My Daughter Is Mentally Handicapped, Mr Gervais. Would You Think It Was Funny to Call HER a 'Mong'?

Article excerpt

Byline: by Ross Clark

RICKY GERVAIS may often act like a ten-year-old, but he's lucky he isn't one. If he were, there's no way he would have escaped punishment for calling someone a 'mong' -- the word he used to describe Susan Boyle on a late-night, one-off comedy show on Channel 4 last October.

He would have been forced to apologise, his parents would have been called into school and his name would have been added to an official education authority list along with other children deemed to have used racist, homophobic or other offensive words to describe classmates. The incident would have remained on file for the rest of his time at school.

Schools are under a statutory duty to report all incidents thought to be racist, and are encouraged to record and report all cases of bullying -- as a result of which 40,000 children a year are being placed on education authority registers for making fun of other pupils on the grounds of race, gender, sexual orientation, disability or other grounds.

But, of course, Mr Gervais is not at primary school. He is a comedian frequently employed by TV stations including Channel 4, the BBC and Sky, as a result of which he is what broadcasters like to call a 'national treasure'. Consequently, different rules apply. On Monday, broadcast regulator Ofcom dismissed complaints about his use of the word 'mong' -- which, despite his protestations to the contrary, is a clear reference to mental retardation derived from Mongol, an archaic term for someone with Down's Syndrome -- by claiming that he was merely 'exploring the contemporary use of the word in a comedic context'.

As the father of a mentally handicapped 14-year-old girl -- who has severe learning difficulties and the mind of a five-year-old child -- I do dread the effect his comments, and Ofcom's utter failure to condemn them, will have on public attitudes.

For some of his fans, sadly, his performance will have legitimised targeting the mentally handicapped for cruel jokes.

Ofcom's ruling is a load of mealy-mouthed claptrap. Gervais knows full well that gratuitous offence is lapped up by drunken Friday night TV audiences. It is far from the first time he has used the word 'mong'.

It's not just Gervais who has got away with denigrating the mentally handicapped either. Such handicaps seem to be considered fair game among the crass generation of comics who dominate TV channels.

In November, Jimmy Carr was similarly let off after using the line: 'Why are they called Sunshine Variety Coaches when all the children on them look the same?'

It says something about the triumph of offence over wit in modern comedy that Carr can deliver over and over again a joke which, besides being crass, is fatally flawed in the logic department.

It should be obvious to anyone who has seen a Variety Club Sunshine coach that children with learning difficulties often display a degree of dysmorphia that makes them especially varied in their size, shape and appearance.

But then that misses the point about comedians such as Ricky Gervais and Jimmy Carr: for them the offence is the 'humour', full stop.

Their device is to get men and women, usually inebriated, to giggle at words which, in any other context, have been banned by the political correctness police.

Offensive? Yes. Apart from anything else, I am offended by the fact that I have been forced to fund this pair's frequent appearances on the BBC through my licence fee.

But what offends common sense even more is that primary school children -- many of them too young to know what racism and homophobia mean -- are being hounded for making politically incorrect remarks while comedians are allowed to build careers on them.

Take ten-year-old Harrison Wiener from Oldham, whose name will be on an offenders' register for the rest of his school life after he called a fellow pupil a 'chocolate brownie'. …