The charity Mencap has played its time-honoured role, praising Channel 4 for its disability programming, but claiming that it would be "disappointing if these steps were undermined by providing a comedian who has repeatedly caused profound offence to disabled people opportunities to do so again".
On the face of it, Boyle and his opponents are locked in a symbiotic embrace, whereby he gives them something to do, and they serve the notoriety that keeps him in business.Yes, it’s the ‘outrage’ caused by Frankie Boyle’s (unsurprisingly predictable) comments about the Paralympics.
If he is not around, someone else will usually take his place, as happened just before the Boyle hoo-ha, when Mencap thundered about a George Galloway tweet that had drawn on the Scots football-terrace vernacular and called someone a "windae licker", and the MP for Bradford East eventually apologised.
In all this, one very British thought seems to be mysteriously absent: "Leave him – he's not worth it."Well, that’s hardly surprising, is it?
The old British ‘live and let live’, ‘I don’t like what you say, but I’ll defend your right to say it’ has been under attack from the left for so long…
But that is not the way modern Britain works. Public discourse has been largely washed of the language of ideology, social structures and the like. In its place, there stands the one shining legacy of the left's contribution to recent history: an increasingly consensual belief in the policing of language, as if rubbing out the symptoms of inequality will somehow erase their cause.You call that a ‘shining legacy’..?
Meanwhile, celebrity culture and social media elevate Boyle and his like, and you end up with a news archetype that now recurs about twice a week, when someone (usually famous, but not necessarily so) makes a questionable remark, and it all goes off. The stories flare into life, and then vanish just as quickly: they are not parables that might somehow change public attitudes, but silly spasms that fill a bit of space.Indeed! But…why aren’t you in favour of them, suddenly?
You are left wing, aren’t you?
Underneath all this, two connected issues bubble away. First, as anyone halfway conversant with social theory could tell you, there is a strong sense of these pseudo-storms obscuring real issues about people's rights, the distribution of wealth and power, and what we now call institutionalised prejudice – something neatly dramatised by the way that the Boyle hoo-ha overshadowed the inspired protest about the involvement in the Paralympics of Atos, the corporation whose contract for work capability assessments makes them a byword for the government's unforgivable treatment of disabled people.Ah. The penny drops.
Second, it seems self-evident that vigilance about "hate speech" is in danger of curdling into a state of continuing hysteria. The police – the police! – investigate "bullying" on Twitter, drunken fools who issue "racist rants" on public transport go to jail, and, in response to such lunacies, fairly unpleasant people can easily become renowned martyrs.
Put another way, while zero-tolerance comes hammering down on random targets, does Britain feel like a gentler, more accepting place? Not really.I didn’t think you wanted a ‘gentler, more accepting’ place? I thought you wanted riots and chaos ?
Such, perhaps, is what happens when you remove responsibility for human prejudice from the public realm and habitually call in the clunking fist of the state – which is a perverse consequence, to say the least.I’m confused. But I guess, ‘Better a sinner who repenteth..’, and all that…