Janey Godley is NOT the victim in this story

When a series of racist, ableist and homophobic tweets, messages and comments by comedian Janey Godley came to light this week it surprised a lot of people. She had been riding the limelight in recent years and had become a regular in everything from National Theatre Scotland productions to public information films. It’s hard to imagine how all this could have happened without even a modicum of background research or ‘due diligence’ but it did. Anyone who had cared to, could have found the offensive material easily, it wasn’t hidden away, it was not from an earlier time when language and societal norms were different, and it wasn’t from her reckless youth. It was consistent, across all of her work from podcasts to social media, and run right up until 2017, just about the time when her “Trump Is A Cunt” placard had elevated her profile significantly.

I do not have anything to add to the many who have analysed her deeds and motives, from political chancers to amateur psychologists. I don’t have any demands or calls for cancelling. What I want to do is look at how Scotland and in particular Scottish Twitter has reacted to the revelations. That has been revealing and, in some cases quite shocking to me. I am going to concentrate specifically on her many racist “quips” which is where I stepped into this after initially refusing to comment or get involved. When I saw a video of her “apology” in a newspaper, her opening sentence angered me. The issue, to Godley, was that “as a comedian” she had assumed that nobody would take words or phrases “out of context”. What a shame, if only we put those words back in context everything would be fine again, right? Wrong, the context was that she was using racist terms for laughs. When her co-host on her podcast says “you can’t say that” referring to Godley’s question “isn’t he a Tinker Gypo?” she says it again, they both laugh, and move on. This was a podcast, not a live blooper, it could be edited, but it was left in, like so many other comments, over such a long period, up until relatively recently. This was an ongoing deliberate part of the act, not a mistake – THAT – is the context.

Of course, there are other contexts to why this has blown up so quickly and, it seems, so devastatingly for Godley. Firstly, the launch of an official Govt. video re COVID featuring Godley who, until now, had played the role of voiceover comedian making people laugh at the serious Govt announcements on the pandemic. This was quite a step but it did put her up there as a Govt spokesperson with the scrutiny that comes with it. This meant that, for some, this was about criticising the Scottish Govt. There is nothing wrong with that but, beyond pointing out that it was a stupid appointment and calling for Godley’s removal from the campaign there isn’t much mileage in it, it’s not exactly a “heads will roll” moment. It is, after all, just an actor in an advert, Godley wasn’t appointed to a ministerial role in the new SNP/SGP Govt. Some opposition politicians gleefully embarked on a campaign of anti-racism from a position of being blind to any perceived problem on their side, as if racism in Scottish politics began and ended with this. This led to counterarguments from SNP supporters, how can you complain about Godley when Douglas Ross also has a history of problematic racist remarks re Scotland’s Gypsy Traveller communities. When it comes to racism, whataboutery is a parlour game for white people. At some point it would seem, a gong will go and scores will be tallied up with both sides claiming victory, like a by-election result.

The worst of the whataboutery moments was, in my opinion, the many who imagined that calling out Scotland’s only black Govt Minister Humza Yousaf was some sort of gotcha hot-take. To those triumphalists it would seem that Yousaf calling out racism in the past was a problem that could only be rectified by him admitting that some on his side were also racist. As if this would be news to him, as if he doesn’t know that these problems are rife and underlying throughout our society.

The Second “context” to this was that it came after the previous week had seen an unedifying ding-dong between supporters of football teams trying to prove that the other lot were also racist, that somehow their own fan’s racism becomes acceptable if they can show that many others are also bigots. Again, Yousaf was the focus of much of this. The motivation seemed to be finally put him in his place, how dare he speak about racism anymore if we can show that everyone is at it. Scottish twitter became like a game of chess where all the pieces are white, the actual victims of the abuse, the black, Asian, Muslim, Traveller people and communities could sit back and watch while everyone went overboard trying to highlight other examples of racism or somehow prove that they were the real anti-racists – not that other lot. And watch was all they could do because they were not being asked to comment or reply.

Everyone could clearly see the hypocrisy in those whose Twitter handles carried union flags and orange lilies becoming warriors against racism, some who got equally as animated by other campaigns such as Ban the Bhurka or angry about refugees getting benefits. Seeing hypocrisy is one thing, how we deal with it or call it out is another. The jarring result of this was people who would normally claim to be anti-racist, actually complaining about others complaining about racism.

