How I Became a Football Hooligan

Posted by Dan | Posted in Censorship | Posted on 28-06-2010


I’ve never been a fan of sport.

Well, popular sport anyway — I like climbing, and I’d fully endorse culling prison overcrowding by bringing back gladiatorial arenas and watching convicted thugs hack each other to pieces in a contained environment.  But I’ve never liked normal sport: tennis is a ball going left-right-left-right-left-right ad infinitum; fencing could be awesome if they allowed swashbuckling and flying kicks, but as it stands is just two people politely poking each other while doing a little dance; and everything else seems to comprise of a bunch of overpaid men in shorts chasing a ball and demonstrating poor acting skills whenever they get tackled.

Out of all the sports currently assaulting my senses I find football to be the least offensive (that’s ‘soccer’ to any Americans reading).  I’m not a fan, but it’s a lot less repetitive than tennis and a well-played game is based on tactics, and tactics are something I can admire.  Perhaps I’d even be a football fan were it not for the horrendous rivalry it creates among people (which I think outweighs any solidarity ‘gained’) and for fear of deforming into a “hooligan”: someone who decides that watching a bunch of people kick a ball around a big field isn’t cathartic enough, and that punching people in the face with a glass bottle would be a sensible contribution to society.

I had avoided the World Cup up until today.  But as it was my dad’s birthday and almost certainly England’s departure from the competition, I sat down and watched England v Germany with him.  As I refuse to pin my soul to the flag of a particular country I rooted for the team with the best tactics, so was pleased that Germany won.  I may not know much about football, but I think even I can say that England weren’t playing as a working team, and considering each player earns something like 90 grand a week — presumably because they’re considered the “best of the best” — I really didn’t feel sorry for them losing.  Anyway, that’s the most sports talk you’re ever going to see on this blog so make the most of it.

Twitter was naturally awash with rants, raves and fail whales throughout the match.  I didn’t really contribute much, other than remarking that the girls cheering on Germany looked considerably hotter than their English counterparts, which I suspect may be considered treason by some die-hard England fans.  So, when the coup de grâce (is there a German term for this?) was dealt to England’s frail and broken body, I thought I’d throw in something more topical to the Twittersphere and asked something along the lines of “How the hell did we win World War II??”

Naturally I received a few “You didn’t; we did. Go USA!” tweets, which was to be expected.  But then Bernt produced an astounding theory for why England won the war but lost the cup:

“During WW2 Germany was wasted on burning Jew fumes.  Since then the burned flesh residue in the air has made them supermen.”

I ReTweeted it because it was deliciously dark humour, then headed home.


When I got back and turned on my computer, TweetDeck was awash with furious comments from a woman I follow.  Apparently you’re not allowed to joke about the Holocaust, and she had reported my account to Twitter and was encouraging her followers to do the same.  I tried to engage the woman in conversation and politely point out that she was taking life far too seriously, but she firmly asserted that she was German and I wasn’t, and therefore I was excluded from passing judgement on this issue.  A bit like the people who insist you can only use the word ‘nigger’ in a non-racist context if your skin has a certain pigmentation to it (and are, ironically, baffled when you point out that their opinion is the racist one).

“We in Germany take on the responsibility for [the Holocaust].  We do it every day.  And you, as English, should not make fun of it, no matter in which context.”

Well, you can’t argue with logic like that.  Trust me, I’ve tried.  Still, I don’t know her story — perhaps she works in a Holocaust museum and really does take on the responsibility of the actions of a dead dictator every day…

Joking about something does not mean you support or endorse it, and if you think otherwise you’re a moron.  If you want to be offended, be offended by the Holocaust — not someone trying to make reality that little bit more bearable by learning to laugh in the face of an incomprehensible event so horrific a word like ‘tragedy’ doesn’t do it justice.

I’m used to receiving abuse on Twitter and don’t have a problem with it, but what annoyed me about this woman was the fact that she reported my account and called on others to do the same, putting my Twitter account at risk of being suspended or even deleted.  If I had been spamming, inciting hatred, or something equally annoying then that would be fair enough… but I didn’t: I simply quoted someone else’s words, and they were words she did not like reading.  Every day I read tweets from the fundamentalist Christians I follow, suggesting that women who undergo abortions are murderers and that homosexuals are unnatural and sinful in nature.  I am offended by, and strongly disagree with, these tweets.  I perceive them to be potentially dangerous and hatred-inciting, but I wouldn’t dream of reporting the users simply for saying what they believe.

I also read tweets from Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Patrick Bateman and God Himself.  All four are mass murderers who don’t see themselves as being in the wrong — again, dangerous and disagreeable.  But I don’t report them, no matter how bad their jokes are.  I laugh at some tweets, I cringe at others, and I sigh at many.

I have made a diagram of our delightful online altercation which can be viewed by clicking on the thingy below.

