Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Frankie, do you really think it is funny or clever to mock the weak?

By Lindy McDowell

What do you imagine was going through Frankie Boyle's head when he sat down to write (I'm assuming it was his own material) those 'jokes' about Harvey, the disabled child of glamour model Katie Price?

You know the rib-ticklers I mean.

The one where he claimed that in a custody battle over Harvey somebody would lose - and would have to take him. And another even more nauseating comment which spurred the boy's understandably outraged mother to leap to her son's defence.

"I love (Harvey) and am deeply proud to be his mother. If Mr Boyle had a tenth of his courage and decency he would know that to suggest, let alone think funny, that Harvey may sexually attack me is vile and deeply unfair."

You do not have to be a fan of the woman - and I'm far from that - to feel for her having to listen to her little boy being so cruelly ridiculed. But it goes much further than that.

For this isn't just about Harvey, shocking and despicable as his treatment by both Boyle and Channel 4 has been.

It's about all those other mothers and fathers of disabled children glancing at their own precious son or daughter as they listen to such lacerating trash.

Could you blame them if the thought didn't cross their mind - is this really how other people see my boy or girl?

And that brings us back to that key question of what was going through Boyle's mind when he wrote this stuff. Certainly he would have known it would cause outrage.

During a previous stand-up show when he'd made disparaging comments about Down's Syndrome children, a mother in the audience had laid into him.

According to reports at the time Boyle, with seeming lack of irony, described the incident as "the most excruciating moment of my career".

(Pretty excruciating for the poor mother too, of course ...)

But the controversy also brought him headlines and attention. And tellingly did not seem to have significantly dented his box office appeal. Channel 4 chose to use him still.

And even after the more recent furore about the Harvey slurs, the channel repeated the same show at the weekend - with the same 'jokes'.

Channel 4 defends itself thus: "We think that it is important that a space on terrestrial TV exists for comedy that takes risks and pushes boundaries and we stand by our original decision to broadcast the programme."

It's hard to imagine though, 'jokes' of similar vitriol about gay people or ethnic minorities also being seen to constitute "pushing boundaries."

Public opinion (thankfully) wouldn't stand for it. Anti-hate legislation might well be consulted. So why then are the disabled seen - by Boyle and the television channel at least - as fair game?

Katie Price calls it blatant discrimination. The charity Mencap talks about disgusting, ignorant views.

"Comedy like this," says a spokeswoman, "takes us back to the dark ages."

The pathetic, attention-seeking Boyle with his strange Aryan views on disability is not the entire problem. That a major television channel should air such bigoted rubbish, because it apparently believes this sort of sniggering at some of the most vulnerable people in our society is "taking risks", is equally shameful.

What went through Frankie Boyle's head when he wrote his boundary-pushing lines?

The thought that nothing raises a comedian's profile better than gratuitously causing offence?

And that actually it can be a smart career move to mock the weak.

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