Sunday, 29 March 2009

No Joking Matter

There is currently a debate on BBC1 about "should gay jokes be banned". From what I gather there is legislation that is about to be debated that would include make it illegal to joke about gay (and trans) people.

Also I switched channel last night and saw a bit of "Live at the Apollo" where the guy was doing a joke about this saying that it would be good if the government allowed jokes about "the gays and transgendered", the example he cited was "if you take a girl home and find she has a cock you want to be able to have a good laugh about it".

In concert with the recent episode of the ITV show "Moving Wallpaper" which has probably been discussed to death on other blogs, I did feel a bit offended at the stereotype - particularly as both of these propogate stereotypes that are not true for myself or my close friends.

However, I quickly realised that this debate is really about censorship and is ultimately a test of my opinion that there such be universal freedom of speech. I remember reading the notes about a secure internet network that was completely against censorship and it cautioned that you must accept that there may be things on it that you may find offensive and you really had to believe that this is acceptable. It's hard to stick to this view when it's you that is being 'attacked'.

I don't buy the argument in the TV debate that the legislation is about "incitement" and not about jokes. It's very easy for someone offended by a joke to easily argue that it is inciting hatred in others without any absolute measure. Some would argue that a representative jury in such cases would convey the meaning of this that society in general accepts. Not sure this would happen and even if it did you're going to spend lots of money on jury trails for things that shouldn't be an issue.

Another example cited in the programme was a woman who write an opinion about gay couples adopting children; she was phoned by the police and questioned after someone (presumably gay or disagreeing with her point) complained. This shouldn't happen. Just as I want to be free to live my life and hold my opinions without interference I have to say I strongly support the right of others to do the same, even if there are contrary to my views.

Again, the legislation seems to be seeking to prosecute on "thought crime". I don't like being sniggered at or joked about, it hurts. However, I do have the power to joke and snigger at the people that do that to me for being small-minded, low-IQ, bigots. As long as both sides stop at writing/talking then I guess that is just something that has to be tolerated and society needs to mature as a whole.

Everything at the moment seems to be about protecting people from themselves in some ways - what they read, see, hear. At the slightest offence there is the knee-jerk reaction to ban anything that may repeat the same experience. And this is from all groups, it's almost like you are only officially a minority if you can get your own legislation banning hate speech about you.

Enough is enough.

Money, time, and effort would be better spent on tackling people that commit actual crimes that really do hurt people (abuse, violence against LGBT people for example) and on positive education about different lifestyles and tolerance than trying to stop people thinking/saying what is on their mind.

As the saying goes "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" - stop trying to twist that last bit by saying "Ah, but they can if ... " (insert "they incite hatred" etc after that) and take it literally and move forward.

1 comment:

LucyTolliday said...

The section has yet to pass through the House of Lords which rejected it last time.
I did see the same joke, while cringeing at perpetuation of a stereotype it wasn't nasty in the same way as moveing wallpaper.