Shaffaq Mohammed’s splendid defence of freedom

Shaffaq Mohammed, the Lib Dem leader of our group on Sheffield Council has criticised the a ban on the comedian Ray “Chubby Brown” performing at Sheffield City Hall.

Shaffaq says:

We live in a liberal society and people have individual freedom to choose to live the life they want and as part of that, they can choose to go watch a comedy show behind closed doors where no children are allowed.

He added:

It’s the start of a very slippery slope. Which comedian will be deemed not to be appropriate to come to Sheffield?

Would they move on to banning books and DVD’s in libraries next? Would people be banned from watching Roy Chubby Brown on Youtube next? Would they stop people from listening to rap music because clearly some of the lyrics can and are offensive?

In an interview on GB News Shaffaq says: “as a Liberal I defend people’s individual rights and individual freedom “

Mr Brown’s act sounds dire and from a quick look at his work on You Tube  it seems  about as  funny as having a tooth extracted but people have the right to go and see him.

Terry Fox, Labour Leader of the Council has defended the ban on Mr Brown on the basis that his act is “unlikely to reflect Sheffield’s inclusive values.” Let’s hope no one tells him about the plot of Madam Butterfly on at the same venue later in the year .

* Simon McGrath is a Councillor in Wimbledon and a directly elected member of the Federal Board.

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  • Wow, make that man party leader and we will get our raison d’etre back.

    By all accounts much of Brown’s material is shocking and appalling, not remotely funny and very much at odds with the society we want to see.

    And yet the slippery slope argument is compelling. Who decides where to draw the line exactly?

    Shaffaq Mohammed is a breath of fresh air in this era of cancel culture and no platforming.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Sep '21 - 10:42pm

    A terrific piece from Simon about terrific responses from Shaffaq!

    Social as well as individual freedom, is essential with health and safety, Covid, driving, crime. So too on free speech, wee need to outlaw real hate speech. That does not include comedians like this. Comedy is subjective, as is music. Only obvious encouragement or support for hate and violence, in speech, is real harm. We ought to be concerned about violence more than satire. How anyone can think the daft inane comedy of old is something to close off and stop, is so typical of this weak, soppy, intolerant approach, beloved of the newer variety, no pun intended, of progressives!

  • Yay! A LibDem politician who actually stands up for liberal values! Well done Shaffaq Mohammed!

  • The appalling Roy Chubby Brown has a right to appear before an adult audience. Terry Dixon has a right to recommend not buying tickets for his show. Shaffaq has a right to appear on the weird radio station GB News. Issues of good and bad taste are always tricky when they get into the public arena.

  • Oops. I should have said television news channel. Perhaps I just cope with the news outlets further along from Sky News in sound only!!

  • You mean Terry Fox? And there was no recommendation. He’s simply banned Chubby Brown.

    A great pity Shaffaq has never won one of the Sheffield seats. He’s got the common touch.

  • There’s nothing ‘splendid’ about racism, homophobia or sexism. One is left to wonder whether a Chubby Brown routine posted on here would get through LDV moderation.

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Sep '21 - 1:42pm

    So, as usual when we have all these stupid “cancel” stories, it’s a farrago of misrepresentation and dog-whistles.
    The Council didn’t “ban” anyone. The organisation that manages the venue (which has an independent board of trustees) decided to cancel his booking. (After “complaints”, apparently – presumably those complaints, unlike the obviously genuine petition complaining about the misrepresented “ban”, shouldn’t have been listened to?)
    So it wasn’t the Council (the whole point about organisations like Sheffield City Trust is to keep politicians out of the way of that sort of decision-making). And nobody has been banned. Anyone who wants to organise a Roy Chubby Brown performance on their own property is entirely free to do so.
    The “slippery slope” argument is pretty much always nonsense, and references to the “nanny state” are a sure sign of intellectual laziness. “People are being banned from getting in their cars after having a couple of pints. What next? Will people be banned from walking down the street if they can’t prove they can walk in a straight line? Nanny state!”

    It’s no coincidence that this story was broadcast on GB News, the home of anti-“woke” hysteria and other made-up outrage.

  • “A council leader has said his authority “wholeheartedly” supports a venue’s decision to cancel a show by comedian Roy “Chubby” Brown.”

    That took all of two seconds, Malcolm.

  • Chris Moore. No, the council leader did not make any recommendations to anyone. The point I was trying to make was that it would have been perfectly in order if he had done, rather than going down the road he went down.

  • Christopher Moore 10th Sep '21 - 2:44pm

    Hello Geoff,

    Yes I see!! Sorry not to have got it!

  • “The “slippery slope” argument is pretty much always nonsense, “

    No it isn’t, it’s usually relevant as Shaffaq Mohammed says if you cancel Brown there would be a case for cancelling other performers who cause offence such as Frankie Boyle. The problem with wokeness is that the envelope is constantly being pushed. Comedians are at particular risk of being cancelled. Do you remember Labours 2006 act which was originally going to make it an offence to insult a religion?

    We come back to my original question, who decides?

  • Jayne mansfield 10th Sep '21 - 7:45pm

    Would those who work at Sheffield City Hall who are the targets of this man’s ‘humour’ ,
    have been granted a paid night off if they did not wish to put themselves in a position where they would forced to listen to, or observe, the man or the audience reaction?

    What about their mental health and safety?

    I applaud the decision of the trustees of the charity.

  • Jayne Mansfield makes a very valid point.

    I think the answer to your question should be yes, if there is a right to hear what material you like there should also be a right not to hear it and for staff to conscientiously object to being present.

    I do get the argument that the City Hall is a publicly funded venue therefore might have different standards to a private venue. However similar arguments have been made to justify Universities no-platforming speakers. Furthermore, some private venues have cancelled comedians such as Brown.

  • Jayne mansfield 10th Sep ’21 – 7:45pm…………Would those who work at Sheffield City Hall who are the targets of this man’s ‘humour’ have been granted a paid night off if they did not wish to put themselves in a position where they would forced to listen to, or observe, the man or the audience reaction?………..

    Good point.
    I note that, in 2019, Lorna Fulton, the then Middlesbrough venue boss, resigned over Roy Chubby Brown’s ‘homecoming’ in the council owned venue..
    Has he a right to spout his racist, sexist rants (I looked at his act for a few minutes on youtube) on what seems to pass for humour? Yes!
    Has he the right to spout it in publicly funded venues? Hmmm

  • It is complicated that it’s a council owned venue, but presumably it isn’t one that is subsidised and the tour’s promoters are paying full market rates.

    To be honest, I’d forgotten about the existence of Chubby Brown until I saw this, and assumed he’d retired years ago. I’m not sure whether the ‘ban’ is because ‘everyone knows’ he’s offensive, or because of something he’s said or done in the last twenty years, or due to the content of his act, but we are on shaky ground when it comes to deciding when a comic is using satire to puncture prejudice of if they are being plain offensive.

    I’d never dream of seeing Brown, and from what I remember of his act when he was more high profile, satire is not what he or his audience have in mind, but who next – Frankie Boyle? I’d never go to see him either, because IMO his humour is too cruel for my tastes and yet some of his humour is (supposed to be) satirical. What about acts like Al Murray or Jimmy Carr? If the comic in question has a degree, can we assume it’s irony and it’s not their fault if some people don’t get the joke and are offended?

    Personally, I’d say that any venue, council owned or otherwise, has the right to not want any particular performer feature (within reason). However, having accepted the booking, the venue should honour it unless something new and dramatic comes to light. Can they honestly say that at the time of the booking that no-one knew what he was like?

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