The Power of Ridicule

In the aftermath of the July 2005 bombings, a friend and I discussed the appropriate response during the course of an afternoon's walk. We were unanimous. They could only be one response to such an outrage! A SITCOM.

We reasoned a security clampdown would be counter-productive. It would only frighten the public and glamorise the bad guys. No, prevention is better than cure. And so we thought the best way to stop young angry men from becoming suicide bombers would be to make the very idea of martyrdom ridiculous. Make the protagonists not shadowy villains, but hapless clowns.

We never penned our sitcom, after all, we were technologists not screenwriters. Fortunately, a group of far greater minds - Chris Morris and the writers of Peep Show - had the same idea. The result is a film called "Four Lions", recently premièred at Sundance. It is jihad as farce. Great work.

You can write essays on the folly of established religion. You can deliver impassioned speeches. But you'll never be as awesomely subversive as an episode of Father Ted. Belief can not be denied. Only ridiculed.

You may say: comedy is just bourgeois chatter. But how many satirical programmes are there in Iran, or China? Satire can't topple governments, but it still has the power to influence. That's why they ban it.

Postscript. One day, an angry old preacher tells a young lonely loser of the glory and heavenly gratification that await him in martyrdom. But our message got to him first. And he laughs in the old man's face...


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