Oh But I CAN Say That
He made the salient point that if the state has to do these things, then by definition they need to be done off the record, and that means that they have to be done outwith the law. This being so, if people get caught they can have no recourse to the law.
This got me thinking about politically incorrect humour.
I think what David Cameron says in the clip below (where he adopts a mock-German accent) is fine and also that it's funny. I agree with those who say that we shouldn't get our collective knickers in a twist about most of these things. (I further think that we shouldn't have a collective approach to underwear at all.)
But I don't want politically incorrect joshing to cease to be taboo. Its funniness is partly dependent on the fact that it seems to us to be beyond the pale. How can one feel naughty if one doesn't think one is doing anything wrong?
Consider the following anecdote about a remark (apparently wrongly) attributed to Noel Coward:
'He was alleged to have been sitting under cover from the heavy rain next to his close friend Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, prior to going in to Westminster Abbey for the Coronation service. Opposite them was another queen who had made her way into the affections of the British public, the vast Salote, Queen of Tonga. “Noël, who is that little man sheltering under Queen Salote’s umbrella?” asked his companion. Coward peered through the rain. “Oh, her lunch, my dear.”'
The reason that's so funny is because it is a knowingly naughty remark. If Coward - or whoever really said it - had actually been a racist, it would have been a totally different kind of humour. There's a world of difference between a joke like that and the kind of hate-filled one liners some of the dinosaur club comics deal in.
Is it hard to tell the difference sometimes? Maybe. But it's worth the effort both to allow ourselves the chance to laugh at something clever and to steer clear of humour that really hurts people (and such humour most assuredly does exist, I'm afraid).
Anyway, here's Dave setting Anglo-German relations back a few years.