“…But I will defend to the death your right to lewdly threaten…hang on Voltaire, are you sure that’s it?”

One of those blog posts I started writing while drunk. More questions than answers…

Sometimes, when I can feel how grey my hair is, I worry that all reality is now projected out from a screen. The only subjects of conversations are television and web related, and the main area of discussion of those things will also be behind a screen. And this screen is a place of rolling outrage, how can I tell when I am being carried along with the right outrage and when am I so lost in the fog of it all my critical thinking is marooned somewhere many miles from my mind. It is also a place where opinion can be demanded, the act of not having an opinion is seen as an act confirming that you are with “the enemy”. The defence that you may know nothing of the situation is not enough, you must know everything at once, which can lead to understanding as shallow as condensation.

I found myself in something of a conundrum over Dapper Laughs. I started to receive requests to sign letters and petitions, but frankly I lacked the armour of knowing much of what he was about. (as a sideline, there really are too many petitions now. The frequency and ease of signing petitions has begun to make them as potent as felt-tipped graffiti on a pub toilet door demanding the freedom of a possible false felon incarcerated due to a miscarriage of justice. How lucky the Lord Chief Justice visited the Lamb and Flag and his bout of diarrhea, brought on by the richness of a veal lunch, led to him seeing the words, ‘Free Barry Gubbins’)

The Dapper Laughs’ comedy I had experienced seemed such a retrograde step for anyone who aspires to human progress (yes, yes John Gray, I know even that is not a certainty). It seemed to be nasty, disguised as, or believed to be, cheeky, a return to sexism and abuse towards women, so I could see why the ire was so furious.

I imagine Daniel, AKA Dapper, doesn’t really hate women. It’s all “just a laugh” and everyone should just lighten up. It is a lot easier to lighten up if you don’t feel nervous on each late night train you are traveling on alone, or when you can walk down a street and just be a person getting from one place to another as opposed to being a beacon of sexual possibility.

On the other hand, I worried that the level of fury far outweighed the shows reach and impact. Is there a danger of taking it too seriously, of gifting it so much worth that it turns it from being a minor cultural rash to being considered a mighty plague in itself. By treating it with such importance, does it elevate it? Does this become a totem pole for the “it’s PC gone mad, we can’t even have our jokes now” pack wolves to dance around?

I was particularly wary of signing anything which demanded it be taken off air. Wasn’t that exactly the sort of action I was against when it was aimed at The Singing Detective or Jerry Springer the Opera?
Have I reached my point of “ban this filth”?

What level of possible damage must something contain for it to be banned?
And was there something better for us to aim at?
Is bringing down lowlife pop culture aiming at the softer targets, or the less malignant targets that are merely more luridly visible?

Then I saw some more.

And I started to think of the TV people rubbing their hands with delight as they felt “so naughty” as they delivered something which could be defended as ironic or “a character piece, don’t you get it?”

But it is a clumsy character piece, and you can quite easily take it at face value too. Dapper Laughs is not the fall guy here, there is no evidence I have seen that the real intention is to laugh at him. The character is too close to standing and baying by a pinball machine in The Accused.

Does it exist as a product of that inaccurate thought that misogyny is dead, that genders are on equal footing, that now women have had victory, it’s time to have a go?
I think of the scenes of unease I see when I travel late night on public transport (and I don’t think it is because of my presence, my nose will rarely leave my book).

Apparently, while writing this, it has turned out it is all over now anyway.
I don’t think it should be banned. I don’t think it should be taken off thoughtlessly due to pressure or petitions alone. I think it shouldn’t have been on in the first place because we really should have moved on by now.
We haven’t advanced quite so far in our attitudes to bathe in the warm nostalgia of hate and derision.
Hopefully ITV’s decision came from a realisation that there’s enough of this readily available to observe if you want it on most nights, without putting it on TV too. Just set up a hide in your local nightclub, sit with Bill Oddie and see what you see.

Do I feel antagonism between a vague libertarian me and some morally censorious soul?
I do. But the more I was shown, the more that antagonism eased. (when I first read Lee Kern’s expertly drafted letter, I was hesitant, then I saw some more. Too late…)

Is Mr Laughs worthy of so much focus? I wouldn’t have thought so.

Will something useful come out of this? Hopefully.

Christmas shows at Hammersmith with Brian Cox, me and loads of great science, music and comedy guests are on sale now,  details HERE (plus a night with Alan Moore, Grace Petrie and me next week HERE )

My partner in anger, Michael Legge, and I now also do music podcast thing, with some anger too https://soundcloud.com/vitriolamusic/vitriola-6-tedium-becomes-magnificent

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17 Responses to “…But I will defend to the death your right to lewdly threaten…hang on Voltaire, are you sure that’s it?”