That sort of reaction led to the third worrying aspect of this for me, Godley’s defenders and those who wanted her rehabilitated and restored quickly. Those people would again ignore the real victims and make sure that it was Godley herself who would be seen as the victim in all of this.

This is very typical in Scotland’s tiny arts village, we have seen it happen so often when it comes to racism and other forms of discrimination such as homophobia. When it turns out that one of your own is on the dark side, excuses are made, origin stories are spun, the Scottish Twitter wagons are circled.

I can understand why people do this, often it’s a very basic instinct of solidarity and protection, often it is a worry for the well-being of the person involved caught in a storm of their own making but without the means to steer themselves through it. But to me, what is wrong with it, is doing it publicly. By all means, reach out to your friend, make sure she is OK, ask what you can do to help. But taking to the internet in her defence, before anyone has addressed the actual issue – the racism – is ill-judged. By doing that you are taking space away from those who are the real victims.  We often think that these “casual” “throwaway” racist phrases and words have not hurt an individual and therefore the concerns for the victims are maybe less urgent. But that’s how racist language works, it’s constant, it’s everywhere, it’s every day. The damage is long term, it’s an undercurrent, it’s insipid, it drip feeds into everyday attitudes and allows these words to become acceptable and the norm. But it is also instant, every time. As an example, I saw a tweet from a Tory politician with a letter attached. He was calling for a theatre to drop Godley from her role in their forthcoming panto in Aberdeen. I also saw a reply from an SNP politician claiming this was unfair, a witch-hunt against Godley. Meanwhile, a Traveller woman that I know from Aberdeen was planning to take her grandchildren to the panto as she would every year. Following the leak of Godley’s podcast “Gypo” comments, she had decided to return the tickets this year. She wasn’t calling for Godley to be cancelled but didn’t feel she could take part if Godley was on the stage. When the theatre did cancel Godley she decided that the family could safely go to the show. That’s the reality for the victims of racist “comedy” – they have to make decisions about this stuff all the time. Not to score points or look good on social media but because it is the day to day reality for them in Scotland. While the white twitterati search for the outcome that suits their political party or preferred football team the victims carry on and nothing, absolutely nothing, changes.

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Comments (55)

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  1. Doug says:

    I think it’s very interesting that there doesn’t seem to be a byline on this story.

    1. Jim Monaghan says:

      two things Doug. Firstly it was just a slip, author is added now (it was me). Secondly, what is that interested you about that?

      1. Doug says:

        What interested me is that at first glance without a byline it was an anonymous attack on an individual. And that seemed no better than another anonymous twitter troll given leave to to look at 10 year old comments for something to be offended by.

        I don’t know how old you are, but I’m certainly old enough to remember the abuse that we used in the playground and the pub that I would never use now.

        I’ve changed and so has the language I use. So has Janey’s.

        How about we look at what people say now?

        1. Christie Williamson says:

          In what way does this article represent an attack on an individual? It reads more like a condemnation of racism to me.

        2. peem birrell says:

          If you could be bothered to read the article you would know that we re not talking about 10 year old tweets but stuff continuing right up to the present. But our Government never does due diligence on anything and certainly not on the crawlers and chantywrasslers who sook in with them.

  2. SleepingDog says:

    The panto… worse than Twitter, responsible for many a childhood trauma, and feels like an eternity in hell? I take the point about the degrading pattern of closing ranks.

    1. Derek says:

      “The panto… worse than Twitter”

      Oh no it isn’t!

      1. Niemand says:

        Ha ha! I think the best comment ever on BC.

  3. Bingo Demagogue says:

    Janey Godley performed a specific Populist propaganda function for Nicola Sturgeon – “Folksy man of the people Posturing” (By proxy).
    This is the tactic Alexander D’Pfeffle uses with his character “Boris”. It’s what Trump did serving Fast Food hamburgers at the Whitehouse. It’s Nigel Farage being photod with a fag and a pint. She also overlapped with the populist propaganda function of ‘vulgarity and Outrageous behaviour’. This allowed our middle class lawyer first minister to tweet out as a Glasgow Fishwife.

    As you say, Godley’s racism wasn’t an accident comment, it was a deliberate part of the act.

