They were sick twats, but bad-taste jokes should not be a police matter | Says comic Chris McGlade, who went to Grenfell on the day of the tragedy

They were sick twats, but bad-taste jokes should not be a police matter

Says comic Chris McGlade, who went to Grenfell on the day of the tragedy

I wish I had a pound for every time that I had heard a really bad taste joke after disasters or terrible crimes. 

Over the years I've heard them about Hillsborough, Heysel stadium, the Bradford stadium fire, the Brighton hotel bombing, earthquakes, tidal waves, the Piper Alpha disaster, even Jamie Bulger. 

We've all heard really bad taste jokes, we've all told them and we've all laughed at them. I saw Jim Jefferies in Edinburgh in 2008, making out to the audience that he was keeping Madeleine McCann in a box he was sat on and if she didn't keep quiet and give him a blow job, he'd break her legs! 

The liberal audience roared laughing and groaned at the same time. Bad taste humour, sick jokes, while unpalatable to many, are also laughed at, too, because everybody’s sense of humour is different.

We all saw the drunken idiots who burned a cardboard box representing Grenfell Tower with paper cut outs of people in the windows made from masking tape. 

Now, I didn't find it funny, I wouldn't have done it myself, but these drunken people did and they found it funny. Where is the crime? They may have been twats, but since when was being a twat or bad taste, or people being offended, a crime? 

When knife crime is going through the roof, when yet another young person lost their life in yet another knife attack, when paedophilles are walking free from court when they've had heinous images of children on their computers, then why, oh why, are the police being involved to investigate a group of drunk adults burning a cardboard box in their garden? 

They deserved to face the wrath of the public, the same as a comedian does from his audience if he tells a joke in bad taste. But for heavens’ sake, please get things in perspective here. As much as some people find certain things offensive, you cannot monitor people's senses of humour by involving the police. We all find different things funny. 

These people are drunken, ignorant idiots, but no one was harmed, hurt, attacked, assaulted or injured.If people's humour, no matter how dark, is going to be policed, then we all might as well go and live in China or North Korea and give up on any notion of freedom in this country. This was even echoed on BBC Question Time by black and Muslim members of the panel and audience

The magnitude of these people being arrested for a sick joke is absolutely mind-blowing because our thoughts, our senses of humour and our freedom to express them, are now being policed. You can have thoughts, you can have a sense of humour, but they have to conform. Conform or face the consequences, that is a dangerous path to go down, I feel.

What I think was the biggest joke in all of this situation, was that five, drunken, stupid, people have been arrested and charged for a sick joke in their garden, yet the people who were responsible for the fire – you know,  the people who put highly flammable cladding all over the building, the people who failed to install sprinklers in the building and worst of all, the people who exploited desperate immigrants by cramming as many of them into that building as they could, presumably for profit, the people who are involved by dragging out the inquiry for over a year and a half – have yet to be arrested, let alone see the inside of a jail. 

When I think about that, I feel such an incredible anger towards the press for creating such a mass hysteria and scapegoating ignorant people in order to divert people's attention away from the real guilty parties. 

I also feel a sadness and a frustration not only because people fell for this, but also at not being able to put forward an alternative viewpoint, that takes a step back from all of the hysteria pumped up by the British press without being branded, among other things, racist as a result.

I refused to go along with the hysteria that the press and social media were trying to build up to what I felt, were ridiculous levels. One comedian said to me that ‘if Muslims had been burning an effigy of the Twin Towers then I would have been up in arms.’ 

The ignorance of this statement, which was basically saying I was racist, was as wrong as it was astounding. I also had comedians sending me direct messages offering support, but not doing so publicly because they were afraid that if they did, it would affect their work and the amount of gigs they got!

Seriously, what kind of society do we live in, what has comedy become, if comedians are afraid of speaking their minds in fear of getting wrongly branded, or gigs pulled, or not getting any gigs at all? We are all living in a climate of fear. People are being bullied and intimidated into keeping quiet. It's like we can have opinions as long as they conform with what the press and powers that be and self-appointed guardians of taste on social media, tell us are OK..   

There is absolutely no malice or hatred in me at all. I even forgave the man who murdered my father. I used to be extremely left wing in my politics, but not anymore. But that's not to say I'm right wing because I'm not. I don't think in these days of globalisation controlling our politicians, that left and right exists anymore. For me the left and right paradigm is just another tool used to divide and conquer. 

