Sunday 21 January 2018

Anton Savage: Sorry seems to be the hardest word, unless you're open about it like Hector

Hector O hEochagain
Hector O hEochagain
Blood donor
Chris O'Dowd
Baby's bottle
Robert Downey Jr

Hector O hEochagain apologized to Miriam O'Callaghan this week. I know this because he did it on my radio show.

He apologized for saying (on the Saturday Night Show) that she "talked s****" after the Nine O'Clock News. What was interesting was the manner of his apology - he didn't explain anything. He just said 'sorry' and that it was a moment of madness on live TV.

Which makes it one of the more honest apologies; most people would have tried to explain it away or minimize it. "I meant that I didn't like current affairs" or "the political guests on Primetime talk s****, not Miriam" - something along those lines.

Not Hector. He just fell on his sword. Probably because he knows how live broadcasting causes people to say things they don't mean - in a high pressure environment, with adrenalin pumping and pressure to be fast and funny and energetic, it's easy to have words pop out of your mouth without your brain ever being involved.

We're used to it from sports commentators, "he opens his legs and shows his class", or "the pigeon of peace", or "unless I'm very much mistaken - and I am!"

With them, the mistakes are charming and endearing. On almost every other form of broadcasting and live performance, the world is less forgiving.

Samantha Armytage of Australia's Sunrise TV show has been learning this lesson the hard way. She was interviewing two adult twin girls of mixed race parents when one of the girls explained what was obvious - she had a radically lighter skin tone than her sister. Armytage's response was to say "good on you". Cue uproar.

Samantha maintains that she used those words because she was referring to a running joke she regularly makes about herself having fair skin and suffering with it. The twins (the ones who are in theory offended by the statement) subsequently issued a statement, roaring in block capitals that they did not believe it was racially motivated and had no problem with it whatsoever.

It seems unlikely that a professional interviewer would intentionally make a racist slur on live TV (they'd have to be both racist and very stupid). But despite Samantha apologizing, and the twins asking people to leave her alone, petitions are still circulating on-line demanding she be fired.

If she could, I have no doubt she would turn back the clock and un-say what she said. But she can't. In that context we have to ask ourselves if what was said came from a place of genuine malice, or was it just one of those things that falls out of someone's mouth on live TV?

The same question can be asked of Hector. Did he really go on air with the plan of undermining Miriam O'Callaghan or did he discover that his mouth ran ahead of his brain and he needed a time machine?

The nature of his apology makes me think it was the second one. On that basis, you'd have to hope that people (particularly the ever-courteous Miriam) will say "fair dues, Hector" and move on.


How can the European Court of Justice suddenly say it's ok to discriminate?

The European Court of Justice has ruled that the ban which prevents men who have sex with other men from giving blood, may be justified "in certain circumstances". Essentially, the verdict says that those who run a higher risk of some infectious diseases can be discriminated against when it comes to blood donation.

Blood donor

The logic is clearly sound. The ideology? Not so much. It's a fair guess that a monogamous responsible gay man in a long-term relationship is a far safer prospect as a blood donor than a promiscuous irresponsible straight man engaging in a succession of one night stands.

So why should we stand over a situation in which that gay man is precluded from doing what the straight man can do, just because of their sexuality?

We've spent the last few decades establishing that the excluding or discriminating against people because of their gender or race or sexuality is not only morally wrong, it's illegal. Why should we surrender such a hard-won principle?

It may be possible to point to a cohort of society and say they run a greater risk of x or y. But that should not be grounds to treat the members of that cohort differently.

In fact, we could come up with lists as long as our arms of things that are more or less common based on age, sex, race, physical ability. But we don't. We legally can't. Sometimes that means more work and cost. Big deal. If that's the price of equality, so be it.

If guaranteeing the safety of our blood supply means improving the screening of our donors, then let's do it. If we need to improve the sexual health and behaviour of our people, let's do it.

But let's do it for all, equally.

Chris throws toys out of the pram

Chris O'Dowd has tweeted that staff at Gatwick Airport frisked his baby and took away the child's bottle. It's sometimes hard to judge tone in tweets.

Chris O'Dowd

Chris O'Dowd

In this instance, we have to hope that the Irish star is joking - otherwise he may have missed how security works. We've established that terrorists will happily use (and kill) kids to achieve their aims.

We've also established that airport security checks should be fair, equal and randomised so as not to racially or ethnically profile people. Such a system, means once in a while a celebrity will get patted down. And occasionally that celebrity will have a baby and a baby's bottle, both of which then get inspected. That's proof of a system operating justly, not proof of irrationality.


Rob vs Krishnan? Everybody wins

Robert Downey Jr has called Channel 4 interviewer Krishnan Guru-Murthy some pretty choice names, including "syphilitic parasite" and "bottom-feeding muckraker".

The first is a bit much. The second may be nearer the mark.

Robert Downey Jr

Guru-Murthy was doing a junket interview with Downey Jr - one of those scenarios in which a Hollywood star sits in a posh hotel while a stream of journalists are shepherded in to do the same promotional interview, over and over and over again.

The are dull and predictable. But there is no way to make them anything else in six minutes. Krishnan turned it into a soul-searching session, asking questions about the star's childhood and past drug abuse. Big mistake. Also, big ratings...

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