Matthew d’Ancona has seen through the game and noticed that the excuse of “satire” is a hollow shell of a rationalization, especially when listeners know that the plain, literal meaning of the “joke” is what’s actually intended, and what they find most amusing is that you’ll actually be flustered and unable to cope if they say their horrible statement was “just a joke”. It’s the tool that Carl Benjamin, Nigel Farage, and Boris Johnson have used to crawl to prominence.
In what moral universe is the statement “I wouldn’t even rape you” categorised as “satire”? For this is how – in an interview on Sunday with the BBC’s Andrew Marr – Gerard Batten, Ukip’s leader, described a tweet sent to the Labour MP Jess Phillips in 2016 by Carl Benjamin, now one of his party’s principal candidates in the European elections.
According to Batten, Benjamin is a “classical liberal”, “not a bad person”, “a proponent of free speech” and “wasn’t actually making a literal statement”. And there we were, thinking that he was just a vile misogynist, using social media to declare whether, in his opinion, a member of parliament should be raped or not.
In this universe, let’s assume that everyone is of average intelligence and able to comprehend their native language. The Benjamin rape “joke” is a gimmick that is read by everyone for what it is — a statement of misogyny and cruelty and contempt. The “it’s satire” claim is a pretense that everyone can see right through, but that defenders of misogyny, who are also intelligent enough to know it is socially unacceptable, can use to argue to their mothers that they don’t really think about harming women, while they can simultaneously snicker with the lads down at the pub about judging women on their fuckability.
d’Ancona and many others can see right through the rhetoric, and the people who pretend they can’t simply don’t want to.
Benjamin was invited to an atheist conference (a damning fact in itself), and the audience cheered and whooped when he repeated that remark. Don’t ever try to tell me that your typical atheist is gifted with greater intelligence and insight into reality — I’ve seen the fact that they’re just as susceptible to self-delusion and ignorance put on display. And also just as easily manipulated by terrible people who reassure them that their prejudices are righteous.