I call it “How I Became a Football Hooligan”, with the sub-heading: “OHMIGOD — THE HOLOCAUST IS BAD?!?????”:

But, all jokes aside, Mariam was right: Holocaust jokes are not funny, Anne Frankly I won’t stand for them.  So, by way of an apology to @MariamMKobras and anyone else who reported my account because they didn’t like what I ReTweeted, here are some more culturally sensitive jokes:

What’s three-feet long, has a purple head, and makes women scream?

Cot death

Why did the little boy fall off the swing?

Because he had no arms

Have you seen Stevie Wonder’s latest CD?

No?  Well, neither has he!

Read them fast, because she’s probably going to report this blog too.

Comments (6)

Yeah, see… I’m all for freedom of expression and detest any kind of censorship in comedy but have to admit. The ‘Jew Fumes’ thing didn’t actually seem at all funny to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I tend to gravitate towards really dark humor but in my opinion it wasn’t dark and hilarious, it was a bit, (well it’s all subjective of course) but I found it just a little puerile.

The subject matter didn’t bother me in the slightest, I’m just a comedy snob. There wasn’t a real set up, a play on any words, or a decent piece of satire. I was left sort of wondering what I was supposed to be laughing at. Not shocking, not clever, not really anything to write home about. Though that’s not really the matter in hand.

I think with any joke it’s certainly about context and timing, and anyone closely linked to the subject is entitled to a rebuke. Suggesting that your account be reported and deleted because of it is ridiculous but really, was that joke worth defending? Personally I’d have gone for something more along the lines of

‘Woah the England defense are really all over the place, perhaps they should have gone to a concentration camp’.

End scene…


But Maddox, how funny the joke may be really is not the point. “Was that joke worth defending?” What you are defending is the right to make a joke, not the quality of it.

The one time when I’d say a joke ought not to be made, purely as a matter of manners, is when the subject matter is still fresh and many people alive might be hurt by it (hurt, not offended; nobody has a right to go through life without being offended).

It wasn’t meant to be funny as much as shocking and slightly offensive. Offhanded statements like these are my bread and butter of social interaction, just ask Dan! So take it for what it is, an offhanded remark about the German Übermensch, instead of dissecting it this way and that, because it wasn’t up to whichever standards of comedy you think applies.

I’ll say it was successful in being what it was though, and the responses of this German chick with her 50thousand tweets made me giggle, but after the fact I realised I didn’t want anyone to find that tweet, and possibly read it out of context, if they searched for my name for whatever reason.

@Maddox, are you saying that you defend the right of free speech in comedy, but not in any other areas of communication? #wtg

It’s not a persons right /not/ to be offended on the internet. In fact, it’s not anyone’s right to not be offended anywhere. Having to watch everything you say, all the time, is getting to be a bit tiresome, don’t you think?

Thanks Dan for “defending” me in this instance, although it shouldn’t really be necessary. Next time I’ll leave the tweet, in the name of free speech!

Daniel, I’m all for freedom of expression but that cot death joke, and the jew one are just horrible, and not funny.
Everyone should have the RIGHT to say what they want – I certainly wouldn’t want to take this right from you. But as a decent human being, it would be nice if you gave some thought to who might be offended by your comments. As someone who has lost a baby to cot death (and yes Daniel, it did make me scream when I found my son dead in his bed) I could really do without reading things like that from someone I’m supposed to be friendly with. and Yes, I know your comment doesn’t mean you ENDORSE cot death, want babies to die or whatever, and I would never seek to take away your freedom of expression, but just as you have the freedom to make disgusting jokes, I have the freedom to be offended by them, and to tell you so

Why single out only two of the jokes? ALL the jokes on that post were sick and provocative. That was sort of the point. We can’t cherry pick what we do and don’t find offensive based on our personal experiences, nor should we censor certain things we say just in case particular people find they touch a nerve. Fear of causing offense brings with it its own tragedy.

I’ve lost loved ones to cancer and a number of my relatives died during the Holocaust, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to apply blinders to my eyes when those topics are broached, particularly in humour which I find to be a very human way of dealing with such incomprehensible tragedies.

To think I would make such insensitive quips in general conversation would be quite wrong. But I’m sure it was fairly apparent before you reached the end of that page that you were reading a post *about a sick Holocaust joke*, so it should have been obvious that you weren’t in “polite mealtime conversation” territory.

I just almost woke my entire family up by snorting with laughter at the Anne Frankly part. The cot death joke is one of my favourite jokes of all time, and as for Holocaust jokes, one that particularly tickles me is the following:

It’s not as if you’re going around and throwing rocks at Germans for allowing their Nazi ancestors to burn Jews. It’s not as if you’re running up to grieving mothers, laughing in their faces and shouting “AHAHAHA YOUR KID DIED BEFORE ITS TIME.”

The thing that makes them funny is the fact that you are acknowledging and addressing that they reflect some of the most tragic things in the world. They send the receiver into shock, and because most people aren’t ‘mean’ enough to say these things usually, they seem new, raw and yes, absolutely hilarious.

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