Belfast Telegraph

Why William Shatner deserves credit for not simply taking the easy option

By Lindy McDowell

Can it ever be right to boldly not go to a funeral of a dear friend? The late Leonard Nimoy (pointy-eared Spock in Star Trek) was laid to rest this week in an "intimate" funeral service attended by close friends and family. Among those failing to show, however, was William Shatner, Captain Kirk in the legendary TV series and a man who has previously referred to Nimoy as a brother.

Why then the no-show? It turns out that while the funeral service was taking place near the Nimoy family home in Beverly Hills, Shatner was on the other side of the North American continent taking part in a Red Cross charity fundraiser in Florida.

As a Jew, Nimoy would normally have been buried within 24 hours of his death. The funeral could not take place on the Sabbath, however, and was held on the Sunday - a tight timescale for Shatner, who was already in Florida when he heard the sad news.

He would not be the first mourner to miss a funeral he truly wanted to attend. In the real world it's something that happens quite regularly. And online the 83-year-old Shatner did express his deep regrets at not being able to be there. That was not nearly enough, however, for Disgusted of Twitter.

Almost immediately the trolls, the attention-seeking serially outraged and at least one major newspaper were getting stuck in.

As the New York Daily News tactfully put it: "Captain Jerk! Claims night event in Florida means he can't 'beam up' to LA in time."

So not buying the "previous commitment" excuse there, then.

The grieving troll community were no less forgiving. Shatner, they fumed, should have flown home immediately. Or paid for a private jet to bring him back after the event. Surely someone at the charity bash would have had a Gulfstream, mused one critic.

As Shatner himself pointed out, some people do appear to overestimate the regularity of coast-to-coast flights. And the old boy stuck to his guns. His daughters would be representing him at the funeral, he said.

"I chose to honour a commitment I made months ago to appear at a charitable fundraiser," he tweeted defiantly. "A lot of money was raised. So here I am; tell me off." Needless to say they did.

They would also have told him off, of course, if he'd disappointed the charity and flown back immediately he heard of his friend's death. In the highly illogical mindset of the Twitter etiquette police, Shatner was damned if didn't, and damned if he did.

To his credit he did not fall back on the old "it's what he would have wanted" line, although Nimoy himself would very likely have agreed with his old pal's decision not to let down the charity just for the sake of appearances.

Which is really what all the griping comes down to - the suggestion that being seen to show respect is the same thing as actually showing respect. In the event Shatner did the right thing. Not the easy thing.

How much stress the vile trolling and unnecessary criticism will have caused the 83-year-old who has just lost a friend is another matter. Having lived so much of his life in the public eye the actor will surely have developed a thick skin where the noxious online troll battalions are concerned. All the same, he's human like the rest of us.

And as with BBC journalist Nick Robinson, who this week revealed that he is suffering from cancer only then to be trolled with sick comments such as: "A bit of chemotherapy would do the biased beeb man good", it must be deeply wounding at a time when he's already feeling vulnerable.

The trolls, of course, have no respect for anybody. Least of all it must be said, Leonard Nimoy. Causing hurt and distress is how they get their kicks. Respect doesn't come into it.

Neither respect for the dead. Nor respect for the grieving.

On Planet Troll that's life, Jim.

Jihadi John loves his own notoriety

The mother of Jihadi John is said to have screamed when she recognised her son as the one wielding the knife in a beheading video. We have to assume this was a scream of horror and dismay. How terrible to be the mother of such a monster. How do you ever live with that?

Jihadi Mohammed Emwazi, as the masked one is now revealed to be, is not the only butcher of Isis, just the most high profile one. He has deliberately chosen to be centre stage while others prefer to remain in the shadows.

So you have to wonder if he isn’t enjoying the wall to wall coverage of his unmasking this week. Even as his own mother recoils in horror, this warped psychopath continues to lap up the limelight.

Fishy crook let off the hook too lightly

A 26-year-old man who filmed himself swallowing a live goldfish and then posted the video online has been fined by a court and “banned from keeping or handling fish”. Is this supposed to be punishment? Do you think such a boy will be vexed at the thought of not being allowed to keep a goldfish in future?

What he might miss, though, would be the opportunity to show off his “hilarious” stunts. A ban on using social media and keeping or handling a mobile phone would be more fitting. That and perhaps locking him up for a couple of weeks, with food rations restricted to that raw fish he so obviously craves. The odd plate of two-week-old, uncooked mackerel. That should tighten him.

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