Before I start this, I must declare an interest: many years ago, back when I was Entertainments Officer at college, we booked and I met Jo Brand. This would have been at the end of the 1980s/start of the 1990s, long before she was the national treasure she is now. She was utterly lovely, and went out into a room full of rugby top wearing neanderthals and totally owned it.
Anyway, Jo has been in the spotlight this week. In case you missed it, I’ll summarise the important points.
Earlier this week, the BBC aired a pre-recorded comedy programme on Radio 4 called Heresy. Brand was a guest on it, and during the course of the show, Brand said this:
“Certain unpleasant characters are being thrown to the fore and they’re very, very easy to hate and I’m kind of thinking, why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?“
Cue social media melt down.
Here’s Piers Morgan, who of course had to throw his twat hat into the ring:
And of course Nigel Farage had to have his say too:
Yes. Yes I can, Nigel. Except I don’t have to imagine it, for you said this:
Just in case you can’t listen to that, that’s Nigel Farage saying that he would “don khakis” and “pick up a rifle” to defend Brexit.
There’s a difference between the two courses voiced. Brand: permanently scarred; Farage: shot dead. You can decide which is the more final of the two.
What I find most astounding is that the same people who are now apoleptic with rage at Brand’s comments are the same people who only weeks ago were defending UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin’s rape tweets at Labour MP Jess Phillips as “just a joke”.
You see, context is everything, and Brand’s comments have been taken right out of it.
Let’s compare and contrast, shall we?
Farage’s comments (above) were at a political gathering of like-minded souls. Let’s put aside for a moment Farage’s previous comments about the Brexit vote having been won “without a shot having been fired”. Similarly, both his comments were made after one of his supporters quite literally shot a Labour MP in the face.
But it is, of course, hard to incite people to do what has already happened.
There was – and trust me, I’ve looked – no meaningful criticism from the right after Farage’s comments.
Now let’s look at Brand’s comments. First up, she’s a comedian, she’s not a politician. Ergo: things she says are not (always) meant to be taken seriously.
Secondly, and this was not reported as far as I have managed to find, after she had said “… why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?” she went on to say “Obviously I’m not suggesting anyone actually does this.”
Thirdly, again, context is everything. Brand’s comments were made in the context of a comedy show. Farage’s were made in the context of a political meeting. You understand the difference, right?
And fourthly, and I think most importantly, Brand was appearing on a show called Heresy. In case you’ve never heard it – and you should, Victoria Coren-Mitchell is the host, and if you ever need a stamp of quailty, Property of VC-M branded on the rump is as good as it gets – the premise of the show is that panellists “commit heresy” by defending an unpleasant or unpopular point of view.
And that’s what Brand was doing. Appearing on a panel show and playing along in the spirit intended.
So what Farage and Morgan et al are saying – along with all the other people who have never heard the programme or the quote in question – is that Brand should be punished (and make no mistake, the police were involved before realising how stupid this is) for answering a question on a comedy panel show in the manner she was contractually required to.