With the recent news that a man in the UK has been charged for teaching his dog to do a Roman salute (perhaps more commonly known as a Nazi salute) and reporters such as Lauren Southern being denied entry to the UK for criticizing Islam, I think now more than ever it is important to discuss why being able to say whatever the fuck you want is essential. Before we jump right in, it’s important to acknowledge one thing: I’m not encouraging anyone to be offensive. There is a HUGE difference between thinking someone should be able to say anything and actually pushing hatred, violence, racism, sexism, etc. None of the people I mention in this post have pushed any of these things. Just to clear that up at the start!
Why Does It Matter?
You may be wondering what difference it makes. Perhaps you’re even thinking that if somebody is offensive, they should be charged. Let me explain why that idea is moronic. For starters, where do we draw the line? Can anybody just come forward and claim to be offended? Can I get someone charged if they leave a mean comment on my blog? What if they name their dog Jesus and I’m a die-hard Christian, can I get them charged? What if I believe unicorns rule the world and someone criticizes my belief system? You may be thinking that these examples aren’t comparable to a dog doing a trick…so let’s discuss that.
What the fuck is offensive about a dog doing a Nazi salute. Do you want to know which comedians have done Nazi salutes in the past? A fuck ton of them! When I take a look at some of my favourite comedians or comedy groups (such as Billy Connolly or Monty Python) I can think of several examples where a Nazi salute has been done for comedic effect. Now, if you’re training your dog to do that and then running into synagogues with your Nazi uniform and Hitler mustache -wearing dog, then I can see why that could create a problem. That’s a bit different from a dog being taught it to annoy the owner’s girlfriend. I mean sure, the video was on YouTube…but there are videos on YouTube far more offensive than that. There used to be a Jim Jeffries video on YouTube where he calls his microphone Muhammad and claims it’s a gay microphone. Yet I guarantee that he isn’t getting charged over it.
The Death of Comedy
You may think that comedy is simply a form of entertainment. When you need a laugh, that’s what you go for. But for decades now it’s comedians who have highlighted aspects of our society that are fucked up. Quite often we find comedians entertaining because they say some of the things we’ve been thinking. They can offer a social commentary unlike any other media outlet and also…they are funny (I mean that is their job). There are times when you laugh even though you know what you’re laughing at is offensive as hell…but so what? You’re not signing up to the KKK or joining a Hitler fan club, you’re watching a comedian in an environment where you’re simply trying to laugh. Is that such a crime? Being offensive isn’t on the same level as being evil or a criminal. Have we as a society forgotten that?
If we start censoring the jokes that comedians can tell then (and I hate when people say this because it always seems to over-dramatic but…) we’re one step away from 1984. If journalists can’t criticise religions then how long until the general public can’t? How long before we have to accept every aspect of every religion? It’s apparently not offensive to tell someone that they are going to burn in hell for all eternity for being a sinning piece of shit…but if you say that the Bible is immoral or that Muhammad consummating his marriage to a 9 year old is sick then suddenly your “crossing a line”. Is that really the path we want to go down? Banning journalists form your country in order to protect people’s feelings is fucking stupid!
Once the Greatest, Now the Most Criminal
One major aspect of this that worries me is that many of the greatest comedians of all time are offensive. Don’t believe me? The Rolling Stone website listed the ‘Top 50 Best Stand Up Comics of All Time’ and despite the fact that I’ve only watched about half the comedians, I know that 8 of the top 20 are offensive. I don’t mean that they may be offensive to some people. The 8 I am referring to are brutal! I mean take a look at the list for yourself and tell me that many, if not most of these comedians are offensive. Are we seriously suggesting that the road we want to go down is one that turns these people into criminals?
I know, I know, I’m perhaps sounding a bit on the crazy side. The truth is that being offended is entirely subjective. What offends you might not offend me and so how are we supposed to live in a world where being offended trumps everything else? Soon we’ll all be scared to leave the house out of fear that our presence alone might offend someone. Courts will be convened to determine who is the MOST offended in order to press charges. We’ll have prisons set up entirely for offenders (pun!). We’re creating a society of fragile glass people who crack from opposing opinions.
Ricky Gervais: Humanity
I started writing this post before watching Humanity but now that I’ve seen it, I feel like I have to include a small section in here to highlight some aspects of it. Ricky Gervais is outrageous, he’s famous for it. His hosting of the Golden Globes made it spectacular but also sparked controversy. He made a joke regarding Caitlyn Jenner. He wasn’t being transphobic in the slightest (if anything he was being entirely respectful of her transition) but was instead using stereotypes surrounding women drivers. I won’t write the full joke but after highlighting how brave Caitlyn Jenner is and complimenting all of her successes over the years, Ricky Gervais goes on to say “she didn’t do much for women drivers”. In case you didn’t know, she hit someone with her car and they died.
