By Ben Pensant
Has there ever been a better time to be a progressive? From Labour’s stunning election victory to Theresa May’s nervous breakdown, it seems the good news never stops. Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever so it was with great sadness I recently learnt wounded Republican congressman Steve Scalise – shot three weeks ago by brave Bernie Sanders obsessive James Hodgkinson – had been discharged from hospital, his condition described as ‘fair’. Typical. No sooner had we embraced the exciting idea that people we disagree with deserve to be killed than we found out Scalise- the evil bastard we’d never heard of ’til someone tried to murder him – had escaped with a bruised arse.
Still, it’s good to know there are courageous leftists willing to shoot people with dodgy views. And you don’t get more dodgy than Scalise, with his history of supporting gun ownership, voting against gay rights and consorting with groups founded by David Duke. All of which is infinitely more dodgy than shooting people at a baseball game. Because it’s no longer enough to merely defend ourselves with chants and flares. As the first Republican to come face to face with an anti-Trump lunatic who can shoot straight will find out.
Of course, left-wing victim-blaming is nothing new; we all remember Gabi Hinsliff’s seminal Guardian column in which she excused the men who assaulted women in Cologne on New Year’s Eve on the grounds that they owned iPhones and expensive jewellery. And the likes of Nathan Lean have built careers on putting the blame for Islamic terrorism on everyone but Islamic terrorists. But moderates usually favour the ‘obviously murder is bad but…’ brand of apologetics; while fringe relativists like Andrew Murray and John McDonnell happily laud everyone from the IRA to the Iraqi resistance, mainstream liberals have traditionally been more cautious, dressing up their victim-blaming by saying that terrorism is bad but it’s basically our fault.
Indeed, only last month popular trans-chef Jack Monroe electrified Twitter with an exhaustively researched four-point plan to defeat terrorism:
‘1. Stop arming the middle-east 2. Stop bombing their kids 3. Stop cutting police 4. Stop cutting mental health services.’
Insightful stuff. Because if Western leaders only listened to professional victims like Jack and kept their beaks out of the Muslim world all the shootings, kidnappings and suicide bombings that regularly happen in these countries would stop immediately. It’s not rocket science.
In fact, I was so impressed by Jack’s knowledge of geopolitics I asked if they could expand their point by telling me how many bombs were dropped by Salman Rushdie, Theo Van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Asad Shah, Asia Bibi, Marshal Khan and the staff of Charlie Hebdo. Understandably Jack declined to answer, presumably because they were too busy crying, suing journalists or trying to reverse their assigned gender by rubbing fennel on they tits.
But even peaceful progressives like Jack may soon be left behind as violent progressives take control of the narrative. And about time. Because punching Nazis is one thing but shooting politicians is even better. Which is why so many used Alexandria to flex their illiberal muscles. And few do that better than the leading lights of British comedy.
Indeed, this past year a veritable army of funny folk have embraced the new illiberalism unleashed by the horror of Brexit and the joy of Jeremy Corbyn winning an election by coming second. Last month alone saw Jonathan Pie’s transformation from a sharp, satirical creation fond of skewering both left and right into a fully paid-up Corbynite, re-tweeting people who think the Zionists killed Kennedy and being duped by a Daily Mail cover so blatantly photo-shopped the only other people taken in by it were Owen Jones and George Galloway.
Hot on his tail was leftist stand-up Josie Long and her mirth-free video explaining why she’s less frightened of the ideology that has killed 35 people in Britain since March than she is the one that made a thick Welsh racist crash a van into a bus-stop.
And let’s not forget kind, principled, filthy rich stars like Coogan, Schneider and Izzard, who between them have spent the last year either campaigning to overturn democracy or banging the drum for a man who supports regimes that censor comedians.
But none come close to the straight-talkin’ High Sparrow of the comedy elite, Big Ted co-creator and unashamed Chavez apologist Graham Linehan, a man whose dedication to re-shaping liberalism as the preserve of joyless, petulant Irishmen is matched only by his penchant for Dorothy Parker-esque bons mots, like that time he skewered Donald Trump Jr by imploring him to ‘die in a fucking fire’. Bazinga!
