Today’s frenzy of Twitter outrage was a good’un.
If you’re not from the UK, there’s almost zero chance you’ll have any idea who Danny Dyer is. That’s still a reassuring thought. Wikipedia describes him as a “media personality“, which makes it sound like even the entire internet working together can’t figure out what it is he does. (Aside from occasionally getting punched in the face.)
But one of the ways he apparently spends his time is writing (or possibly having ghostwritten for him) an advice column in British men’s magazine ZOO. “Men’s magazine”, if you’re not familiar, translates more or less to “tits, cars, tits, contrived puns and innuendos that might be called ‘jokes’ by someone whose mental age is just barely breaking through into double digits, and tits”.
It’s a job that would seem to suit Danny Dyer well, being the sort of blokey, laddish, emotionally and intellectually stunted twat he is. But today the collective forces of the interwebs decided that his blokey and laddish tone – usually so charming and relatable – had gone too far.
The exact moment this was decided was when Danny Dyer advised a young man seeking help coping with a break-up to take a knife to his ex-girlfriend.
Not a joke.
The exact advice offered was:
You’ve got nothing to worry about, son. I’d suggest going out on a rampage with the boys, getting on the booze and smashing anything that moves. Then, when some bird falls for you, you can turn the tables and break her heart. Of course, the other option is to cut your ex’s face, and then no one will want her…
So. A few things.
First, it’s clearly not true to say that this guy has “nothing to worry about” if, when the frustration and grief of losing his beloved gets too much to bear, the path he takes for advice and spiritual guidance is a page in Zoo magazine written by Danny fucking Dyer.
Secondly, there’s a nugget of decent advice buried way, way down deep in there somewhere. The letter-writer, Alex from Manchester, describes himself as “23, not a bad-looking bloke with a decent job”. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to suggest, as Danny comes close to trying to do, that he’s a young vibrant lad with his best years ahead of him, and who seems to have life on his side, and so taking solace in the company of his friends while engaging in some carefree leisure activity might be beneficial and uplifting, as one of many steps in the process of moving on from a difficult relationship break-up.
However, he gets virtually all of the details wrong. Encouraging vandalism is bad enough, but finding emotional catharsis by breaking the heart of “some bird” he meets while on this drunken destructive “rampage” is a flawed notion from the start. While I can’t empirically rule out that women who find that kind of behaviour in any way attractive may exist, quite how creating new emotional pain and severing potential new relationships before they begin is supposed to help ease this chap’s pain is quite beyond me.
But then it goes really off the rails. Then he suggests that Alex consider severely physically mutilating his ex-partner, with no discernible goal except malice and vengeance, and with nothing in tone or context to suggest humour, ending with that ominous, rather creepy ellipsis…
And at that point, Danny Dyer can fuck right off and go to hell.
Look, I am hugely in favour of free speech. And I know that probably has an inflection of “I’m not a racist, but…” and sounds like I’m about to illiberally try to crush whatever speech I disagree with today, but I honestly mean it. I’m not crying for censorship here. Other people are calling into question the legality of inciting public violence like this, but I’m leaving that to the legal experts.
I’m just looking at this ethically. And from a moral standpoint, whoever wrote that piece of advice and decided to publish it in a magazine is a total cunt.
This may not have been Danny Dyer. There was always some doubt amidst the furious Twitter discussion as to how much of his page he actually writes himself, and he’s apparently saying he was “completely misquoted“. (If this is the case, there’s a suggestion that he may be able to sue after having these words attributed to him.) But somebody did write it, and somebody else decided it was okay to print this in a magazine.
The line the magazine’s editors are going with is that this was a “regrettable production error”. Maybe someone with some experience in the publishing industry can comment on how easy it is for a simple and innocent a slip to result in something reprehensible and offensive being inadvertently written, copyedited, published, and put on newsagents’ shelves around the country like that.
As you might guess, I’m skeptical. Everything about the column in question seems to be entirely in line with Danny Dyer’s general persona, i.e. exactly the kind of caricature of an idiot you get a mental image of when you read words like “blokey” and “laddish”, and who is otherwise hard to describe without swearing (hence I haven’t bothered). It’s not obviously implausible that this was all entirely deliberate, and simply very badly judged.
If it was just a mistake, though, are Zoo magazine actually going to do anything about their supposed stance against violence? Being “against violence” is not simply defined by the words you say. Publishing an advice column telling some guy he should cut his ex-girlfriend’s face and then apologising for it doesn’t really count as positive activism.
I don’t imagine the editors of Zoo have ever really cared about protecting people from violence before. They didn’t seem to in the past, when Danny Dyer suggested setting a woman on fire. I suspect they just know that passing this off as a stupid mistake would be better for their PR than letting people think that Zoo magazine is actually made by people who think it’s fine to jokily suggesting cutting your ex-girlfriend’s face.
Ah, yes. “Jokily”. It was probably just a joke. They don’t actually want anyone to be knifed in the face. What’s all the fuss about?
Yeah, that doesn’t work for me.
Danny Dyer is not Al Murray the pub landlord, and he was not casually repeating stereotypes about the occupants of another country. Danny Dyer is not well established in the public consciousness as a comic character. Well, maybe he sort of is, but not deliberately. He’s not a fictitious construct. He’s a real person with real opinions, and when there’s absolutely nothing in any of the surrounding context of this remark to suggest humour or ribaldry, you can’t shrug it off with claims of “just a joke”.
And if it was a joke, maybe it was a fucking offensive one. And not just the way Frankie Boyle is offensive, or Jerry Springer The Opera, where people have religious or personal objections. This is actually doing harm.
Even if you don’t read it as directly advocating violence, and so can’t counsel a policy of censorship, it’s the kind of “joke” that reinforces and fosters a deeply unpleasant and dangerous attitude toward women, and toward violence. It normalises the idea that this is the kind of advice that youthful men share with regard to relationships, and obscures the fact that actually useful sex and relationship advice does exist out there and is something people can talk about like grown-ups.
Some are actually coming to Dyer’s defence over this. And fine, if you know the guy and his work better than I do, and think that this was an isolated misjudgment made by a basically alright bloke who doesn’t deserve to be called a cunt quite as often as this in one seriously long-winded rant, then I’m willing to hear you out. But some people are getting really quite angry at the people getting angry, and are spitting venom at anyone having the gall to be upset or offended by an explicit threat of violence.
People. Get some perspective.
There are essentially two parties involved in this drama. Danny Dyer (or Zoo magazine) said: “This guy should consider cutting his ex-partner’s face so as to physically disfigure her”. The mob said: “Hey, we’re not okay with that.” Even if you disagree with some of the response, and think Dyer and Zoo don’t deserve so much vitriol as they’re getting, remember how it started. Remember that the people getting angry and calling Danny Dyer names are doing so because, according to Zoo magazine, he said that maybe Alex from Manchester should take a knife to his ex-girlfriend’s face.
You want to think hard before deciding huge swathes of people are idiots for getting upset over something like that.
It takes some quite staggering arrogance and/or a complete lack of compassion to decide that every woman who’s been upset by this “joke” is wrong, and you’re so much cleverer than all of them to see its true meaning, and this correct interpretation is so clear that you don’t even need to bother acknowledging that, if someone were to take this advice seriously, it would be awful.
What was said was obnoxious and should be actively reviled, even if you think this instance of free speech shouldn’t be coercively suppressed.
And I’m done.
Ow, my fingers.