Is it ever wrong to use humour to deflect a difficult or even gruesome happening? A confluence of events runs into the making of this passing thought. Donald Trump’s bad hair day is in there somewhere, along with the latest edition of Have I Got News For You on BBC 1.
HIGNFY is a long-term favourite in this house. The News Quiz on BBC Radio 4 is often funnier, but I’m always drawn back to Merton and Hislop and co.
Last Friday’s show was guest presented by broadcaster Steph McGovern. She described how creepy Trump was when she interviewed him. She said Trump told her she was so beautiful that he would have to leave the room to make himself look better, otherwise people would only be looking at her. Yup, that’s creepy.
What bothered me wasn’t that, for Trump-baiting never goes amiss around here. No, it was an uncomfortable attempt to find humour in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashgoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Some things are beyond a Friday night giggle, and that’s one of them. Then again, the Sunday Independent (the Irish paper I work on two days a week) has a top columnist called Gene Kerrigan, who wrote a grimly humorous little column, headlined (by someone or other) “Mohammad Bin Voldemort says his hands are clean”. Kerrigan’s Harry Potter joke was a reference to the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammad Bin Salman, the man many believe to have been behind the murder.
That column managed to be amusing and damning and shaming, all at once: an occasion when throwing humour at something dreadful worked.
Now we come to Trump’s hair and his remarkable ability to make himself the centre of everything: even hours after the shocking mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
Trump arrived at the Future Farmers of American convention in Indianapolis with his hair looking out of place. His usually immaculately weird head-top architecture was looking a little less immaculately weird than normal.
Trump told the gathered future farmers he’d nearly cancelled as he’d been standing in the rain making a statement about the shooting. That had left him with a “bad hair day” (is there ever a good day for that orange mop?), but he went ahead, choosing to quip: “At least you know it’s mine…”
No one else would want it, Donald.
Trump’s tone on such occasions is always so horribly wrong. At a time when he should be leading by solemn example, he jokes about his hair – even as the bodies were still being wheeled away.
Earlier, Trump had made the sort of statement he usually does on such grim and frequent occasions in the US. He said that the synagogue should have had an armed guard, and blathered about the death penalty.
It comes to something when the US President thinks that a child’s naming ceremony should have an armed guard; and to somehow imply that the lack of one almost makes it the synagogue’s fault.
Such shooters often kill themselves (a self-imposed death sentence that removes the need for a federal one). In this case, the alleged gunman, Robert Bowers, survived and is in custody. US media reported that he had shouted: “All Jews must die” as he carried out the attack.
If you have a culture where guns are acceptable, even encouraged; if you have a culture where the president spouts hate and then blames the media for being hateful; then combustion will occur when an unbalanced person grabs a weapon.
Without all those guns, these all-too regular shootings wouldn’t happen; but America does have all those guns and they aren’t going away. Sorting that out will take someone wiser than a president who quips about his quiff on the day that innocent people died at what should have been a happy ceremony.