Donkeygate: a reply
Before getting into the following, I would like to be clear: I have never sent a donkey parasailing. I do not intend to do so. If I saw it happening I would try to stop it. Also, if I see a spider in my flat I catch it in a tumbler and take it outside rather than squash it.
Anyway, there’s a blog elsewhere on this site featuring a video of a donkey parasailing. Quite a lot of people commenting on that post apparently found the idea that anyone could watch such a video in anything apart from total horror repellent. Its publication was variously characterised as ’sickening’, ‘deplorable’, ‘disgusting’, and ‘despicable’.
Meanwhile, most of today’s newspapers, ours included, got the story in somewhere. Was this because of a sense of horror across Fleet Street at the evil being done to this donkey? Was it because of the geopolitical ramifications of the animal’s ordeal, and the long term impact it’s likely to have on the tourist prospects of the village of Golubitskaya? I would suggest that no, it wasn’t. It was included, and widely read, because it was a completely unexpected picture, man bites dog rather than dog bites man.
And, yes: it was funny. You just don’t see pictures of donkeys parasailing every day, and the disconnect between the normal image and the one you’re presented with is sort of entertaining, and if we want people to read our lengthy reports on a crisis at the UN, or the Afghanistan donors’ conference, or Pakistani politicians accused of faking their degrees, all of which I would heartily recommend to you, then we tend to take the view that when something incredible unusual happens we should probably draw your attention to that, too. Not everything we consume has to be important, and a newspaper that behaved like it did just wouldn’t be reflecting the real world.
Now, it’s possible to be hypocritical about this and just make it available and pretend that we’re doing so with a totally straight face. Indeed, no news report should include the value judgement that something like this is funny. But – look, sorry – speaking without a news hat on, it just is quite a funny video. You don’t have to be a pervert to think so. It’s not because of the donkey’s ultimate fate, or any satisfaction at the terror it’s experiencing. It’s just the completely unexpected image of a DONKEY wearing a PARACHUTE.
If we could have only stopped that donkey being forced to wear that parachute, yeah, I think all of us – or very nearly all of us – would do so. But we weren’t in Golubitskaya. We were somewhere else. (A dog fight, in my case. No, just kidding.) And now there is a video of a DONKEY, and I just cannot emphasise this enough, wearing a PARACHUTE. Another way of putting it is that there is a video of a FLYING DONKEY.
Finding that funny does not make you a sadist, a fact that is probably appreciated by the very many people who watched the video and have not as yet stuck a hamster on a bungee cord, and who seem to be less likely to comment than the moral minority. Also, a woman left £125,794.42 to Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary in her will earlier this year. Also, outraged comments on mean video about single flying donkey: 15. Outraged comments on grim drug addiction story about people forced to inject blood: one. Come on, furious animal lover. Don’t be telling us we’re the ones with our priorities out of order.Tagged in: donkeys, parasailing
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