A pink beret was whisked off the head by a masked hoodlum. Its owner, unencumbered by his stiletto heels, chased the thief along the pavement and retrieved the cherished item. After an admonishment of ‘How very dare you?’ our have-a-go hero made his way through a modest crowd at Parliament Square, to deliver his latest sermon against British democracy. Another day in the life of Eddie Izzard, fighting lost causes with unflinching flamboyance.
In the past, such a scene could have graced an episode of Monty Python, or perhaps Carry on Demonstrating. I found it hilarious (with a happy ending), yet the media either chose to look away, or to blandly report a crime. Move along now, nothing to giggle about here. Whatever happened to the British sense of humour?
Newspapers must be careful, and so must we. Eddie may have a thick skin under his foundation and blusher, and he would probably laugh off any disparaging remarks about his lady wear. But do not underestimate the vicarious offence contrived by others. It would have been difficult for the Daily Mail to cover this story without generating dozens of complaints to the press regulator. A mere aside on Mister Izzard’s choice of lipstick would be extrapolated as an insult to all cross-dressers or differently-gendered, incurring a wave of sanctimonious wrath.
An incident involving anyone of protected attribute cannot be described with critical candour, whatever the relevance of the story to their unconventional characteristic. By contrast, consider the response if a protester had nabbed Jeremy Hunt’s scarf outside a hospital. The Guardian would be cock-a-hoop, and the assailant would be fêted. No card could be played for pale, male and stale Jeremy, who must take it on the chin. He is not allowed to be a victim, unlike the immunity afforded to the trans wardrobe troupe. This is the web that has been spun by identity politics.
As a comedian remarked, mocking right-wing views is satire, but belittling beliefs of the Left is hate crime. Victimhood, where it is sanctioned, has never been so powerful. Opponents of politically correct doctrines of diversity and special rights for minorities are cast as stuck-in-the-mud bigots, who stubbornly block the road to a multicultural, gender-fluid Utopia. Yet the progressive struggle seems to be getting harder. These backwoodsmen worked out how to use Facebook and Twitter, and even to run websites, and consequently the liberal glow of the internet has been darkened.
Recently I bought Time magazine, drawn by the headline ‘Why we’re losing the internet to the culture of hate’. I knew what to expect from this bulletin of the liberal-Left, but the article was so ridiculously biased that I have not tittered so much since the heyday of Viz. Trolls were defined categorically, without exception, as rabid right-wingers. Everything they write is hate. Forget the cesspit of jihadists and bullies of the hard Left, online vitriol is the preserve of homophobia, misogyny and racism. This not just speech – it is a form of violence. How would you feel if mirth was made of the colour of your beret? Surely the culprits should be banished from social media.
‘Reclaim the internet’, say the illiberal Left. This is of course futile, like Jeremy Corbyn’s digital policy to nationalise cyberspace. Nonetheless, laws can certainly be devised and applied to satisfy an authoritarian and censorial establishment. A straitjacket for dissidents is already in use. Recently, police in Glasgow issued their THINK guidelines, whereby internet users should ensure whatever they type is True, not Hurtful or Illegal, and Necessary and Kind. This came with a sinister warning that people should use the internet ‘safely’, or risk a visit by officers, who were ‘continuing to monitor social media and investigate any offensive messages’. If Glaswegian bobbies have time after feeling the collars of local scribes (Ken MacIntosh of this parish, beware!), they might apprehend the entire Conservative Woman authorship. See you all in Barlinnie…