A charmless Northern knucklehead of the kind I endured at school and have spent most of my adult life crossing the road to avoid – that’s Tyson Fury. Recently crowned undisputed heavyweight champion of the world – that’s Tyson Fury. Descended from Irish gypsy stock with a family boxing heritage, Fury’s triumph in the ring would ordinarily lead to him being lauded as a British sporting Goliath; but we are not living in the age of the gentleman pugilist ala Henry Cooper, and fighters like Fury extend the persona they inhabit when donning their gloves into all aspects of their public lives. Uttering outrageous statements and provoking headlines beyond the confines of a heavyweight bout was a tactic pioneered by Cassius Clay (AKA Muhammad Ali) fifty years ago; but Ali always did so with a smile on his face and was consequently impossible not to like. Tyson Fury doesn’t go out of his way to endear himself to anyone; he’s bullish, gobby and deliberately provocative because he makes no attempt to curb the tongue that says in public what is normally reserved for private.
Many of the views expressed by Tyson Fury – ‘A woman’s best place is in the kitchen or on her back’ – sound positively Neanderthal, or at least the sort of opinion that either emanates from the mouth of a granddad who doesn’t know any better or a simple cretin. He also apparently compares homosexuality to ‘legalised paedophilia’. He is a devout Christian. But does anybody really expect someone from Fury’s background, religious beliefs and profession to express less bigoted views than the ones he has? Perhaps with more astute management, he could keep them to himself and project a PR front engineered to charm the public; but he has chosen to be honest and expose his real self to the spotlight, however ugly that real self might be. This is not necessarily a wise move in the current climate.
Fury’s inclusion on the short-list for the interminable sporting Eurovision that is the BBC Sports Personality of the Year has sparked the secular Puritans and serial censors into action and there is now a predictable petition on the go to have his name removed from the list. Over 80,000 of what Fury himself refers to as ‘wankers’ have already added their signatures to the online death warrant. As per usual, an MP seeking to raise his profile has joined the clamour – in this case, Shadow Minister and gay man, Chris Bryant. According to Bryant, Fury’s comments will contribute towards Young Gay Suicides (Weren’t they a band?) Plod are also reported to be investigating Fury’s ‘homophobic comments’. Mind you, things are a bit quiet on the crime front at the moment, so I suppose they have to earn their wages somehow.
Unsurprisingly, the petition was started by a ‘LGBT Community’ campaigner; does anyone know what bus-route this community is on, by the way? If the incessant whingeing and urge to ban everything that disagrees with the viewpoint of the residents is anything to go by, it must be a really fun place to hang out. Of course, for centuries the lifestyle of those eager to define themselves by what they do at bedtime was condemned and criticised as beyond the pale; now it no longer is, they seem determined to do to others what was once done to them. Hounding and haranguing anybody who doesn’t conform to their principles is seen as acceptable persecution. The fact that they spent decades fighting for the right to be heard and not discriminated against doesn’t mean the end result of that battle entitles them to silence everyone not quite so enlightened.
There is a degree of macho banter between men of a certain ilk when they get together that is not really suitable for a Harrogate tea-shop, which is why they tend to indulge when in the environs of a pub or, say, a boxing club. When Tyson Fury uttered his latest ‘inflammatory’ comments, he was in such company whilst being interviewed by German TV. You see the same kind of jostling for attention by topping the comment of the previous commentator on panel shows such as ‘Mock the Week’; it’s a competition to out-gross one another. Just listen to the songs rugby players sing. Not exactly the most sensitive ditties ever composed; but are they expected to recite Wordsworth to each other?
I disagree with many of the views expressed by Tyson Fury, but I reserve he has the right to express them, all the same. The right to free speech in a democratic society applies across the board, like it or lump it; there are no exceptions. Try telling that to those whose knickers get in an almighty twist if somebody says something that contradicts the consensus. What if it was the other way round? What if someone who publicly stated that gay people deserve the same level of equality as straight people was shouted down by a cyber army and forced to retract the statement and make an apology before the media following hate mail and death threats? We’d rightly regard it as an out-of-order, borderline fascist way to treat anyone, so what’s the difference just because one opinion is regarded as ‘right’ and another as ‘wrong’?
Whether Jeremy Clarkson, Donald Trump or Tyson Fury, there are some out there who won’t modify their unpopular point of view to suit the sensibilities of a cognoscenti they hold in contempt – and why should they, however distasteful that view may be to the majority? The world the Puritans want us to reside in, a world that has one accepted set of beliefs that to deviate from warrants severe punishment, sounds too close to the North Korean model for comfort.
© The Editor