Who is to say that x isn’t funny or that y is offensive? I can make my own mind up, so just keep your ‘correctness’ and let me have my liberty

‘O brave new world’ proclaimed John; swept in a nervous ecstasy of anticipation. ‘O brave new world that has such people in it. Let’s startComedian's take on University campus censorship at once’, he bellowed.

A new world is indeed what we have ourselves; one born from the mistakes and ignorances of elders – as if a succession of waves slowly moulding the pebble. A world determined on a future of tolerance and harmony.

‘… hadn’t you better wait till you actually see the new world?’ queried Bernard, all too wearily aware of what the ‘new world’ had to offer.

Last month, Jerry Seinfeld became another voice in a progression of comedians, in the United States, who openly criticised the ‘not-so-brave’ world of American University Campuses, and their frightful fragility to ‘risqué humour’. Yes – Jerry Seinfeld. Not Bill Maher, or Russell Brand, but perhaps the master of family-friendly comedy, Jerry Seinfeld.

We, on the opposing shores of the Atlantic Ocean, are proving just as cagey as our American counterparts. But lest I be accused of selectively choosing complimentary cases, I shall ask the reader to return their minds to a running story throughout last year – the case of Mr Dapper Laughs. Daniel O’Reilly is being chased off many UK campuses and venues because of his ‘more than frisky, less than Fritzl’ approach to the opposite sex. To spare swotting over the series of events, Dapper Laughs had a show discontinued – it would appear – after outrage ensued from his apparently offensive exertions. This inevitably led to the increasingly familiar sight of the ‘Media Apology Gauntlet’, completed by many stars and celebritiesComedian's take on University campus censorship over the past few years – from Paula Deen, to Hulk Hogan and Dog the Bounty Hunter – which could all actually be just a single case; has anyone seen the three of them in the same room before?

Alas, I reach the point of the tale where Mr O’Reilly was pursued by Emily Maitlis, on the BBC’s ‘Newsnight’ programme; a fate sure to befoul many comedians to come (the Newsnight apology part, not specifically the interview from Maitlis). Although the question was never asked, one can always hear it ringingComedian's take on University campus censorship when these events occur: ‘Do you think it is acceptable to make fun of …’

Yes, it damn well is. I don’t want to shatter the spheres of slender banality that many people appear to have constructed themselves, but I have heard many jokes – and laughed – when they were about genocide, rape, murder, paedophilia, and disability. And this does not condone these acts!

‘… If people watching you think that’s funny, and they go and enact that then that’s the consequence …’ Now, I mean this to be in no way a personalComedian's take on University campus censorship attack on Emily Maitlis, but I can hardly think of a greater immoral sentiment than the one implied. To blame Dapper Laughs for our culture’s rather horrific, and daily divulged rape problem, is to obfuscate the personal responsibility of the individual. It is to put a band-aid on a broken neck and expect results. Would Charlie Chaplin be held responsible for the Nazi’s ‘Final Solution’ because of his role in The Great Dictator?

My point is that the personal liberty to observe and listen, think and critique, before speaking and debating, is under siege from the odd ally pairing of religious fundamentalism and liberal ‘tolerance’. If it isn’t bans and firings, it is AK-47s and cartoon offices. For me, humour is greatest when at the expense of another. That’s why slapstick is so popular. It’s why people love seeing hecklers dealt with by the professionals. But by not extending the same principle to the supposed ‘extremes’ of comedy, you surrender yourself to the false conciliation of ignorance.

‘Our merely social intolerance kills no one, roots out no opinions, but induces men to disguise them, or to abstain from any activeComedian's take on University campus censorship effort for their diffusion’ said John Stuart Mill, the greatest candidate I can nominate in the defence of the freedoms of thinking and speaking.

I don’t know how the reader views all these eventsComedian's take on University campus censorship, but I certainly cannot think of anyone I would trust with the role of censor. Who is fit and able to tell me what I can’t hear, what I can’t read or see? I’ll take the risk of being ‘offended’ before the risk of being ignorant, thank you.

 

Sources:

Huxley, A. (1932) Brave New WorldComedian's take on University campus censorship, Chatto & Windus: London. p120.

BBC Newsnight (2015) availableComedian's take on University campus censorship at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBt3fr5viAE