As far as I am aware, I only have two prejudices, both totally indefensible.
One is because I really have never met a nice white South African. I think it may have been caused by the education system under apartheid trying to instil self-confidence. In my experience, they really have all been a bunch of arrogant bastards. But, of course, that is blind prejudice.
The other genuinely indefensible prejudice I am aware of is that I am unthinkingly prejudiced when it comes to Jews.
If I know I am going to meet someone called Peter Smith, I have no pre-judgments about him.
If I am going to meet someone called David Bernstein (presumably Jewish) then I assume he will be highly intelligent, highly educated, sophisticated and I will probably get on well with him.
That is blind, unthinking prejudice partly fuelled by my childhood and partly by history. And it partly (but not wholly) transfers from Jews as people to Israel as a state.
In my erstwhile impressionable youth, the Israeli Foreign Minister was Aba Eban (who sounded like an English public schoolboy) and the Prime Minister was Golda Meir (who had an American accent). The Palestinians and Arabs on TV always had representatives with harsh-edged ach-ach-ach accents. So the Israelis were “like us” and the Arabs were clearly foreigners “not like us”. Blind, unthinking prejudice.
As for Jews, I went to a grammar school near Gants Hill in Essex/London which had a very high percentage of Jews. I can’t really remember, but I think my year had A, B, C and D streams. Almost all the Jews were in the A stream with only a few stragglers in the B stream.
When there were Jewish holidays, a lot of lessons in the A stream were effectively replaced by general knowledge tests or similar.
I do remember that, in Latin lessons, there used to be three rows in class. But, when there was a Jewish holiday, there was only half a row,
So my impression was that Jews were intelligent.
That is blind, unthinking prejudice, just as bad as the opposite would be.
And that prejudice sort-of transfers to the Arab-Israeli/Palestinian situation. Look, don’t hassle and troll me (as if that would stop them!) but I think, if the IRA had been sitting in fields south of Dublin lobbing shells and missiles over into Liverpool, Blackpool and Macclesfield, the British Government would have done something even more active than sending the SAS into the south of Ireland to sit in fields and occasionally assassinate people.
Which brings us to this week and Kate Copstick, my Grouchy Club co-host and one of the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards judges.
Copstick has never been known to mince her words or necessarily to think too long and hard before speaking. It is a good quality if you want to be a controversial journalist, TV producer and comedy critic.
We disagree on several things, including Palestine. I would say she has a bee in her bonnet about it. She would no doubt say I am an ill-informed idiot.
This week, she posted a link on Facebook to an article. I notoriously don’t much look at Facebook or Twitter but, after the link started getting mentioned, I took a look at it and gave up after 3 or 4 paragraphs and seeing the first picture. The article basically was pushing a particularly stupid conspiracy theory in which the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad was behind ISIS. The picture was what I can only describe as a 1936-style Nazi cartoon Jew replacing Jihadi John in a pre-beheading hostage still. I am told that, later on, the conspiracy theory being pushed was that Israeli-backed ISIS was doing its dark deeds to kill off all the Catholics in Europe. Apparently Copstick, in classic style, had posted this WHY ARE ISIS NOT KILLING JEWS? piece without reading the whole thing on the basis it was an interesting concept. (My paraphrase not hers.)
And, indeed, no-one can say it is not an interesting concept!
On Wednesday (or was it yesterday? – it’s been a complicated week), I became slightly aware of this posting because @cliffordslapper was suggesting to Twitter followers: “Maybe try via her podcast co-host, @thejohnfleming”.
This led me to @TracyAnnO’s Tweet: “Maybe we should all ask John if he endorses her views?”
@londonette – how do u suggest contacting her? They are employed to represent her.They should at least act as a conduit
@lucyinglis – That’s true. Or through the paper? Or facebook?
@londonette – both have been attempted. Agents are there to deal with this sort of enquiry. End of.
As I was looking after a somewhat active 4-year-old at the time and don’t live on Twitter, the next time I looked, there was a positive flurry of Tweets along the lines of:
@BennettArron – I too have known John a long time. Perhaps he will respond.
@TracyAnnO – Silence as we know in all forms of bullying,are complicity
The latter was much liked and ReTweeted which, I thought, was a bit rich in the circumstances.
