Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Rant: The Mail & Morals, Sachs & Sluts, Brand & BULLSHIT.

In the midst of the worst economic crisis in living memory, one where banks are falling like playing cards into the arms of nationalisation, where the values of the international stock markets are dropping like stones, where thousands of people face a hard winter of high energy prices, fuel shortages and possible foreclosure and bankruptcy, where flash floods have trapped people, destroyed several villages in Cornwall and politicians are being investigated for serious breaches of the public trust and corruption, what is the most important phrase in the press at the moment?

‘He fucked your granddaughter.’

That’s right folks, in order to take your mind of the real problems you’re facing at the moment (as well as bolster their own falling sales) the national press – led by that bastion of right wing intolerance and ignorance The Daily Mail – decided to manufacture a controversy so inane, so absurd and yet so far reaching that the Prime Minister of the nation has commented on it, one of the BBC’s most valued and cutting edge stars has quit, the controller of the largest national radio station in the country has resigned in protest and rational people with independent thought around the country are slamming their heads on desks and fists through televisions as we speak.

A little context first. On the October 18th edition of BBC Radio 2 Russell Brand and guest co-presenter Jonathon Ross were meant to interview Fawlty Towers star (and that is the only notable acting credit to his name) Andrew Sachs. While recording the show (which was not aired live) the two were unable to get hold of Sachs, and, upon reaching his voicemail rambled a bit before Ross shouted ‘He fucked your granddaughter!’ Hilarity (allegedly) ensured. They apologised, then added fuel to the fire by calling Mr Sachs back a further two times, in both instances starting with apology, and then descending into playground humour to get cheap laughs. The BBC received two complaints. Sachs contacted the BBC and both Brand and Ross issued apologies.

I listened to the show on the Monday. I didn’t find the skit particularly funny, as it was just essentially two kids saying rude words to an older person. I found the idea of telling all about the sexual exploits of someone to a close relative to be a little tasteless and insensitive, but I can’t say it bothered me (nor am I any one to joke about tasteful humour). The sleeping giant slept, no one was bothered. Brand issued a public apology on his radio show the following week, while also criticizing The Daily Mail, who at the times were attempting to stir the story, for doing just that, as well as being prominent supporters of Oswald Mosely’s fascist Blackshirts and Chancellor Hitler’s exploits in Germany during the ‘30s.

Here things get interesting.

The Mail On Sunday (possibly with a vendetta on its mind now that Brand had once again exposed them for the racist, homophobic, right wing dividers that they are), went to town on the story, blowing it all out of proportion. By Monday morning, 10’000 complaints had been received at the BBC, despite the fact that the show was no longer available on its iPlayer service (shows remain on there for one week, and the 18th October show had been replaced by the 25th October edition). Where were all these people listening to the show, and what was their outrage?

And at this point things descend into farce.

See, none of these complaints, none of this ‘outrage’ came from anyone who had actually listened to the broadcast. They had listened to what the ever so fair and balanced tome that is The Mail On Sunday had to say, and they instantly jumped up to express their outrage. The Mail had manufactured an outrage. By Monday their papers were selling out everywhere, the rest of the Fleet Street tabloid gutter press were getting whiffs that this would be something big, and the sharks started circling. Calls for the sacking of Ross and Brand were made, demands that the BBC spend license payer’s money on tasteful programming, the Prime Minister waded into the mess (as did that ever so eager attention whore David Cameron). By Thursday the party of the opposition was calling for a formal commons debate on the matter. And I, laid back in my chair, roared:


Firstly, ALL these complaints (minus two) came from morons who had never heard the show, never witnessed the whole thing, and would never watch Brand anyway. Oh sure, The Mail and its simpering lapdogs of intolerance have hated Ross for years, finding his humour crass and inappropriate, particularly incensed by his massive pay check of £6million a year to do what they call ‘peddle smut’. Because sure, a paper that ran a glowing obituary column for the Grand Dragon of British bigotry, Bernard Manning has every right to tell other people what’s offensive or not. I had the debate with my mother, who was firmly on side with The Mail, saying it was unpleasant what they had done, and that an investigation needed to be made. I (not so calmly) asked my parent if she had listened to the program, which she said she hadn’t, and had then asked her where she had heard about it. She declined to reply, so I filled in the gap for her (knowing she reads the Mail) and her laughter, combined with the fact that she is a terrible liar, gave away everything I needed to know. She was going on hearsay and reported facts, and having her opinion fed to her rather than calmly stepping back and analysing things by herself.

Secondly, I will address these calls demanding for Brand and Ross to be fired. Well Brand, thankfully, has already seen the writing on the wall, and has quit the BBC, hopefully soon to do a national television interview where he will states ‘Fuck them’ and ‘Fuck the Daily Mail too.’ You may not like your taxpayer money going into the paycheck of arguably the nation’s most cutting edge mainstream comedy figure, someone who has bought millions of young listeners to Radio 2, a station that used to be reserved for the middle aged upward. You may also not like the comedy of Mr Ross, unarguably the BBC’s biggest star, with a Friday night chat show and Saturday morning radio heard by over 5 million people a week. You may find these people crass and unappealing, and you may not like you’re license fee being spent on them. But guess what? I think Eastenders is a steaming pile of crap. I hate the program. I think it’s cheap, badly acted, badly written, melodramatic, crass and insulting. I think it encourages people to spend their lives glued to the FICTIONAL day to day occurrences of other FICTIONAL people, and glamorizes violence and sexual promiscuity while turning sensitive issues such as race tension or paedophilia into cheap cardboard cut-out storylines that are replete with ‘juicy’ false reality that people then take on into their own lives as fact. I don’t like my license fee being spent on that garbage. But when I find an objectionable episode (that would be every one on television), I just change the channel. When I miss an objectionable episode (again, all of them) I don’t bother delving into the internet to try and find out what the fuss is about so I can be appropriately outraged. Nor do I write to the BBC and demand that stars or producers be sacked. I have a condition which prevents me from seeking out things that will enrage me and force me to call for the termination of peoples employment. It’s called common sense. The Brand witch hunters on the other hand have now robbed me and millions of other listeners of a pretty good and amusing radio show for no good reason other than they don’t like his comedy. Thanks for that.

