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The furore over a BLM dance routine proves that there are plenty of snowflakes on the offence-seeking, censorship-loving Right

Andrew Dickens
Andrew Dickens

Andrew Dickens is an award-winning writer on culture, society, politics, health and travel for major titles such as the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Independent, the Daily Mail and Empire.

Andrew Dickens is an award-winning writer on culture, society, politics, health and travel for major titles such as the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Independent, the Daily Mail and Empire.

The furore over a BLM dance routine proves that there are plenty of snowflakes on the offence-seeking, censorship-loving Right
Dance troupe Diversity’s BLM routine on Britain’s Got Talent has received a record number of complaints, showing how much the Right loves censorship, seeks offence and lacks self-awareness. The snowflakes should toughen up.

There have been some pretty offensive things on Simon Cowell’s Britain’s Got Talent and its myriad spin-off franchises across this seemingly doomed planet of ours. Not least the tediously predictable formula, the sight of Simon Cowell’s armpit-threateningly-high trousers and, of course, ventriloquists.

And yet none of them, it seems, has ever been as offensive in the eyes of many Brits as a dance routine.

The routine in question was by the dance troupe Diversity, winners of 2009’s BGT and led by Ashley Banjo, a man currently sitting in Cowell’s judge’s chair while the Lord of Lowbrow recovers from a broken back, bless him. (They say it was from falling off his electric bike, but I think it was caused by the weight of expectation that he unearth another Jedward.)

Diversity, dressed in all-black, performed the routine - similar to one they published on YouTube in July - to an updated version of Tomfoolery’s ‘viral sensation’ poem The Great Realisation and the track Black Lives Matter by Dax. It referred to Covid-19 before moving on to institutional racism. At one point, a dancer dressed as a cop knelt on Banjo’s neck. All very 2020. 

While poignant, it was quite ham-fisted and that fist didn’t exactly deliver a devastating punch (it was a dance routine, after all). But still it was too much for the nation’s more conservative minds. Politics? That they don’t agree with? On a prime-time Saturday TV show? Presented by Ant and Dec? How. Very. Dare. They. Bloody lefty liberal BBC! Sorry, I mean ITV!

The last time I looked, the routine had attracted more than 21,000 complaints to the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom. This, by the way, is A LOT. The highest number of complaints about any programme in 2019 was 2,717. 

What’s interesting about the numbers is that the complaints snowballed over the days following the show. Usually, they come in at the time of broadcast or shortly afterwards, perhaps once the enraged viewer has finished their glass of sherry or their hands have stopped shaking enough for them to tap out a furious missive. Instead, they kept on coming, day after day after day, well beyond the following Saturday.

This implies one thing: These people were seeking out things to offend them. You know, just like sensitive woke snowflakes.

They read about the complaints, heard about the routine, were probably told how disgusting it was by some like-minded acquaintances on Facebook, and decided to kick up a fuss - possibly without even watching it. And thus it spread, like a pandemic of resentment for which the only cure would be a grovelling apology from ITV (which, thankfully, didn’t come).

Now, I’m exceedingly happy for anyone to rib anyone for getting a bit touchy over seemingly small things (I’m doing it right now). I’m also very happy for the people accused of being touchy to defend themselves. That only seems fair. But it’s not cool to be a great big hypocrite about it - and every single one of these right-leaning moaners was being hypocritical. They were very much pots calling the kettles black (they probably think that you can be ‘arrested and thrown in prison’ for using that saying these days).

This was the same slice of society who, just days before, was arguing for more of its kind of politics to be on the BBC, specifically via the medium of LOLs. More right-wing comedy was needed, it said. But no dances against racism, apparently. That’s just ruining everyone’s Saturday night entertainment.

They want to separate art and politics. Or rather art and mildly subversive politics. That way lies tyranny, though, and we don’t need any help moving in that direction, thank you very much - the train has long departed and we’re all aboard for the ride. Art is how politics of all flavours have been expressed for centuries. I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting anything even vaguely interesting to emerge from the BGT stage, but whatever you thought of Diversity’s message or artistic merit, they absolutely had the right to give it a go.

People need to remember that those in power are always going to be targeted more by the arts, because that’s the whole point of it. If all art is pro-government, well, there are names for that. So if you have a right-wing government, as the UK has had for a long time, then your satire and artistic output might appear to lean left. But that seems a small price to pay when you get things like all the laws and most of the national press going your way.

It’s not a good look to demand that your politics be broadcast but no-one else’s. It’s called censorship. Not that this has stopped people making such demands, particularly of the BBC, but they shouldn’t get what they want just because they chuck a few toys out of their pram or have columns in the mainstream media.

This is the same Beeb, by the way, which handed out a perpetual roasting to Jeremy Corbyn, the one vaguely left-wing party leader the country has had this century, including via its comedy shows. So it does take a swipe leftwards on the rare occasion that there’s something there to aim at.

You also can’t accuse ‘the left’ of not being able to take a joke when you’re touchier than Joe Biden and Donald Trump at a beauty pageant. You can’t bang on about ‘freedom of speech’ and ‘it’s just my opinion’ when deep down you don’t want people you disagree with to be able to air their opinions - not even through the very silly medium of dance.

You can’t call people out for being constantly offended, or for hunting down things to be offended by, when you’re doing exactly the same. You can’t get upset because, for one year only, someone wasn’t going to sing the lyrics to an old song in an empty hall, and then mock ‘liberals’ for capitalising the word Black. You can’t cry ‘woke madness’ because you’ve been baited by an emoji of ‘Mx Claus’ and then accuse trans rights advocates of being thin-skinned. 

It’s like when a fat person calls another person fat. It might be true, but everyone laughs at the first fat person. Not because they’re fat, that wouldn’t be nice, but because they’re utterly devoid of self-awareness.

So, the Right, conservatives or however you want to label the kind of people who complained in their droves about Diversity (even that name will have people going off like a leaky pressure cooker) have a choice: toughen up or stop being the pot.

By the way, if you’re wondering what caused those record 2,717 complaints last year, it was when Channel 4 presenter Jon Snow said of a pro-Brexit rally that he’d “never seen so many white people in one place.”

I wonder who got upset about that?

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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