I was completely unaware that Humanity had been slated for its offensive nature when I started watching it. My first question would be: why would someone who is easily offended watch a comedian who you know for a fact is going to be offensive? Anyway, a lot of the criticism was based around Gervais being transphobic, racist, sexist, etc. Did he perhaps take a few low blows? Sure…but he also manages to make an incredibly valid point within his stand-up: If you label people like him transphobic for making a joke about a trans person (NOT about the fact that they are trans or anything related to their previous gender), you take away meaning behind the word and as such, people who genuinely are disgustingly transphobic get grouped in with comedians. It’s sort of like calling some who smokes a joint every once in a while a drug addict.
What you have to take into account is that 1) We have no control over what we find funny. Why do we find people taking a shot to the nuts funny? It’s fucking agony and can cause serious damage. Yet when you see it happen, you laugh. 2) Comedians wouldn’t be comedians if they didn’t have an audience so don’t watch their shows, don’t watch their interviews, don’t tweet about them, write about them, see any films their in…if they lose an audience, they’ll stop. So if you don’t find a comedian funny, there is your solution! 3) You are allowed to be offended but you don’t have to ruin the enjoyment for others. There are plenty of comedians who have entire bits making fun of Scottish people and Scottish culture but I don’t start a petition to have them jailed because of it. Hell, some of them are hilarious!
Context is VITAL!
One aspect of comedy that everyone seems to forget is the context. You don’t go to see a comedian because they are kick-starting a hate group or because you want to devote your life to their teachings. You go to see comedy to laugh and as such, anything you hear or see is designed to achieve that outcome.
Take, for example, the detaining and banning of Lauren Southern and her “accomplices” from the UK under the terrorism act. If you went by the reports of “the law”, she is banned entry for distributing racist material. Firstly, you’re not racist for commenting on a religion. I’m not racist for saying Jesus looked like a weed smoking hippy! Secondly, her flyers simply said “Allah is gay”. Now obviously, these are meant to be provocative, despite what anyone may say. They knew there would be a reaction from these fliers which was the entire point of the exercise.
However, you have to consider the context as well. Southern and her team were carrying out a “social experiment” in an effort to highlight that Islam and LGBT don’t go hand in hand, despite what many claim. By calling Allah gay and getting a reaction (you can find the video here) they believe they proved their point. For the record, I don’t have a dog in this fight. I think there are always going to be consequences when you’re intentionally provocative. That being said, banning a respectable journalist from the country for it is ridiculous and beyond unreasonable. This stunt may have been a bit “on the line” but Lauren Southern as a reporter does an excellent job of providing a non-mainstream news outlet. Something the UK is in DESPERATE need of (I’m looking at you BBC).
Once again let me just reiterate that I’m not condoning randomly shouting abuse at people. When I say that freedom of speech is essential, there can be consequences. To use the Lauren Southern example, I think it’s completely fair to put an end to their experiment for the sake of public safety. The police have the right to do that and given the situation, I think that it was understandable. Similarly with Count Dankula and his Nazi saluting dog, I think it’s more than fair to remove the video from YouTube, perhaps (and this is a stretch) give him a warning of some sort…but charging him with a hate crime which could potentially result in a prison sentence? No. If he was doing the same thing in Germany, that would be a completely different story…but in Scotland? Fuck off!
Why is it that religious freedom is now more accepted than any other freedom? I’ve been told that I’m going to hell on several occasions. I’ve seen signs from several different faiths claiming that homosexuals are sinners (and will burn in hell for all eternity) and that those who don’t believe in, follow and worship [insert some irrelevant deity here] will also…you guessed it…burn in hell. Calling someone gay is now classed as inciting hatred, being racist and an act of “right wing terrorism” for some fucked up reason. I have to say that if I was religious, I’d be a lot more offended by someone telling me my God was a lie and that I was going to be tortured for all eternity for it than someone calling him gay…
You’re probably wondering if there is any point to anything that I’ve written here. The truth is that this is the only way I can show some sort of support for the idea of free speech. I don’t think that offending someone is a criminal act. My logic is that by expressing my opinion and sharing it with the small number of followers I have, I might be able to at least show one side of the coin. Most of this is nonsensical ramblings but if even one person reads this and thinks “actually, he has a point” then I’ve achieved what I set out to.
In all honesty I am ashamed that my country would take these actions and all I can do is shake my head. Following the UK news is like watching a time-lapse of coastal erosion or melting icecaps. You know that you as one person can’t do anything to change it, so you simply watch in despair as houses collapse off cliffs or polar bears stand stranded on an iceberg. Thank fuck that I don’t live there anymore! The sinking ship has been abandoned!
Thanks for reading! Do you think I missed anyone out? Who are your favourite actors from your country? Let me know down below!
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I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.