    Similarly, she didn’t become Nicola Sturgeon’s alter ego *despite* the crudity – but rather because of it.

    1. Anon says:

      I heard that Donald loves his Mac Donald’s not because of a man of the people image but because he knows he can send staff to buy it and it won’t be spat in like if he went for a sit down meal in a restaurant or from the Whitehouse kitchens. Seems like a legitimate concern. I know I’d do worse to his patty.

  4. Peter Barjonas says:

    A comedian is a comedian. If you want to book the act then, surely, you should know what you are getting! Otherwise, your due diligence is at fault. This is because a comedian is a comedian both in past and present!

  5. Time, the Deer says:

    I agree with the argument behind this article, and would never think of trying to excuse Godley’s comments, but I still find it disturbing how viciously she has been attacked online – routinely, mostly by men of a certain demographic, both now and in the past. There is a parallel with the regular online hounding of Humza Yousaf, which is clearly fuelled by racism – to claim otherwise is disingenuous in the extreme. With Godley these people misogynistically view her as somehow ‘lesser’ to them – working class, ex-barmaid, troubled childhood history – and therefore fair game to be ‘taken down’ or ‘destroyed’. What’s more they all seem to take great pleasure in it. Would the reaction really be the same if she was a middle-class man? Similarly I think we can all recognise that Yousaf wouldn’t get nearly as much hassle if he was a white Presbyterian. You’d be forgiven for thinking that social media brings out the playground bully in everybody…

    1. Jim says:

      How to say all Rangers fans are racist without saying all Rangers fans are racist . Tarring everyone with the same brush because of a few only highlights your own intolerance.

      1. Time, the Deer says:

        I didn’t mention Rangers once. Have you maybe replied to the wrong comment pal?

    2. Axel P Kulit says:

      “Would the reaction really be the same if she was a middle-class man?”

      I note the absence of condemnation of Johnson’s “letterbox” and “Picanniny” remarks, among others, suggesting this is concocted in order to attack the SNP indirectly.

      Or it may just be a case of one law for the Tories and another for everyone else.

      1. Time, the Deer says:

        I think Godley’s remarks deserve condemnation, and I’m not sure this was ‘concocted’ to attack the SNP – although it’s certainly been taken as an opportunity to do so since by the usual suspects. Re: Johnson though – exactly. He makes it to PM, Godley has her career ‘cancelled’ – misogyny and classism in action.

  6. Malcolm says:

    Really disappointed that the writer had to utilise the pathetic “second context” the marches in Glasgow next week will surely provide him with context. I have not read anything about the supposed tit for tat battle going on between two clubs supporters? On the other hand i, and thousands of others, have seen film one sub-set of one clubs fans marching through Glasgow, singing a song which a Scottish court, in 2009 – 12 years ago!- deemed racist. Are we turning into Westminster, with its dyslexic understanding of democracy, when the police (upholders of the law) ignore the duly recorded legal definition, and only manage to arrest a handful of the many that were there? Something of a double standard here?

  7. Stephen Cowley says:

    I’m surprised to read that Humza Yousaf is black. I thought his family background was from north India or Pakistan.

    1. Mons Meg says:

      ‘Black’ is a social construct. In the United Kingdom, ‘black’ was historically equivalent to ‘person of colour’, a general term for non-European peoples. Nowadays, the preferred official umbrella term is ‘black and minority ethnic’ (BAME), but sometimes the term ‘black’ is used on its own to express unified opposition to white racism, as in the Southall Black Sisters, which started with a mainly British Asian constituency, and the National Black Police Association, which has (according to its own website) a membership of ‘African, African-Caribbean and Asian origin’.

      1. Stephen Cowley says:

        My impression is that the terms black and white are used quite differently in India:
        I do think things have changed in my lifetime in the UK too. Ethnic preference is a human universal, but as you say, it gets constructed in different ways in different societies.

        1. Mons Meg says:

          Yep, and we’ve constructed it as a ‘human universal’ as part of the globalisation of our European mindsets (‘colonisation’). The struggle against ‘divide-and-rule’ racial classification, and against the promotion competition between ‘preferences’ within that classification, is part of the process of decolonisation and the struggle against the European hegemony of capitalism.

