A Spoof writer was today appearing in Belfast Crown Court, charged with defamation. For legal reasons we cannot repeat the details involved in the case, but basically the writer wrote an article satirising one of Northern Ireland's leading politicians.
This politician is known throughout the world, and we can repeat a few of the well-known facts about his career here. He was, and may still be, the chief of staff of that part of the world's most powerful paramilitary organisation, and was even flown out of gaol in the 1970s for secret peace talks with the British government in London.
But his organisation became more and more extreme, and began using car bombs as well as snipers, began killing innocent civilians in broad daylight, bombing pubs, and even taking 'the armed struggle' across the Irish Sea to England. And here they attacked British army barracks and regiments, causing many deaths, and also killed at least one well-know celebrity for daring to publicly criticise them.
And back home male 'touts' - informants - were dealt with ruthlessly, female ones were given the same treatment as girls in Paris who had collaborated with the Germans. The paramilitaries also pulled off occasional armed robberies to fund themselves, and began running protection rackets and dealing in drugs. All these facts are well-known and quite true, so why the defamation case?
Although 'the other side' in Ulster have done all these things, and often worse, the mentioned politician recently criticised another rival organisation for doing just a fraction of the things that this leader had allegedly arranged. And so the writer used the ancient craft of satire to lampoon his statement, making his rivals 'the good guys', criticising him.
Unfortunately, satire by its very nature is cruel and full of humour, or it would just be news or comment, so the writer's defence will be to point out to the court that if censorship is used in a place that is for satirical writing, it ruins the whole point of the place, i.e. if people don't like it, they shouldn't read it.
But famous censor and moral critic Mrs Mary Whitehouse will be called to testify by the accuser. 'We have read disgusting and obnoxious articles about famous people in The Spoof, often including rude and personal attacks that are hardly even satire.'
'So you have to laugh when the accused is charged with defamation for satirising someone who without doubt is allegedly seen as a very unsavoury character, one who has allegedly been responsible for some terrible acts, and one who has allegedly just made one of the most ridiculous public statements in British and Irish history. The writer should stick to articles about innuendo and Britney Spears - if it's not defamatory mentioning her name.'
The alleged case continues - allegedly.