Sunday 23 October 2016

Pack your bags, Bono... you're off to fun Syria

Published 17/04/2016 | 02:30

No laughing matter: Bono takes a seat at Capitol Hill in Washington to speak to a US Congress subcommittee.
No laughing matter: Bono takes a seat at Capitol Hill in Washington to speak to a US Congress subcommittee.
Thin skinned: Reality star Ferne McCann

D' you know what? I've been quite worried for the last few weeks. Fretful, even.

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Where was Bono in all the 1916 Centenary celebrations? Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I missed him, so much as I was struck by his absence. After all, this is a man who has never missed the opportunity for an utterly meaningless cliché and, let's face it, 2016 will go down as the year of meaningless cliché.

I had even considered appropriating Waldo doing a 'Where's Bono' piece in the column last week, but caring, considerate type that I am, I was worried that he might actually be sick and didn't want to cause distress.

Well, that's the last time I succumb to sensitivity, because it turns out he wasn't sick at all, he was simply working on a plan to save the Middle East. As you do.

And what a cracker it is.

According to Bono, the best way to beat ISIS is through satire, and he told a justifiably stunned US Congress that: "The first people that Adolf Hitler threw out of Germany were the dadaists and surrealists. It's like, you speak violence, you speak their language. So, I'm suggesting that the Senate send in Amy Schumer, and Chris Rock, and Sacha Baron Cohen, thank you.

Oh, Bono - where to begin?

For starters, if you're stuck in an area controlled by ISIS, mocking the lads who decapitated, enslaved and raped your family, by singing a cheeky ditty mocking al-Baghdadi's weight is going to get you killed in some new and fiendishly inventive way.

Satire only works in a civilised society. And the Middle East ain't civilised, not any more.

No, instead, the cradle of much of our culture has become a charnel house straight out of Brueghel's depictions of hell on earth. In fact, the people who insist on making spurious comparisons with Hitler are simply historically ignorant. After all, the only group which is really analogous to ISIS is the Khmer Rouge - and the men behind Year Zero weren't renowned for their sense of humour, either.

Bono specialises in a curious, spurious form of waffling inanities and what could have been dismissed as a throwaway remark was given more weight when, to the baffled sniggers of those in attendance, he insisted: "No, I'm serious."

Satire and derision are vital components of any democracy and the singer is correct in his assertion that people in power hate nothing more than being held up for ridicule.

But the reason satire works only in a civil society is because, in a civil society, the people being mocked don't have the authority to publicly saw your head off with a rusty bread knife - although I can think of a few Irish politicians who would quite like that option.

By the time you get to the head-choppers, satire is a luxury that nobody can afford.

We should, perhaps, be thankful to the great man for at least bigging-up the importance of irreverence because it has never been under more threat than it is in Europe right now.

It is now routine to see people prosecuted for Tweets that offend someone's sensitivities. In Germany, as we speak, TV comedian Jan Böhmermann is in the unusual position of being under police protection while also facing criminal charges. Böhmermann's crime? He recited a mean poem about that absurd buffoon, Turkish leader, Erdogan.

The West needs to offer support to the region, for our own self interest if nothing else. But what Bono and his ilk will never admit is that this will take a military solution which will kill both the innocent and the guilty. Will he issue any words of support for Böhmermann? I won't be holding my breath...

Since when did litter bugs have a right to privacy?

Of all the things that drive us mad, litter is consistently at the top of the list.

Sure, people are routinely irked by casual bad manners, such as loud talking on a mobile in an enclosed space, or not saying please or thank you.

But littering is a blight which seems ingrained in our psyche. Let's put it this way, the French were talking about the 'dirty Irish' 300 years ago.

So one might have thought this week's latest anti-littering scheme would have widespread support. But you'd be wrong, because this is Ireland, we do things differently here.

The Five Lamps area in Dublin is one of the city's worst litter blackspots and Dublin City Council came up with the eminently sensible idea of placing CCTV pictures of people dumping illegally in the area.

It was greeted with relief by the locals - who are the only people who should count in such a case - but it didn't take long before another useless arm of Official Ireland, the Data Protection Commissioner, got stuck in.

Placing pictures of litter bugs was problematic, he reckoned, because: "processing of personal data must be done fairly, demonstrate proportionality and not be overly prejudicial to the fundamental right to... privacy."

Ye wha? An arm of the State is placing the feelings of illegal dumpers over the health of ordinary citizens?

There's nothing disproportionate about publishing pictures of people wrecking the environment. If they refuse to feel ashamed, then they should be shamed.

Interestingly, there has been no litter since the scheme started. Funny that.


You'll have to trust me when I say that I am aware of reality TV 'star' Ferne McCann only because the wife makes me watch such programmes.

In fairness to McCann, she is unlike most of her ilk on the grounds that she's a genuinely stunning looking woman, but while her skin may be flawless, it's dangerously thin. Speaking on ITV on Wednesday, McCann came up with an interesting point - she wants 'body shaming' to be made a crime.

'Body shaming', lest we forget, is when people look at a public figure and cast aspersions on their weight or looks. It's unpleasant, but part of life, but according to McCann: "This is something I feel passionately about. I think it should be illegal, body shaming."

She's not the first sleb to come up with such guff. Cheryl Tweedy Cole Fernandez-Versini (do keep up) has also called on the cops to get involved whenever people are mean about her on Twitter.

There's one obvious flaw in this theory - McCann makes her living from constantly appearing in mags like Heat and Closer and all those publications feature multi-page spreads called 'What Were You Thinking' which sees celebrities in unflattering poses, whether it be eating a burger or looking like they have put on weight.

Does she want to criminalise Heat magazine and ruin her main source of exposure and, thus, income?

Interestingly, the latest Pew research points out that 'body shaming' on Twitter is a predominantly female pursuit, with women giving out about other women.

She didn't mention that, though.

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