  1. Nicely put, Robin. I have had the same dilemma – the idea of shows being forcibly removed by pressure groups profoundly unsettles me – but so does the fact that acting like an arse in front of people and then audiences being entertained by the fact that members of the public react in various degrees of confusion / discomfort / shock (what the hell else would anyone expect them to do? Really?) got on TV in the first place.

    I’ve watched a little of his stuff, not really my cup of tea. I only saw a couple of very brief examples of him intimidating women in public places for the sake of “comedy”, and as much as I would not consider that to be entertainment, I would wish that commissioning programmers would not consider it entertainment even more. Particularly before picking up the show. Then again, I do a bit about gay penguins being persecuted by the three mono-penguistic deities, so what the fuck do I know?

    Sorry for rambling. I, too, am drunk.

  2. Marc Draco says:

    I think the argument here is not that he caused offence (or is, perhaps, a complete arsehole in real life) but the fact that he was consuming air time. These jokes are lapped up in working men’s clubs but when a majority of people get pissed off, the accountants get involved.

    This isn’t about taste or decency, it’s about the bottom line – it’s about who is paying your wages and once you’re in the public gaze, nothing is private.

  3. TNA says:

    We don’t have Dapper Laughs syndicated down here in the Lucky Country so I can’t comment on the show beyond the obvious point that, if it’s on ITV2, it’s bound to be crap. Last time I was in the UK it was clear that ITV2 was the Northern Line of the country’s television channels.

    Nice reference to the Lamb and Flag, by the way. Always used to be our last stop on the annual Oliver Reed memorial night pub crawl.

  4. Neil Wease says:

    I totally had that caught between feelings feeling. On one hand I don’t believe in censorship – you can, and should, say what you like, but you have to live with the consequences, whatever they are, of doing that.

    But I also thought we’d gone beyond this sort of brand of male behaviour, especially on TV – I thought it had died a death in the early 90s. Calling it out and decrying it seemed like the right thing to do so I signed the petition. But more than that, this is a show commissioned by ITV; a show that they commissioned and then sold advertising around. By gaining financially from this show, ITV are complicit in making this man’s views, actions and words legitimate, thereby alienating and degrading 50% of their potential viewing audience in the process. Dapper is free to hold and foster his views online; people can choose to watch and engage with him in that way if they want and he shouldn’t be censored from doing so. But for a public broadcaster to make money out of the degradation and objectification of women is not acceptable.

    I may also be a touch drunk.

  5. mraemiller says:

    There are a number of issues here.

    1) Do rape jokes etc actually create rapists. Perhaps but you cant exactly measure how suggestable the audience is, can you? Yet Kern seems to state this as a known fact. Even if it is so should no one ever take this risk? If you want to censor sexism presumably your ultimate aim is primary legislation. Also all censorship is the failure of dialectic and the exertion of groupthink over individual reponsibility. Anti hate laws are a statement that there’s a point where total freedom actually undermines democracy. So where to draw that line will always be hugely controversial.

    2) Why do people get so wound up by TV when he’s got a larger following by several factors online

    3) When did you actually last go to a nightclub, Robin. I have to admit to enjoying a bit of trash TV as an exercise in observing people’s bodylanguage. His TV show’s a long way off the most offensive things I’ve seen. Will we be banning La Dolce Vita and the Vagina Monologues too?

    4) Isnt the NUS’s war on lad culture all a bit sinister. Attempting to ban rape jokes is one thing. Attempting to ban entire cultures (even bad ones) is doomed to failure.

    5) If you’re accused of being a rapist anyway you might as well do rape jokes. Someone wrote in the Guardian about hate filled open mikes where you can if you wish see 20 male comics in one night each doing a rape joke. Surely statistically impossible.

    6) Youtube is a public broadcaster it’s just outside our control because of the 1st Amendment. What’s the point in the BBC not allowing UK comics to do unPC jokea then buying them off the UK

    7) Kern has an agenda of cleaning up TV ( before Dapper it was Gok Wan ) this is just the latest manifestation of it. Then again why not. Apart from the fact we’re not all hung up about objectification

    8) Still laughing at the time you told Ava Alexis she was behind on her reading. You said it as a joke but I still feel you all take this thinking thing too seriously. Instead of intellectual development being fun some people seem to have raised it to some kind of moral duty. If you want to feel that guilty you should get a religion and do it properly

