The FA Cup quarter final match between Tottenham and Bolton on Saturday afternoon was abandoned after the Bolton player Fabrice Muamba collapsed on the pitch towards the end of the first half. He was taken to hospital and is (at the time of writing) said to be in a critically ill-condition.
This is obviously deeply upsetting for his family, friends and teammates – as well as something which no doubt shocked those present at the game and those watching it on the TV.
Inevitably however there have been some jokes and comments about this and, thanks to the speed of communications these days, many people have now heard or read a variety of them.
Black humour and distasteful jokes about distressing, upsetting and tragic events are nothing new. I heard a whole bunch of ones after the Hillsborough disaster – of which I remember one or two – and equally my parents can probably recall some about the Aberfan disaster. No doubt there were some about the September 11th attacks as well as plenty of other events where calamity has struck.
Indeed, some of the worst purveyors of black humour are those who deal with death far more often than the rest of us, e.g. police, medical staff and funeral directors. It is, in many cases, a defence mechanism – a way of coping with the situation.
That didn’t however stop the Twitter rent-a-mob entering high gear in pursuit of those who had the temerity to crack or share the jokes in question. In one or two cases the irony of this was palpable as they had, only a few days ago, been complaining about the gaoling of the blogger Olly Crowell who will next month (assuming it doesn’t get postponed once again) be facing trial under the Malicious Communications Act for his use of foul language in respect of a number of Bexley councillors.
Whilst the jokes about Muamba where undoubtably distasteful, people seem to have forgotten that there is no law which says you cannot be offended. If you don’t like something then change the channel, turn twitter off until the storm has passed (they usually only last a few hours) and go and do something else.
Don’t though throw your toys out of the pram and start hounding users simply because they have written something which you dislike. There are plenty of profession offence seekers out there without scores of amateurs needing to join in.