Sunday, 5 June 2011

The Daily Mail: Putting the 'H' in 'Sit'

The current top story on the Mail website is about a shocking development, albeit one that happened six months ago. Someone alluded to a bad word on the radio. You probably remember where you were when you heard it. Britain hasn't been the same since. What's even worse though, even more shocking is that, as we find out from the Mail On Sunday today; BBC executives rule most offensive word in English language is 'a good joke' on the radio at 6.30pm.

It may surprise you to hear that's the case. But the Mail assures us that it is, it definitely is. The BBC has now decided you can say 'cunt' on the radio whenever you want, just as you could on a degenerate blog like this. Soon it'll be cunt this and cunt that, cunt the other. Wall-to-wall cunt. On Radio 4! What the cunting fuck happened to this country?
The BBC was at the centre of a new decency row last night after ruling that the most offensive word in English is acceptable for broadcast.

The Corporation decided that the word – most abhorrent to women – has lost much of its 'shock value' and is tolerable for radio and television.

An executive who cleared it for daytime transmission on flagship Radio 4 even said it would 'delight' many of its audience, who would 'love it’.
A row has broken out! A row about decency! You'll have heard all about this massive row by now. How could you not? It's all we're talking about round here. I mean, I didn't hear the show, because I wasn't listening to The News Quiz when it was broadcast. Or, indeed, ever. But it was all the fault of Sandi Toksvig. Danish-born Sandi Toksvig, no less. Coming over here...

Anyway, readers of a sensitive disposition may need to look away now, as the Mail reports the offensive joke uncensored:

The Mail on Sunday feels it is necessary to the reporting of the story to repeat the joke, and apologises in advance for any offence caused.

Miss Toksvig said: 'It's the Tories who have put the 'n' into cuts.'

Yeah, you see that? You see how the Mail can reproduce the joke without having to asterisk anything out like it usually does for its prudish-about-some-things demographic? Well, that's because, and there's no cleverer way to put this, it doesn't say 'cunts'. It implies the word 'cunts'. But it doesn't say it. Which is kind of a problem for this story about how the BBC has suddenly warmly embraced the word and intends to start tossing it unbidden into our homes and cars until we're so used to it we're naming our kids after it.

Of course, the problems with this story don't even stop there. You can add in these factors: 1) It's aimed at adults on Radio 4, not 'In The Night Garden'. 2) It's a joke. 3) There is no proper radio watershed anyway.

But, y'know, really, all those factors pale into insignificance next to the fact that she didn't actually say it. Not that you'd know that if you just glanced at the article. The revelation that the word was never actually uttered, like the headline and opening imply, doesn't come until paragraph 11.

This is the top story on the Mail's site now, and it's going to be their actual front page splash. Yes, readers, someone making, in a joke, a veiled reference to the word 'cunt', on a radio show, for adults, in October of 2010. Just think of all the children who would have raced upstairs after dinner that evening to listen to The News Quiz, without an adult to put the joke into context for them. Lord only knows where they'll be in 10 or 15 years' time. It's almost too terrifying to contemplate. I only hope they discover drugs, unprotected sex and knife crime first, rather than face a world of teenagers making faintly risque jokes that you've heard a dozen times before about politics. On Radio 4. Who could bear that?

I think the thing that annoys me most about this is that I don't believe for a second that the writers of this piece were actually offended by it. It's just cynical moralising and BBC-bashing for the sake of it. They know it's a complete non-story. Indeed, if they were actually worried about people being offended, they wouldn't be repeating the joke to a wider audience six months down the line. But ultimately they know that scandal sells papers, so if they can splash yet another massive BBC outrage on the front pages they might achieve that goal for another day.


  1. I wonder what happens to the newbies who join the Mail. How long does it take to set this mindset so that they can write such prose.....

    Oh my:(


  2. You are ace and so is this post. I've got nothing else to add, because you've already said it all.

  3. I will only be interested when radio four talks about 'cunt' in the context of what the word actually means- women's cunts. I find that even the most right-on risque liberals can get a bit embarrassed when having to face up to the fact that a cunt is a beautiful, sometimes hairy, often hot and sticky part of women's anatomy, related to bleeding and birth and orgasms and sometimes pain.

    I find calling people cunts really has lost its power. But calling a cunt a cunt still holds some subversive meaning.

    I recommend you all visit where cunts are celebrated.

  4. The Daily Mail is actually a spoof news site like "The Onion" isn't it?

    No one could imagine it was serious, could they...

    Oh dear. I have just been told it is!

