Tabloid media wrath over Brass Eye


Jonathan Swift's satire A Modest Proposal (1729) suggested that the poor should eat their own children so as not to be an economic burden to the state. In 2001, we had Brass Eye, a TV satire of media hysteria over paedophilia worthy of Swift. It created a storm of media outrage in the UK – condemned as "sick" and "evil" by tabloid newspapers, and as "unacceptable" by the UK government.

The celebrities tricked into appearing on Brass Eye were labelled as "gullible" by the media. But "gullible" seems a huge understatement. Various celebrities (who thought they were helping a child-protection charity) made the following statements on the show:

• "Paedophiles interfere with children over the internet by using penis-shaped soundwaves".

• "Paedophiles wear trousers with inflatable crotches to hide their arousal when in the vicinity of children".

• "Paedophiles are using an area of internet the size of Ireland, and through this they can control keyboards."

• "Online paedophiles can make your keyboard release toxic vapours that make you suggestible".

• "Genetically, paedophiles have more genes in common with crabs than humans."

According to the celebrities (including pop star Phil Collins), children can identify paedophiles from the following tell-tale signs:

• If someone shows you a model of your town, and all the houses look like penises.

• If someone tells you to take your clothes off in case your thumbs get hot.

According to the government and most of the tabloid media, you are "sick" if you regard any of this as funny.