Monday 5 April 2010

Laughing at death

15st 5lb, 5.0 units. Listening to Broadcasting House on Radio 4 in my bath yesterday morning, I was utterly shocked by an outbreak of mild hysteria during the newspaper review section of the programme, when conversation turned to the murder of Eugene Terreblanche. First Iranian so-called comedian Omid Djalili announced that he could not keep a straight face, then some Guardian columnist I had never heard of rejoiced in the fact that the man had still been alive when the police reached his remote farmhouse, so at least he must have died slowly. Can we imagine any of these people speaking up in favour of the death penalty under any circumstances, let alone a slow and painful version of it? No. Can we even begin to picture the sort of furore that would break out if a group of newspaper reviewers had a good laugh on air about the death of a black man, however nasty a piece of work he might be generally considered to be? (The names Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe spring to mind, for no particular reason.) But of course that is never going to happen on the BBC, where people are banned from the air for using the word “golliwog” in private conversations, but the brutal murder of the right sort of person is apparently a perfectly fit subject for comedy. Well, he was a white racist, wasn’t he? So he had what was coming to him. In a world so topsy-turvy that David Blunkett got into hot water for asking jokingly whether it was too early to crack open a bottle of champagne when he was informed of the suicide of Harold Shipman, I suppose nothing should surprise me. But it still does.

Looking on the bright side, at least it filled part of a newspaper column.

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