Sunday, July 31, 2011

Censorship And Sensibility (With Apologies To Jane Austen)

Having a regency ball“So, I said to her, I said to her, blue parasols are sooo passé. So last year. Only the lower orders go for blue parasols. You’re not much better than a milkmaid in your Sunday best if you carry a blue parasol around with you. So common. Well, I said it so loud she turned and fled red-faced and hasn’t dared to show herself here at Eastwick Towers again. Everybody who was there who saw and heard it thought it frightfully entertaining.” And with that Fanny dissolved into rather undemure laughter while her good friend and confidante, Jane, applauded her for her cutting-edged wit and prettily voiced cruelty.

It was at that moment that Mr D’Arcy presented himself to them both with his cheeks flushed and a little dappled with perspiration.

“Well, hello, Miss Fanny and Miss Jane, what splendid luck to find you both here. I confess I am rather ebullient in my sentiments today for I have just published my own pamphlet to sell to the good people of London. Pray take a look and tell me if it is to your liking.”

Mr D’Arcy forthwith inserted his glossy looking tome into the hands of the suddenly quivering ladies.

“Oh I say, what a jolly funny name,” said Fanny. “Put It In Your Pipe And Smoke It.”

“Indeed.” Replied Mr D’Arcy. “It has a certain ring to it and reflects my own personal viewpoint. It is merely my own opinion which thanks to the laws of this great and noble country, I am at liberty to express freely.”

Fanny began flicking through the pages and suddenly her face paled and fell. She looked suddenly distressed. “Oh Mr D’Arcy how could you? You have written a piece here attacking the red parasol. How could you be so brutish and cruel when you know I am never seen without a red parasol.” And with that Fanny waved aloft her parasol which was indeed red.

“Oh my.” Stammered Mr D’Arcy. “Madam, I had no idea you carried a red parasol, truly I didn’t. Besides my piece does not attack your parasol specifically only certain red parasols generally. And, at the end of the day, good lady, as my disclaimer clearly states, the views contained within this publication are purely my own personal opinion and are not meant to be authoritative.”

“Tish tosh.” Said Fanny. “That makes no difference to my case. I feel personally slighted therefore the slight is real and I have been most certainly slighted. What you have written there, sir, is slander and defamation and infamy. You have slandered my good name by my known association with red parasols in bold print, sir, in your infernal publication, and it causes me upset and hurt. Every court in the land will surely see it so.”

Mr D’Arcy composed his face a little after this outburst and strove to speak calmly and measuredly. “Come, come, Miss Fanny. Consider this: you yourself not two minutes before reading my pamphlet did speak uncivilly about blue parasols. Indeed you recounted how you sent the owner of a blue parasol packing with your cruel barbs ringing about her ears and you did so in full view of witnesses and furthermore have recounted the story to Miss Jane thus exacerbating the damage done to this anonymous lady’s name. You have made your views and opinions public in a manner which also caused hurt and upset. Is this also not slander and defamation and infamy? I wager every court in the land will most certainly see it so.”

And turning upon his heel forthwith Mr D’Arcy made his excuses and left Eastwick Towers for, despite the transparency and glassiness of its walls, the occupants within were wont to throw stones with appalling regularity in order to not be able to see their own reflections staring back out at them from the glass.

The End.



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20 comments:

Kelloggsville said...

Interesting that Miss Fanny was immediately slighted. Often that sense of being attack stems from an insecurity in the self proclaimed victim. She perhaps was feeling a little guilty at having dealt such a cruel blow to the blue parasol carrying damsel. But Fanny was slanderous whereas D'Arcy doesn't appear to mention people directly so was not libellous. I wonder if the parasol company had any previous contract that would have prevented D'Arcy from publishing a pamphlet. I do love hypothetical debate on a lazy Sunday morning.

Suzanne said...

Loving your tags Steve.
Hope you are Ok, your cage seems somewhat rattled on this Sunday morning.

Steve said...

Kelloggsville: Miss Fanny is a purely fictional invention but the two sides of her argument with Mr D'Arcy (also fictional) are interesting. The trouble with the press and any kind of online media is that in cases of libel it's not always clear who the victim is or if there is a genuine case to answer unless specific claims have been made and people specifically named. So much of what we read is speculative and circumstantial. The nebulousness of some of the accusations though makes them harder to repel, especially when you are dealing with people's personal feelings and interpretations - something that nobody apart from the owner has any control over, of course. Contracts are interesting too, of course, as are official codes of conduct which bind all of us in how we behave and speak of and to each other not only in what we may write or seek to publish on a public forum. For me, actual identification is a key point to be considered in any evidence. I daresay Rupert Murdoch is having some interesting debates at the moment...

Suzanne: just need a new cuttlefish and I'll be as happy as Larry. ;-)

Rol said...

I'm sure that will fly so far over the heads of those in The Wrong they won't even see its shadow on the ground.

