Monday, October 30, 2017

An apt joke attracts criticism

It was a rather good joke but all jokes are dangerous these days. There were two people involved in the joke but it is interesting that only the Conservative (Gove) had to apologize.  The Leftist (Kinnock) appears to have been absolved

Michael Gove has issued a grovelling apology after he compared being interviewed by BBC Radio 4 Today presenter John Humphrys with  being sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein.

Asked by Humphrys,  "Isn't there a danger, God forbid, that we  make a politician look silly or perhaps a politician makes themselves look silly or contemptible in some way?",

Mr Gove replied: " Well, I know what you mean. Sometimes I think that coming into the studio with you John is a bit like going into Harvey Weinstein's bedroom".

"John goes way past groping, way past groping," former Labour leader Lord Neil Kinnock, who appeared alongside Gove, added.

"You just pray that you emerge with your dignity intact... but the broader point is that yes you can make a fool of yourself," Mr Gove continued.

The Environment Secretary and Lord Kinnock's remarks led to laughter and applause from the programme's live audience, which had gathered at Wigmore Hall for a live celebration of its 60th anniversary.

However, their remarks quickly drew widespread ire - including that of BBC 5Live presenter Emma Barnett and fellow politicians.

Gove's Tory colleague Anna Soubry wrote that the joke had "insulted victims of rape & other sexual assaults & perpetuated pathetic notion that these crimes are not to be taken seriously, while Barnett tweeted : "Cabinet Minister’s bantz about Weinstein. Probably just locker room chat. Silly me".

Lord Andrew Adonis, a former Labour education minister, added: "Seriously inappropriate ‘joke,’ sums up a discreditable episode of  self-congratulation".


A comment by English libertarian Sean Gabb:

Earlier today, the 27th October 2017, the Conservative politician Michael Gove compared being interviewed by John Humphreys to being taken into Harvey Weinstein’s bedroom. Everyone laughed until some radio presenter called Shelagh Fogarty set off a virtue spiral with claims that the joke “trivialised” victims of sexual assault. The ritual condemnations rolled in at once, and Mr Gove apologised.

Probably because no one else was willing, I was begged to go on BBC Radio 5 this evening and discuss the matter with Miss Fogarty on the Stephen Nolan Show. I finally agreed.

The points I made were these:

That Mr Gove had used a rhetorical trope called hyperbolic simile. Whether or not it succeeds, this tries to be funny by making an incongruous comparison. An example I gave on air was that “listening to the BBC is like having two wisdom teeth extracted.”

That everything has been, is and ever will be made a subject of humour. This is not to say that the joker is in favour of assaults against life and property.

That a country can be seen to be taking leave of its senses when jokes become dangerous.

Miss Fogarty’s eventual response was to say how long she had been a woman and how difficult this had been: and Mr Nolan went into a fit of virtue-signalling in which he repeatedly spoke over me. I declined his veiled invitation to tell a joke about rape.

Instead, I pointed out that satire in this country has died for two reasons. One is that the “brave alternative comedians” of the 1980s have become po-faced commissars, enforcing political correctness. The other is that it is impossible to satirise a satire, and that modern England has become a vast open-air festival of satire.

And that was it. I was switched off, and Miss Fogarty and Mr Nolan continued agreeing that jokes are no joking matter.


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