On the humourous treatment of a sensitive subject…

I cannot remember the last time I had so many requests to censure one of our bloggers, as in the ‘Overheard in Belfast‘ thread, regarding the placement a Hunger Strike poster opposite a pub, on the main Belfast – Derry Road past Derriaghy Bellaghy. That the row has kept up over the weekend, is perhaps an indication of the emotions it has touched off.Some thoughts on the matter:

The first is that the sign in question is there for all to read on a public highway that is used by all sides of the community. No doubt more people will see it now it’s been pointed out on Slugger. But however humourously put, it is a proper subject of public debate. Not least for some of the unlying themes it has unlocked.

Clearly some of our readers clearly feel that a line has been unacceptably crossed here. One has even accused me of bias in allowing it to stand. Although I’m tempted to turn the question around and ask wh precisely do they consider that line to consist of, and how could it be enforced in future without putting tight political strictures on political debate here on Slugger?

Towards the end of what is now quite a lengthy thread, Urquhart makes an interesting point when he argues that the solemness attached to the Hunger Strikes by relatives and political advocates is not shared by political opponents or indeed local victims of the IRA and/or the INLA.

Which takes us back to the ridicule implied within the original story. Who is to blame for its alleged breach of public taste? The teller of the story? The reporter of the story? Or is it, perhaps, whoever decided to place the commemoration popster poster in that particular roadside position in the first place?

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  • DK

    You can’t censure gonzo. We’d never hear the end of it. Anyway – off to draw some cartoons of Muhammad feeding pork to someone on hunger strike.

  • paid

    Well as for the reporter of the story, Gonzo was insensitive, but not, IMO, gratuitous.

    And he didn’t shoot anybody, and no-one shot him.

    which is progress in NI.

    And Slugger (where else?) is the medium where ‘troubles jokes’ are dealt with.

    It was never going to be pretty.

  • nmc

    I haven’t been able to ascertain where this poster is in relation to the memorial, no-one seems to know.

    However to say that a memorial to the Hunger Strikers cannot be placed in the proximity of a billboard advertising food, or near a restaurant or supermarket is the same as saying that all Hunger Striker memorials must be placed in the middle of the country side.

    Food is everywhere that there are people. If you can tell me the location of a HS memorial, I can tell you how to turn it into a “joke”. I believe that the breach of taste occurs where the sense of humour translates a memorial and a billboard (an undefined distance from the memorial) advertising food into something funny.

    As I said on the other thread, anyone seeking amusement who thinks this is funny should get a copy of the Andytown news from a month ago. There will be articles about the Hunger Strikers, and numerous references to food. Mix and match jokes to keep the easily amused going for days.

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    If you were to censure every comment or blog that was trite, biased, humourless and without any worth whatsoever on Slugger, there’d be very little left. Belfast Gonzo’s blog is par for the course, I expect nothing more from him. It’s old hat from an old hack but if that’s what slugger is about, then it’s disappointing.

    Censorship should only be for legal purposes or when the man not ball rule is breached.

  • Greenflag

    The Kerryman on Mastermind with his special subject Ireland 1912 to 1922 had the right answer.

    His special subject was Ireland 1912 to 1926.

    ‘Who was the leader of the Easter Rising? ‘

    ‘pass’

    ‘Who led the Irish Citizens Army? ‘

    ‘pass’

    ‘Who was the leader of the Republicans in the Civil War ?’

    ‘pass’

    Voice from audience

    ‘Good man Pat-tell them f### all ‘

  • Briso

    >I cannot remember the last time I had so many
    >requests to censure one of our bloggers, as in
    >the ’Overheard in Belfast‘ thread, regarding
    >the placement a Hunger Strike poster opposite a
    >pub, on the main Belfast – Derry Road past >Derriaghy.

    Toome wasn’t it?

    >That the row has kept up over the weekend, is
    >perhaps an indication of the emotions it has
    >touched off.

    Indeed.

