Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Offended? Ram it up your pimhole!

This is very simply the most brilliant opinion poll I have ever come across. Anthony Wells and colleagues at YouGov surveyed people on whether they thought particular swearwords were acceptable to broadcast.

Included among the 20-30 words was the made-up ‘pimhole’, which comes from a 1990 Fry and Laurie sketch about them not being allowed to use proper swearwords.

And? 14% of people said pimhole should be allowed on telly at any time, 38% said it should only be used after the watershed, and 23% said it should be totally banned. 25% of people said they didn’t know.

Anthony speculates:

I expect the main reason was context. The question was all about bad language on television, and pimhole was included in a list of swearwords including some that are considered extremely offensive. It’s likely many respondents assumed that pimhole must, therefore, be a swearword.

Probably that’s some of it. I think it also illustrates the common desire simply to have an opinion, any opinion, as well as the fear of admitting ignorance. It also warns us that polls on things people don’t know about can produce useless answers.

But the point about context can be cast in a different light.

Whether the subject is cartoons of Mohammed or a spoof paedophilia documentary or radio presenters leaving rude answerphone messages or a TV talent show featuring skimpily clad performers, there are a lot of dubious claims of people being ‘offended’ by things in the public domain.

People’s fulminations about things that have caused them offence often seem to be based on what they think they’re expected to find offensive, rather than any genuine, independent judgement about how something makes them feel. This poll suggests that a good amount of any given spasm of public outrage is likely to be empty, bandwagon-jumping bluster.

Am I alone in being disgusted by this state of affairs???


Liam Murray said...

Love it.

I've always thought the grammar of the phrase 'taking offense' is quite illuminating - it's an active rather than passive thing. To 'take' something is a conscious decision, not something others have forced on you.

Also wonder why bodies like OFCOM etc. don't have some sort of framework to veto (or at least treat differently) retrospective or media-inspired complaints. Needs to be done sensitively but people should be challenged on context, asked to confirm whether they actually watched the show in question, how they think other viewers may have reacted etc. Basically make the process of making a complaint something that requires more than 'cut & paste' synthetic rage from the Daily Mail.

CS Clark said...

Semprini. That's Belgium man, cunting Belgium.

Andrew Brown said...

I thought it was instructive that 25% thought it would be okay to say "dickhead" at any time, day or night.