“Regarding the DisLike Button…”

Tony Bilbow · Freelance writer and broadcaster at BBC Television Centre

First – I’m flattered that you want my opinion, Max.

Regarding the “Dislike button”- I agree with you because if it stifles discussion, argument and civilised dissent, it’s demonstrably a Bad Thing. Fresh air is what’s required (see third para below).

Re the juice thing and giving offence. I think Corinne overreacted a little to something that is, after all, a pretty feeble joke, but then it’s easy for me to say because none of my family were murdered by the Nazis.

Censorship. The Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial in 1960 was a mixture of absurd posturing by the prosecution and the evidence of the good guys – George Melly, Richard Hoggart, John Mortimer, et al. When the verdict was in and DH Lawrence’s novel was finally vindicated I read that Lawrence’s step-daughter said, “I feel as if a window had been opened and blown fresh air through England”. That’s how I feel about censorship in general.

Artists – writers, painters, sculptors, musicians – have a duty to offend and when people are offended they shouldn’t expect an apology, but they can disagree, argue, discuss and reason. Many years ago I wrote a play, an adaptation of a Kingsley Amis novel. My agent hawked it around and one impresario said it was quite possibly the nastiest play he’d ever read. I rang Kingsley to tell him. He gave a kind of whooping laugh and said, “Well you must have done SOMETHING right!”

I’m with Oscar Wilde who said (I’m paraphrasing here) there’s no such thing as obscenity in art – art is good or it’s bad; and if it’s bad then it’s not art. Re juice again – there was a much funnier joke about Hitler which ended with him saying, “If I had my time over again I would do exactly the same – but this time no Mr Nice Guy!” Now that IS funny; and I’m sure some people were offended.

I’m rambling, I’m afraid, because I’m trying to recall the message that got lost; but I think the above is the gist of it.

Thanks, dad! Click ‘Dislike’ to see what Tony was responding to.

See Tony Bilbow interviewing Ringo Starr in the late 1960’s

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