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Diva Fever, Gay, Health & lifestyle, HIV & AIDS, London Life, TV, X Factor

AIDS; A laughing matter?


World AIDS Day Dec 1st 2010


A series of X-Factor rarely passes without its controversies, but I didn’t quite expect this series to cause a debate amongst my friends on the ‘comedy value’ of HIV and AIDS.

To explain; a friend of mine on twitter ( @Squibby_ ) made a comment during the programme which went as follows; “Diva fever is why god created AIDS for the gays. To wipe out vulgar freaks like this,”.

I found this massively offensive. Together with some of my friends who were equally offended, I have tried to point out to Squibby why this is particularly disturbing to hear – especially from a member of our own community who, frankly, should know better.

For what it’s worth, he’s mostly a decent guy, but I can’t help but feel he’s just seriously misguided on this one.

You can read his response on his blog  here (which is worth a read) and, in turn, you can read my reply below.

Hi there Squibby

Interesting blog. The debate around what makes comedy funny is an interesting one; as you say, should anything be off limits? Ultimately the decision about whether something is funny (or not) is a very personal choice. One person may find a particular subject hysterical, the other not.

But as any comedian will tell you, the art to great comedy is timing and presentation (tone, language etc)… and also of course presenting the right joke to the right audience. For example an ‘inappropriate’ or dark-humour joke re an earthquake or child abuse may be funny to one group of people, but it probably wouldn’t go down well to someone who’s been a victim of either. That would just be rather insensitive and likely to cause offence.

In this case, the suggestion that some gays deserve to get AIDS (to quote “Oh. My. God. Diva fever is why god created AIDS for the gays. To wipe out vulgar freaks like this”) to your twitter followers which -I guess- is a relatively high % of gay men, there’s a high chance that it could cause offence and be interpreted as highly insensitive and callous (even to those you know you well, understand your sense of humour and consider themselves your friend, such as myself).

In this case, I took offence. Like a lot of gay men, some of my friends are HIV+ and seeing the impact this has on their lives means it’s a subject I see little humour in. And yet some of my friends with HIV do joke about it, and we have shared a laugh. But those jokes are usually witty, informed and intelligent – not course, vulgar, badly thought through and largely insensitive.

However I’m not going to tell you what you can and can’t say – that’s totally your decision. It’s a (relatively) free world after all, and one of the things I love about Twitter is that it allows people to freely express their thoughts and opinions. But equally it allows me to choose who I do and don’t want to hear from. And, to be blunt, there’s enough saddening homophobic rubbish flying around in the world without my friends throwing it my way as well.

You may also want to consider the fact that with Twitter’s ability to trend topics and retweet, there’s an awful lot of potential for a comment like that to be picked up by people who want to twist it and use it to spread hatred, no matter the original intention.

Yes, we may all want to groan en masse at Dive Fever reinforcing the gay stereotype, but there’s enough ignorance about HIV as it is, (you probably know that most new infections are straight people aged 18-24 years old) without you in turn reinforcing the belief that it’s a gay disease with statements like that.

Regarding your donation to the Terrance Higgins Trust, as well intentioned as it is and should be applauded, it seems awfully arbitrary in the light of a comment like that. Maybe speak to them and ask them how they feel about such a comment.

It’s prob also worth pointing out that the decision to unfollow you on twitter isn’t just based on this example. To be honest, whilst I appreciate some people may find your constant flow of rude and largely not-very-clever-or-original tweeting funny; to me it got boring a long time ago.

It also does you a dis-service. Knowing you as I do, I know you’re an intelligent, funny and witty bloke and I find it a shame you focus on churning out this un-intelligent rubbish when you could be saying something more interesting. But it’s a free world.

Fortunately the Squibby I know in the real world seems to be a very different person to the Squibby I see on Twitter so I’ll still look forward to seeing you around town and talking person-to-person where we can have a proper laugh.



12 thoughts on “AIDS; A laughing matter?

  1. Well done and well said James……. I am in total agreement with everything you have said here.


    Posted by Simon Gill | October 13, 2010, 6:55 pm
  2. As one of your aforementioned friends who lives with HIV+, I can only applaud and thank you for this post.

    I’m the former director of an HIV charity, and I dedicate most of my spare time to raising awareness of the disease, to the extent that I’ve found it necessary to ‘come out’ on my own blog, in order to tear down the barriers and fly in the face of people’s misconceptions about HIV. And yet, for all my efforts (and the efforts of my friends and family) – we still come across ignorance, as this recent report by the BBC confirms — and tweets like the one you mention reinforce.

    In a recent survey by POZ magazine, an alarming percentage of people were found to still believe that AIDS was largely a ‘gay disease’. When in fact, it’s completely the opposite. More heterosexuals than homosexuals nowadays are being diagnosed, and — as you rightly stated — the 18-24 age group is the fastest growing demographic.

    I’d like to know if Squibby has been tested recently — if at all — or whether, in addition to his contributions to THT (an organisation that sits in the pocket of Pfizer, whose main income comes from HIV treatment rather than prevention, cross purposes much?) he plans to wear a red ribbon on December 1st?

