So why the outcry over over Jimmy Carr?
The reason, I suspect, is that as a society we have come to overvalue the importance of political satire.
I had a rant about this in Liberal Democrat News about just this point in Liberal Democrat News last year:
I grew up on tales of how Private Eye and That Was the Week That Was brought down Harold Macmillan and Alec Douglas Home. And there were times during the last years of Tony Blair’s government when it seemed that Rory Bremner was the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition. In retrospect, that may have had more to with the limited effectiveness of the real opposition parties than with the bite of his satire, but for a while his style of political comedy swept all before it.
If 10 O’Clock Live (Channel 4) is anything to go by, that era has long past; certainly, the show will not have Ed Miliband looking nervously over his shoulder. In part this is the fault of its presenters. Lauren Laverne is pleasingly sparky, but is not clear her talents are suited to this sort of programme. Charlie Brooker is a welcome presence, but he has been doing far more interesting things elsewhere of late. In its best moments his recent series How TV Ruined Your Life suggested that he has it in him to become a new Adam Curtis.
But Jimmy Carr and David Mitchell? They have been on every panel show screened for the last five years. I doubt if either has been home during that period: each must have a sleeping back rolled up somewhere behind a studio sofa so that they be on hand in case Phill Jupitus drops out of a show at the last minute.
Carr just isn’t that funny, which is a problem when you are a comedian, while Mitchell is a good example of what logicians call the Stephen Fry Fallacy. This is best defined as the belief that if someone sounds like an Oxbridge don and dresses like an Oxbridge don then they must be a great intellectual.Some on the right have been pleased to see Carr get his comeuppance, seeing the affair as confirmation of their belief that lefties are all hypocrites. But if anything, Carr was recruited to 10 O'Clock Life as a balancing right-wing voice.
Certainly, as I argued in a post last December, there is nothing particularly lefty about Carr's comedy:
Left-wing politics is based in a belief that things could be better. Carr's schtick, by contrast, is to imply that he is wiser than us. Life is shit, and he has seen through it.
I don't see much hope there.So be outraged at Carr if you like, but maybe the fault was ours in thinking too much of him in the first place.
And the best response to The Times' revelations about the scale of tax avoidance would be for the government to simplify the rules and enforce them more enthusiastically.