    >Some thoughts on the matter:

    >The first is that the sign in question is there
    >for all to read on a public highway that is
    >used by all sides of the community. No doubt
    >more people will see it now it’s been pointed
    >out on Slugger.

    What? More people will travel that way or will now be looking out for it? And anyway, so what?

    >But however humourously put, it is thus a
    >perfectly put, it is the proper subject of >public debate. Not least for some of the >unlying theme it has unlocked.

    What? Try that in English. It seems as much thought, care and attention has been put into this apologia as into the original thread starter which inspired it.

    >Clearly some of our readers clearly feel that a
    >line has been unacceptably crossed here.

    Clearly they clearly do.

    >One has even accused me of bias in allowing it
    >to stand. Although I’m tempted to turn the
    >question around and ask wh precisely do they
    >consider that line to consist of, and how could
    >it be enforced in future without putting tight
    >political strictures on political debate here
    >on Slugger?

    How about saying that the original thread starter was stupid? Taigs buy food near where someone has posted a hunger strike remembrance poster. Fnaar fnaar!

    >Towards the end of what is now quite a lengthy
    >thread, Urquhart makes an interesting point
    >when he argues that the solemness attached to
    >the Hunger Strikes by relatives and political
    >advocates is not shared by political opponents
    >or indeed local victims of the IRA and/or the >INLA.

    So what? The thread was stupid.

    >Which takes us back to the ridicule implied
    >within the original story. Who is to blame for
    >its alleged breach of public taste? The teller
    >of the story? The reporter of the story? Or is
    >it, perhaps, whoever decided to place the >commemoration popster in that particular
    >roadside position in the first place?

    I saw a ‘popster’ advertising a van-hire business near where a van bomb went off in Dublin. Who’s responsible for the ridicule blah blah blah blah blah…..

  • Mick Fealty

    briso,

    Had some problems with using the mouse to cut and paste. No excuse for the Bellaghy mistake though. Fixed now.

    nmc,

    I’ve not argued that they shouldn’t do it, just that if someone else thinks its funny, it’s not their fault. In corporate communication (which apart from everything else it may have been, this was), perception is truth.

  • circles

    Gawd almighty!
    I completely believe that sacred cows are there for the slaughering and everything should be considered as a potential source of a laugh. The world is much to grim a place to have an off-limits zone.
    But for me the thread was not at all about whether it was a food advertisement near a hunger striker memorial or whatever – its more that it just wasn’t funny or ironic or smart or observant, or anything out of the ordinary. I agree with nmc comment that this really is “comedy” for the easily amused. Its like knowing a butcher called murphy – so what? It was a crap joke – and I usually find Gonzos posts worth reading, so I wan’t predisposed to find it crap.
    I just hope he avoids the temptation to address the latest scoop in asia – apparently a sack of rice fell over yesterday…..

  • Steaky

    Completely agree with the last post and also loved Briso’s reply, the point made was that it just added nothing to any debate, the self back slaps (of spme posters) on the promotion of dealing with “troubles jokes” doesnt really wash as Gonzo claims it wasnt a joke. It wasnt funny, was a blatant attempt to provoke a certain section of the readership on here (admittedly it worked) and was just plain childish.
    Sometimes I look at the threads on this website and am amazed by the intelligent and coherent responses, sometimes I hold my head in despair at thinly veiled attacks aimed at them’uns. That post had me holding my head from the start.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    It’s only funny when it’s not us’uns, eh?

  • Garibaldy

    Reminds me of the story of the hunger striker’s brother who was sitting at an electoral box for PSF during the hunger strike. He took two dinners, and received dog’s abuse in return.

    Clearly this is a suitable topic for discussion, humour and satire.

  • Ulick

    The ‘joke’ wasn’t even remotely funny. Unless Gonzo can explain otherwise, the only possible reason to post it was to cause offence to republicans and hopefully draw similar inane responses.

  • Steaky

    “It’s only funny when it’s not us’uns, eh?”

