By Rory Winston
My very first death threat; I could hardly contain myself. Finally; after years of waiting… But before I explain the significance the event had on my life, I’d first have to tell you something about my values – something about who I am and what I was doing before I agreed to write this very blog; something about what I had long desired even before I wrote my first play or started working with TV and radio. Perhaps, less something about myself than someone I aspired to be.
“I can’t tell anyone… so I might as well tell everyone”, wrote the Hungarian satirist, Frigyes Karinthy², in the forward to his book nearly a hundred years ago. The same writer soon went on to ruthlessly parody politicians, academics, generally accepted truths and the world at large. Yeah, he’s always been a hero of mine.
Did he take himself too seriously? A lifetime filled with silly pranks would indicate otherwise. What he did take seriously, however, were concepts, the power of humour, and most importantly, the idea that observations, though unlikely to alter our circumstances, were nevertheless capable of altering our perception of those circumstances.
I know no worthier challenge than making someone with steadfast beliefs question them; and no greater accomplishment than making someone see accepted paradigms in a new light – especially, if the revelation leaves them dissatisfied and hungry for more. After all, the only thing worse than convincing someone to question their concepts is having that person turn your questions into their new gospel.
In short, I’ve devoted the greater part of my professional existence in a vain attempt to sew discontent. Not to be liked, obviously; but, at least, to be hated… with a passion - the ‘passion aspect’ being paramount.
I have an allergy to terms like: ‘unshakeable faith’, ‘accepting the given situation’, and ‘coping in a healthy way with loss’. Faith when unshakeable is self-indoctrination; ‘acceptance’ is lethargy disguised as volition; and since ‘loss’ by very definition means the absence of that which can not be replaced, the idea of coping would infer that it were not so much a loss as a minor inconvenience. As for ‘learning to settle’, I’d reserve the phrase for people studying to be pilgrims.
Although I’ve spent many years writing for theatre, TV and stand-up comedians, it was not until I began doing Rhythm and Rant, the radio show for Spin FM, that I acquainted myself with the intoxicating feeling of getting people to hate me for who I really am.
Oh don’t get me wrong, speaking through an actor’s or comic’s mouth, I could still indulge in a few clashes with members of the audience who knew the source of the cynicism; but not even my most shocking columns or reviews ever elicited even near the level of bile that my radio show could muster.
A sense of modesty prevents me from detailing all the lavish ways in which my devoted fans described killing me. My rant on the Pope³ inspired paeans that easily rivalled Dante’s journey through hell, while my commentary on the future of women’s rights under the Muslim Brotherhood⁴ elicited text messages that would have made Idi Amin⁵ blush. Still, it was not until I actually received my first official death threat – name and address included - that I lost my virginity (being anonymous) and knew what success felt like. The Rant part of Rhythm and Rant was suddenly real: it was no longer just excitement - it was incitement in the first degree.
So besides the special interviews I have promised to be submitting here, I’ve decided this will be the forum where – to paraphrase Karinthy - I will be telling everyone all those things I’ve felt too ashamed or guarded about to tell anyone.
In short, I’ll be working hard to win your aversion.
I am aware such rampant disregard for propriety comes at a price. After all, there are always those few readers who happen to be as jaded as I am and may even develop into enthusiastic fans or, more unfortunately, into lifelong friends. But I am counting on the rest of you: the ones with well-schooled tastes and popular notions, the ones who are satisfied with the status quo, the ones who know that certain things are sacred and should not, at any cost, be subject to criticism or, heaven forbid, parody. With a little patience and passion, it is you, my politically correct contemporaries who are bound to see me as the enemy in no time. If not, then I will have failed for sure.