Such brutal put-downs are enough to make you wonder if all the funny bits in The ET Crowd were improvised. Because Twitter Graham is a ferociously different beast to the Graham who writes all those funny sitcoms. Whether he’s charming people he disagrees with by calling them ‘cunts’ or winning an argument by creepily re-posting a Facebook picture of his opponent and his mam, Twitter Graham pulls no punches, takes no prisoners and tells no jokes.
Indeed, Twitter Graham has as much time for people who disagree with him as he does for anyone who asks him how Venezuela’s getting on these days. And it’s this brave, principled and utterly intolerant schtick that has earned him 600,000 followers – or 687,203 as Graham would no doubt correct – who can’t get enough of a deluded 49-year-old teenager who resolves debates by calling people racist. Whether they’d go quite as crazy for a deluded 49-year-old teenager who isn’t also a hugely successful scriptwriter isn’t clear.
But Graham’s trademark left-wing miserablism was all over his curt response when news of the Scalise shooting first broke: ‘Chickens, roost, etc’. A concise mega-burn that saw the G-man add victim-blaming to his growing list of attributes, which currently includes bullying students, supporting political censorship and accusing people of being Nazis while making excuses for people who are pretty much Nazis.
Indeed, the above example from last year – in which Graham called Nigel Farage a racist and a ‘cunt’ but refused to condemn Hamas on the grounds that it’s ‘complex’ – was classic Twitter Graham. Because only a Sun-reading bigot would think a group who imprison homosexuals, shoot protesters and have a charter calling for the genocide of Jews are remotely as bad as a man who says dodgy stuff about immigrants. Perhaps if Farage had referred to them as ‘bacteria’ – the word Hamas minister Abdallah Jarbu used to describe Jews in 2010 – Graham would be more understanding. Because, y’know: complex.
Understandably, Graham afforded no such leeway to the DUP, who he recently compared to the fundamentalist bad guys from The Handmaid’s Tale. Indeed, with their extreme censorship, authoritarian ideals and penchant for female genital mutilation it’s clear the rulers depicted in Margaret Atwood’s dystopian thriller have far more in common with Theresa May’s new best friends than those other religious fascists who Graham can’t bring himself to condemn because it’s complex.
Which is fortunate, as Graham had his hands full last month prostrating himself before the Twitter Faith Militant after using a word middle-class people find offensive. Of course, if he’d known calling Theresa May a ‘stupid cunt’ was so hurtful he’d have called himself one instead. Alas, he only found out after passionately agreeing with JK Rowling’s much publicised view that the modern trend for calling female politicians rude names was jolly horrid. Needless to say, Graham’s world fell in when the offending ‘stupid cunt’ Tweet was dug up. Which would have made a lesser man look like an utter hypocrite. But Graham’s an old hand at SJW-wrangling, acutely aware that the one thing they love more than blue hair-dye is receiving apologies.
Sure enough, Graham instantly switched to damage limitation mode, tweeting ‘What the hell was I thinking?’ and assuring his fans he usually only calls men ‘cunts’. Though sadly that didn’t stop the torrent of tutting from feminists, proving a blue tick is no safeguard against regressives turning on their own. Of course, if Linehan were a truly fearless writer he would have defended his right to call the former Prime Minister whatever the fuck he likes. But Graham knows which side his organic bread’s buttered on and if that means effectively begging over-sensitive strangers for forgiveness so be it.
Which he was still doing a week later, playing to the crowd and accusing someone of misogyny for calling a woman ‘shrill’. Some Tory trolls suggested this betrayed a complete lack of self-awareness, blissfully unaware that in Graham’s native Dublin the word ‘shrill’ is far worse than ‘cunt’. Either way, he’s kept his nose clean ever since.
