Silly sea­son is turn­ing us all into Mary White­house

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - COLUMNIST -

When I was a teenager, I had a bit of an ob­ses­sion with Mary White­house and her cam­paign group, the Na­tional View­ers’ and Lis­ten­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion. For those of you too young to re­mem­ber Mrs White­house, she was an ex­tremely fa­mous, and ex­tremely con­ser­va­tive, wannabe cen­sor of ev­ery­thing she didn’t like.

You name it, she didn’t like it. From things as harm­less as the old ver­sions of Doc­tor Who to plays with the ‘F’ word or shows which showed a bare boob, White­house and her cronies would be quickly on to all the news­pa­pers in the land, ex­press­ing their fury and de­mand­ing peo­ple be jailed for blas­phemy or in­de­cency.

So why did a young me, who loved the things she hated, de­velop such a weird ob­ses­sion with her?

Af­ter all, she was the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of ev­ery­thing I de­tested — the ar­che­typal busy­body with too much time on their hands, fret­ting that some­one, some­where was hav­ing a good time.

Well, the an­swer is quite sim­ple — I’ve al­ways had a mor­bid fas­ci­na­tion with views that are ob­jec­tively, demon­stra­bly silly, and in par­tic­u­lar, the silly peo­ple who spout those views.

I re­mem­ber friends of mine who used to start froth­ing at the mouth when­ever her name was men­tioned. But I al­ways took a per­verse en­joy­ment out of her fu­ri­ous tirades against the per­mis­sive so­ci­ety which ter­ri­fied her so much.

What, I of­ten won­dered, was her prob­lem? As we sub­se­quently learned af­ter her death, she en­joyed the pub­lic­ity as much as she hated the things she com­plained about and she has be­come the tem­plate for her cen­so­ri­ous de­scen­dants to­day. Most of them would barely have heard of her, but they use the same tac­tics, up­dated for the in­ter­net age, and seem to de­rive the same sense of weird sat­is­fac­tion when­ever they are able to force their views on to other peo­ple.

I once de­bated one of her suc­ces­sors on Ir­ish ra­dio. The chap, per­fectly pleas­ant yet weirdly sin­is­ter, wanted to ban Nat­u­ral Born Killers. Per­haps un­sur­pris­ingly, I didn’t. He ac­tu­ally boasted that he hadn’t seen the film. Nor had he any in­ten­tion of ever see­ing such filth. How­ever, he had seen a trailer and read some of the re­views, so as far as he was con­cerned, any­one who dis­agreed with him was ob­vi­ously the sort of per­son who would like to go on a mur­der­ous killing spree, à la the two main char­ac­ters from the film.

Some of the lis­ten­ers went mad. The host thought he was a weirdo.

Me? Well, what can I say. Some­times some­thing is just so bonkers and, yes, silly that you have to ad­mire it. Af­ter all, it takes a spe­cial kind of stupid to want to stop peo­ple watch­ing some­thing you’ve never seen.

Also, there was the real sense that this was a gen­er­a­tion and a mind­set that was rapidly dy­ing out, and once they were gone, we could all en­joy what­ever we wanted with­out the busy­bod­ies wag­ging their fin­gers at us.

I was brought back to those more in­no­cent times when I saw this week that more than 130,000 peo­ple have signed a pe­ti­tion to ban Net­flix com­edy In­sa­tiable.

Ac­cord­ing to the pe­ti­tion, In­sa­tiable “will kill young girls... cause un­told harm... ob­jec­ti­fies the fe­male body” and my favourite, “it cel­e­brates re­venge”.

Je­sus Christ! What the hell are Net­flix pump­ing into our liv­ing rooms?

Well, as it hap­pens, In­sa­tiable is a high-school com­edy about an over­weight and bul­lied teenager who loses weight over the sum­mer, goes back to school and starts to get her own back on those who had tor­mented her. But here’s the re­ally silly bit — the show doesn’t even start un­til next month. Just like my ban-happy friend who had only seen the trailer for NBK, the or­gan­is­ers saw a 30-sec­ond promo clip for In­sa­tiable and their first thought was — I don’t like the look of this so I de­mand that it never be shown. These are the up­dated, mod­ernised ver­sion of Descartes: I feel, there­fore I am. Or more ac­cu­rately, I feel, there­fore you bet­ter do what I want.

The only dif­fer­ence be­tween the likes of Mary White­house and the mod­ern breed of wannabe cen­sor is that the newer ver­sion have a habit of ac­tu­ally suc­ceed­ing in their aims. But con­trary to the lazy stereo­types, it’s not only lib­eral ‘snowflakes’ (God, I hate that bloody word) who have de­vel­oped a blood lust. Dan Har­mon, creator of Com­mu­nity and Rick and Morty, has been forced to delete his Twit­ter ac­count af­ter a bunch of alt-righters found some old sketches of his that they didn’t like and launched such a cam­paign that he is strug­gling to keep his job.

Why? Well, as one per­son put it: “They got Roseanne Barr’s scalp, we’ll get one of theirs.” This is pop cul­ture as gang war, a sort of Twit­terati tit-for-tat that leaves every­one the loser. Both sides of this in­fer­nal cul­tural strug­gle are now so busy pil­ing up the body count of their so-called en­e­mies that, sooner or later, no­body will say a thing for fear of at­tract­ing the vi­cious at­tacks from one side or the other. Be­cause let’s be hon­est, when the bul­lets are fly­ing in your di­rec­tion, it re­ally doesn’t mat­ter who is firing them.

There was a time when only silly peo­ple wanted to ban things or get peo­ple sacked. Now every­one’s at it — be­cause feel­ings, don’t you know. Yes, we’re all Mary White­house now. And that’s not just silly, it’s ter­ri­fy­ing.

Let’s be hon­est, when the bul­lets are fly­ing in your di­rec­tion, it re­ally doesn’t mat­ter who is firing them

‘Cel­e­brat­ing re­venge’: More than 130,000 peo­ple have signed a pe­ti­tion to ban Net­flix show In­sa­tiable, and, inset, Mary White­house

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