Monday, 17 March 2008

A Brush with the law

You would hardly put him in the risque category when it comes to entertainment.

But these days, it seems that even Basil Brush is classed as controversial.

The wisecracking puppet, who has been on children's TV since the Sixties, is being investigated by the police for racism, after his show featured a gipsy selling pegs and heather.

Members of the gipsy community complained to the Northamptonshire force, saying this was racial abuse.

And although the episode was first shown on the BBC six years ago, and has been repeated eight times since, officers now plan to study it for evidence.
Hey: that's quicker than their usual response time!

The programme features Basil's friend Mr Stephen, played by Christopher Pizzey, falling under a gipsy spell which makes him attractive to women.

Dame Rosie Fortune, who lives above the pair, tries to sell Basil pegs and heather – but he turns her down.

She then offers to tell Basil's fortune, but he says: "I went to a fortune teller once and he said I was going on a long journey."

Mr Stephen then asks him what happened, to which Basil replies "He stole my wallet and I had to walk all the way home."

The episode, also on a DVD called Basil Unleashed, was last shown on the digital channel CBBC, last month.

Critics believe that the investigation is a waste of police time.

You don't say!

But Joseph Jones, vice chairman of the Southern England Romany Gipsy and Irish Traveller Network, said: "This sort of thing happens quite regularly and we are fed up with making complaints about stereotypical comments about us in words that we find racist or offensive."

Don't do it then.

"Racist abuse of black people is quite rightly no longer deemed acceptable, but when a comedian makes a joke on TV about pikeys or gippos, there's no comeback.

"Travellers have historically sold heather and pegs, but they don't do it anymore for a living. It could be that someone thought this was a kind of stereotyping."

Possibly. Stereotyping isn't illegal, though. Inciting racial hatred is, but I doubt that any child is going to sit watching Basil Brush, and say to themselves "I hate those gypsies, they sell heather and pegs". I really can't see this unusually deranged complaint going any further, and assume that even the police will eventually be able to work out that the complainant is either a nutter, or, just possibly, someone exposing, rather effectively, the ludicrous extent to which "anti-racism" has now been taken, by the police themselves, among others.

But what this demonstrates more than anything else is the juvenilisation of modern society, and the extent to which increasing numbers of people are now willing to go running to the police every time their delicate little feelings get hurt, seeking to have the offending party punished and silenced. It's a phenomenon we also see exhibited by those individuals who contact the police to complain about shops selling golliwogs, and by Muslims on a regular basis, and in response to a variety of causes (they often bypass the police altogether, though, and attempt to silence their critics themselves). Such people - adults who have never got over the fact that they aren't at school any longer, and can't go crying to teacher demanding that other pupils be put in detention for some petty slight - have always existed, albeit only in limited numbers. It's just a shame that, so long as they can present their offence as one suffered by some "oppressed minority" generally (whether or not they actually belong to such a minority - a lot of these informers are white liberals taking offence on behalf of the designated victims), their childish whinings are increasingly given credence by those in authority, including the police.


JuliaM said...

"Racist abuse of black people is quite rightly no longer deemed acceptable..."

Unless you are Chris Tucker... :)

Alex said...

FR writes:

.......what this demonstrates more than anything else is the juvenilisation of modern society..........

Your reference to the "juvenilisation" of modern society is instructive.

As Diana West observes in her study of arrested development in America (see, The Death of the Grown-up)

"Western society has a relatively new tendency to replace maturity as the goal of human development with a state of perpetual adolescence. How did we get here? In a nutshell, a half-century or so of youth-oriented, adolescent-minded popular culture has taken its toll".