Home > Thoughts, Twelfth Night > Twelfth Night, or, What You Will

Twelfth Night, or, What You Will

Seems appropriate!

Twelfth Night Bullies – seems appropriate!

Hello again. I hope 2013 is being kind to you so far, and will continue to be. Today is Twelfth Night, the day by which it is traditional to take down the Christmas decorations to avoid bad luck. I took mine down yesterday – does that mean I’m safe? At least I haven’t been beset with partridges, other feathered creatures or assorted dancers  for the past few days, so I guess it could be worse. The closest I’ve got to the Twelve Days of Christmas is the iTunes freebies giveaway of that name, But even that had its moments – yesterday it was a video of One Direction, and there was I thinking you had to be 13 to have an iTunes account. Age, that is, not IQ.

My reason for bothering you today is that I’m going to ask a favour of you, before the period of goodwill to all is officially over. As Bill the Bard put it, ‘Twelfth Night, or What You Will’ – so, out of the kindness of your heart I’m ‘Willing’ you to help me. Yes, I know that sets me up for the ‘Contrived Link of the Year’ Award, but I’ve had worse in my time!

After my last post, I was thinking about what I’d said on mockery and abuse, and how that happens in many different ways. I looked – as usual – at Twitter and found a few comments/jokes which were, at first sight, sometimes witty or funny. But underlying them was an insensitivity towards those who might suffer from the ‘affliction’ which was being joked about. I’d be the first to accept that I’m probably more sensitive since I was ill, but I’d like to think that is towards others as well as just about myself. To give you an example of what I thought might be hurtful to some: on one day there were a couple of the #hashtag games about older people, one on songs and the other on movies. Many of these were quite clever and amusing, at a superficial level. But they all relied on stereotypical views of older people which some would find offensive: they forget things, they smell, they are incontinent, they dribble and are messy, that sort of thing. Alright, these all may be true of what happens to us as we get older, but should we be mocking them? They can’t help it, can they? So I thought it might be an idea to do a follow up piece showing a few instances of how discrimination underpins a lot of what we say and do, either by accident or design. I won’t be naming and shaming anyone, I just want to show some examples to set my words around.

So, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to please let me have some stories to work from. Everything will be anonymised, I don’t intend to break any confidences or reveal my sources! It doesn’t matter where they come from, whether it be Twitter, Facebook or even real life! All contributions will be very welcome, and I hope to be making something from them soon. You can either get in touch via Twitter (DM if you would like total anonymity!) or via the comments box. All comments are moderated before they go public, so nothing will be revealed if you don’t want it to be. Thank you in anticipation of your help, and enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Oh, one final thought. If any One Direction fans think my comment was mocking, abusive or discriminatory in any way please accept my apologies. But you really should try listening to real music!

  1. January 9, 2013 at 9:46 am

    Hi Clive. Good to discover your blog. The humour thing is interesting because we can all joke blithely about death, illness, disease, handicap until we are directly affected by these things… then it becomes much, much harder to find it funny. But if comics took this into account, humour would be anodyne.
    So I suppose I’m ambivalent but would prefer a degree of self-censorship of very hurtful remarks. I saw Jimmy Carr on stage at Cheltenham, joking about breast cancer and at least twenty people just got up and walked out. I didn’t walk out but I’d never go and see him again so we do have the option of free-speech ‘live and let live’ but voting with our feet or unfollowing!


    • January 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm

      Thanks Jan and I’m glad I’ve found yours too! Since I posted this the comments have almost all remarked on the balance between free speech, humour and censorship. I’m widening my approach to the next piece as a result! I agree with you on self-censorship: unfortunately there will always be those whose lack of self-awareness and sensitivity to others are so deficient that they will still offend! That’s free speech, I guess, and as you say we can always vote with our feet and follows!


  2. January 8, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Another well written & thought provoking piece Clive, but stuck on the fence on this, I dislike prejudice / abuse / ridicule against sections of the community, but against censorship within media such as twitter, it is virtually impossible to tell a joke without it offending someone. I have seen people on twitter (that I follow & like) slating people on spelling & grammar, I don’t like or do this because I also follow people who are known dyslexic’s – where is the line drawn ?


    • January 8, 2013 at 4:44 pm

      Thanks Dave, I appreciate your thoughts. The more I think about this the more this turns into a discussion about what does and doesn’t count as offensive and discrimnatory and how is that defined. And by whom? I agree with you, I don’t like censorship either, but there are some things that would be better left unsaid – if we could all achieve perfect self-censorship there’d be no problem, but it isn’t about to happen, is it!


  3. January 6, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Thanks Merv, you’ve picked up the same thread as a couple of others who’ve got back to me. Basically, where is the line between humour and mockery, between satire and abuse? This piece could be harder than I was expecting to write, when and if I get there.


  4. Steve
    January 6, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Hi Clive

    Another interesting piece,here is my tuppance worth for what it is worth, as you know I have recently been diagnosed myself with depression altho I do think I have got it mild compared to a lot of people.A lot of people ,myself included use humour as a way of coping with various situations that life throws at us, what I have found that , especially with twitter that the meaning can be lost from brain to tweet and no harm was intended.

    I also think that in general we have become very good at looking for the bad in something rather than taking it at face value and having a laugh or cry with it in the way it was intended. Twitter fortunately gives us the option of unfollowing if we are not happy with what some people are saying, I myself have unfollowed some people for that reason.



    • January 6, 2013 at 8:06 pm

      Hi Steve, many thanks for these thoughts. I don’t disagree with anything you say, and recognise the benefit of humour in helping challenge stereotypes. One person’s humour is another person’s abuse, though, which is why I made the point about my own increased sensitivity. When I get to the full piece I’ll be sure to take account of what you say and aim for balance. I don’t want it to be just a needy whinge!


  5. January 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm

    I haven’t got any specific examples for you but I do know what you mean. Having two elderly parents with a number of health problems between them the ‘old’ hashtag thread made me feel pretty sad. I did take it in the spirit of Twitter i.e. shrugged it off but none of the things that were bring joked about are funny for the people suffering from these conditions and ailments.

    I would hate Twitter to be censored in any way whatsoever. I’m glad people are able to say whatever they like and if I don’t like what they’re saying I am free to unfollow. BUT…as you say perhaps we all need to think about the things we say. I know ‘political correctness’ is given a bad rap but I don’t see anything wrong with just trying to be kinder to people and self-censoring any potentially hurtful remarks


    • January 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      Thank you Ruth, I agree totally. I’d hate to take the fun out of Twitter, that’s what it’s for, after all! As you say, I’ve unfollowed people who I’ve found particularly insensitive. I’ve been guilty of it myself, I’m sure, but I try hard not to be! Some people just don’t seem to realise the impact of what they say. Here’s hoping!


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