Alienne said...

Glad to see you're not feeling at all bitter then!

Steve said...

Rol: it's funny because whenever I publish anything anywhere I do always try and deal in shadows and smoke to protect people from being identified individually and myself from any accusations of slander. The shadows are clearly the way to go. But in terms of free speech and being able to express one's personal opinion that's a rather sad state of affairs. However, I can honestly see that a balance must be struck between being able to express one's opinion freely but also respecting the opinions of those around you who may wish to disagree with you both publically and / or privately. But, of course, my main argument here is that the same rules must surely be applied to the spoken word as well as to the written word.

Steve said...

Alienne: what is bitter to the brain should be expressed sweetly on the tongue. ;-)

Gorilla Bananas said...

Wasn't there an actress who won a few thousand in damages from a newspaper which said she had a big bottom? The whole affair was an insult to creatures with big bottoms, including horses.

I thought your parable was highlighting the very apt point that humans who can dish it out usually can't take it. For once, you have been much cleverer than you intended.

Steve said...

Gorilla Bananas: "For once, you have been much cleverer than you intended..." And as usual you have managed to deliver a compliment that chafes.

Readily A Parent said...

One must wonder why D'Arcy bothered in the first place. Fanny is obviously unable to relate to anyone outside of herself and therefore would make a poor reader of the pamphlet.
An obvious solution would be for Fanny to stop reading D'Arcy's pamphlets (and he to never mention them to her) if they upset her so. However that would require her to rein in her umbrage and then what would she be left with?

Steve said...

Readily A Parent: Fanny, or indeed anyone is entitled to their umbrage and to express it. My point is that Mr D'Arcy must therefore be allowed his and to express it also. As long as opinions are expressed without individuals being named or specificaly slighted then I see little harm being done. My issue is when opinions are verbalized that do name individuals and these are allowed when non-identifiable generalizations in print, for example, are not. The world of news, news-reporting and journalism is rather grey isn't it?

Mark said...

Ref last comment - the world of news reporting being grey...

More like, it's a psychedelic mix of inconsistency, self righteousness, hypocrisy and more.

Agree broadly with your point though.

Steve said...

Mark: thank you and I totally agree. I stopped buying newspapers and listening to "opinion" broadcasts a long time ago and don't feel like I'm any the less informed about what's going on in the world. I'm certainly a lot less misinformed and that can only be a good thing.

Heather said...

I've known many a Fanny in my time, the sort that tends towards gossip and the spreading of vicious and malicious rumours and yet the first to feel victimised and cry foul when they feel even indirectly slighted.

Poor Fanny, what a silly twit she is. I would suggest that she ceases to read the pamphlets if they upset her so much, yet I suspect that she is unable to, driven by a poisonous heart and a desire to be at the top of the social heap as she shows in this incident.

If only Fanny could see herself as she really is.

libby said...

Makes me think of Vic and Bob......'he would'nt let it lie..'
p.s. I love me some carriage and corset

Steve said...

Libby: I do too. I love the way they hoist my man-boobs right up to just beneath my chin. As for Vic and Bob... I never really got the joke with them. I found them a bit tiresome. The only gag of theirs that ever made me laugh was the impression they did of Loyd Grossman on Masterchef (or, how he says it, Meeeastershuf).

John Gray said...

who will be staring in the tv series?

the cast of Little Britain perhaps?

Being Me said...

Love it. LOVE it. You are truly masterful. I can't wait to see Jane Eyre, by the way. It is a confusing thing to me, that Miss Fanny would seem so oblivious to her own verbal diarrhoea about blue parisols, finding it witty to throw barbs as do her cohorts, but when it is in printed pamphlet form, professional, careful, tactful (because the pamphlet author understands the craft and respects it and uses it wisely instead of that 'moment on the lips but lifetime in the heart' rule that so many Fanny's seem to overlook), Mr Darcy gets it and gets it good. Curious.

This is why I love Kelloggsville's comment - I think that touches on the underlying cause of Fanny's taking slight. Did they have mirrors in those days that could be turned to face Fanny?

I really love your reply to Alienne. And the photo caption nearly made me roll off my chair laughing. Brilliant!

In closing, I quote the modern-day wordsmith, M.C. Hammer: You Can't Touch This.

London City Mum said...

Fabulous.

And quite frankly if Miss Fanny had half a brain in the first place she would a) see the humour, and b) write an amusing piece in reply.

Obviously she has merely a coiffed head with little between the ears.

LCM x

Steve said...

Heather, John, Being Me, LCM: thank you muchly for your comments. This whole exercise makes me realize that the Fanny's of this world are everywhere - too duplicitious and multiplicitous to fight. Mr D'arcy would be much better off and infinitely more wise if he never engaged with the Fanny's of this world at all. And that is something that I never thought I'd ever have cause to write.