It looks like the game's up for the false allegation of antisemitism. I should say "it's all over bar the shouting." But losing a hasbara by libel battle on the internet and then having it reported in a UK tabloid, that's what I call, on the ropes. They'll holler their false allegations for a good time to come but fewer and fewer people will believe them and now and again they'll be exposed.
It is not an offence to offend somebody
Sue Carroll 15/08/2007
Heard the one about the comedian who brought the house down - and found himself libelled on Facebook?
This is the fate that befell my friend Dave Johns and it's no joking matter.
As well as working the comedy circuit, Dave has appeared on the West End stage in One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and is a regular on Never Mind The Buzzcocks.
AdvertisementFor 20 years he's been in the business of entertaining hip, young audiences with surreal whimsy. He's used to hecklers, habitual mobile phone-users talking through acts and awkward customers.
All comedians are, it's an occupational hazard.
So, one recent Saturday night at Manchester Comedy Club, after seeing a group of 10 noisy Israeli students behaving obnoxiously he decided to nip it in the bud.
"Are you the Israeli students?" he asked at the start of his act. "Because there's 10 Palestinians at the box office saying you lot are occupying their seats."
Well, it made me laugh.
Luckily we've not reached the stage - yet - when the "joke police" can step in to ban comedians from making a few members of the audience feel uncomfortable and offended.
Isn't that what good comedy is about?
Imagine that great Jewish comedian Jackie Mason not being able to to mock his own faith. It would be like taking a plumber's wrench away and asking him to fix the boiler.
As Stephen Fry so succinctly put it when talking about censorship in comedy: "You're offended? So effing what."
Anyway, the audience loved it. The mob from Israel did not.
They walked out after calling Dave a "p****" and telling anyone who'd listen that, despite two UN mandates stating the very opposite, Israel did not occupy Palestinian territory. It hadn't occurred to them that if they'd been Palestinians, Dave would have turned the joke on its head.
But they didn't want reason, they wanted trouble. Suffice to say, it took all of 24 hours for this bunch to condemn Dave as a racist with a posting on Facebook calling his act "disgusting and unforgivable", his jokes anti-Semitic, mocking up a picture of him as Hitler and urging people "to destroy this pathetic excuse of a comedian's career".
That the posting, which included a totally fictitious account of a mass walkout and someone in the audience shouting "dirty Jews", might be a complete fabrication clearly didn't occur to the cowboys at Facebook.
After all, why let the truth get in the way of revenue? Let's not forget this is the same organisation which ran BNP propaganda alongside bank adverts.
Dave, as it turns out, has been completely vindicated. Manchester Comedy Club recorded the entire show. You won't, of course, Palesfind the scurrilous posting on Facebook now.
After being told this was the sort of libel newspapers pay lawyers vast sums of money to avoid, it was hastily removed.
But what remains is an ominous reminder of how easy it is to play the race card in the public domain and get away with it.
A tape recording exonerated Dave, but what if it had been his word against theirs? That's what worries him.
"A comic should be allowed to make satirical jokes about political situations," says Dave. "If people don't like them, that's their right. But to see racist intent where there is none is wrong. It's an emotive accusation. To use it glibly does a disservice to people who suffer genuine discrimination."
He's right. Real anti-Semites spray graffiti over Jewish graves, daub synagogues with swastikas, deny the holocaust, and preach the extermination of Jews in radical mosques.
Here's a funny thing. You don't find too many of them in the Comedy Club.
Many thanks to Ken Waldron for posting to this to the comment section. Where we need these reports most is in the tabloid, at least the mainstream, media. But a tabloid is the least likely place for them to appear.