The Tweets continued unabated and unseen by me until later as in, for example:
@londonette – Hi John – I really do hope you’ll distance yourself from raging antisemite Kate Copstick
@TracyAnnO – Denying Holocaust isn’t good look is it @theJohnfleming @Copstick.Even for #clickbait self promo.
@londonette – I’m shocked u didn’t challenge her more at the time – podcast is a truly horrible listen
Where on earth a podcast came into it, I had no idea. But comedian Bennett Arron very sensibly emailed me, saying:
“Hi John, You might have missed the backlash about Kate Copstick on social media. Just wanted your thoughts on what she said on the podcast. Hope all’s well.”
My reply was, by now having belatedly scrawled through seemingly endless Twitter bollocks:
“I’ve seen the Twitter stuff. Podcast I don’t know. She’s going to talk about Twitter on the Grouchy Club Podcast recorded this Friday – possibly not posted until Saturday as I’m busy. As far as I understand it, she didn’t read the whole thing she posted. I only read the start. I’m looking after a 4-year-old, which is all I care about. If anyone has any objection to anything Copstick says or posts, that’s between them and her, not me. If anyone wants to have a go at me about things I haven’t said or thought, they can go fuck themselves.”
Bennett came back with: “Fair enough. Enjoy being with the 4 year old. Great age :)”
I then read, Tweeted by @londonette: “In case you haven’t heard it. Includes antisemitic rant by The Scotsman’s Kate Copstick AUDIO: The Grouchy Club Podcast: Jewish Comedian of the Year, a man with plastic testicles, the best Holocaust joke
At this point I realised they were referring to a Grouchy Club Podcast posted on 6th December 2015 headlined JEWISH HOLOCAUST JOKES (a legendary routine by Jewish comic Lewis Schaffer) and with the description:
Kate Copstick talks to John Fleming about the Jewish Comedian of the Year, a man with plastic testicles, the best Holocaust joke, trans-gender comic Will/Sarah Franken, Lewis Schaffer, The World of Pain, British TV censorship, how BBC TV executive Alan Yentob re-cut controversial comic Jerry Sadowitz, the power of TV advertisers and Noel Gay TV.
At this point, the podcast had been online for over three months, had 258 hits and had had no complaints.
Around 11 hours later, @londonette Tweeted to me: Hi @thejohnfleming have you taken this podcast down? Is it because of this? http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/155767/anger-comedians-daesh-post
This refers to a Jewish Chronicle piece headed ANGER AT COMEDIAN’S DAESH POST mentioning, in passing: “Ms Copstick, who was a regular guest on BBC comedy show Chucklevision”.
In the only Twitter reply I have so far made to any of all this, assuming @londonette had had the podcast removed, I replied:
“No I have not taken it down. If it HAS been censored, I will repost it on multiple sites. Fuck off.”
Obviously highly sensitive, despite a Twitter profile describing herself as: Freelance Journalist & comms, after an astonishingly long time at BBC News, @londonette replied:
“No need for expletives. You posted a ragingly antisemitic rant by @copstick for public consumption. It’s now gone.”
In fact, when I checked later, it turned out she was wrong. The podcast, should you want to listen, remains online at:
Reactions (among many) to my Tweet included:
@stephenpollard: This man posted an appalling antisemitic rant. When asked why it’s now down he says ‘Fuck off’. Nice
@brendancommins: What a tosser!
@BigotedIslamism (an account calling itself Humiliate Hamas): bigoted pig
The account Islamists Exposed @JailNaziScum simply posted my Twitter address: @thejohnfleming
Other responses included:
@TracyAnnO: Horrible response Mr Flemming. The pressure of collusion getting to you.?
@Kaztastic: heard the one about the bearded anti Semite posing as a comedy blogger? Shame on you Fleming.
@ziegfieldstar: Why is it that these anti Semitic vermin are always physically ugly as well as psychologically.
I then got an email from my blog’s South Coast correspondent saying: “I am getting tweets from this woman, @londonette, hell bent on what I don’t know. I was going to reply telling her that no way is Copstick racist or anti Semitic. It’s OK that they want to challenge and express distaste for something. That is everyone’s right. It’s the stoking of the fire that I object to. Saying ‘Fuck off’ isn’t always the best way forward.”
“Nah. Fuck ’em. The origin of their hatred is fair enough. But they’re now just mindless trolls. As bad as the Fascists they hate.”
That remains my view.
No doubt there will be further comments on social media. Welcome to the 21st century.