Talking about Ricky Gervais, Twitter and ‘mongs’ on the Pod Delusion

Pod DelusionI’ve made another appearance on the Pod Delusion, this time talking about the return to Twitter of Ricky Gervais. I briefly go over what I consider to be the pros and cons about his reappearance on the Twitter scene. On one hand, he come be a great force for atheism, as he writes very well on the subject, but on the other his behaviour and repeated use of the word ‘mong’ gives many cause for concern.

Sadly, since the podcast went out last Friday, my hopes of reading more insightful articles about religion have been dashed as Ricky Gervais has continued to cause trouble by his incessant use of ‘mong’. I have to say that I for one don’t approve of his actions. The situation has escalated over the last few days, with Deborah Orr and Nicola Clark having their say in the Guardian, the Daily Mail attempting a sensible critique, and most notably fellow comedian Richard Herring having his say.

First off, I need to make this clear: the term ‘mong’ is still a contraction of ‘mongoloid’, and is still widely understood to be a derogatory term for someone with Down’s Syndrome. Ricky Gervais, and anyone else for that matter, does not have the authority to say otherwise. If it had truly fallen out of use, charities such as Mencap wouldn’t be complaining. On top of that, Gervais does use the term to mean ‘a twonk’, e.g. someone who is stupid, so he’s using it as a derogatory term anyway. Using a word that describes mental illness as a derogatory term is a practise that should have been confined to an 80’s school yard. It’s just as disheartening to hear people use the word ‘gay’ to mean anything they don’t like. It’s childish, crass and completely unnecessary. I for one am against it for these reasons, it’s got nothing to do with being jealous of the success of Gervais, as he would like to think.

So why would Ricky Gervais be so insistent on using the word ‘mong’? The cynic in me thinks that it’s just a cheap ploy to get some attention for his new sitcom, or that he just likes winding people up. Perhaps telling him he can’t do something is like a red rag to a bull, and he’s digging his heels in like a petulant child. Some might argue that he’s putting up a fight against censorship and the old right wing war cry of ‘political correctness gone mad’, but he is no martyr. There is no merit to what he is doing. How is the re-emergence of the word ‘mong’ going to help anyone?

gervais

Alright to use the term 'mong'?

I do not consider this to be an issue of censorship. Gervais is free to say ‘mong’ as much as he likes, but in doing so he makes himself less appealing to those who find the word offensive. I also need to spell out that I have no problem with discussing disability, I do not think it should be taboo. For example, Family Guy put out an episode which featured an actress with Down’s syndrome, and the issue was dealt with in a rather frank, albeit strange way. Gervais himself uses a child with Down’s syndrome in the plot of an episode of Extras to great effect.

The most worrying thing about this whole episode for myself is the cavalcade of idiots on Twitter who have decided to defend Gervais by tweeting along the lines of “mong isn’t offensive, you mong” to anyone who says otherwise. It’s a shame because it’s very difficult to perceive such tweets as anything other than a deliberate attempt to cause offense. If you know someone finds a term like ‘mong’ offensive, why would you then use it against them? To teach them a lesson? If Gervais is trying to return the word ‘mong’ to common parlance, he sadly appears to be succeeding.

There are some who think that people like myself are going out of our way to be offended, that we are looking for something to complain about. Not so. I don’t think I need to reiterate my views on why Gervais is wrong to use the word ‘mong’, but one thing I am quite annoyed about is the unfair use of a quote from the great Stephen Fry:

It’s now very common to hear people say “I’m rather offended by that”, as if it gives them certain rights; it’s actually nothing more..it’s simply a whine.

I totally agree that “I find it offensive”, as applied to say, gay marriage or atheism is no argument. There has to something else. As I have said earlier in the case of Ricky Gervais using the term ‘mong’, there certainly is.

Beforehand, I’d always given Gervais a fair amount of leeway when it comes to disablist language. When Gervais said “Is that a mong?” in reference to Susan Boyle in his stand up show Science, I thought little of it. I thought it was to shock, as part and parcel of the arrogant stage persona that Gervais has cultivated over the years for comic effect. However, there is no persona to hide behind on Twitter, and his ugly intentions around the use of the word ‘mong’ are clear for all to see.

NB I won’t be swayed by people saying “I’m 26 and I went to university but I’ve never heard someone use the word ‘mong’ to mean Down’s syndrome”. Sorry, but as a skeptic arguments from ignorance mean nothing to me.

Catch me on the Pod Delusion talking about Four Lions

Pod DelusionFollowing Channel 4’s screening of Four Lions at the weekend, I thought I’d contribute a report to the Pod Delusion on the film and it’s surrounding controversy. You can listen to it here. As well as myself, the show features reports on the 50p tax rate, abortion counselling, racism and synchotrons, and there is an interview with Robin Ince. Good stuff, go and have a listen!

I’m on the Pod Delusion again!

Pod DelusionI’m happy to say that I’ve made it onto the Pod Delusion again, this time appearing on the same show as Neil deGrasse Tyson no less! Following on from Bethany Jenkins’ piece about being a Christian and a skeptic, I thought I’d contribute my thoughts about who can be a skeptic, and what it takes to be one. In my opinion, anyone can be a skeptic. You don’t need to sign anything or commit your life to an institution!

I also believe that you can be a skeptic and believe in irrational things, but you should at least be able to recognise when you are being irrational. For example, I’m a football fan and I’ve got this daft belief that it’s unlucky for me to wear my Norwich shirt when they are playing, unless I’m watching the match. Now I know that my belief is total irrational nonsense, but I still do it! I know some people will disagree with me, but I think you can pick and choose what you are skeptical about. Who has the right to say otherwise? Anyway, enough of my rambling, check out the latest Pod Delusion!

My Pod Delusion début alongside Sir David Attenborough!

Pod DelusionI’ve been looking for something to contribute to The Pod Delusion, and I thought that my take on Morrissey’s recent comments would be a good place to start. So, I recorded my piece, sent it in, and was later informed that it was good enough to be in the show! As if that wasn’t exciting enough for me, I listened to the podcast this morning to find myself sandwiched between a piece on Baroness Greenfield’s latest waffle by Martin Robbins (the science correspondent for The Guardian) and an interview with the one and only Sir David Attenborough talking about his latest project! Surely I am not worthy!

You can hear the podcast on the Pod Delusion website, and it’s also available on iTunes. Any comments on my piece are very much welcome!

Listen to Skeptics With A K!

Skeptic with a kI thought I’d give a plug to one of my favourite podcasts, Skeptics With a K (or SWAK for short). Hosts and Merseyside Skeptics Society members Mike Hall, Michael “Marsh” Marshall and Colin Harris examine the latest issues in the skeptical world, which can include anything from religion, science, alternative medicine and paranormal bullshit to lots of vicars in a car and the hilarity of Michael McIntyre, all delivered with an irreverent and upbeat Northern charm. The podcast comes out every other Thursday, with the exception of next weeks which will be available to listen to live on Monday night!

PS thanks guys for giving me a name check last week, it’s the first time anyone’s ever referred to me as ‘skeptic canary’ I was well chuffed! :’)

ipadio: A Reading Of A Homeopathic Medical Article

Listen to my latest phonecast

OK, this phlog turned out to be a strange and overly long experiment! Having seen a particularly tantalizing tweet from @TredinnickMP talking about shamanistic homeopathy, I became dazzled by this article from the bad BHA, and for some reason I thought it would be a good exercise to read it out and commit it to iPadio. It ended up being quite an exhaustive exercise, taking over twenty minutes (all in one go) to record! However, if you stick through it you’ll be treated to some particularly batty homeopathic nonsense!