    I assume thats a reply to me?

    No, its funny when its funny, and besides you have said it wasnt a joke.

    I dont think Peter Kay, Billy Connelly, Chris Rock have anything to worry about.

    Plus you have assumed my religion/political allegiance without me giving any indication.

  • circles

    Naw Gonzo – its only funny if its actually funny.
    Simply making the object “them’uns” isn’t enough to make it funny.

  • Steaky

    Plus can I just say Mick, I realise that it has recieved more comments than any other thread in a while but you reigniting the “debate” by putting a new banner on it just before the original page drops into archive looks a lil like blatant opportunism, I am guessing that there are several other things happening in this country that people would be much more interested in.

  • Martin

    It’s only funny when it’s not us’uns, eh?

    It wasn’t funny and to make jokes at the expense of any person who has passed away in recent memory and still has grieving loved ones, be it Bobby Sands, Princess Diana, Joe Blogg’s grandmother…anyone…is insensitive and tasteless.

    Whether or not you consider Bonny Sands to be the iconic figure he is to Republicans, or hold the deeply ambivilant to hotile feelings of other sections of the community, this sort of thing shouldn’t be funny. If you make a joke about a “nobody” who dies crossing the street it isn’t funny either. Everyone is someone’s son or daughter.

    This “joke” should offend everyone with an ounce of human sympathy.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    What joke?

  • circles

    “to make jokes at the expense of any person who has passed away in recent memory and still has grieving loved ones…is insensitive and tasteless.”
    Well you do have a point there Martin, but they can still be funny anyway.
    That bad things happen to people has been at the root of comedy forever it seems, and laughing may not always be the most sensitive response, but sometimes its the first. The proviso bing that something is funny, or even just slightly witty. This just wasn’t.

    Fartrick – do the nurses know you’re using the
    computer again?

  • eranu

    “Everyone is someone’s son or daughter.” yeah, if you analyse most jokes too much you’ll find something offensive to somebody. debating whether its funny or not misses the point. the core issue is what people think of the hunger strikers. there are 2 camps –

    Camp A thinks they are fine upstanding men that we should all aspire to be like and should all name our children after.

    Camp B thinks that they are evil murderers with no more right to live on Gods good earth than a weasel.

    the only people in Camp A are the more extreme republicans that refuse to accept reality even when its staring them in the face.

    Camp B finds it easy to laugh at them because of the low opinion they have of them.

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    Steaky,

    If the original thread had petered out, I would probably have let it go. But several times through the early stages of that thread, the question of whether the remark should ever have been discussed at all was raised.

    I felt there was an important principle at stake, which would have sunk without trace had I simply tacked my response onto the end of that thread.

    At no point have I tried to tell people whether it was funny or not funny. That is a purely subjective judgement – not to mention pointless. Some did think it was, others thought it offensive.

    As Oillibhear has ably demonstrated, it is possible to think that it was both offensive, and yet not require removal.

    My only other additional thought was that the placement of that particular poster at that place, was what caused the remark be made in the firt place.

    Squinter (I think) once argued that national flags are overflown in NI to the point of reducing their importance, influence, and meaning.

    Maybe it is a class of the same ‘callousing’ phenomenon we are seeing in this case?

  • lib2016

    eranu,

    Thankyou for your kind explanation. I think some of us are already aware of the idealogy embodied in the idea of denying one’s enemies their humanity…..and what type of camps that sort of thinking has led to in the past.

  • Steaky

    Eranu,
    “the core issue is what people think of the hunger strikers”

    Its really not. Many posts on here are about the hunger strikers though.

    People are easily offended (esp in NI) and Gonzo (muppet) could have chosen many a joke and got a similar response.

    Also
    You forgot camp C. Those who dont give a toss,whatever they think, as much as some people respect them, even those who do hold them in such high esteem realise that they are an easy target for those who dont.

