A great many people want to be outraged. It is an observable facet of human nature. Perhaps they glean some manner of perverse enjoyment from being driven into barely contained hysteria and exercising muscularly whichever circuit of the brain is engaged in generating self-righteousness.
Recently a leaflet was posted through my letterbox, inviting me to protest against paedophilia. Now I, along with 100% of other right thinking members of society, am opposed to paedophilia. I’m opposed to paedophilia being tolerated and opposed to paedophiles carrying out whatever unpleasant acts they feel compelled to perform. Why would I need to engage in a protest in order to clarify this stance? Barely anyone disagrees with me. No serious pressure group is proposing that paedophiles should have the right to engage in their favoured activities!
I can only assume that the entire purpose of this rally was in order to vent outrage and anger that such a phenomenon exists in the first place. It was driven by the same instinct which causes people to stand outside court buildings, waiting to pelt a police van containing a notorious killer with eggs or abuse. These people are not generally connected in any way to victims. But for some reason they feel a special grievance so acutely that they must add some impotent and outraged acts to the legal punishment which is exacted on society’s behalf.
Although this type of outrage has its intrepid outriders, it is also a group phenomenon and it is frequently generated even when much less serious causes are at its root. Take the current storm of public indignation precipitated by entertainers Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. Don’t get me wrong, I felt a bit of indignation when I heard about their antics myself. But today, as the story continues to rumble on, and as Britain’s population queues up to describe its personal affront at the pair, I can’t help feeling the pudding is becoming JUST A LITTLE over egged. Both Gordon Brown and David Cameron have been drawn into statements for goodness sake.
And, as the outcry reaches its shrillest pitch, the actual reason why the comedians do deserve some opprobrium seems to be being lost. The issue is Ross’ and Brand’s treatment of the actor Andrew Sachs and his family. That is all! It’s not about whether the pair are amusing, it’s not about whether people say ‘fuck’ on TV too frequently, its not even about whether the programme’s listeners were offended. It is simply about whether it is permissible to indulge in some very personal, unsolicited abuse and invade someone’s privacy, as a means to entertain an audience.
I believe it is not permissible, and clearly the majority of people agree with me. But let’s all take a step back, get things in perspective and stick to the point of the debate. If the outcome is a few quid off Jonathan Ross’s pay packet then we can all go back to being outraged at criminals and paedophiles.
By the way the doyen of outrage, the Daily Mail, hasn't half taken the opportunity to print lots of photographs of Sachs' granddaughter!