Was it something I said?

The UK’s version of the US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is called Ofcom.  I bring this up because Ofcom initiated an investigation of an actress for something she said on a late-night comedy program about wishing Prime Minister Boris Johnson died during his recent battle with COVID-19.

First, the offense.  Speaking from her kitchen because of the coronavirus lockdown, Miriam Margolyes described the UK government’s handling of the pandemic as “a disgrace” and “a public scandal” and then added:

I had difficulty not wanting Boris Johnson to die, I wanted him to die, and then I thought that reflects badly on me and I don’t want to be the sort of person who wants people to die. So, then I wanted him to get better, which he did do, he did get better, but he didn’t get better as a human being and I really would prefer that.

Her remarks were widely covered by the UK press and elicited 494 complaints to Ofcom which launched “an initial investigation,” concluded last Monday:  she will not face “an official investigation.”  Well done there.  I mean, honestly, I fail to see the basis for even one complaint, let alone 494; she found herself hoping the Prime Minister, whom she clearly disagrees with, might die and didn’t want to be someone who would hope such a thing at a time when it quite literally could have happened and so she stopped herself hoping it, perhaps because she realized that whatever her disagreements with Johnson and the Tory (conservative) party, she recognized that hoping a human being might die is horrible.  Where exactly is the problem?  She was being honest and truthful.

Said one Op-ed:

Perhaps some people didn’t believe she stopped hoping it. But then they’ve only got her word for it that she hoped it in the first place. Are people cross because she might have lied about her hopes? Presumably not. Presumably they’re mainly cross because she told the truth about her hopes. They think she should have kept her horrible hopes to herself. Or do they actually take issue with her right to hope what she hoped? Do they think that someone who could hope a nasty thing like that shouldn’t be on television no matter what they say?

Anyway, she’s been “cleared”. But I don’t love the sound of that. Someone on television honestly expressing the moral complexity of their feelings at an exceptionally difficult time has been condescendingly told, a month later, that actually that was OK after all. Of course it was OK! The very idea that it’s not OK is what’s not OK!

The Orwellian nature of the whole affair got me to thinking about my own group of friends where we have discussed wild fantasies, and they are just that, about how the current administration in Washington DC might end.  Mine is that both President Trump and Vice President Pence will be rushed to Bethesda Naval Hospital where their acute COVID-19 infection will require them both to be admitted to the ICU where they will be intubated — Trump by a black female doctor, Pence by a very effeminate gay doctor — as they watch Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sworn in as President according to the Presidential Succession Act on television.  Should I be investigated for thinking this would be a suitable comeuppance for the President and his obsequious side-kick?  Is it a more serious matter if I say it out loud?  How about if I print it on my blog?  Is the seriousness compounded if I am famous?

Clearly, a debilitatingly ill Trump would be a scary thing for his children and likewise a hospitalized Pence would cause his wife considerable distress — they are after all human beings with family and friends, just as Boris Johnson is.  But what gets lost in the outrage over the way a thing is said is the truth of the matter.  Recent weeks have shown this president to be an unapologetic racist and a not-so-closeted fascist, just as they have shown Pence to be the perfect lackey:  praising what is not praiseworthy, defending what is indefensible, and pandering to an ego-maniacal narcissist, his boss.  Are my criticisms more appropriate spelled-out thus as opposed to my attempt at creative humor — a racist misogynist relying on a black female to save his life, or a homophobic bigot relying on a queer to save his?

A bedrock principle of any democracy, be it the UK or the US, is freedom of speech, and that includes the right to be critical of those in power.  I would imagine those readers who share my political leanings found my ventilator fantasy amusing, at least I hope they did.  Likewise, I’d expect those who lean the other direction did not find it funny at all.  But if that is the extent of our argument the discussion is limited to style and not substance.

missing the point

De gustibus non disputandum est is a Latin maxim meaning "In matters of taste, there can be no disputes.”  For all the manufactured outrage in the world today, are we missing the point?  Or avoiding it?

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