  • circles

    Lets look at that again:
    There are only 2 camps.
    “Camp A thinks they are fine upstanding men that we should all aspire to be like and should all name our children after.”
    “the only people in Camp A are the more extreme republicans that refuse to accept reality even when its staring them in the face..

    Which means that everybody else is in camp B, and that everybody else “thinks that they are evil murderers with no more right to live on Gods good earth than a weasel.”

    WOW – thanks for that blast of wisdom there eranu! I guess you don’t think much of weasels either (nor does anybody in camp B it seems).

    Now where do I fit into this nice wee black and white pic of yours?
    You see, although you think you can instruct on what the core issue is, I don’t agree (off to camp z with me!!!). I do not think the hunger strikers were “evil murderers with no more right to live on Gods good earth than a weasel”, but if the joke is good I’ll laugh anyway. It wasn’t and I didn’t.
    Hope this little contradiction to your theory doesn’t fry the logic circuits.
    You see the equation for me is:
    FUNNY = LAUGH
    NOT FUNNY = DON’T LAUGH

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Mick

    I don’t think one person has actually dealt with the point you have made, essentially the reason I made the post in the first place.

    Forget the point, no matter how obtusely made – it’s far easier for republicans to shoot the messenger.

    Metaphorically, obviously.

  • circles

    Thanks for explaining sluggers call on this one Mick.
    That in itself however does raise the question of quality control. Here I do not mean message control! I’m talking about the actual quality of the posts theselves. For me that is key to this particular issue. In all honesty, each one of us could come up with about 15 examples each of this kind of “irony”. The placement of the poster was probably just a sign that real life goes on mercilessly, despite the shootings, bombings, deaths and suffering, and the the world has (thank god) not been standing still – not some kind of emotional callous. It wasn’t funny ha-ha, funny unusual, or out of the ordinary in any way – and so the question is more why was it deemed worthy of posting at all?

    Its like I said before – the republican plot in milltown is right next door to Curley’s, and yet none of the deceased benefit from the wonderful shopping, eating and entertainment opportunites this might offer. This has never occurred to me as funny in any way, or even somehow connected. Maybe that depends on the way your mind works or something.

  • Steaky

    Mick,
    I can understand your viewpoint, but i think the inclusion of the post is at best pointless and at its worse offensive, not to republicans, but to those of us who actually look upon this website to inform and debate issues in Northern Ireland.

    Its inclusion could signal the beginning of a detriment to the quality of discussion or could be an oversight.

    I prefer to see it as the latter and would hope in future that there is consideration of what constitutes a “good post” beyond the likely number of responses.

    I know that sounds pompous and I have contributed by having several responses but if there is to be further examples like this AT LEAST MAKE THEM FUNNY!

  • Steaky

    Gonzo,
    thanks for your posts rationale “it’s far easier for republicans to shoot the messenger.”

    Brilliant, with such political insight, eloquence and humour, I look forward to seeing you hosting newsnight shortly after the completion of your world comedy tour.

  • kitkat

    I don’t see what all the fuss was about, really I don’t. If it was something like this concerning loyalists I imagine there wouldnt be a problem.

  • eranu

    circles, i was trying to show that some people view them as good and some as bad. just a point of view. by the way the weasel line is a quote from blackadder. please tell me you think blackadder is funny !!!!! ?

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Just a curious question — did anyone stop to find out if the place had an all you can eat buffet? Whilst I suspect such a gastronomic shmorgashboard is an American thing, generally, if there is an all you can eat buffet there, what is the big tsimmis? Are the Republicans saying he can’t put out a sign to advertise his wares?

  • Rory

    I did not comment on Gonzo’s original post. I really did not see what all the fuss was about. He simply drew attention to someone else’s observations and allowed us to draw our conclusions of what that observer’s thoughts might have been.

    Now the conclusions we infer might be unhealthy and may well make us angry but it would be naive in the extreme to pretend that thoughts and inferences that we would disparage might well occur in others. There can be no censorship of the human mind (except the self=censorship of the slaveheart).

