This is another blogpost about Richard Littlejohn, for which I apologise in advance, after the other two I've written this week. And I know: don't feed the troll, and all that. Our hate has made him powerful. He probably loves all the attention.
I am aware of all that. I am aware that it will probably delight my critics and pet trolls to do this, as it is predictable as it is ineffective. They can claim with some justification that I am obsessed with Littlejohn, that I'm just as bad as he is; they can wheel out the cannons and have a blast.
Be my guest, I don't care. The reason why I have taken to the keyboard again, for the third time in a week - and I promise this won't happen every week - is his tittering over a suicidal man in his latest column. As ever, I won't link, but here's the hilarity in full so that you see it in the wonderful context it so richly deserves rather than me simply cherrypicking the worst bits:
Years ago, Scarborough Council erected an ugly wire fence across the footbridge which connects the town’s two cliffs in an attempt to stop suicides.
I remember suggesting that instead of trying to deter jumpers they should turn it into a tourist attraction.
They could announce that Friday night was jumpers’ night and situate a strategic skip at the bottom to catch the corpses.
Better still, it could be televised. Anneka Rice would jump off with them and interview them on the way down. At the time she seemed to spend most of her time leaping out of helicopters.
A small step for mankind, a giant leap for Channel 4 . . . The show could have been called: End It With Anneka.
Anyway, I must have planted a seed. This week, Swansea police were confronted with a bloke threatening to throw himself off a multi-storey car park. They sent for a bouncy castle.
While counsellors attempted to talk him down, a crowd gathered urging him to jump.
(Older readers may remember Peter Cook and Dudley Moore’s brilliant Derek and Clive tapes, which featured a similar routine.)
Eventually, he was persuaded to desist. But what if he had jumped?
By the time he hit the deck, the bouncy castle would have propelled him straight back up again.
I have visions of him bouncing up and down like Zebedee for hours while Old Bill tried to catch him. Boing, boing, boing . . .
I wonder what Anneka’s up to these days. Sounds like one for C4C.
(I should at this point mention there's an equally hilarious cartoon by Gary to illustrate the story of a man with a tear falling out of his eye going boing on a bouncy castle while Anneka Rice looks on. I mean really, it's that good. People forget about Gary when they criticise Littlejohn, which I think is a shame: he's more than happy to do pictures of Littlejohn's little man Daily Mail fantasies twice a week without balking at the inherent nastiness. So here's to Gary! Here's the recognition you so richly deserve.)
This isn't the first time that he's found suicide a tittersome subject, either. He chortled his way through a piece back in August about suicides of Chinese factory workers (which Johann Hari wrote about here), who were stopped from falling to their deaths by nets. It's essentially the same joke twice. Here's someone trying to kill themselves - guffaw! Here's someone bouncing off a net! Hahaha! Here's someone falling on a bouncy castle! Ho ho ho!
You'll forgive me, I hope, if I don't join in with the cackling. Because I really don't find anything spectacularly funny about it. Call me a grumpy old so-and-so if you like, but there it is. The idea of someone standing on top of a car park, thinking about killing themselves, isn't a massively rich vein of comedy, as far as I can see. It's not the same as the Derek and Clive song either, since that wasn't about a real person. It's a lot harder to join in with the jokes about someone hurling themselves to their death if they're an actual lump of flesh and blood, with a soul, and memories and dreams, rather than just some bloke in a song (who wasn't suicidal anyway - his house was on fire).
Isn't it? Maybe it isn't. Maybe I'm spectacularly humourless on this one, and it wouldn't be the first time I'd been accused of that. But when you think about a Chinese factory worker jumping from a building to die, and what that entails, and what it must take that person to get there; or when you think about someone trying to jump off a car park, and what they must have gone through in order to be there and feel that there was no way out, it starts to stop being funny. It does for me, anyway. I know that there shouldn't be boundaries for comedy, and everyone has different taste in these things; I'm not saying it's not a subject for humour at all, because of course it isn't.
It's just that, as ever, I find Littlejohn's take on it particularly offensive and unpleasant. This isn't someone who'll never know he was being mocked (which is the only wafer-thin argument defending Littlejohn's efforts on Chinese factory workers); this is someone who may well have read Littlejohn's evident delight at his predicament. He may even be a Daily Mail reader. Who knows. I just hope he never did read it, and he's managed to get the help he needs. Sorry if that sounds all bleeding heart and stupid of me, but there you go. Is it funny to take the piss out of someone who was seriously contemplating suicide?
Here's another reason why I don't find it funny. I once wrote a blogpost on here called 'suicide is painless', echoing the lyrics to the M*A*S*H theme tune. Every now and then I see, through my blog stats, that people have ended up there. And I find that usually they've been searching for 'painless suicide methods' or 'how can I make suicide painless?' - and every time I read it, it makes me have to leave the room, and I feel awful, because there's something stark and real about that, something that is so raw and so emotive that it makes me hurt just reading the words. I wish I could speak to them, or tell them it's all going to be all right, that I've been there myself, that it does get better, and worse, but better, and that if only you just take the time to talk to someone, it can help. But I never can, and I never do. And sometimes, I wonder whatever happened to them.
So I don't make jokes about suicide.