Those bereft of a vested interest would probably agree war is a pretty offensive thing. Edwin Starr certainly did. Weâve been bombarded with the centenary of the First World Warâs outbreak this year and the general tone of events marking the occasion has not been celebratory, but mournful over the seemingly needless slaughter. Yet, whilst weâve been looking over our shoulders at 1914, seemingly needless slaughter has continued to be played out in Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and Gaza. And thatâs also pretty offensive.
In fact, there are few things more offensive than war â an omnipotent source of offence, one might say, as it never really takes a day-off. However, detached from the battlefield, there are other examples of manâs inhumanity to man that have also always been with us and seem unlikely to ever go away as long as we avoid the fate of the dinosaurs. Civilian murder, molestation, rape, torture and physical violence are all as irredeemably offensive as war and have never gone out of fashion. We attempt to curb them, we devise punishments for them, we try to educate against them and we engage in relentless pre-emptive prevention before theyÂ surface in the next generation; but they carry on regardless.
Beneath these universal sources of what could be termed âcommon sense offenceâ are labyrinthine layers of individual, personal offence, each of which offer different viewpoints to the respective beholders, the old âone manâs terrorist is another manâs freedom fighterâ argument. And this is where offence becomes less a shared response to something indisputably horrible and more a gauntlet thrown down by one set of beliefs to the feet of another. Itâs also where the whole business starts to get mired in the murky waters of prejudice and petty grievances.
Iâm not a particular fan of Jeremy Clarkson. Personally, I think heâs a bit of a prat. Whenever he opens his mouth, he says something ill-informed and stupid. I donât like âTop Gearâ so I donât watch it. But millions of people do and enjoy it. Millions of people also read his newspaper columns and enjoy them. Iâm not a particular fan of Coldplay; in actual fact, I want to throw my radio out of the window whenever I hear Chris Martinâs voice and want to throwÂ my TV set out ofÂ the window every time his face appears on-screen. But millions of people have bought Coldplay albums and have queued up in the rain to see the band in concert. Am I in the right or are they? I donât find âMrs Brownâs Boysâ funny, so I donât watch it; millions of viewers would vehemently disagree with me. Iâm not remotely interested in the âBake-Off/Apprentice/X-Factor/Strictly Come Dancing/Iâm A Nonentity Get Me out of Hereâ strain of populist light-entertainment television; but millions are. What am I to do?
Well, one thing I wouldnât do isÂ attempt to ban them. I wouldnât start a petition to remove things from radio or television because I personally cannot abide them. Who I am to dictate? What right have I to demand the employment of censorship? I can say they suck, such is my right; but thatâs not a statement I expect to carry any weight beyond my own four walls or my own circle of friends. These sentiments might find empathy with other commentators on here, but Iâm sure some would argue that they donât mind or even quite like some of the things Iâve listed as my personal dislikes; and Iâm equally sure dozens of others could be put forward in true âGrumpy Old Menâ style. But what good would that really do? After all, isnât that what Twitter is for, the digital inheritor of a stiff letter to the Times?
Which brings us around to Dapper Laughs. I had never even heard of Dapper Laughs until a couple of days ago, probably because Iâm not on Twitter and I have little interest in the here-today/gone-tomorrow fads that preoccupy âThe Kidsâ. I saw a clip of this chap on TV the other night and I didnât find him very funny, which is surely a failing where a comedian is concerned. He seemed to me like aÂ cross between a real-life Nathan Barley and a Cockernee version of the 80s American comic, Andrew âDicemanâ Clay, someone else who didnât make me laugh. As hisÂ actual name is Daniel OâReilly, I wondered ifÂ this characterÂ was a clever parody of a particular breed of bloke, in the same way thatÂ Ali G, Alf Garnett, Alan Partridge and Al Murrayâs Pub Landlord are. His humourÂ was a tediousÂ brand of frat-boy grossness that appeals to few over the age of 25, a juvenile strand of comedy not a million miles from something like âThe Inbetweenersâ, if lacking the deftly observed writing of that series and its painfully accurate portrayal of adolescent inadequacy. In other words, heâs not especially important and was probably destined to be an irrelevance within a year or two as his audience moved on and grew up.
The strange thing is that Dapper Laughs has suddenly become the most notorious comedian in the country overnight â a Bernard Manning or Roy âChubbyâ Brown for the 2010s. Why? Well, an online campaign to have him taken off our TV screens and censored indefinitely has pushed this obscure and unfunny funny-man onto the front pages of everyoneâs lives, at least those lives governed by the frenetic pass-the-moral-parcel panic of social networking. At one time, it only ever seemed to be the purveyors of challenging, artistic merit that were targeted by campaigns, whether the television plays of Dennis Potter, movies such as âA Clockwork Orangeâ or bands such as The Sex Pistols â and opposition to them was largely restricted to the parents of the generation they were aimed at or to those of an immovable religious bent, adrift in the beguiling Sodom of the Permissive Society. Not so now. Not only is it difficult to discern any challenging artistic merit in Dapper Laughs, but had those who have inadvertently turned the star of a minor cult on ITV2 into a household nameÂ been the age they are now in 1971, they would have beenÂ protesting against censorship outside the Old Bailey when the editors of âOzâ magazine were tried in the greatest generational conflict of the era.
Accused of objectifyingÂ women, belittling the horrors of rape and pandering to the worst elements of Lad culture, Dapper Laughs is as much an idiotic product of his age as those who seek to censor him, a graduate of social networking sites rather than the stand-up circuit. His charmlessÂ lingo is no different from the lyrical content of numerous male and female R&B acts that are sold to an audience far younger than that which watches late-night ITV2. His act is also representative of the shows that regularly clog-up the schedules of minority channels targeting a teenage audience, usually centred in Ibiza or MagalufÂ or a Northern English city, ones in which girls âgagging for itâ are hardly shrinking violets when it comes to sex; has anyone ever campaigned for an unedifying exhibition of crass vulgarity such as âGeordie Shoreâ to be banned? Or is it perfectly acceptable if it is young women self-objectifying? Hysterical overreactions to anything designed to cause offence are commonplace in cyberspace; âOff with his (or her) headâ is now the kneejerk response to anyone who says or does anything perceived as offensive, as though being on Twitter is todayâs equivalent of being the Chairman of the IBA and everyone has the authority to ban something they donât like. But is Dapper Laughs really Peter Sutcliffe clad in Max Millerâs jacket?
The trouble with Twitter is that the opinions we all express when confronted by the sight of someone whoÂ gets our backs up on TV, ones that usually go no further than our living rooms, can now be shared amongst a community that thrives on brewing up storms in their online teacups, convinced what they have to say carries weight. Rather scarily, it would appear theyâre right, if the reaction to Dapper Laughs is anything to go by. Perhaps I should acquire a Twitter account and then I can finally do something about Jeremy Clarkson. And Coldplay. And âMrs Brownâs Boysâ. And…