  5. Never mind being six months out of date reporting a row that didn't happen about a word that wasn't said. Humphrey Lyttelton said this years ago:

    "Nottingham - It's well documented in official records that the city's original name was 'Snottingham' or 'home of Snotts', but when the Normans came, they couldn't pronounce the initial letter 'S', so decreed the town be called 'Nottingham' or the 'home of Notts'. It's easy to understand why this change was resisted so fiercely by the people of Scunthorpe."

    You'll all remember the hideous row/outrage/fury that didn't erupt after that word wasn't said either.

  6. I am outraged!

    Merely by looking at the front page of the Mail on Sunday, taking some of the letters and re-arranging them, I can spell all of the "most abhorrent" of swear words!

    It must be banned!

    Innocent children could see the Mail and, having done so, make swear words themselves!

    I will immediately complain to the Hulture Secretary, Jeremy...

  7. My fave bit is when they say 'most abhorrent to women' as if our delicate little lady brains can't handle the word cunt, or indeed, a joke about the word cuts.

    Elly, I agree with you. Have you read the book cunt? It's about what your saying, as well as other things about women's bodies and history.

  8. Hi sian

    No I haven't read that yet. I will though!

  9. I like how the Mail tries to defend women here -- as if women had ever been a concern, other than for their prurient celeb pages.

    Didn't a recent poll put the Daily Mail at the bottom of its 'most popular' list, way behind the BBC?

  10. I can't understand why a joke about king Cnut can cause any offense?

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Agreed, John. The Daily Mail has no place talking about anything being 'particularly offensive to women'. Their nasty little rag is full of misogyny and anti-equality propaganda. Their gossip pages are full of pictures of former sex-kittens who dared to get old, and unattainable starlets who commit the crime of leaving the house without make-up; and their women's pages are worse still... full of cautionary tales of women who failed to get married before the ripe old age of 29, and who now regret it as they enter their spinsterhoods lonely, decrepit, and in imminent danger of being eaten to death by their own cats.

    The Daily Mail can knob right off.

  13. Unfortunately this kind of tosh will get disseminated all over the place. This morning my wife told me that she was shocked as she had heard on LBC about the BBC broadcasting the c-word at 6:30pm. I had great pleasure telling her that she had actually heard the broadcast in question and that we had both laughed along with the joke!

  14. Brilliant. I also read in the Daily Mail that Alastair Campbell got in an argument with a boy band singer at a charity football match and broke his leg.

    Whereas actually, he got in an argument with a boy band singer at a charity football match. Later, the singer was tackled by someone else and carried off with a suspected broken leg.

    Why do people spend money on an information source that actively tries to deceive them?

  15. I think Nicholas that the Fourth Estate is known for being pretty unreliable all round. Singling out one newspaper just misses the point of how the media works as a whole.

    I find the Guardian full of 'lies' especially 'lies, damn lies and statistics' for example. You have to do research off your own bat to get any idea of what is actually going on in the world.

  16. well, this post is about the mail elly, so that's probably why he focussed on it.

    as for the beeb and the word cunt, they did produce a nice little potted history of it for the "balderdash and piffle" series a couple of years ago. not sure if it's avaliable online anywhere, but worth checking out if it is.

  17. I suppose someone's got to keep railing against the Daily Fail.
    The problem is not confined to these shores though, as this very elegant article in the NYT makes clear:

  18. Yet, they found the James Naughtie "Jeremy Hunt" slip up hilarious, even though he said the actual word.

  19. Everybody seems to have the wrong end of the stick here. The word that the Daily Mail was objecting to was clearly "Tories".

  20. @ Barry Platt
    in a not-all-that-surprising move, the mail have fudged that aspect of the story up as well, the joke actually went:

    "George Osbourne, now theres a man who puts the N in cuts."

    so not the tories in general, just one of them. all the trouble to warn people they were about to quote the gag and they didn't even get it right.

  21. I know acg. But someone wrote a comment suggesting that it is the Mail that prints 'lies' and I am saying no, it is the media that conveys lies/half-truths/PR/etc etc.

    The problem is not The Mail but journalism in general.

    I get why Jonathan criticised this particular article. It was a commenter I was disagreeing with in this instance.

  22. ...i know also, and i pointed out that the focus of their comment was reasonable considering the focus of the article. (also how are you disagreeing? the mail are part of the media, so they're comment isn't wrong, it's just specific)

  23. They have also missed out on the magnificence of Graeme Garden in the I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue round of Oxbridge English Dictionary - new definitions for common words - defining the word "Countryside" as "To kill Piers Morgan". Joy.