‘24 Hours in A & E’ is a fairly interesting TV show, which watches and listens to real people being rushed into hospital and getting emergency treatment. It’s on Channel 4. On Channel 5, they have ‘GPs: Behind Closed Doors’ which as the name suggests, lets the viewer see what happens in various medical centres when the patient goes in and tells the doc how they’re feeling. I’m always struck by how willing people are to give details of the most intimate medical complaints so they can shown on TV; I’m also struck by the fact that quite a few people – sometimes an accompanying relative, sometimes a worker in the health centre – have a smudge where their face should be.
This last isn’t a medical condition called Smudge which is running rampant in British medical centres and hospitals. It’s an indication that the makers of the series had to get the OK from the people in the film to show them, and that in some cases people told them “Thanks but no thanks, I don’t want you putting my face up in public.”
Which brings us to a column by Lindy McDowell in the Belfast Telegraph on Saturday. In it, the ineffable Ms McDowell declares that Sinn Féin representatives on Belfast City Council have “thrown a hissy fit” because they object to the cartoonist Brian John Spencer sketching them in session. The way Lindy sees it, “It’s censorship, pure and simple”. The Shinners on the council are being huffy, she says; and who’s this rushing to her side to support her? Why, Donal Lyons of the SDLP. “If an artist’s personal beliefs don’t fit, Sinn Féin will use their political position to try and block them.” The bit about the “personal beliefs” refers to a cartoon by Mr Spencer, where he used the Kingsmill massacre to show jets of blood spouting from the Kingsmill van, labeling these “Sinn Féin’s red lines”.
Just as I would defend to the death Mr Spencer’s right to draw whatever cartoon he chooses, I would likewise defend the right of Sinn Féin or anyone else to have a negative reaction to it. I likewise would defend strenuously the right of people to exclude themselves from a film or a picture or a cartoon, if that’s what they want. That’s the option all those smudges exemplify in ‘ 24 Hours A & E’ and ‘GPs: Behind Closed Doors’.
But that’s not an option Ms McDowell sees as viable. In fact, she declares that to withdraw permission to be included in the cartoon sketch is for Sinn Féin to “invite ridicule”.
So remember that the next time you see either of those TV shows, or any other picture where a face has been pixelated out. Point your finger at it and yell “Hahaaa – what a ridiculous thing to do!”
The Belfast Telegraph. It’s the non-partisan paper wedged between The Newsletter and The Irish News. Right?