Both fair minds and cynical minds have logic behind being them, different logics; which is why different camps of autistics have gone both those ways. There can be no clearer marker between the 2, than attitudes to the existence of violence. I have met autistics who enjoyed revolting laddish chats about gang or comedy violence exactly like the worst of toxic masculine culture. Tragically it was always a wishful myth that we as a whole are nicer than that. But for the strand among us who are nicer: the most key way that violence offends fair minds, is that strength has no correlation with who is right in an argument.
There are 2 morally distinct reasons why it is so upsetting that police violence exists in corrupted states all over the world, as confronted in our Black Lives Matter campaigns. As well as for its own wrongness, it is because at the same time, violence in society still needs policing.
If society is to reject that violence unfairly exists in it, then police need to share that attitude, either by choice or by accountability. But traditionally, governments like to give police fuzzily defined catch-all powers for containing society, instead of specific duty to side with personal fairness.
When you fear an authority, you are less able to approach it for fair help, hence less safe. The same way as disciplinarian school teachers who hold kids in fear actually make them less safe from bullying, so policing with selective intrusive powers makes us less safe from violent macho characters.
HUMAN RIGHTS SUBMISSION
In Scotland just now, there is a project on a new human rights bill: “All Our Rights in Law.” It looks like one of the efforts to encourage thoughts of independence, and a feeling that the human rights status quo is out of date towards minorities, including indeed autism as well as LGBT.
Scotland took public submissions for this bill, which is a key difference from when the UN Universal Declaration and the European Convention were originally written: that process was done wholly within the political elite, as an international agreement. Also, we are writing to the background of human rights standing established and citable as points of law. That made possible: that my submission was not just proposals, it is a notice logically citing rights to be proven from other rights, new from already existing!
I seized this rare opportunity to submit many items, including several on policing: so here are the others needing mention. That defense against criminal allegations is a right regardless of the cost associated with adequate defense. That nobody is ever safely convicted of a crime solely on the testimony of one person– or several people–against another without concrete evidence. That public order law must be sharply defined on what is or is not allowed and must not consist of any imprecisely worded catch-alls that police can make up as they go along, like Britain’s notorious catch-all term “breach of the peace.” until the USA ends a long standing practice against the oldest human right of all.
One submission point included an obligation to our human rights to have no working connections and relations with the USA until the USA ends a long standing practice against the oldest human right of all. This is where shockingly its border control gives foreign visitors a worse entry status actually for histories of innocent or discriminatory arrests, requiring their declaration and judging them like criminal history. Obviously against the oldest human right of all that US-led wars claim to stand for, and its allies’ medias never talk about it, never challenge it. How corrupt a body politic is that?
On policing of violence and of its threat.
I contended something that comes from the heart lifelong. That security of person and access to law, 2 human rights principles together, require that making violence not be part of life, hence making every use or threat of violence lose, not stand, is always the top priority and comes before overall keeping the peace. So that nobody can ever end up advised permanently to live in compromise or acceptance of any violent person’s wishes. But the abstract ideal of life without violence has not ever prevented the police from doing that. So only an explicit definition of that specific limit on their actions will accountably place that specific limit on their actions.
Basic to observability of any human rights, or of the civil order where they can exist, is that rational words and reasoning shall determine what shall happen, not physical strength. You need only think of the present shocking chilling case of Champ Turner, engaging this site’s campaigning concern, to see how totally it matters to viable life to have the authorities be reliable on an assaulted or threatened person’s side, not the side of the party who made a situation violent. Then, to see from all the Black Lives Matter cases, that if the authorities themselves can be transgressingly violent, what that means for safe life from other violence existing in a society!
Among adults as among children, violence is not removed and civil order not created among any population that is just contained and herded by a lofty, frightening authority. More approachable, less high-handed authorities, tied in to bother about every situation’s personal fairness, actually create more order. Fairness and order meet, nicely logically, where they share the principle that coercive violence or its threat, by any one person on another, needs to fail and lose.
Security of person includes not being subject to coercive violence from any random party who chances to be stronger than you, or the mob collectively. Hence: that the police are automatically obliged to agree with any defiance the victim could achieve, and give support to achieving it, and must never advise or instruct long term living in pragmatic compliance with the violence or threat; and that victims who are willing to take part in sting operations to entrap the violent person have an actual right to have that done in cases where entrapment is possible to attempt, it can not remain discretionary because that would be chosen non-zero acceptance of violence existing.
So that now stands as a submitted human rights claim. But because coming from an ordinary person not the political elite, it can exist until blue in the face, they can always be expected to ignore it and not choose to pass it on, and it is on me to try to pass it on enough to give it a traceable posterity. Meanwhile, it is too much or a coincidence, implausible, that I did suffer a crime of a street threat of violence just 26 days after making the submission. Many years since I last did, and it was at a posh location where you would least expect it, and where no such thing has ever happened there before in 22 years of knowing it well. It was on a piece of main road near a rail station, in normal times busy with walkers, but now was deserted because of the virus, and an irrational lout wanted it all to himself.