Not that he’s lost his edge. On the contrary, his run-in with the Offence Police dispensed with he was soon up to his old tricks, re-tweeting joy that conservative blogger Mike Cernovich was assaulted at a rally and making a rare joke about telling his children video game programmer Notch was dead after the gobby Minecraft creator upset liberal Twitter by criticising Gay Pride and accusing a woman of ‘cuntsplaining’. Indeed, it must be horrendous to find out the brains behind a beloved piece of pop culture is an intolerant loudmouth with a penchant for calling women the C-word.
Still, Notch could always earn brownie points by following Graham’s lead and regularly accusing Donald Trump of raping his ex-wife, a bold pastime for someone who celebrated Jack Monroe’s recent libel win. Unsurprisingly, Graham has repeatedly ignored requests for evidence to back up his claim. Because there are narratives to protect here and we can’t jeopardise them with outdated concepts like ‘proof’.
Which brings us back to Graham’s favourite target – Republicans, particularly ones who’ve been shot in the hip by bat-shit Bernie obsessives. Because with three simple words (‘Chickens, roost, etc’) Graham spoke for all of us who were overjoyed at the shooting but too shy to say it. Thankfully the four other victims are irrelevant, primarily because most of us didn’t know there were four other victims. And as luck would have it two of them were black which allowed progressives everywhere a sly chuckle at the irony of victims of white supremacy getting shot trying to save a white supremacist.
Indeed, the hubristic nature of the shooting provided much intellectual amusement on social media. Or as one anti-gun activist put it: ‘I’m glad he was shot. Fuck you, John!’. A point he clarified for anyone who thought a key characteristic of supporting gun control was not wanting people to get shot: ‘I don’t want innocent people shot’. Because as Graham would doubtless agree, there’s no such thing as an innocent Republican.
Graham’s fellow Twitter apologists also looked to Hollywood for inspiration, one comparing Hodgkinson to ‘…the Inglourious Basterds. The real ones. They shot up shit to make a point’. That point may have been somewhat different to ‘Republicans Must Die!’ but it’s refreshing to know voting against gay marriage is deemed as worthy of violent retribution as exterminating Jews. And I’m sure Graham is delighted to know he shares his worldview with people who can’t tell the difference between a coward who shoots unarmed congressmen and Nazi hunters from a Chris Tarantino film.
But just in case anyone thinks it’s only Graham and internet numpties who indulge in rank victim-blaming, respected Huffington Post columnist Jesse Benn arrived to add an educated middle-class sheen. Which he did by saying Scalise deserved it and telling everyone who disagrees to fuck off.
‘What’s worse: putting millions on the margins at risk via draconian policies or shooting a racist lawmaker in the hip?’ he enquired – because bad stuff done by the right always beats bad stuff done by the left – before moving on to another of Graham’s favourite themes: direct action.
‘For violent resistance to work it needs to be organised. Individual acts are understandable but can be counterproductive’. Brave stuff and it’s refreshing to know the most damning thing a mainstream liberal columnist can say about someone trying to kill innocent people at a charity baseball match is that it might not be the most effective tactic.
Jesse then summoned the Spirit Of Linehan with a measured response to a fellow left-winger who pointed out this sort of attitude only helps the Republicans – ‘Fuck you, centrist’ – before recycling more platitudes about how ‘resistance’ is actually ‘defence’. Which is what we expect from a middle-class journalist whose idea of revolution sounds like a Braveheart remake written by Wolfie Smith. But it shows how thoroughly far-left morality has infiltrated the mainstream that we now expect it from award-winning comedy writers too.
And if it gives a long-term admirer of economy-destroying South American socialism the chance to celebrate an ‘innocent’ man being shot then win-win. Because for Graham it’s all about keeping his followers sweet (did you know he has 687,203 of them?). Which is a must when you’re idolised by people who think assaulting someone you disagree with is, like, totally woke. And it’s a measure of Graham’s kind, gentle and utterly lopsided worldview that the man who gave us some of the warmest comedy of the last twenty-five years is simultaneously one of the coldest people on Twitter.
Keep firing those bullets, Graham!