          1. Stephen Cowley says:

            That sounds a bit like saying that we “constructed” sugar as part of the globalisation of our European mindset, because say, we now include cane sugar in the concept alongside beet sugar and this facilitated the colonisation of Jamaica, where sugar cane was grown. I guess that might be true, but all the same, sugar is a real thing and a natural kind and we use our concept of it when we study human nutrition or international trade and when we go to the shops. So we can still be entitled or obliged to make judgements about human nature and natural kinds in order to understand the world, even though the concepts we use – “race”, “capitalism” etc – have a history that we might not like.

          2. Mons Meg says:

            ‘So we can still be entitled or obliged to make judgements about human nature and natural kinds in order to understand the world, even though the concepts we use – “race”, “capitalism” etc – have a history that we might not like.’

            Indeed, we’re obliged to construct a reality out of the welter of chemistry that constitutes consciousness or experience, and we do so by filtering that data through differentiating concepts (‘self/other’, ‘natural/artificial’, ‘human/non-human’, ‘black/white’, ‘male/female’, ‘straight/gay’, ‘good/evil’, ‘Left/Right’, ‘material/ideal’, ‘sweet/bitter’ etc., etc., ad nauseum), concepts that are supplied by the language in which we’re encultured.

            ‘Reality’ itself is thus only ever a socio-linguistic construction, a product of our encultured understanding, an interpretation. The dominant reality in the world today – e.g. the reality of a universal human nature that’s divisible into various kinds according to ‘race’, ‘sex’, ‘gender’, etc.; i.e. the reality of biological essentialism – is not an *absolute* reality, but only the *contingent* reality with which we in the West have succeeded in colonising the world as part of the globalisation of capitalism by masquerading it as absolute.

            The realisation that there’s no absolute reality, but only a plurality of contingent socially-constructed realities, is what’s meant by ‘the death of God’ I keep banging on about.

          3. Stephen Cowley says:

            If I even ask:
            is “The realisation that there’s no absolute reality” itself recognition of an objective or absolute truth, or just a subjective experience?
            I have shown that this scepticism is self-refuting.

          4. Mons Meg says:

            As a truth, scepticism is indeed paradoxical. But we don’t present it as a truth. We present it rather as a heuristic, as a speculative formulation that serves as a guide to further investigation. The beauty of heuristics is that, unlike truths, which close questions down, they keep those questions forever open. Philosophy bakes no bread. But without philosophy, no bread would be baked.

  8. Niemand says:

    Context, context, context . . .

    Can you use a racist term in comedy to get a laugh or as part of a routine? To say no, never, would imply such words are somehow context free, but that is a literal impossibility. This case seems fairly cut and dried in that the specific context(s) did not justify their use, and so they become racist at the very least due to thoughtlessness, but in the right context I think they can. See Stewart Lee’s ‘Comedy Vehicle’ episode, ‘Context: he starts the routine by stating that his ‘uncle’ once produced the single most bigoted, racist sentence he had ever heard but does not tell us what it is. Then, through the 30 minute routine he uses every racist word his uncle uttered but of course in a different context and, at least to the broad minded, in a completely non-bigoted way. It is a very funny deliberate exercise in showing that there is no such thing as context-free language. I think we need to be careful in our laudable anti-racism not to inadvertently weaponise words and give them even more negative power.

    1. Mons Meg says:

      Of course, you can use a racist term in comedy to get a laugh. Comedy thrives on breaking taboos.

      In fact, isn’t there a theory that this is how comedy works; that laughter is the cathartic release of strong emotions that the taboos of our culture oblige us to unhealthily repress, and that comedy is the medium of that release?

      ‘Derogatory’, ‘politically (in)correct’, ‘profane’, ‘vulgar’, ‘racist’, ‘sexist’, ‘misogynistic’, ‘homophobic’, and other terms that are applied to chunks of language are simply descriptions of the variety of taboo that the terms in question are said to be breaking. They’re not categories of words so much as social infractions.

      In making her racist quips, Janey was maybe just breaking a taboo so that her audience could have a cathartic laugh and thereby express forbidden thoughts and feelings. Maybe it was the breaking of a taboo that made those quips funny.

