UK Police Investigate BBC Comedian Jo Brand Over Acid Attack Joke

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: Jo Brand attends the Women In Film And TV Awards 2011 annual ceremony celebrating the accomplishments of women working in the film and television industries at the Hilton Park Lane on December 2, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
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The Metropolitan Police have confirmed they are investigating a joke made by a British comedian about right-wing politicians having battery acid thrown at them after a complaint was made about incitement to violence.

The comments, that throwing milkshakes at politicians was “pathetic” and that battery acid might be better by comedian Jo Brand were made on Tuesday on a broadcast of the Heresy programme on BBC Radio 4 and caused severe controversy.

Brand said:

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?

That’s just me, sorry, I’m not gonna do it, it’s purely a fantasy, but I think milk shakes are pathetic, I honestly do. Sorry.

The police are now investigating the comments on as a possible incitement to violence, reports British newspaper The Sun. The British Prime Minister Theresa May has also weighed in on the growing controversy over the BBC programme, and said through a spokesman Thursday:

The prime minister has been repeatedly clear that politicians should be able to go about their work and campaign without harassment, intimidation or abuse.

It is for the BBC to explain why it considers this to have been appropriate content for broadcast.

Brexit leader Nigel Farage is one of a series of figures on the right of British politics who had milkshake thrown at him during the European Union parliament election campaign this year, and demanded a response, remarking: “This is incitement of violence and the police need to act.”

Mr Farage had a milkshake thrown in his face while campaigning, and the man who launched the attack was subsequently arrested and charged with assault. It is reported Mr Farage is one of the “unpleasant” people towards whom Brand was directing her remarks.

A UK charity director was removed from post last month after calling for an acid attack against Mr Farage in a separate incident.

The Brexit Party leader pointed out a perceived double standard in British justice on his radio show when he said:

I’m tired of over-paid, left-wing so-called comedians… I think we know fairly clearly who Jo Brand was aiming that comment at.

…[Comedy] is subjective, but what do you think? is that comedy? Is that reasonable? Or in the current climate, is that inciting hate? because a lot of people like Jo Brand think the referendum was a terrible mistake, and they have a view that is morally superior to everybody else’s, and so anything can be used in defence of their arguments.

I think this sort of behaviour is completely and utterly disgusting. And can you imagine, if I was to tell a story like that about Anna Soubry or someone like that? The police would knock on my door in ten minutes…

Mr Farage subsequently invited a real-life victim of an acid attack onto his radio programme to describe the pain having acid splashed on him in the street had caused. Remarking that he still lived with the physical and mental scarring from the attack every day, Joe Davis told Mr Farage: “this just promotes that throwing acid of any kind is acceptable… I would like to meet with her with other acid attack victims to see if she could make a mockery in front of our faces.”

Read James Delingpole: don’t sack Jo Brand, just scrap the BBC licence fee and let us vote with our feet… 

Ms Brand was invited to apologise to Mr Farage Thursday morning but refused.

The BBC published a news story Wednesday reporting their own defence of Brand and the Heresy programme on which she made the comment, stating the show is: “deliberately provocative as the title implies”, and that jokes are “not intended to be taken seriously.”

The comments came in an already difficult week for the BBC, which saw calls for it to change its funding model away from a television ownership tax — enforced with custodial sentences for non-payment — towards a modern subscription service.

The investigation of Jo Brand follows the prosecution of another British comedian for off-colour humour when Scot Youtuber Mark Meechan was convicted for teaching his girlfriend’s dog to raise its paw in a salute in response to commands including “sig heil”. Meechan claimed the comedy video he made was intended to “piss off” his girlfriend for laughs by making her beloved dog do “the least cute thing that I could think of”, but a judge found that it was “self-evident” that the joke was a front for antisemitism.

When convicted, Meechan said it was “a very, very dark day in regards to freedom of speech and freedom of expression” and launched a fund to pay for an appeal.

Acid attacks have become more prominent in the United Kingdom as police forces continue to suppress knives being carried by gangs, leaving members to find other ways to attack their enemies. In one week in 2018, the UK saw 15 acid attacks, with the majority taking place in London.

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