Saturday, 12 July 2014

Etonians, free speech and The Socialist Worker discussed on the Stephen Nolan Show, but not ecotourism
Discussion starts at 1:21, I come on at 1:26.

John Glen MP and Bobby Friedman spoke before me.

The political commentator joining us now as well: should The Socialist Worker apologise, Claire?

Not if it doesn't want to. I don't see why anyone's particularly surprised that The Socialist Worker should be rude and insensitive about toffs. They don't like them, we know they don't like them ...

This young man lost his life in tragic circumstances, and his family will be mourning and his parents will be devastated and you don't see why the paper should apologise?

Not if they don't want to and not unless they are really sorry. It was their intention to make a joke of it.

Do you think it is funny?

I am afraid it ... the pun amused me. I am sorry, I have to admit that.  It is a terrible thing to say, and I can put myself into the position of his parents, and then I thought to myself: 'If I went to Eton, if my son went to Eton, I would already realise that I would be hated just because of that. And being a toff, I shouldn't take to heart anything that people would say about me just because of that."

So you get amusement out of someone creating a joke about the death of a 17 year old?

I am a reader of Private Eye, there are lots of sick jokes around, they go around very quickly, that's what happens and that's what seems to amuse people. Now you're saying we can't make jokes about that, I mean, where will it end ...

Is it not about human decency and respect and just an understanding of how his parents, his family must feel? Is it not about basic decency, Claire?

Yes, we are supposed to have all those feelings, but then we are also supposed to have free speech, aren't we? It is a balance and with social media and how easy it is to put our views across and people actually going around looking for offence. Who is reading the Socialist Workers Party newsletter? Toffs looking to be offended? I think it was Independent journalists looking to get upset about it. I am sure they [The Socialist Worker] are very surprised that toffs should be reading their newsletter ...

Claire, I wish I had more time with you. Let's get your reaction to what Claire's just said tonight: 0500 909 693, but we thank you, let's get the news now at 1129.

Apart from trying to make the point that the free speech of those whose views you dislike is your free speech too, I had been hoping to discuss benefits and disbenefits of ecotourism. As well as the Etonian, a polar bear also lost its life. Instead, the rest of the show from 2330 to the end of the show at 0100 was taken up by assisted dying and Gaza, and it seemed that no one phoned in at all to denounce me or agree with me at all.

Perhaps the offended public schoolboys and schoolgirls had all gone to bed or were too busy with their Friday night activities, or it is possible that Five Live is too plebeian for them to listen to and phone into.

I suppose the worst thing that could have happened was Horatio's mother ringing the show in floods of tears saying how much I and Socialist Worker had upset her and her family with our callous comments, and telling the nation that her grief at the loss of her son would be immediately lessened if both I and Socialist Worker apologised pronto, but no one even cared enough to phone in on a Friday night. Being a patrician doctor, I knew she would have more dignity than to deign to notice the predictably callous comments of plebs, or of patricians or political commentators for that matter.

I think the people who are most cruel are not even the Socialist Worker who never expected anyone else to read their rag, but social media editors trying to whip up Twitter rage against the SWP and hoping to take credit if the SWP were made to apologise.

It is bad enough already to be the parent whose son had died of being mauled by a bear during an expensive holiday you paid for, but to be told that you should be additionally upset by the comments of plebs who hate you for your class and that you should be demanding an apology via your MP is the kind of refined cruelty only a tabloid journalist is capable of.

Felicity Morse went to Cheltenham Ladies College, but I have no information on whether Richard Moynihan and Rhoda Buchanan went to boarding school. All three are social media editors, however, two for broadsheets and one for BBC Newsnight. What are we to make of broadsheet and BBC journalists behaving like tabloid ones? Should they be made to apologise for causing additional grief to the parents of the Eton schoolboy so unusually and tragically bereaved?

I am afraid that if one dies in an unusual manner in an exotic location, sick jokes will inevitably be made about it.

Years ago, my holiday on a tropical paradise in the Philippines was nearly ruined when I read in the paper of the number of people who died of coconuts falling on their heads. I knew if I had died of this everyone would smirk and make jokes about it, no matter how fond of me they were. I particularly remember thinking to myself then that I would rather be murdered than to die of a coconut falling on my head.

Well, we shall see if the next issue of Private Eye mentions the story of the boy Eton by bear, and we know they are all public schoolboys there.

This is actually an old story reheated.  Horatio died in August 2011, three years ago.

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