    9) If he’d built his act up on the club circuit it would be very different because you cant afford to alienate half the audience. The word overpromoted springs to mind. Also just because more people complain about sexism than racism should it be as big a deal. Are they actually equally destructive forces or is one more destructive and how do they inter relate. I see more racist than sexist jokes but statistically if you tell a sexist joke there’s more chances of someone being offended… If you follow that

    10) The show should have or may have died for being boring anyway …was the Mary Whitehouse campaign that clearly started before it aired worth it? All a bit witchunty still to me. On the other hand he is a witch ….or warlock. So why not? But my advice as Mr anti censorship is join Mediawatch. Censorship turns censors a bit insane

    • Luke S. says:

      A quick point on 1. The cultural attitude around rape jokes tends to be part of the justification of why rapists think it’s okay. Aside from that, the chances you’re performing in front of people who have survived rape and that said joke will trigger? There’s a damn good reason certain lines shoudn’t be crossed.

    • Em says:

      Well… 1) There are a lot of scientific studies about the perpetuation of attitudes towards marginalised groups through “humour” such as racist and sexist jokes. Whether or not that “creates rapists” is arguable, but it undoubtedly allows certain behaviours and attitudes to be more acceptable.
      5) Really? If you don’t do rape jokes then you won’t be *accused* of anything. That’s like saying, “Well, I keep getting accused of being a Nazi, so I might as well bust out all my gas chamber jokes”. Er, why do you want to tell those jokes?
      9) WHERE do you hear racist jokes more than sexist ones? Where?

  6. Zarathustra says:

    I see where you’re coming from, and I must confess to having felt some similar conflicts myself. In the end what swung it for me was the old saying, “Freedom of speech does not include the right to shout fire in a crowded theatre.”

    Whether Dapper Laughs was intending to be celebrating or parodying certain attitudes, there are guys who think that way, and if it was the latter he really didn’t do enough to make it clear that it wasn’t the former. Guys who think it’s acceptable to holler lewd comments at women in the street, or who think that “No” means “Maybe” really, really don’t need to be given a folk hero.

  7. It is worth remembering that we have created a new adjective in recent years in the English language – ‘RAPEY’ … yes. This behavior or characteristic is now so regular within our culture that we have had to adopt a new term into common parlance to describe it; a term that everyone instantly understands. This alone should be enough to illustrate that ‘rape culture’ is a real issue.

  8. Luis says:

    Let’s get this clear – no excuse for rape jokes. Sadly in the case of our Dapper it was a ‘working men’s club’ rape joke. Not one by Jimmy Carr, not on in the Inbetweeners and not one by Frankie Boyle. What caused the intense vitriol was Dapper’s rather Chaucerian delivery. Crude.
    Regarding his actual show, are BBC Three/Channel Four’s fly-on-the-wall lads/girls getting drunk shows as ill-advised and influential as Dapper Laughs?
    As I said, Dapper’s/Daniel’s downfall is that his portrayal of an Essex wideboy is…well… all too real.

  9. mattperret says:

    If there were programmes about how women pull, rebuff, or just get treated respectfully and seriously as human beings by men despite being sexy/ not being sexy/ not being interested/ being interested, that’d be great, wouldn’t it? And a cheeky chappie dispensing “tips” would just be a silly drop in that bigger ocean.

    • mraemiller says:

      To be fair – having forced myself to watch it which was like sticking pins in my eyes – they did take a girl out on the pull too. I actually thought there were some good ideas in the format somewhere … it was just catasrophically badly executed. Leaving aside the ethical issues DL is so two dimensional as a character where could you go with him? He makes Sid the Sexist look like a Henry Moore sculpture.

  10. I’ve never heard of the guy but he sounds like a twat. I think you’re right in that this kind of humour shouldn’t be on the telly in the first place. It just goes to show that there’s a long way to go still.

    By the way, every blog I’ve read of yours seems to start with an admission of drunkenness. I’ve never seen you drunk in Cumbria. The next time you’re here I think you should start/finish early enough for a proper booze-up after the show. Or, if that’s no good then back to my place via the off-licence, or to just drink our home-brew (or, better, both). My wife’s mead is especially yummy.

  11. truthseeker says:

    Have any of you seen an episode of ‘Geordie Shore’? The women in it say things like ‘I’m just gagging for a bit of nice cock’. They are entirely comfortable with male sexual advances because they operate in those kind of circles. The bars and clubs up and down the country are well populated by women like this. I suspect there are a lot more such women – who would be quite unperturbed by Dapper Laughs’ style – than there are those outraged by it. Flippant, outrageous ‘laddishness’ is as old as the hills. Rape culture? I suspect what we are seeing is a very loud ‘victim culture’ that just can’t handle how a lot of people like to live, and demands the right to stamp it out.

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