      1. Niemand says:

        Yes but there is such a thing as a racist routine. There is a difference between that and breaking a taboo for other reasons. Alf Garnet was an open racist but the main target in the show was clearly himself and his own bigotry yet today a show like that would not be made because we have lost sight of context / do not think the context strong enough to risk it (we know how racists simply said ‘I agree with Alf ‘). The context bar has been raised so to speak but my point is, there is still a bar. I read many of Godley’s suspect tweets and could not see where the humour resided however, only a repetitive focus on skin colour and the like. The target was people’s race and background. Expressing forbidden thoughts and feelings for a laugh and ‘catharsis’ is not a justification of itself, at least not for someone now fronting a public information campaign.

        1. Mons Meg says:

          ‘Expressing forbidden thoughts and feelings for a laugh and ‘catharsis’ is not a justification of itself…’

          Well, no justification is ever absolute. If the breaking of taboos in the social context of comedy is indeed cathartic (and the theory that it is, is hardly beyond criticism), I suppose the matter becomes whether catharsis (releasing our forbidden impulses safely, in socially controlled contexts) is always a good thing or whether it’s sometimes healthier for ourselves and/or society to keep our forbidden impulses repressed.

          Anyway, Janey was maybe just releasing her white working-class racism, which others find disturbing to their own sensibilities, and upon which expression they’ve accordingly (and having the power to do so) slapped a social proscription.

          1. Alec Lomax says:

            “Janey was maybe…”

          2. Mons Meg says:

            Yes, ‘maybe’ – I don’t know. I can only speculate as to her intentions in making the remarks that she did.

    2. Derek says:

      Yes, I think so. Not The Nine O’clock News; the Constable Savage sketch.

      The laugh is at Savage’s expense because he’s such an obvious racist.

  9. Bobby says:

    Douglas Ross MP is the man behind this vendetta against Janey Godley . He clearly can’t take a Joke when you see him leading a pathetic cancel her campaign against a Woman who follows a different political party to his . I know many many Tory Voters who have expressed concerns about his vendetta and its gaining momentum , these voters currently in there 100s are disgusted at his underhand witch hunt against a Woman Comedian scouring for tweets many years old to cancel an SNP Supporters Career declare they will no longer vote for them again as a result . A petty vendetta could see them ousted out of Scotland permanently .

    1. Bingo Demagogue says:

      Bobby, the tweets that finally got her cancelled were a US newspaper calling her out for her comments about black Americans. Exactly how influential do you think Douglas Ross is?

  10. Graham Ennis says:

    The idea that Scotland has a “Tiny Art Village” is news to me. It is a very loud village, with a long reach.
    It may be full of catfights, eye scraticing and invective but it will survive.
    Unlike glasgow school iof art, whose treatment of its students is terrible, and is now ranked at Number 41 in the stutendt ratings.
    There is also the problem of cliqueism, the ratios of Scottish students and Non-Scots”, etc etc.
    Part of this is why events like this happen. Scottish arts have a small gene pool. It is also under funded.
    What is needed is to spend above the EU average on art and culture, make sure the cash is not used for ego coddling,. and is part of a national plan for Scotland to have the best arts culture in Europe.

  11. Peter says:

    Jim. I can’t really fault the article. But I do feel you missed the point about quite possibly the origin of this whole debacle. It came about after a journalist decided to take up the mantle of moral guardian of anti Irish bigotry being at the fore. No doubt in part “encouraged” to do so by at least two MSP’s. What followed after said article was the de facto failure of the journalist and his employer yo recognize that in doing so they offered no balance. Instead giving the impression that there was only one guilty party. To then publish the names of 2 podcasters on the front page of said publication was outright inflammatory. This in my opinion is what led to the situation we find ourselves in. Call it whataboutery if you like. I would call it partisan publishing at the behest of individuals hitherto quite vocal in their opinions. That JG fell victim to this was a sad reflection of the times we are now living in.

    Tve rest of the article is entirely accurate. I just feel that there needs to be a full disclosure on the cause of this from the outset.

    1. James says:

      Moral guardian really?. So these people wreck George square twice , singing their racist ditties as they do so. Of course they got police escorts on both these occasions, so the latest one makes it 3 times they were escorted while spilling their default racist bile. How dare one journalist be off message and eventually call them out, or indeed what do these MPs think they are doing, do they not know these are the people?. As for the police, it appears they only ‘kettle’ peaceful protestors, and stand by and watch as the same thugs attack a peaceful demo by immigrants, protesting at their treatment. How do I know it’s the same people?, those blue and orange shirts are a bit of a giveaway, no doubt Chelsea supporters, just like in Manchester. If the subject were not so ‘deadly’ serious I’d call your comment laughable.

