"Pomposity needs to be punctured and hypocrisies exposed. Today’s all-too-common sanctimonious pieties – wherever they are to be found on the political spectrum – need to be grist to the comedic mill" - Brian Boyd
There is nothing surprising about the latest brouhaha in Belfast City Hall. Charges that Sinn Fein are in favour of censorship should be met with 'and your point is?' Has there even been a time when Sinn Fein was not in favour of censorship? It's opposition to Section 31 was based on somebody else other than it being the censor, not the censorship itself. A rubber for Sinn Fein was never a johnny but an eraser. The party relied heavily on the use of censorship to prevent scrutiny of its Orwellian transformation from pig to farmer. Even when not concerned with shielding itself the party supported the censorious acts of others such as the right wing clerics who in 2006 were howling for the suppression of the anti-theocratic Danish cartoons.
That Sinn Fein councillors might wish to see a cartoonist prohibited from sketching them in the chamber of Belfast city Hall is not novel, even if the venue might be. Its newsworthiness is solely down to the ridicule heaped on the party. Sinn Fein complains that the cartoonist in question, Brian John Spencer, has in the past not depicted it in a wholesome light overlooking that such is the job of the Dick McAuley and the party spin doctors, not satirists and caricaturists. Spencer without question has not been kind to the party leader.
A political cartoon by Mr Spencer last year depicted the former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams standing at the scene of the 1976 Kingsmills massacre, when 10 Protestant men were killed by the IRA, with a loaf of Kingsmill-branded bread balanced on his head and blood streaking from a bullet-ridden van. It was titled ‘Sinn Fein’s red lines’.But so what? He is a caricaturist. It is what he does. His art pricks the balloons of conceit and pompousness. Jeffrey Dudgeon a unionist councillor pointed out that:
Brian John Spencer hasn’t only singled Sinn Fein out in particular. Everyone is a potential target, particularly if they are being hypocritical or silly.Who amongst the North's political parties does not have the entry ticket to that ball? That would lead to both Sinn Fein and the DUP being sketched quite a lot.
In a laughable contribution to the discussion Sinn Fein councillor Arder Carson said:
If you vote for this, I definitely won’t be here so you’re censoring me … You’ll be censoring me by me having to leave the chamber.That could have come straight out of Blazing Saddles, being even more comedic than anything Spencer might have aspired to.
Carson's party and council colleague, Ciaran Beattie insisted that “the cartoonist will not have permission to draw me or, I’m sure, any of my colleagues.” Thing is, Spencer can draw them with or without their permission. That they might not stand or sit still is of course something they can opt for but banning the artist from actually reproducing images of them is beyond their ability. Conversely, his ability is such he could easily sketch quality images of them depicting them however he might. He doesn't actually need them to be sitting in front of him.
Dudgeon hit the nail on the head with his observation:
It is a worrying example of Sinn Fein whenever they think that they are in charge. They just can’t take criticism.Comedy according to Bill Hicks is:
about the moral courage to deal with the important issues of the day without fear of media, corporate, political or quasi-religious censorship or disapproval.Imagine any party being able to subvert the Hicks principle. It would herald a regression back to the day when Paisley or Sammy Wilson could scupper current affair broadcasts that depicted them in a manner not to their liking. Step on comedy and we are but a step away from television cameras and print media prohibited from unapproved coverage of the party.
There would be no images of the great Visionary (Peace Process Be Upon Him), but those pleasing to sycophants. This would be out:
And this would be in.
Which is the best? No peace prize for the right answer.
Anthony McIntyre blogs @ The Pensive Quill.
Follow Anthony McIntyre on Twitter @AnthonyMcIntyre