Never Mind The Bollocks – Here’s The British Police

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Four decades on from the Sex Pistols court case, some delicate police officers are still getting worked up about offensive words.

Back in 1977, the Sex Pistols’ debut album was dragged through the courts in Nottingham after the police took exception to a Virgin Records window display that prominently featured the word ‘Bollocks’. After one of those farcical trials that seemed to be dotted through the 1970s, it was declared that ‘bollocks’ was not an obscene word, thanks to claims about its old English traditions (arguments that we could probably make about any ‘obscene’ word). Who would have thought that in 2019, the police would still be getting worked up about the word?

Well, anyone who has watched the way individual police officers have unilaterally tried to enforce their own interpretation of indecent display and obscenity laws on art galleries, people wearing ‘offensive’ T-shirts and so on won’t be surprised. It happens a lot – a copper with a bee in his bonnet and a peculiar moral bent will tell people to remove ‘indecent’ displays by declaring them illegal and claiming that if they don’t cover up the offending imagery or word, they will be arrested, charged and imprisoned. Most comply, because they don’t know any better, and because being threatened by a copper is probably quite intimidating. We see similar things going on now over ‘offensive’ Twitter posts (of which we’ll talk more quite soon).

‘Bollocks’, of course, is now in wider use than perhaps ever before, thanks to the “Bollocks to Brexit” slogan beloved of Remainers, one even adopted as an official battlecry by the Liberal Democrats. An attack on the word does not only have moralising connotations, it has political ones. So when an over-zealous Essex police offer ordered a driver to remove the word from his Mini Cooper, it was bound to cause more headlines than the average act of arbitrary police censorship. The unnamed driver and his passenger Peter Cook would seem to be Remain diehards, given the sloganeering all over the car, and so perhaps we should take the story with a pinch of salt – I’m not for a moment suggesting that the story is itself bollocks created to help promote an agenda, but it would hardly be the first case if it was. However, taken at their word, Cook and the driver were apparently ordered to cover up the word, which the officer said was a public order offence. In the photo above, the you see the “terrified and shaking” (Cook’s words) driver removing the letters while the police officer helpfully points them out.

We are in election season, and I expect we’ll have a lot of stories like this from all sides. But if a policeman really did order the removal of an innocent and widely used word (one that you see regularly on TV news broadcasts and of course on the Never Mind the Bollocks album cover), then it’s an outrageous overreach.

Hilariously though, the Sky News report of the story – very much in sympathy with Cook and the anonymous driver – nevertheless felt the need to asterisk out the word ‘bollocks’ throughout the report. Which does nothing but lend credence to the police officer’s complaint, frankly. Both seem to be a ludicrous over-sensitivity towards the most easily offended, and both are, frankly, a load of old bollocks.

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