On an episode of the BBC’s Heresy, British comedian Jo Brand said, “Certain unpleasant characters are being thrown to the fore and they’re very, very easy to hate. And I’m kind of thinking, why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?” She added, “That’s just me. I’m not going to do it, it’s purely a fantasy. But I think milkshakes are pathetic, I honestly do, sorry.” Ofcom said it had received 19 complaints, as well as the Metropolitan Police about the BBC Radio 4 comedy programme, which has resulted in an investigation being launched.
The BBC defended Ms. Brand’s comments on their panel show, which "challenges established ideas and questions received wisdom", in an episode dedicated to subject of Brexit and the trend of 'milkshaking' politicians such as Nigel Farage. Mr. Farage, Tommy Robinson, a UKIP candidate, and even a war veteran at a polling station had milkshakes thrown over them by protesters leading up to the recent European Parliament elections.
The live audience for Tuesday night’s show reacted with laughter. The host, Victoria Coren Mitchell, said at the end of the broadcast that Heresy was a series set up “to test the boundaries of what it’s ok to say and not say”. A BBC spokesman said: “Heresy is a long-running comedy programme where, as the title implies and as our listeners know, panellists often say things which are deliberately provocative and go against societal norms but are not intended to be taken seriously.”
Mr. Farage was not impressed with Ms. Brand’s comments, tweeting, “This is incitement of violence and the police need to act” and “This is way above any norms of free speech - it is appalling and the fact that the BBC spends £177 million a year on light entertainment and comedy… this was a pre-recorded programme which they still chose to put out.” He described the comments as “completely and utterly disgusting. Can you imagine if I was to tell a story like that, about somebody on the other side of me, an Anna Soubry or someone like that? I reckon the police would knock on my door within 10 minutes. I think it’s appalling.”
In response, Ms. Coren Mitchell replied, “Nigel! I’m genuinely disappointed. We don’t agree on everything, but I would totally have had you down as a free speech man. Especially when it comes to jokes,” and added that “all people should be free to make jokes about anything.”
British Prime Minister Theresa May asked the BBC to explain why it had approved the joke for broadcast, suggesting that it “normalised” violence against politicians, as in the case of Labour MP Jo Cox ‘s murder. There is an increasingly hostile environment for politicians requiring the need for bodyguards, when until recently the only politicians in Britain who required a security detail were the Prime Minister and Home Secretary. Mr. Farage has required private bodyguards for at least five years, which says something about the climate of intolerance that he faces.
For several years comedians have refused to have shows for fear of their retribution, pointing to the violent behaviour on college campuses. The far-left have set the standards for what is acceptable to say and think and who receives punishment by way of censorship and harassment. In the case of Ms. Brand’s comments, the tables are turning on them in their own game.