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Friday, 4 February 2011

British Ha-ha

Stephen Fry, the world's most beloved Tweeter, if not twit, is a national treasure in England - but now persona non grata in Tokyo, Japan (death threats even, allegedly) for joking on his comedic panel show about a double-survivor of the A-bomb attacks in WWII - the BBC has had to apologise; as they have had to apologise to the the Mexican ambassador, for a joke from Jeremy Clarkson, another national treasure and TV personality, which claimed that Mexicans were lazy and feckless.

Last night, on yet another British TV show, I saw yet another well-known comedian make a joke about how the death of millions of Canadians wouldn't be so bad - because they're Canadian.  Substitute the word "Jew" or "Irish" or "homosexual", and one sees the problem.  The BBC has argued that "national stereotyping is part of British humour".  Uh - okay.  And apartheid was part of the South African regime.  Reprehensible traits, however "native", can and must change - and are not merely "political correctness gone mad".

Far be it from me to stereotype all English people as xenophobic, culturally superior in tone, or racist - though a recent poll finds the British the most obsessed with immigration among a number of nations (all with higher rates of immigration).  I understand how an island mentality used to projecting massive power globally is likely to need to deploy humour to downgrade the value of other peoples (sometimes threatening, sometimes threatened) - and I understand that the British have a sense of humour that stands them in good stead in hard times (which these are).  Still, it is time for jokes about various nationalities to cease - within reason.  It cannot be right to mock Mexicans or Japanese people in this way, let alone Canadians.
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