Saturday, July 22, 2006

Criminalising funny humour II

(Earlier post here)

In February I wrote that ‘in Australia recently, a “the funnier the prank, the more criminal it must be (and vice versa)” paradigm seems to be emerging’, citing ABC TV’s “The Chaser” as a prime exhibit in one instances, and a party-by-association in the other.

This trend is clearly not only continuing, but worsening, with the news of Chas Licciardello being charged with offensive conduct – conduct that he was engaging in to generate content for a TV program segment.

Plainly, this latter detail doesn’t, and shouldn’t give legal immunity for those involved. But if no harm was done – and I’ve seen no evidence to the contrary – then charging Licciardello with a crime does seem excessively trigger-happy.

Quoth Acting Deputy Commissioner Denis Clifford:

"This was clearly an act of mindless stupidity that had the potential to stir up the large crowd and cause serious problems . . . We'll see how funny he thinks all this is [when he appears at Sutherland Court]” (same URL).

Nice one – talk about shooting the messenger. Games between the two rugby teams whose match Licciardello was filming outside ([Canterbury] Bulldogs and St George-Illawarra) have lately been afflicted with something the SMH euphemises as “anti-social behaviour”. Which a reasonable person might interpret as general drunkenness/boorishness etc. But no; the NSW police apparently deploys its riot squad to all such games. Yep, that’s got quite the makings of a nice family day out, there.

Worse, when one drills down through what actually happened, it is plain that serious criminal behaviour (= theft) was committed against the Australian public (= ultimate owners of ABC props), but the police were apparently unconcerned about this, at least in comparision to Licciardello’s crime of attire:

"I was filming for our show, hawking off a Bulldogs supporters kit, it was a silly thing, it had fake knuckle dusters, balaclavas, that sort of stuff." . . . Licciardello said the Bulldogs supporters started taking his props and "were getting a little bit rough."

Licciardello admits to being dressed in a Bulldogs' jersey and beanie outside the ground prior to the match at OKI Jubilee Stadium in Sydney's south (same URL).

Sorry NSW police - was your riot squad otherwise engaged at the time, so you had to send the fashion-and-bad-props squad down to nab Licciardello? (The latter squad presumably are too precious to arrest actual criminals)

Although "The Chaser" team, on last night’s show, showed their best fighting spirit over the incident, today’s news sounds ominous for the show’s future:

[ABC] head of arts and entertainment, Courtney Gibson, admitted yesterday the prank had received editorial and legal approvals from the ABC [but said:]

"In light of Chas's arrest last weekend, we have reviewed and tightened some of those processes and protocols that govern the making of this particular program."

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