Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Anti-Semitism, the Holocaust and the Nazis are no laughing matter ... as if the world needed to be told these things

By Lindy McDowell

Gas the Jews! Hilarious, eh? I know it will be difficult to contain yourselves after that gem of a joke, but when you have finished guffawing we need to talk not just about what constitutes humour these days but also about the current, concerted and right across the political spectrum rise in anti-Semitism.

This week a Scottish "comedian" (self-designated) was fined £800 having previously been found guilty of broadcasting online a vile video of himself repeatedly shouting "Gas the Jews" to a pug dog he'd taught to do a Nazi salute.

The animal was filmed against a backdrop of footage of Nuremberg rallies and Hitler speeches and, for a bit of variety, also included the "comedian" shouting Seig Heil.

In a previous court appearance the accused had claimed he'd only posted the video on YouTube to annoy his girlfriend.

But this excuse has since morphed into a freedom of speech argument with your man now suggesting that actually it was comedy and the very concept of liberty is in peril over his being found guilty and subsequently fined for hate crime.

Tellingly, that stalwart defender of freedom and justice Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defence League, was on hand to lend support.

You might wonder why I have thus far not mentioned the guilty party's name. While I would normally have no hesitation in naming and shaming racists, what stops me in this instance in the gloating grin on the face of this attention-seeking prat as he revels in the media spotlight.

He is, of course, appealing (in the legal sense), arguing that the point of the "joke" was having an "adorable dog" respond to something "vulgar".

Really? Vulgar? Poking fun at the slaughter of six million men, women and children. And the most fitting adjective you can come up with to describe that is "vulgar"? But then getting things in perspective is not usually a trademark of racists.

When he'd been found guilty a few weeks back the same boy had described it as a "huge miscarriage of justice".

Compared to, say ... genocide?

Anyway, as I say, we are now in freedom-of-expression territory which I doubt would have been the case had he been shouting; "Lynch the black men" as a "joke".

More pertinently, the case is a reminder that anti-Semitism isn't just a hallmark of the far-Left (and indeed, the nearer-Left) but of the far-Right and, increasingly of just about anybody in between who wants to hurl around a bit of racist abuse without facing the same censure they would if the target group were any other minority on earth.

We live in an era where frighteningly, the leader of the party which could someday soon get its hands on power has so sanctioned the normalisation of this particular racist spite within the ranks, that it's difficult for members to speak out against it.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the political spectrum, exactly the same vile hatred is spewed by those of the right-wing, jackboot tradition.

Back in 1940, around the time some of the footage used in that offensive YouTube video was captured, a very different class of comedian was featuring Adolf Hitler on film.

The plot of Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator centres on a Jewish barber being mistaken for the monstrous anti-Semitic Fuhrer whom he closely resembles.

In the closing scenes, still posing as the Hitler character, the barber is forced to deliver a speech and so announces he's changed his mind about persecution and mass murder.

"I should like to help everyone if possible; Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery."

The simple eloquence of Charlie Chaplin's plea for tolerance was couched amid the enduring genius of his satire. Which is a long way indeed from someone filming themselves shouting racist abuse at a dog.

Where the only joke is that they try to call that "comedy".

And cloak it in an argument about freedom of speech.

William is no chip off the old royal block

When the Duchess of Cambridge left hospital this week with her new baby, she was dressed in a distinctive red dress with white collar which did indeed resemble one worn by Princess Diana when she left hospital with Harry. It was a tribute, some suggest.

In the pictures, though, there is one big difference between now and back then.

While Prince William looked ecstatic this week at the arrival of his new son, Prince Charles in those old photographs looks wooden and formal.

They may still dress the same, but royalty is definitely evolving.

Don't hold breath over vape health benefits

Is it just me or do those vaping devices that are substitutes for ciggies give off more "fumes" than the things they're meant to replace? I was watching a man drawing on one as he was standing at traffic lights this week and he looked like he was churning out more steam than The Flying Scotsman. Maybe it was something to do with the vapour hitting the cold April air. Or maybe he was just more robust than most in his exhaling technique.

Watching him, though, it occurred that if his steam was recycled it could power a small turbine. Can this really be good for you?

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