Thirdly, I want to point out the rank hypocrisy at the heart of the Daily Mail’s coverage, and at the heart of the people that feel outraged by it. What do Joan Rivers and Jonathon Ross have in common? They both said ‘fuck’ on national television. My how people gasped! Joan Rivers said it on Loose Women of all places (and if you were outraged at that, think of what the title means. What do you think the ‘loose’ is referring to?) Jonathan Ross says ‘fuck’ regularly on Friday nights, and then said it on the radio as well! The horror. Grow up. You’re quite happy to roll out the complaints for these two naughty words (or if someone refers to those ever so unspeakable wee-wee and hoo-hoo parts) but I don’t see any of The Mail’s readers banging down the door whenever a Christian or Muslim preacher is given a national platform espouse homophobia or sexism. Or when bigots like Ricahrd Littlejohn are allowed to stoke the fires of racism and ethnic hatred that bubbles beneath the surface of many people in this country that claim tolerance. Nor did I find anyone complaining when an afternoon host on Radio 2 (I forget which one) uttered the ethnic slur ‘dago’ (an offensive term for Italians and Hispanics), and neither apologised or received more than 10 complaints. Where was The Daily Mail’s moral fucking outrage brigade then? Maybe they were too busy complaining about the number of immigrants in this country, or were trying to cook up hatred against gay friendly bars in their area, or were starting lawsuits to try and get buses banned that promote atheism as an equal belief system to any of the other popular desert myths.

Fourthly, I would like to address one person, Georgina Bailie. This ‘Satanic Slut’, who did ‘fuck’ Russell Brand, went from being someone who okayed the broadcast of the show, to being someone dismayed by it, wanting to protect her poor grandfather (who, by the way hasn’t been seen by or cared about by the British public ever since he stopped playing a racially offensive Spanish stereotype for 12 weeks 30 years ago) from prying eyes and further harm, to hiring everyone’s favourite garbage vulture Max Clifford, posing semi naked for The Sun and selling her ‘story’. Giving oh such classy interviews about how bad Mr Brand was in bed (which is far worse than merely stating she slept with him and will hopefully open her up to libel from the star), or how he was obsessed with her grandfather and his Manuel character (which I think says something about how unappealing she was in some way to the star, who – while have sex with her – could find the only interesting thing to do throughout the ordeal was to thing of Fawlty Towers sketches). Yes, what a classy, un-hypocritical human being she is. She’ll make pleas for calm, but as soon as the media bandwagon comes rolling around she leaps straight aboard with both tits out. Well Georgina my dear, don’t worry, you may be on the bandwagon now, but you’ll be evicted in about fifteen minutes.

I am outraged (in case you couldn’t tell) about everything that has been orchestrated by the out of control media. Meanwhile, as the simpering morons (that would be the wider British public) have screamed and shouted, Andrew Sachs has handled himself with class and dignity, asking only for an apology from Ross, Brand and the BBC, and that they apologise to his granddaughter for embarrassing her on national radio. That was all. No calls for anyone’s heads, no turning into an ugly, raging monstrosity demanding for a re-evaluation of the license fee, just calm, collective thoughtfulness. Isn’t that how a real British gentleman would act; with restraint and thought instead of throwing the rattles out of the pram and screaming about how society has lost its way?

And that is the final thing that is on trial here; society. This furore is entirely generational. The young people of this country (and those with half a brain) really don’t seem to be bothered by this. They may or may not have found the jokes to be humorous (I didn’t (though I found the sketch Brand created (that was cut from the show), about breaking into Mr Sach’s house to apologise, finding him and being so overcome with grief and wanting to give him some semblance of pleasure that he ends up sexually molesting him by accident to be hilarious), but they are not bothered by them. They haven’t turned into a seething mob. Meanwhile, the middle aged and elderly members of the nation are positively aghast at the whole thing (ask them why, they won’t be able to tell you (because they haven’t been told why)) and feel that the only way to deal with it is with strongly worded letters, official complaints, and pages and pages of rantings and ramblings about how low the BBC has sunk, how ‘in my day comedy was funny’ and how society is plumbing the depths of crassness for cheap laughs is the only way to deal with it. (Because people that found white men blacking up in order to talk in ‘Yes’uh masser’ voices really have every right to complain about taste). Indeed, The Mail itself seemed most angry that no one else was angry, and in turn had to rally its base of intellectually incontinent ignoramuses to shout and scream about it and to try and protect the values of Great Britain (that and the editor wanted to burn Brand for bringing up their documented support of fascism and National Socialism).

So there’s my two cents on the whole thing. I think it’s puerile, pathetic and pitiful. It deserves to be treated with critical thinking, which will expose it for the witch hunt that it is, aimed at distracting us from the big issues at hand in order to have something juicy to talk about. Economic misery isn’t as fun as Madeline McCan going missing, or public figures saying naughty words. Entirely manufactured, entirely intellectually bankrupt, entirely appealing to the worst common denominators amongst the ignorant in society and entirely full of bullshit.

The Daily Mail: ‘They fucked your country!’

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