Thanks to the submission, I am entitled to have the police agree that it was right that as soon as the way to was clear, I ran in the exact direction the criminal had ordered me not to go in. They must not advise that it would have been safer to obey his wishes (to head the opposite way than homeward). The lout’s action was so extremely irrational, and their timing so significant, that it is completely implausible to believe it happened by chance. To any reasoning observer it must look like a reaction from forces not welcoming the submission, and testing me around its subject. Of course, by it they provided an actual case for me to cite the submission as applying to: and I promptly did that through a question to my local community council, whose interests include policing.
VIOLENCE IN COMEDY
Turn from that to some incredible good luck. Edinburgh’s arts and thinking style cinema, the Filmhouse, which my autistic society has a good relationship with, is applying for planning clearance for a new expanded building. A big project that had got media notice and controversy. Relevant to building applications is effect on safety and good feel of public spaces. So automatically, that was grounds for me to cite the submission and apply it to all assessing of those policing issues in the building application. One more action to record my human rights claim to anti-violence policing.
Now, because it is a cinema, there was another item to add, that comes from the heart just as strongly. – “Material to considering public safety of spaces, is to practice zero tolerance instead of cultural acceptance and incitement, towards violence ever existing. Whereto: will Filmhouse commit never to show in this new building, comedy films that show as a joke, an object of humour, violence or its threat succeed? Except, for uncensored art history’s sake, it could be shown in excerpts used within a serious discussion or historical analysis of the issue, the same way as we now handle past racist content.”
Whether the Filmhouse agrees that or not, the achievement is getting that asked, in a formal process, as part of asking about policing of violence. All my life I have been disgusted and angry that comedy often shows injustices, including successful violence, as jokes. I have never acculturated to it and always been morally angry that most folks do. It is one of the toxic processes that get violence and macho attitudes seen as routine facts if life. It treats a particularly nasty crime against liberty and fairness, as part of life, which can only encourage it to happen and be seen to legitimise it. As such it is an endangerment of everyone’s safety, that comedy does this. Shockingly nearly every TV comedy series has done it at some time. It has been in the media elite’s hands for that to happen, and arrange that fair minds offended by it have never had means of serious hearing.
Take The Big Bang Theory, as it is known worldwide: many will remember when Sheldon and Leonard call on Penny’s physically strong ex-boyfriend to object to his actions, and come home in their underpants. That is a serious horrifying sexual assault, but no criminal consequence for him is shown or even discussed. It and its injustice as an outcome are presented as a joke, fit for laughter. What does that do to perceptions of all real life situations involving any physically strong bully? I forever rejected Star Wars just for the original film’s sick joke that a Wookie tears your arms off if he loses a game. Folks actually exist who will buy T-shirts themed on that. The web has satisfyingly let me learn, where before it existed there was no way to know, that many folks were seriously upset and angered as kids by the injustice of the Tom and Jerry episode, “The 2 Mouseketeers,” that ends with Tom guillotined for his defeat by the mice in guarding the feast.
It has a long history: in the 1930s how were both mafia crime and fascism encouraged, and their path made much easier, by Laurel and Hardy’s violence? The awful brutality scale of their films disproves any generational bigotry claiming that comedy used to be more moral. Bullying wives willing to shoot them through the wall; Fra Diavolo where Hardy mentions their total money and next instant gets robbed of it; Below Zero where a mix-up with a wallet in a cafe that was not their fault gets them savagely beaten up and Laurel even thrown into a full barrel of icy water, which even a fan blog on them admitted was attempted murder; and most immoral of all, Going Bye-Bye, where for their role in a thug’s jailing he openly in court makes a terrible threat to break them in half, and escapes and succeeds in carrying it out before his recapture.
In British comedy, I am so alienated from it that all my examples are quite old, but mostly still are popularly rerun. Now that society has progressed to banning smacking children, it will be difficult for anyone still to excuse the film Carry On At Your Convenience, a trade union comedy, in which one adult man lives still under a dictatorial mother’s rule and the film’s ending is that she gives him a massive burst of smacking in front of a chillingly jeering crowd.
Despite grown consciousness against domestic violence, there is still only shy awkwardness, not the due ethical outrage, around remembering character Wally Batty in Last of the Summer Wine, an old man horrifically utterly ruled by his wife including physically, yanking him inside or pushing him across the room. Very well known grumbly old man character Victor Meldrew, of One Foot in the Grave, several times suffered violent outcomes to getting into arguments where he was on the right side. A clip was often repeated where his neighbour found him hidden under an upturned flowerpot, buried up to his neck in his garden. Not mentioned with the clip, was that he had been buried there by force by a tradesman who he had offended, an old man violently assaulted in his own home, presented as comedy.
