The List: unlikely outrages

Booking edgy African-American comedian Reginald D Hunter for this year’s Professional Footballers’ Association awards dinner seemed a bold move for an organisation not widely deemed to be in the front rank of progressive thinking on matters of race. Among numerous expressions of outrage at Hunter’s discursive use of “the N-word”, PFA chairman Clarke Carlisle’s insistence that when attending a comedy club “you know you might have to leave your moral compass at the door” – whereas the standards of probity required at a gathering full of Premier League footballers would necessarily be much higher – set the bar high in terms of motes and beams. Yet his deputy Bobby Barnes sailed over it by reassuring the public that the PFA would be asking Hunter for its money back on the grounds that, “whatever he was paid, it was too much”. Here are three other cases of implausible affront.

1. Joseph Stalin

While not a man renowned for his refined sensibilities, Stalin made an exception when it came to opera. But the decadent storyline and dissonant score of a 1936 performance of Dmitri Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District were simply too much for the man responsible for the liquidation of the kulaks. He left early from his customary position behind a curtain in the back row of box A at the Bolshoi, and a Pravda editorial later warned the composer that such creative experiments would “end badly”.

2. Charlton Heston

At a 1992 Time Warner shareholders meeting, the veteran Hollywood star led a dramatic protest against the song “Cop Killer” recorded by Ice-T’s death metal band Body Count. The actor best known for his role as Moses later became president of the National Rifle Association, notorious for holding a firearm above his head and proclaiming that only someone willing to pry it out of his “cold dead hands” could ever take it away from him. No definitive figures exist for the relative numbers of police shootings attributable to death-metal songs and those to the second amendment right to bear arms.

3. Noel Edmonds

The absurd spectacle of Edmonds warning viewers about the dangers of the drug “Cake” – made from “a dangerous compound known as dimesmeric anderson phosphate” and notorious for its capacity to “stimulate the part of the brain called Shatner’s Bassoon” – was one of many subversive high-points in Chris Morris’s controversial 1997 Channel 4 show Brass Eye. Edmonds’ impassioned 400-word denunciation of the “straight fraud” perpetrated by Morris might have carried more weight had it been written by someone other than the nation’s favourite TV prankster.

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