      1. Peter says:

        And your reply is entirely indicative of the problem. To suggest that these “issues” are the sole problem of the fans of one club if you can’t offer balance then you’re part of the problem.

        1. Mons Meg says:

          Yep, that is indeed the nub of Scotland’s sectarian nature. We just can’t help but divide ourselves up into angels and demons.

          1. Alec Lomax says:

            Correction: angels and thickos.

          2. Mons Meg says:

            I wrote a wee novella once, in which a society had divided itself into two tribes: the Wiseguys and the Thickos. Each tribe referred to itself as the ‘Wiseguys’ and to the other as the ‘Thickos’. The novella’s conceit was that, by so doing, both tribes were Thickos and together comprised a nation of Thickos.

  12. Chris Connolly* says:

    Surprised and disappointed that so many contributors have taken issue with Jim’s opinion. Comedy and racism are not the same thing! We laughed AT Basil Fawlty and Alf Garnett because they were fools; we didn’t laugh WITH them, and that’s the context that matters. Simply making bigoted remarks, as Ms Godley did, is no better than the sort of stuff that Jim Davison and Bernard Manning used to come out with. There’s no wit involved unless the comments were meant to be ironic, as they obviously were not; they were just rude and offensive.

    The racism in Blazing Saddles is funny because the black character was cool, handsome and intelligent and the cowboys weren’t.

    Ms Godley exemplifies the strange and perverted notion that to be authentically working class it’s necessary to be a gobshite, or a drunk, bully. drug dealer or all-round loser. Sorry to say so but she’s just another Scottish Uncle Tom.

    Finally, her gender is a total red herring. I’m happy to say that I have even less respect for Frankie Boyle than I have for Janey.

    1. Mons Meg says:

      ‘Surprised and disappointed that so many contributors have taken issue with Jim’s opinion.’

      But simply agreeing with someone doesn’t take you anywhere in your own thinking.

      1. Chris Connolly* says:

        I agree with Jim on this occasion because his basic opinion matches mine. Would you prefer me to pretend to disagree in order to demonstrate by independence of thought?

        What surprises and disappoints is that some people seem to be trying to suggest he has a personal issue with Janey and is criticising her for that reason, as if calling Person X out for racism means that he has to mention the racism of A, B, C and D in order for his view to be valid.

        Also a pity that the Auld Firm has made its way into the conversation, leading to an inevitable argument between Celtic and Rangers supporters.

        1. Mons Meg says:

          Precisely, Chris. Jim’s view confirms your existing opinion. But where’s the value in that when, for the sake of personal growth, your existing opinion is something to be overcome/surpassed/outgrown?

          But it’s indeed a pity that some have allowed their fondness for/identification with Janey to cloud their critical judgement on the issue. And it is indeed also a pity that the issue has provided an occasion for the Old Firm sectarianism that’s coloured so many of Bella’s recent articles to raise its head again.

    2. Derek says:

      Chris, where does Frankie Boyle come into this discussion? Or is the reference purely because you don’t find him funny, or because he’s male*?

      I think that he’s quite offensive, but even-handedly so, and he also comes across as intelligent and thoughtful.

      *Ooops, that’s my card marked…

      1. Mons Meg says:

        It’s because, like Janey, Frankie breaks taboos (‘offends’ or ‘transgresses’) in his performances, which is always good for a laugh.

      2. Chris Connolly* says:

        Afternoon, Derek. I just put Frankie Boyle in as an example of somebody who has overstepped the mark and into bullying and causing offence. I’m sure I don’t need to give examples. We all heard what he said about Jordan’s wee lad, and if you haven’t all you need to do is spend a few minutes on You Tube.

        Meg. I don’t know where you get the idea that I’m incapable of changing or modifying my opinion. That’s just not true, but I need convincing before I do so, which seems perfectly fair & reasonable to me. Also, I disagree with the idea that breaking taboos is always good for a laugh; I could put 1000 sexist jokes on here that I’ve heard over the years but most people would be angry rather than amused. Any road, the readers have got better things to do than to read us arguing with each other, but if you want to carry on our dialogue feel free to talk to me on Twitter @CWBSandCA .

