Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

BE Honest: Had You Ever [...]

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

BE Honest: Had You Ever [...]

Article excerpt


BE honest: had you ever heard of Charlie Hebdo before the murder of so many of its staff? No, me neither, suggesting that those who plotted the massacre paid scant attention to the Streisand effect.

So named in honour of the singer, after her efforts to suppress photographs of her Californian home led to them being viewed by more than 400,000 people, compared with the six who had bothered to look at them before she took legal action.

And two of those six were Streisand's own lawyers.

The same thing happens nearly every time someone seeks to divert attention from a story or image they do not like. All PR practitioners know that demanding a correction from a newspaper is the surest way to increase awareness of the claims made in the original, inaccurate article.

Despite the timidity of the British media, the internet has treated me to a reasonably good look at those French cartoons that were apparently so offensive as to justify mass murder.

My main personal objection to them was that I didn't find them the slightest bit funny. This strikes me as a pretty critical failing in a humorous journal. Satire should surely make us laugh, not cringe.

The boundaries determining what we find acceptable and amusing are individual and mobile. I can remember turning Spitting Image off in disgust the first time I saw it, like a stereotypical angry old buffer, but I gradually came round to it as one of the highlights of my TV viewing week.

If it were on air now, I wonder to what extent militant Islam would feature as the butt of its humour? Not much at all, I suspect. We are all, to use Mrs Thatcher's word, frit.

Somehow I cannot see adherents to Islamic State or Al-Qaeda coming to see the funny side of anything any time soon, either.

Despite those apologists endlessly parroting on the news that "Islam is a religion of peace", the historical fact is that it has a pretty dismal record of being spread and imposed by force.

But then so, too, does Christianity. Witness the Crusades and the conquistadors. BBC2's serialisation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, beginning tonight, should provide a timely reminder that, in the 1530s, religion in England was literally a matter of life and death. …

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