    Nobody deserves to get HIV, and it’s comments like these that remind us why we should never confuse ‘comedy’ with plain stupidity. I’m humbled that you defended my community and I’m damn glad and proud you’re my friend.

    Posted by guy_interrupted | October 13, 2010, 7:22 pm
  3. Forgot to include the link to the BBC article: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4885120.stm

    Posted by guy_interrupted | October 13, 2010, 7:31 pm
  4. may I add to this very well turned blog that we ought to address internalised homophobia expressed here above. The Aids comment was most unwelcome, yet the underlying self hatred was fuel to the fire. We come in all guises and tribes: bears & muscle Marys , camp trannys & butch leather types, silver foxes & twinks. All worthy people. It is time to change our attitude. Respect and love others as we deserve to be loved and respected. When we despise our own, and we do, we can’t expect others not to despise us all, and more. Twelve years ago today, Matthew Shepard died. In the last few weeks there have been well reported suicides of young men and women who could not cope any more with the bullying, name calling, and other acts of loathing. Let that be the trigger for a new attitude for many amongst us and start respecting ourselves and each other a little more

    Posted by Gaetan | October 13, 2010, 8:04 pm
  5. I believe Squibby did not meant to cause any harm and do not realise it does. I also believe that all his outlandish statements are meant to be noticed and are part of a disingenuous and tempestuous histrionic behaviour.

    You think I’m being harsh? Probably, but like Squibby I mean no offense.

    “Bad humor is an evasion of reality; good humor is an acceptance of it.” – Malcolm Muggeridge

    Posted by Naoij | October 14, 2010, 9:04 am
  6. I considered posting a reply to this a month ago and have come back to it again cos your comments really resonated with me, being the outspoken/loudmouth (delete as applicable) person that I am. I think I have a sense of humour, or even a sensibility that is about being shocking, pushing the envelope or saying something that I know people will find ‘offensive’ but will 99% of the time make them laugh, because that is my intention.

    Occasionally I get it wrong and actually upset people which is actually really upsetting to me. If what I said hoping to get a chuckle or laugh actually wounds someone I feel completely awful, the ‘court jester’ part of my personality is hoping to entertain not hurt, so its a complete failure on my part.

    That said when I am trying to be funny I often say the most ludicrous or ridiculous things, things I don’t even believe or feel to be true, sometimes being directly rude to people because for me the humour is in being stupidly obnoxious but not actually believing what I say, even though the delivery is completely straight – one example was your old flatmate bemoaning the fact they hadn’t had sex in even longer than the few weeks that I’d mentioned, my response “Yea but you’ve got to remember, I’m a lot more attractive than you” at which point she roared with laughter, my intended response.

    I think my point is all about the delivery and where your pal mentioned above completely fails is in his delivery. I admit that I have made jokes about aids in the past, I’ve said off colour things about all manner of subjects, part of the mantra being fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke. But the reality is I would never write down something like the above – to be honest I wouldn’t actually think/feel/say it either, but the massive failing above is in publishing the sentiment. As you quite rightly state its all about the audience, and judging whether you can/should say something outrageous is all about seeing if your audience can take it, and typing something like that is completely failing to account for how people will read it.

    From the sounds of it this person has a big disconnect between the way they are IRL and how they express themselves on social-media, its a brand new problem for the way we socially interact, the ability to write and express oneself well is not something that people innately have, its a developed skill. Whereas in a social situation that joke may have been delivered and fallen like the offensive lead balloon it is in seconds, and he’d have known what he said was stupid and felt like an idiot, but being able to push an idea/thought/joke out on twitter separates him from his audience in a way that means he can’t judge what is and is not over the line.

    As you quite rightly stated his comment wasn’t very original or funny, and it was clearly not something he actually thought or believed, personally I was a massive fan of Beaver Fever and I wish they were still in the competition, and as some have stated above his comment implies a sense of internalised homophobia about having camp gay men on TV, I don’t see the problem with that lots of gay men are that camp its a stereotype because you can see it in gay bars up and down the country every night, but thats a different point.

    I think disconnect is the right word here, Squibby has a disconnect with the way he is and how he expresses himself online, because I don’t think you can police the way people think, one of the reasons its struck a chord with me is that I’ve been judged, I think unfairly, for some of the things I have admitted to thinking in the past, and it stunned me that I could be regarded negatively for something that I thought about, but didn’t actually say or do. The difference though is that Squibby hasn’t yet worked out that sometimes what we think isn’t necessarily what we should express, although hopefully he’s started to explore that thought process now.


    Posted by danboy | November 13, 2010, 1:17 pm
  7. Christ! I just read his blog response to the “scandal” he’s not only very unfunny, but also seems a bit clueless. Why are you friends with this person?

    Posted by Danboy | November 13, 2010, 1:35 pm
    • Guess i’m not anymore… but i have to say he’s a nice guy face to face. but what he puts on twitter doesn’t reflect the better sides of his personality unfortunately. he does himself a huge dis-service.

      Posted by JamesMW78 | November 13, 2010, 4:21 pm

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