Terry and June, the ultimate middle class complacency sitcom, also showed Terry assaulted in his own home by tradesmen, a pipe tied round him, who he had first displeased by not making them tea. An episode that would surely be unacceptable now and was surprising to slip through even in the 1980s, where they trick a Muslim business guest into eating pork without realising it, also shows that guest annoy a thug called “Muscle McMahon” in a pub and trick the blame onto Terry, who gets beaten up.
In Fawlty Towers episode 1:2, Manuel, visibly as a foreigner with poor English not aware what he is saying, punched by the burly builder who Basil tricks Manuel into telling, “You are a hideous orang-utan”. 1970s self-sufficiency eco sitcom, The Good Life, once showed its central character Tom try to start selling milk he had produced locally, and get intimidated out of it, literally chased away, by a thug accompanying the established milkman in the area.
Why should any of the world have any belief in the liberty of Western economic systems when unjust violence against trade was allowed to be comedified and offered for enjoying as a joke? In another episode, a hippie student fan of Tom’s self-sufficiency ideas still tells him that if he thought he was after his girl he would break his arm, – “hey I think you should know I boxed at school”, – “I’ve got a black belt at karate.”
In 1950s Hancock’s Half Hour, rerun and regarded a classic series ever since, successful intimidation of justice was one episode’s entire joke. When Hancock becomes lawyer for his supposed mate played by Sid James, who threatens “broken noses and cauliflower ears” from his associates unless Hancock gets him off, and after those violences happen to key trial witnesses and prevent them appearing, it is Hancock himself who ends up in jail.
I dare to find it no wonder that a man who made comedy like that ended up a suicide in real life. Then, when you are in jail, 1970s jail sitcom Porridge had character Harry Grout, the prisoner who all the others feared, who could have them bashed unless they obeyed him. 1980s housing sitcom Sink Or Swim, made just ahead of the shocking growth in homelessness under Thatcherism, showed an evicted young man demand his rights under the Rent Act, and the landlady calls a muscular thug to the doorway, telling him, “Show this gentleman what he is entitled to under the Rent Act.”
In 1990s Irish priests sitcom Father Ted, the episode I actually saw at a church New Year party, when thug bully Father Fintan Stack visits them, destroys their property including car saying, “I’ve had my fun and that’s all that matters,” and to their only attempt to stand up to him, “If you say that to me again, I’ll put your head through the wall”.
One of the Pink Panther films has a sympathetically presented dashing crook and shows him very painfully crushing the hands of a more vulnerable associate, torture, to extract what he wants, wholly successfully, while the victim then keeps getting his fingers crushed as a running gag for the rest of the sick film.
Hale and Pace made long running 1980s comedy characters The Management, a mafia boss pair both called Ron, whose entire act consisted of orders with gruesome threats. One sketch showed them carrying out their threat to a restaurant customer who stood up to them, murdering him in a way too horrific to describe and using the results as a swimming cap. Yet an electricity board used these characters in shop marketing, and the Comic Relief TV charity nights would put them on to pretend to threaten the audience into giving, for reasons that “are in your underpants”!
In well forgotten series I Lovett, Lovett accidentally goes to a restaurant owned by his ex school bully, as the crowning unfairness in a multilayered love humiliation, and gets: “Do you remember this?” – punch. TV comedy’s single worst ethical fail ever, I have long held and would challenge any autism activist to doubt, must be Blackadder episode 2:6, that sided with school bullying, blamed the victim for it when it was for easily targeted visual features that were not his fault, and portrayed as a joke the idea of a seriously damaging injustice turning the victim into a comic villain, while no moral judgment on the bullies at all. Every showing of that, or video or transcript book sale, obviously further endangered already highly vulnerable kids under violent abuse, in the whole failed barbaric disaster that school is, on national scale and even international where it was exported to.
All through Blackadder’s brutal season 2, the characters live under constant terror that Queen Elizabeth I may have them beheaded at any moment capriciously, and they are even forced to laugh and share the joke if she sentences them for fun then says she was kidding.
All my life since teenage, I have wanted an opportunity to be seen to establish the hate-driven barbarity of everyone capable of either making or enjoying any comedy about successful violence, including all of these animal level breaches of civilisation, and to record the case for them to become remembered with the same numbed revulsion as Roman circuses, Middle Ages public executions and religious massacres are now. Now, through submissions to 2 official processes, I present this case on violent comedy directly attached to a real human rights action on the nature of policing against real violence. Both could be breakthrough actions if, on their merits, they draw enough notice despite coming from an ordinary person.
- Double human rights action against culture’s acceptance of violence - March 1, 2021
- Tying Down a Duty to Protections for Fairness - January 19, 2020