Four cases come before the court of the Pedant-General in Ordinary today.
Case 1: Tom Cruise and the Water Pistol
From Today's Telegraph Letters:
Sir - I was astonished to read about a television "prankster" attacking the actor Tom Cruise by squirting water in his face. This was supposed to be a spoof, which was going to be broadcast for all of our amusement this week.Errmmm... "Unexpected Water Squirting" vs "A Burst Ear Drum". I know which I would rather have. This chap is probably just your common or garden fruit loop.
Has it not occurred to anyone that this television format differs little or not at all from the "happy-slapping" craze that is continuing to cause outrage and injury?
Too bad for these television thugs that on this occasion Tom Cruise reacted admirably and showed himself to be in a different class altogether.
P-G Prescription: A custard pie in the face, then we'll say no more about it.
Case 2: Incitement to Religious Hatred
Boeciana has an eloquent post on this topic. I am probably going to get into hot water here (there's nothing like a good old fashioned mediaeval trial-by-ordeal is there), but it strikes me that this is indeed a case of "Sticks and Stones".
There is a simple test:
- If I am rude to you or ridicule your ideas or beliefs, that is not - or rather, should not be - an offence. You might not invite me round for dinner again, but then, maybe I wouldn't have accepted the invitation;
- If I throw a brick through your window or break your arm, or refuse you a job because of any unrelated beliefs you may hold, I should be punished. But I should be punished because I broke your arm or whatever.
- If someone, who listened to me ridiculing your ideas or beliefs, goes on to ridicule your ideas or beliefs, that is not an offence. Either for me or the listener.
- If someone - who listened to me ridiculing your ideas or beliefs - goes on to break your arm, he is probably a fruit loop and needs to be punished. But he should be punished for breaking your arm. However, I fail to see that I have to be held to account for the actions of a fruit loop. He may pin the blame on me, but then again, he might be listening to the voices in his head telling him to say that...
- If I suggest that, because of your beliefs, you need your arm broken, or to be refused housing or a job or whatever, I need to be watched very carefully. I might even need to be punished in some way. But then, if I am going to be punished, it should be because I suggested that you needed your arm broken, not because of my stated reasons that you need your arm broken.
- If someone - who listened to me suggest that, because of your beliefs, you need your arm broken - goes on to break your arm, he is probably a fruit loop and needs to be punished. But he should be punished for breaking your arm.
The fruit loop's motivation is certainly fodder for a harsher sentence, because it suggests that they are a greater and/or more lasting danger to the public at large, or one well-defined section of the public at any rate. BUT - it does NOT make it a different crime, and it is not up to the police to establish this motivation at source.
Words don't hurt. Not really. Not in the way that actions really actually do. That strikes me as being obvious.
- A custard pie in the face for the loon who drafted this.
- A sound kicking at the polls for the Home Secretary. Even better, he should be vigorously chased around the country by pedants like me, dissecting his every word so we can hoist him on his petard. That would be justice.
Case 3: A Mindless Affront to Basic Human Decency
This is getting tiresome.
Now I don't have a dog in this fight. It is very tempting to take the middle-of-the-road, largely European/"splendid isolation" line and implore a plague on both their houses.
Here is a basic summary of the facts:
1. A young Palestinian woman burns herself in a domestic accident.
2. An Israeli hospital gives her treatment.
3. A few months later, she returns for another course of treatment at the expense of the grateful Israeli taxpayers. Except this time, she decides to sew some explosives into underwear.
4. When challenged at a checkpoint she attempts - and thankfully fails - to detonate herself there.
5. When interviewed, she admits that she had been planning to blow herself up in the hospital.
Ms Bis also said she had been angry over allegations that Israeli guards had ripped out pages of the Koran at a prison in northern Israel, claims Israel denies. "What angered me and the Palestinian people is the abuse of the Koran," she said. "Should we sit in silence with our hands tied?"Errmmm.... Where I come from, and regardless of any of the previous atrocities on either side, this is totally and completely unconscionable. She is being aided by the taxpayers of another country after a routine domestic accident and she wants to blow up the medics who are helping her. You don't conspire to blow up medics. Ever.
Now let's look at this motivation a little more closely. More closely than the BBC that is.
1) I hear that Israeli guards had ripped out pages of the Koran at a prison in northern Israel. I surmise from this that these Israeli guards have no respect for Islam. And need to be blown up. Sorry, no - they get away with it. This is already getting tricky.
2) But I need to avoid detection, so I'll sew the explosives in my underwear, because the Israelis who guard the border post through which I have to cross are sensitive to the fact that I am a Muslim woman and won't want to search me at all, let alone rifle about in my drawers.
3) I'll blow up someone completely unrelated to incident 1) who is trying to help me.
I know I am fond of the "three things" rule, but this appears to me to be Orwellian triplethink, and is therefore a "bad thing".
The BBC, however, seems to take a different tone:
Israeli military spokeswoman Maj Sharon Feingold accused Palestinian militants of exploiting humanitarian cases for their own ends.Accused? Huh? In what way is there some kind of absurd "they would say that wouldn't they" approach to be had here? How on earth do they construct a partisan approach out of this good news story.
I would have thought a headline like
heroic Israeli border guards put their lives on the line to thwart savage and unprovoked attack by nutcase and save innocent and selfless medical staffwould be closer to the mark. But perhaps I get hung up on the pedantic detail too much.
There are at least two prisoners in the dock for this one: the BBC reporter who filed this, and the editor who let it through. This is a clear cut case of moral equivalency. I will let you, dear reader, inspect my manifesto for the statutory sentence to be handed down.
But what of the hapless Ms Al-Bis? She continues:
Later, she pleaded for mercy because she "didn't kill anyone".
Presumably, she would be happy with the same sort of mercy that she would have been content to visit upon the Koran defilers. Then again, maybe not.
Alternatively, she could submit herself to this lot and see what they can come up with. Then again, maybe not.
Hang on a minute. Let's examine this girl's motivation again:
1. I am quite happy to blow myself up and die.
2. I want mercy when I fail to blow myself up, because, err..., I don't want to die, or, errr....., I don't want something to happen to me that is, err...., worse than death, or, errr......, not as bad as death.
If ridiculing people's ideas and beliefs is to become an offence - see case 2 above - I'm in a whole world of trouble.
Case 4: Another Mindless Affront to Basic Human Decency
Every case must be treated on its merits. But your fearsome Pedant-General sorely needed some refreshment during the recess after Case 3 above and has been at the fighting lager. He is no mood for hearing appeals to clemency now.
So pity this poor sod when he was dragged, bleeding, into the dock.
Thankfully, your steadfast Pedant-General is aware of his failings and knows that he will probably overstep the mark in sentencing this
Readers are invited to offer sentencing suggestions for consideration on my return.
* This was a fortuitous decision as he needs to bunk off early this afternoon anyway to catch a flight to London. Normal service - hopefully in a lighter mood - resumes on Monday.