    I take it that Gonzo is seen to be anti-republican. Nevertheless he is as entitled as anyone else to deserve that respect of right of free comment that all republicans by dint of their credos must give to all men.

    I certainly do not think that the weight of disapproval alone should make the administrator consider censorship. Jesus! where would I, where would any of us be if that applied?

    Sir Thomas More in Robert Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons argues with his daughter’s suitor that he would “give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake”.

    Whatever we may make of Gonzo, Old Harry he is not and should be allowed at least as much let as that hooven fellow.

  • George

    “On the humourous treatment of a sensitive subject”

    To qualify, the treatment should be humourous and shed light on the sensitive subject, make others perhaps revise their long-held views on it or ease the pain caused by the sensitive subject.

    Otherwise, it is merely an observation on a sensitive subject that tickles the fancy of those who don’t find the subject sensitive.

  • Harry

    Old Harry? Don’t you mean Nick?

  • TAFKABO

    I didn’t think the original blog was particularly funny, at least not nearly as funny as the fact that Sinn Fein sell hunger striker commemoration T-shirts in XXL sizes, now that’s just comedy gold.

    But, this does go straight to the heart of some important issues, not least of which is republicans desperately trying to come out of a lost war with something to show, and from where I’m standing, the Hunger Strikes mythology is all they’ve got, and that’s why they guard it so jealously.

    Now myself, I’m mightily offended that a child murdering bastard like Francie Hughes gets the old hagiography treatment, whilst the child he killed is barely remembered. that really offends me, but I’ve come to realise that I wont serve any purpose by trying to stop this process, all I can do is rail against it and call them for the murdering bastards they truly were.

    Another thing worth noting is that this is, in way, a litmus test for any true Republican (capital ‘R’ ), and their committment to freedom of speech, for Catholic Protestant and Dissenter.

    It would seem that some of our republican brethern pass the test, others clearly don’t.
    At least in showing us this, the thread has been worth something.

  • Rory

    Nope, Harry, I did mean Harry. It is how Old Nick was known in England. There now, doesn’t that make you feel good?

    I am not sure, but I suspect it might be a reference to Henry VIII (England’s Pol Pot) after the butchery of The Pilgrimage of Grace.

  • amusing

    what’s really amusing about Bobby Sands is that he starved to death…for nothing! Yes, I laughed till I cried.
    Apart from the careers of a bunch of sell-out Nu Shinners who have bought into the failed state hook, line and sinker. At least Bobby didn’t live to learn how many of his comrades were Brit spies.
    Shame on you, SF drones, whining about this when the real horror is the appropriation of our martyred dead by turncoats, touts and careerists.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m quoting here from the Ken Dodd article I’ve just linked to at the top of Slugger:

    Once, attending a conference in Cardiff, he was astounded to hear what the dry-as-dust academics were saying. ‘They spoke all afternoon about humour, and not one of them was funny. I told them I had 30 seconds, no more, to establish the trust of the audience. Gracie Fields called it a silver thread. Posh actors call it rrr-apport. I call it building a bridge. Laughter is the effect, humour the content, comedy the technique.’

    If he doesn’t understand many of the modern so-called technicians, he cannot be alone. ‘Some of these people feel they have to use obscenities, but it doesn’t make the gag any funnier. It’s like a child running home from school and shouting ‘knickers’ to his mother. We all know swear words, but on stage they tend to introduce another emotion, which gets between the performer and the audience. It’s gratuitous. At the back of their minds people think, “Why did he have to say that?” I can’t understand some of these sour-faced malcontents who sneer all the time, because that is not true comedy.

    Many of them have not lived long enough to realise that while you have to have a degree of disbelief in life, you can’t go around decrying everybody and everything all the time: the Queen, the police, the law, what is called the Establishment, because life is better than that. It’s a form of mistaken drollery, I suppose. They think they’re being hip. But I like to celebrate life. People may come into the theatre with the blues but I’ve got to send them away feeling happy.’

