Louise Mensch MP has a lot on her plate today. Not only will she be at the heart of one of the biggest news stories of the day — the interrogation of James Murdoch by the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee — she’s also had to find the time to get very, very offended by a comedian, even calling for him to be sacked.
The comedian in question is Brian Limond, known as Limmy (@DaftLimmy) on Twitter.
Limmy first found fame on the web with YouTube videos and podcasts, before getting a series on BBC Scotland (allegedly, the show was never transferred to UK-wide transmission as it was seen as too “parochial”. Anyone who’s ever sat through a Radio 4 comedy slot, seemingly created with only Home Counties Oxbridge graduates in mind, will know how absurd this is).
I should admit I’m a bit of a fan. As well as his brilliant sketches, Limmy is very funny on Twitter, veering between sincerity and absurdity, engaging with fans, creating running themes (such as his excellent bedtime stories) and sometimes plain trolling.
As I went to bed last night, Limmy had changed his avatar to a portrait of Stalin and was boasting of his hatred for Tories.
When I looked at Twitter this morning, Limmy was back to normal, but Louise Mensch was outraged. Limmy had apparently put up an avatar of former Tory PM Margaret Thatcher, with red lines across her throat and eyes and the words “DIE NOW” scrawled across the picture.
Mensch was shocked, apparently.
She didn’t appear to know who Limmy was, or how he operated, but she was still appalled by him, and tweeted that he should sacked (though she didn’t seem to know who he worked for).
She also (and this is where Index comes in) tweeted that Limmy’s joke had “nothing to do with free speech”.
This is wrong. Offensive jokes have absolutely everything to do with free speech. Things that some people may dislike are at the very core of any discussion of free speech. Otherwise free speech is entirely meaningless.
Mensch does have some previous on this type of thing, having supported the idea that social networks could be shut down during times of civil unrest.
So we have perhaps forming here the Menschevik* view: “Free speech is fine as long as nothing that I find disagreeable ever happens.”
I do not ask that Louise Mensch be a free speech zealot (that, literally, is my job). But I would hope that a UK parliamentarian would have a slightly better understanding of liberty.
Limmy, meanwhile, seems to have deleted the Thatcher tweets, though one senses that this his apology is just part of a game he’s quite enjoying.
*Apologies to any surviving Menshiviks. Louise Mensch is clearly more of a Bolshevik when it comes to people who disagree with her, but sometime one must go where the wordplay takes you.
UPDATE: A friend tells me Limmy has left Twitter once before, after a joke went wrong