A huge row has erupted in the United Kingdom after comedian Jo Brand allegedly incited people to throw acid at right-wing leaders. Taking part in a satirical programme Heresy of the BBC’s flagship radio channel Radio 4, Brand had said, “Well, yes I would say that but that’s because certain unpleasant characters are being thrown to the fore and they’re very, very easy to hate and I’m kind of thinking: Why bother with a milkshake when you could get some battery acid?”
She had added, “That’s just me. I’m not going to do it, it’s purely a fantasy, but I think milkshakes are pathetic, I honestly do, sorry.”
Brand was referring to the rise in milkshake attack against the country’s right-wing leaders. The last leader to be attacked with milkshake was Nigel Farage of the Brexit Party.
The BBC had come under widespread condemnation with even Prime Minister Theresa May slamming the public service broadcaster and asking it to explain why the joke was ‘appropriate content’ for broadcast.
The BBC had originally defended its decision to not edit Brand’s joke. A statement by a BBC spokeswoman had read, “Heresy is a long-running comedy programme where, as the title implies and as our listeners know, panellists often say things which are deliberately provocative and go against societal norms but are not intended to be taken seriously.”
However as the day passed, the Metropolitan Police intervened as the city’s force said that they were assessing an allegation ‘of incitement to violence that was reported to the MPS on 13 June.’ Nigel Farage had said that Brand’s comment amounted to an ‘incitement of violence and police need to act.’
The presenter of Radio 4 show Heresy was Victoria Coren Mitchell, who took to Twitter to accuse Farage of hypocrisy as she wrote, “Nigel! I’m genuinely disappointed; we don’t agree on everything, but I would totally have had you down as a free speech man. Especially when it comes to jokes.”
Faced with widespread condemnation, the BBC issued another statement saying that it had noted the ‘strong’ public reaction and decided to ‘edit the programme.’ It said, “We carefully considered the programme before broadcast. It was never intended to encourage or condone violence, and it does not do so, but we have noted the strong reaction to it. Comedy will always push boundaries and will continue to do so, but on this occasion we have decided to edit the programme. We regret any offence we have caused.”
Brand for her part was quoted by The Sun as saying, “I think if they [critics] want an answer there have been plenty of explanations by the BBC and Victoria Coren.”