    This, I think, speaks to the concern of those who say Gonzo’s original was just not funny.

    But, and I know he has already pointed this out ad nauseum, Gonzo did not tell a joke! It wasn’t satire, stand up, or even a lame attempt at Comedia del Arte. His ‘joke’ was nothing more than retelling an overheard factual story.

    As to quality control, well, I trust the people who blog here (naively perhaps) to blog in their own personal styles what they see fit. I do not expect any of them to conform to my way of doing things. And, within reason, I expect them to resist any attempt to manipulate them out of confronting the issues they see fit to address.

  • páid alias Harry

    Ok, you win.

    Let’s face it, I’m not going to win a debate about a left-handed red-haired King against someone called Rory Carr, am I? 🙂

  • TRuth

    Friday’s Telegraph Articles Wanted had a punter looking for Army Surplus or was it Surplus Army.
    The entrepreneurial sptrit is alive and well.
    T.Ruth

  • T.Ruth

    The Belfast Telegraph Articles Wanted column on Fruday carried an ad seeking Army Surplus. It seemed ironic and sadly humourous on the end of a week which saw the RIR regiments disbanded.It did not make me feel less indebted to those who had given all to defend us over the years.
    T.Ruth

  • I personally found the joke to be in poor taste and posted such on the thread. That said as free speech is, or perhaps should, be a basic right Gonzo should not be forced to remove the thread.

    It just shows one thing, the simple amuse the simple.

  • Henry94

    I didn’t find the first thread either funny or offensive. But this one alerts us to the danger that with a solution leaving little left to talk about in the north slugger may well disappear up its own arse.

    Before it’s too late it should take a leaf out of ATW’s book and broaden its scope to international issues.

    Blogs about blogging are as uninteresting as journalism about journalism.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Probably the the most intelligent comment so far: “The placement of the poster was probably just a sign that real life goes on mercilessly, despite the shootings, bombings, deaths and suffering, and the the world has (thank god) not been standing still – not some kind of emotional callous. It wasn’t funny ha-ha, funny unusual, or out of the ordinary in any way – and so the question is more why was it deemed worthy of posting at all?”

    Steaky said: “thanks for your posts rationale “it’s far easier for republicans to shoot the messenger.” ”

    Errrmmm… that’s not any rationale for the post at all (see above for a better analysis). It would be impossible, in fact, if you think about it.

  • Mick Fealty

    Henry,

    Touche!

  • TAFKABO

    Who doesn’t look forward to the day when there’s f*ck all to talk about?
    Remember that the old saying may you live in interesting times was always intended as a curse.

  • circles

    ….. so its a goodnight from me.

    And a goodnight from him.

    Goodnight!

  • It reminds me of the joke about Lord Mountbatten.

    How did they know Lord Mountbatten had dandruff?

    Because they found his “Head and Shoulders” on the beach!

  • TAFKABO

    How come no one remembers Frank Stagg?

  • Hmmmm. How many of those humourless commenters above have ever sang that song about Seawright? Funny, back when I was in school, that tune did the rounds about as much as the Bobby Sands sausage supper one did.

    Gonzo’s done nothing wrong. Never hurts to have the old double standards exposed (again).

    Personally, I’m sick of the sight of hunder striker propaganda blotting the landscape. Time they were taken down.

  • Rory

    I think we should all just draw a line under this and agree that each year on the anniversary of Gonzo’s original post we all build bonefires and dance around burning effigies of Gonzo placed atop the pyre.

    A traditional Ulster solution to an Ulster problem. Now where do I collect me peace prize?

  • bertie

    TAFKABO

    “Now myself, I’m mightily offended that a child murdering bastard like Francie Hughes gets the old hagiography treatment, whilst the child he killed is barely remembered. that really offends me, but I’ve come to realise that I wont serve any purpose by trying to stop this process, all I can do is rail against it and call them for the murdering bastards they truly were. ”

    Totally with you here mate!