        1. Mons Meg says:

          And I don’t know where you got the idea that I had the idea that you’re incapable of changing or modifying your opinion.

          As for comedy and the breaking of taboos, as I said before: “Comedy thrives on breaking taboos.

          “In fact, isn’t there a theory that this is how comedy works; that laughter is the cathartic release of strong emotions that the taboos of our culture oblige us to unhealthily repress, and that comedy is the medium of that release?

          “‘Derogatory’, ‘politically (in)correct’, ‘profane’, ‘vulgar’, ‘racist’, ‘sexist’, ‘misogynistic’, ‘homophobic’, and other terms that are applied to chunks of language are simply descriptions of the variety of taboo that the terms in question are said to be breaking. They’re not categories of words so much as social infractions.

          “In making her racist quips, Janey was maybe just breaking a taboo so that her audience could have a cathartic laugh and thereby express forbidden thoughts and feelings. Maybe it was the breaking of a taboo that made those quips funny.”

          And thanks for the invitation, but I don’t use Twitter or any of the other corporate microblogging/social media platforms, the invidious nature of which people never tire of complaining… on Twitter and other corporate microblogging/social networking platforms. Sometimes, you’ve just got to laugh.

          1. Chris Connolly* says:

            I agree with you about Twitter, Meg. It’s shite. I only use it to promote my small (make that minute) bookshop.

            I don’t agree with your argument, though. I’d say it depends on which taboos are being broken. Transgressing against society’s traditional mores as prescribed by the media (eg, respect for the Royal Family, support for the Armed Forces, cheering for national sports teams etc) is a different matter to laughing at someone for having learning or physical difficulties, or for someone’s ethnic minority status.

            There are jokes about Grenfell Tower, the Piper Alpha Disaster, the Bradford Fire, famines in Africa and numerous other tragedies. They’re not funny, though. A good rule of thumb would be this: If I were personally involved or had lost somebody I loved as a result of this catastrophe, would I want to hear jokes made about it?

            Perhaps you wouldn’t mind if this happened to you. For all I know, if somebody you love is run over by a steamroller tomorrow and a neighbour says “Is X still feeling a bit flat?” your sides will ache with laughter. After all, your neighbour would certainly be breaking a taboo, wouldn’t s/he? I expect you know people with cerebral palsy, or who are autistic; do you have a good laugh if somebody comes by and does a Donald Trump-style impression of them?

            Obviously I don’t actually want you to answer these questions here. This dialogue has now definitely gone as far as it can before it turns into a soap opera.

            Take care CC*

          2. Mons Meg says:

            There’s no denying that comedy can be in good or bad taste, depending on your taste in comedy. But I still think there’s some mileage in the theory that comedy is a sort of catharsis; namely, the release of forbidden thoughts and feelings through laughter; the breaking of taboos in a ‘safe’ social context. Perhaps Janey’s ‘sin’ was that she broke a taboo outside of the safe social context of a comedy performance.

    3. Anon says:

      Calling anyone an uncle Tom in any context is a bit racist to be honest. I’d avoid doing it around black people or you’ll find out just how offensive it is.

      1. Chris Connolly* says:

        How do you know that I’m not black, myself. Aren’t you making a racist assumption of your own here?

        Everybody knows what “Uncle Tom” means and that it can be used to describe anybody who lets down his/her own demographic group by behaving in a stereotypical manner. George Formby would have come into the category, as would (arguably) Andy Stewart. You know this. Similarly, it’s well-known that the word “troll” describes a person who interrupts a thread with a short, snappy, & usually stupid contribution intended to embarrass somebody who has taken the trouble to express an opinion and explain it in more than half a dozen words.

        I don’t normally talk to People With No Name so you can consider yourself honoured!! It won’t be happening again.

        1. Mons Meg says:

          Although, Merriam-Webster defines it as primarily as ‘disparaging: a Black person who is overeager to win the approval of whites (as by obsequious behaviour or uncritical acceptance of white values and goals)’ and only analogously as ‘disparaging: a person who is overly subservient to or cooperative with authority’.

          I always associated Jocksploitation performers like Andy Stewart, the Corries, et al more with blackface minstrelsy than with Uncle Tomism.

  13. Jenny says:

    Thanks Jim. Great article. It’s so important that white people stand up and speak out about racism.

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