the self-appointed arbiters of taste and reason. Even the Daily Mail, a vast majority of whose readers will naturally be Ukip sympathisers got in on the act.
Do those in government and the mainstream media have the first clue about the true leanings of the majority of the white working class? Not all working class people are Labour voters either; the self-employed have naturally strong Tory leanings even if they don’t necessarily recognise it. If every nouveau-racist (Today that is anybody white who generally prefers to be amongst people like themselves, is vaguely uneasy about our porous borders, distrusts the federalists of the European Union and fears for the employment prospects of their own children.) were to abandon their tribal vote and switch to Ukip the resulting demographic breakdown would look exactly like the one that supported every administration there has ever been since universal suffrage.
The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of American states:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Frau Merkel's Express?
And over the pond they are serious about it. Here in the UK our freedom of speech used to pretty much take care of itself but in my lifetime it has never felt as threatened as it is right now. Jokes, especially, should enjoy particular exemption from censure because if you can’t point and laugh at race, sex, disease, disability, birth, death, fame, fortune, ambition, luck and incompetence, then all of those things possess the poison to hurt you. The very same people that are getting their knickers in a twist and condemning Ukip for making a perfectly acceptable joke out of Hitler and the EU would, without a trace of irony, round up the ‘Kippers and march them off to the gas chambers.