When did being a dick become a crime?

Liam Mullone tests a vital freedom

Fuck this stupid country. I’ve got something to say: All soldiers should die and go to hell.

I’m saying it because it’s my right to. It’s my right to say anything that occurs to me no matter how ridiculous, insensitive, hurtful, blasphemous, vile, ugly, racist, misogynist or just plain pointless other people may happen to find it. I’ll say it again. With emphasis. All soldiers should DIE and go to HELL.

I don’t really mean it, particularly, but then why should I have to? Where is the law that says I must think through every word in my head before it leaves my mouth? When did words, in peacetime, ever become so dangerous? If that was ever a law, someone should have told Azhar Ahmed. And Matthew Woods. And Paul Chambers. Because as knuckleheaded, unpleasant and thoughtless these three have, respectively, been, they were simply NOT TOLD that expressing an opinion was now a crime.

Does it make it better, even, that I said it without really meaning it? Azhar Ahmed felt strongly that our troops should not be in Afghanistan. Which is in itself a reasonable point of view. I just said it for the hell of it. I just said ALL SOLDIERS SHOULD DIE AND GO TO HELL for no reason at all, except to state that I can, if I choose to, say it. The same way we can all say ‘cunt’ if we want to, entirely without context. Not that context ever makes saying ‘cunt’ more reasonable.

Let me test the barriers of this philosophical discussion; to try to find a part of myself that really, in its sinew, believes in this statement and needs people to hear it. Well, to be honest I don’t feel strongly one way or the other about soldiers. It’s a fucking horrible job, and I feel nothing but utter pain and remorse for people who get their limbs blown off for the Queen’s shilling. But then, nobody forces them into it.

So I’ll delve back to when I was 17 years old; a schoolboy in Hong Kong. My friends and I would sometimes have little parties on the beach at Repulse Bay. And sometimes soldiers would stroll by from the base at Stanley Fort and push us around and threaten us and thump us and grope our female friends. And sometimes these soldiers would hang about outside our school and pick up underage girls and take them fuck knows where. And sometimes these soldiers would make girls in our school pregnant, and it was always hushed up, to the point that we just accepted it, like having to walk through the school in our Speedos if we had swimming for PE.

Sometimes the US Navy would be ashore, and they were always decent guys who understood the tenets of self control. The Gurkhas were diamond. But the Brit squaddies were fucking animals and, as a schoolboy, my opinion of British soldiers was such that - if you had asked me while still clutching my thumped stomach and spitting out gobs of sand - I would have said that they deserved to die and go to hell. I may well even have added Mr Ahmed’s postscript: ‘You lowlife fuckin scum.’

Opinions are shaped by our experience and our maturity in interpreting that experience. Back then I was young and I was painfully regurgitating my parents’ stolen vodka all over the shorefront. So the opinion was biased, but it was still a valid opinion.

Mr Ahmed hasn’t been to Afghanistan, but he’s doing that thing young people do - projecting himself, idealistically, into a situation he empathises with. In this case, perhaps, he’s occupying the smoking shoes of a family that’s been accidentally drone-struck. So is it valid? It is kind of valid, unless we want to ban woolly idealism too.

SO, let me say it again, as a 17-year-old; with feeling and in playbill script:

LIAM:(clutching stomach and spitting out gobs of sand and stolen vodka) All soldiers should die and go to hell!

SQUADDIE 1: Ha! Ha! Fuck you!

Now let’s try some other statements which are equally preposterous but haven’t been outlawed yet.

All women should suck my cock. All Jews are annoying. Black people are shit at swimming and skiing. Slavery was a good thing. Pakistanis live in smelly houses.

These are all statements I’ve heard from comedians, as jokes or as the premise to something else. In some the irony / silliness was made clear. Some were hack and tedious. The last made me walk out the venue in disgust. But others have argued that, in some cases, I didn’t SEE the irony, that the joke wasn’t aimed at me or that, even if the joke was hack, it served a purpose and made a point.

Because telling a joke is only half of its existence. The other half - the laughing, shrugging or being offended - is the business of the listener. And it is all our business, when we’re in a comedy club, to not be offended if there may, in any routine, rant or tirade, be a kernel of a point. Because if we reach the appalling stage where we cannot premise our jokes with such statements (the Facebook trials suggest this point has been reached) then there is simply no reason to carry on except as Hen Party rodeo clowns or home-grown Zarganars.

And so it is with these three poor bastards. Of course they’re unpleasant. Woods, in particular, sounds like an absolute wanker. But we cannot, however difficult it may be, ascribe personal injury to people’s words. Being a dick is only half the story. The level we choose to be offended is just that - our own personal, difficult choice.

But this lunatic third step we’ve chosen to take - legislating against hurt feelings - is a kind of fluffy-headed fascism far worse than a whole army of soldier-killing, airport-bombing child-abductors.

So, for the sake of comedy, and what remains of sweet moderation in this country, I’ll say it again:


I await my £300 fine and my 240 hours of community service. And if it doesn’t happen, I’ll assume it’s because I’m white, middle class and expensively educated. Just like the cunts in charge.

Published: 9 Oct 2012

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