From the Onion to the Times of London… And Back Again to be added soon

Jô Soares, a well known Comedian turned political commentator (think Al Franken but not in the Senate) in Brazil, used to do a recurring skit about a former general who woke up from a coma. The rib was, the general had gone into the coma while the country was still ruled by a military junta. Anyway, the general would see stories in the news about former political prisoners turned into leading politicians, or former military personnel on trial, etc., and he’d demand to have his feeding tubes removed. To get the jokes, of course, you not only have to understand Portuguese but also have some understanding of Brazilian politics from about 1970 to the mid-1980s.

I believe this clip showed the first appearance of the character. (Sorry – I can’t find it in English.)

I am not sure whether to provide a trigger warning or not. The title of Soares’ show, at the time, translates as “Hurray for the Fat Guy.”

Anyway, for a moment I felt like Soares’ general. That moment came when I read this article in the Times of London, which of course is widely viewed as having a center-right orientation:

Edinburgh University is investigating a law student over claims that he mocked Islamic State on social media and put “minority students at risk and in a state of panic and fear”.

An official at the university who conducted a preliminary investigation allegedly accused the third-year law student of having committed a “hate crime” even though there has been no criminal investigation by the police.

The law student says that the complaint against him came in retaliation after he highlighted that a former leader of an ethnic minority student group at the university had referred to black men as “trash”.

Robbie Travers, 21, acknowledged that his social media comments were highly opinionated but he denied that they were racist or in any way incited violence.

The article continues:

One of his Facebook postings came after the US air force dropped a “massive ordnance air bomb” on an Isis stronghold in Afghanistan in April.

Mr Travers wrote: “Excellent news that the US administration and Trump ordered an accurate strike on an IS network of tunnels in Afghanistan.

“I’m glad we could bring these barbarians a step closer to collecting their 72 virgins.”

Esme Allman, a second-year history student and the former black and ethnic minority convenor of the university’s students’ association, filed a complaint to the university, saying: “Not only do I believe this behaviour to be in breach of the student code of conduct, but his decision to target the BME Liberation Group at the University of Edinburgh, and how he has chosen to do so, puts minority students at risk and in a state of panic and fear while attending the University of Edinburgh.”

In another Facebook post, Mr Travers wrote: “I won’t give elements of Islam or Muslims who hold regressive beliefs a free pass for their assorted poisonous bigotries and regressive values because they face bigotry.

“If you have terrible, oppressive views that seek to attack the rights of others, expect to be called out for those views, regardless of being oppressed yourself . . .”

But wait, there’s more:

Mr Travers, who is also an occasional blogger for The Times of Israel, says that he is being unfairly victimised by a group of students who are not prepared to hear controversial views with which they disagree.

In the complaint being investigated at the university, it is alleged that Mr Travers had been “targeting minority students and student spaces”.

In her complaint Ms Allman, who describes herself as a feminist and womanist, says: “While I have not met him personally, given my matriculation at the University of Edinburgh, my membership of the Black and Minority Ethnic Liberation Group at the university, and how I identify personally, I take issue with this clear and persistent denigration and disparagement of protected characteristics and blatant Islamophobia.”

Mr Travers said that Ms Allman’s complaint was hypocritical and posted a comment that she is alleged to have made in which black men were described as “trash”.

In her own Facebook post, which has been seen by The Times, Ms Allman wrote: “To conclude, black men are trash. All men are trash.”

Her complaint said that “Travers published a decontextualised quote by Allman from a privileged conversation generated by minority students in a safe space he is neither subscribed to nor a member of, without her consent”.

Mr Travers said that he would not “be intimidated into being silenced, and will continue to make criticism of hateful ideas, supremacist ideas and beyond regardless of any characteristic of the individual promoting the ideology”.

A university spokesman confirmed that “complaints alleging misconduct have been received against Mr Travers and these are being investigated”.

He added only: “We are committed to providing an environment in which all members of the university community treat each other with dignity and respect and our code of student conduct sets out clear expectations of behaviour.” Ms Allman did not respond to requests for comment.

I am pretty sure the entire article could have appeared in the Onion three years ago and nobody would have batted an eye. Heck, I believe about 80% of it would have been considered satire as recently as last November.  I’m reasonably certain that the article will be indistinguishable from satire in another few years too.

I note also that if you sort the comments by “most recommended” the top however many are also good for a read.

And since we’re living through an era that resembles a comedy skit of times past, let’s get back to Soares. The General in the earlier mentioned skit was basically an unpleasant, heavy handed kleptocrat. But South America produced other types of junta members too. Argentina’s generals often sprinkled large quantities of homicide in with their kleptocratic behavior. In this skit Soares plays an Argentine General trying to live in hiding in Brazil. (Sorry again for the lack of English in the video.)