Encouraged by the argument in Caroline Farrow's blog here, I complained to the BBC about their commission of a comedy series about three men who set up an assisted suicide business. My point was that there is something depraved (I didn't put it as baldly to people who wouldn't understand) about wanting to choose the most shocking subject possible in which you can claim to find humour: that the search for the "laugh at any cost" is fundamentally not a search for humour but solely for subjects not previously laughed at, and usually for a good reason. Veterans of BBC Complaints will appreciate that I didn't do this expecting to change minds (ho ho ho!) or even to make the BBC think there might be a problem: I knew that what would come back would be a patronising spew of liberal establishment value-inspired drivel which would patiently explain to me why I was wrong, and allow the author to snigger behind my back about the sort of fossilised Daily Express reader he no doubt takes me for. (That "he" should maybe be "s/he" but in my experience women aren't are seldom anywhere near as good at plonking patronising as men.)
So the reply came and didn't disappoint any more than I knew it would anyway, but as part of its clever-clever attempt to put me down, it claimed that the comedy about assisted suicide would treat its subject seriously in the same way that Arsenic and Old Lace dealt with the subject of old lady poisoners, or Kind Hearts and Coronets dealt with aristocratic murders.
It's hard to plumb the depths of the contempt that the person who wrote that feels for the person he imagines to be complaining about an assisted suicide comedy. It's also hard to number all of the ways in which he is completely and utterly wrong (starting from the fact that both films can be comedies because everybody, absolutely everybody, from writers to actors to production team to directors to film distributors to projectionists to usherettes to filmgoers knows that murder is uniquely evil). Worst of all, is the moral relativism that produces the clinching (in his mind) argument, put as a mild suggestion, that "we do appreciate that the programme may not be to everyone’s taste but hope
that if you do decide to watch it, you’ll reserve judgement until then".
I've thought of the license fee as iniquitous for many years because it forces me to subsidise programmes like this, and forces other people to pay for things like Radio 3 which I listen to. A compulsory tax on televisions would be one thing: a compulsory tax which then funds a series of TV and radio stations which push a specific point of view is another.
What I've never thought of before today is how much I resent the fact that apart from paying for the programmes I don't watch, I'm paying for moral illiterates to snigger at my beliefs and to patronise me for it.