Liberal Hero of the Week #27: Jack Whitehall

by Stephen Tall on January 4, 2013

ImageLiberal Hero of the Week is chosen by Stephen Tall, Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and Research Associate at CentreForum. The series showcases those who promote any of the four liberal tenets identified in The Orange Book — economic, personal, political and social liberalism — regardless of party affiliation and from beyond Westminster. If they stick up for liberalism in some way then they’re in contention.


Jack Whitehall

Reason: For exercising his right to offend. But mainly for annoying the Daily Mail.

The UK’s population is estimated at 63.2 million. So, in common with 61.1 million of my fellow citizens, I didn’t watch Channel 4′s Big Fat Quiz of the Year on Sunday. And, in common with 63,199,840 of my fellow citizens, I didn’t subsequently complain either.

However, in spite of not watching it I’ve a pretty good idea of what was said that attracted the ire of 160 of my fellow citizens (that’s 0.0000025% of the population, by the way). How do I know? Because the Daily Mail told me: Sick comic facing axe: Jack Whitehall could be dropped as presenter at TV awards as Channel 4 repeats vile quiz.

Indeed, the Mail was so keen for me to understand the depravity of ‘sick’ Jack Whitehall’s ‘vile’ jokes that they thoughtfully included a video clip in their story: ‘Scroll down to watch’ it urged. (I gather all his post-watershed jokes were published in full in the print edition.) But, then, Mail Online didn’t become the most successful news website in the world through its relentless pursuit of truth and integrity.

Instead it chose the slightly easier and more commercial route of hard-core news prurience combined with its soft-core ‘sidebar of shame’. Oh, and regular dollops of OUTRAGE at some trivial misdemeanour to generate plenty of click-throughs (a blatant ruse which works so well because, even by complaining about it, I’m helping perpetuate it).

As I say, I’ve not seen the show. But I’m familiar with Jack Whitehall’s amiably-posh-sixth-former smut schtick, so I expect there was lots of swearing, jokes about private parts, and that some famous people were lampooned. Mercifully, the world has kept turning regardless. Laugh. Don’t laugh. It’s up to you.

A couple of months ago, Rowan Atkinson was this blog’s ‘Liberal Hero’ for his defence of free speech and the right to offend. As I wrote then:

People often refer now to the ‘outrage industry’, the increasing tendency to take offence when someone says something you don’t agree with in terms you don’t like. To which the only response is ‘Tough’. Or as Eminem once pithily rapped, ‘You find me offensive? I find you offensive for finding me offensive.’

You don’t like Jack Whitehall? Then don’t watch him. You really don’t like Jack Whitehall? Feel free to complain (though have the humility to recognise quite what a tiny minority you’re in). But whatever you do, ignore the screech-preach of the Daily Mail in its full moralising flow.

* You can view our list of ‘Liberal Heroes of the Week’ (and occasional ‘Liberal Villains’) here. Nominations are welcome via email or Twitter.