I went to Grenfell on the the day of the disaster. I didn't really broadcast this – although I did post about it on social media at the time – but since Chortle asked me to comment on last week’s news, I will set the record straight.

On that day I was at a gym in London, where I watched Sky News' coverage of a peaceful demo outside Kensington council on the TVs. Their coverage was so inflammatory, racist even, that I was appalled by it. They were desperate for violence, they seized upon any minor push or shove or angry word in the crowd and tried to make out that it was about to erupt into violence.

They wanted it to erupt into violence, their shite news coverage and channel needed it to erupt into violence so as to deflect the blame and focus from the guilty. I watched it all disgusted, so I got changed and went straight over there.

When I got there, thousands of people had started marching to the tower. Makeshift PA systems were being pushed in shopping trolleys and people were shouting stuff about the council. On three occasions, I got onto different PA systems and told all who were there what I'd seen on Sky News, that 'the system' was desperate for trouble to kick off. I pleaded with the crowd of mainly black and Muslim people not to give the authorities what they wanted and I pleaded for calm and peace.

People clapped and cheered. A Muslim woman came up to me and thanked me for coming over to speak. But at the tower, things were getting ugly. There was a line of policemen and literally hundreds of young Muslim men, started covering their faces preparing for trouble. Pepper spray was used and this crowd were fucking bouncing. One big black bloke stood in front of the police saying to this crowd, ‘Young lions, all you young lions, your time will come’ and stuff like this.

At that point, in front of this line of police, I went into this crowd of black and Muslim men, hundreds and hundreds of them. I was the only white person amongst them. I asked this black guy for his microphone. Stunned, he gave me it.

All these young black and Muslim men were saying ‘Who the fuck’s he? Who the fuck is he?’ Nervous I spoke: ‘Lads I said, I'm just a working class bloke like you, and I am from Middlesbrough, for fuck’s sake don't kick off today, don't give this lot behind me (the police) what they want. They want you to kick off, they want to deflect attention from the guilty.’

 I couldn't see everyone because we were all stood in the road and I was standing on my tip-toes then all of a sudden, I felt someone grabbing me and before I knew it, this big black bloke and his mates were lifting me above the crowd so I could be seen and heard.

I carried on: ‘Please lads I said, uncover your faces, take off the scarves and masks and don't give the government what they want.’ At that, a group of young Muslim women started urging their men to take off the masks.

We then proceeded to walk round right next to the tower. There must've been a crowd of 2,000 people there, mostly black and Muslim, but a few white people too, I saw Lily Allen there. One woman grabbed this mic and started saying that she was a Muslim and Muslim people would win the day and then she started shouting ‘Alluah Akbar’ and all these people round her started shouting the same thing. 

I saw the big black bloke again and I gestured towards him and he once again gave me the mic. With easily 2,000 people in front of me I said: ‘I’m from Middlesbrough; I'm white and I'm a Christian and I've come here today because what is important is that Muslim and Christian, black and white working class people stand together today in unity.’ I said: ‘The authorities want to divide us and conquer us and if you descend into violence, the violence the news stations are dying to happen, they will have divided and conquered us us yet again, please keep the peace and keep the focus on the guilty.’

The whole crowd cheered and as I gave the mic back, the big black bloke and countless people shook my hand and thanked me.

I got in the nearest Tube and went onto my gig at the Soho theatre, I know, what a way to prepare for a gig, but I just felt that what I did had to be done. I didn't know what would happen as a result, if violence would ensue? But guess what? It didn't and I like to think that I contributed to the peace being kept.

I was there, on the ground, on my own, in such a hostile environment, trying for peace and unity between working class people irrespective of colour or religion and it worked. 

But most of all, I helped people see how the media was trying to divide and conquer us and divert our attention away from the real guilty parties. 

All I will say, once again, is don't allow the press and social media to distract you from what is the major issue, by concentrating on the drunken antics of five ignorant people. 

Keep your focus on the real guilty parties, the guilty parties that cladding experts were banned from criticising last week, at the same time as five ignorant twats were stealing all the headlines for a sick joke and a shite sense of humour...


Published: 12 Nov 2018

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