Was Russell Brand’s phrase ‘Harry Potter poofs’ offensive?

14 January 2014

Russell Brand is in the naughty boy’s corner today after he jokingly told raucous members of the Cambridge Union last night to: ‘Shut up, you Harry Potter poofs.’ Naturally, there have been absurd calls for the millionaire revolutionary to apologise for cracking an inoffensive and tame quip

Mr S is delighted to see that the New Statesman is not among those calling for Brand’s straggly-haired head. The folk at the Staggers can usually be relied upon for stern comment after homophobic outbursts, so congratulations to them for resisting the urge to be earnest. Brand, of course, edited a recent issue of the august magazine; perhaps his sense of humour rubbed off on them.

Despite the calls for apologies from some quarters, this story hasn’t enraged today’s press. One final question occurs to me: if a popular right-wing entertainer had jokingly referred to the Cambridge Union as ‘Harry Potter poofs’, what would the reaction have been? Answers on a pitchfork, please.

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Show comments
  • Peter L

    An important point made by Victor Frankel, a concentration camp survivor, was that one of our ultimate freedoms is the choice of how we react to circumstances. We chose to be offended or to not be offended. When we choose to be offended we confer power on those who have uttered the remark. When we choose to not be offended, we retain power for ourselves.

  • Son of Hayek

    Well I remember when retail tycoon Philip green said something like “…he’s a bit thick cos he’s Irish” and my God the poor man was hounded until he made an apology.

    Ours is a humourless, po-faced age mind you gay seems to have changed meaning among the young (gay, sl. weak, crap, pathetic)

  • Cyclops

    He’s like a Liberal version of Jim Davidson really, isn’t he?!

  • Cyclops

    Very disappointed not to have received a cheque in the post from Russell Brand. I had thought that he had announced a redistribution of wealth from his thirteen milion dollar fotune. Then I remembered; socialists only spend other people’s money!

  • Charles R

    Ok, it’s inoffensive, so what the reference had been anti-Semitic? Or anti- black? The word may seem inoffensive to some, but it has been used as a weapon against gay people for generations, and there are those who do not see it as all harmless fun.

  • Eddie

    No words are in themselves offensive (I don’t care what the law or the pc thought police say). The context is all (and ditto for images like the Mo cartoons too).
    So in this context, no, the P word is not offensive or badly used. Brand could have called them upper class pompous twerps; or he could have called them effete. If he wanted to play it safe he could have said ‘Harry Potter pillocks.’
    But really, the real pillocks are the idiot tourists who allow the Oxbridge industry to fleece them, showing them a dining room where the movie wasn’t even filmed (it was recreated in a studio).

  • Tim Reed
  • Raw England

    The term ‘poof’ has been used by the native British for generations.

    In general, I can’t stress enough how much I’m REPULSED by people not being able to say what they think without the deranged SS-like police raiding their homes.

    • Blazenka Hudson-trograncic

      You have to realise the police these days like the easy jobs, they have totally lost their heads, on political orders.

  • gram parsons

    the left tend to view things like this as brand being one of them,so of course he doesn’t really mean it there for it is not offensive.

    but if anyone at all right wing were to say something along the same lines what they actually mean is – i hate gays i want them thrown in ovens at once,vote BNP,kill all working class people etc etc.

    left wing thinking

  • terencewiig

    Wait, so this story is demanding more press be outraged? What a contribution.

  • Chrisso

    Forgive my ignorance, but what exactly is a “Harry Potter poof”?

  • Knives_and_Faux

    I find camp puffs mincing on nearly every TV show offensive.

  • JohnnyFox

    It’s like the N word for black people: they toss it around among themselves and it’s OK, but it’s an offensive perjorative if used by someone outside their community. So with us poofs – we can call each other that, but prefer not to be so labelled by people who oppose our rights. But Russell Brand is not such a person, in fact for someone with such a high television profile he has an almost unmatched brave record in challenging homophobes and hatred, so he’s welcome to call me a poof – I’d even vote to make him an honorary one. And equally welcome to call a roomful of mixed sexualities at Cambridge anything he likes in the cut and thrust of union debate.

    • James Strong

      ‘people who oppose our rights’, you say.
      What rights?
      My view is that poofs should have the same rights as everyone else, no less. And not even a suggestion of a shadow of a hint of privilege.
      That means that poofs must not be exempt from criticism; and I reject any cries of ‘homophobe’ when I point out my disagreement with actions, statements or beliefs of a poof.

  • Perseus Slade

    The concept of “Hate Speech” is totally subjective, and as such should be dropped. All it takes for a statement to qualify is for a pressure group to protest about it. Organised squealers rule OK?

  • Blazenka Hudson-trograncic

    I just have to listen to Frank Zappa singing ‘Bobby Brown’ to realise what real humour is. I keep asking BBC DJs to play it to raise the nations humor level, but they don’t listen.

    • logdon

      Try Mud Shark.

  • Tom M

    I find just about anything that man says is offensive.

    • Peter Stroud

      I even find him offensive when he says nothing. He always looks mucky.

  • tribalterror

    There is no question – if it had been Godfrey Bloom it would have led the BBC news

    • David Kay

      When Denis Thatcher described the BBC as being full of “Trots and poofs”, no one at al jabeeba was offended because it was true

    • MikeF

      Absolutely – the left are always very indulgent and forgiving of each other. As for ‘hate’ speech – given their propensity for reflexively describing as a ‘bigot’, a word now leached of any real meaning but replete with malice, anyone who expresses an opinion they dislike then they are ultimately a pack of hypocrites. Not that they can see the fact.

  • Simon Morgan

    Russell Brand is an affront to common sense. He’s as dumb as that US basketballer who doesn’t know he’s being manipulated by the world’s worst tyrant. They are a both a sick joke.

    • Mellow Jessica

      oh please. Brand is more than smart enough to decide if he wants to be a mouthpiece for someone else’s cause or not. not to mention he’s handsome, funny, and very wealthy as a result of his tremendous success. Hardly a joke let alone sick.

      • La Fold

        Oh please. Hes an ex bag head drama student whose trying to pass himself off as an intellectual by using big words like paradigm.
        Youre just proof that woman love a wrong ‘un.

        • Roxane Featherstone

          Oh dear…proof I’m not a woman.

          • La Fold

            Its been a long week and ive read that wrong. Apologies.

  • Guest

    a popular right wing entertainer…not sure that exists..,

    • Fergus Pickering

      Of course it does. Have you never heard of Bernard Manning? Or Jim Davidson? Of course YOU do not find them funny but they managed to pay the rent so someone must have. And what about the esteemed editor of Private Eye? You are not thinking at all.

  • cambridgeelephant

    I saw Bernard Manning at the Cambridge Union in 1980. He was tremendous.

    • Doggie Roussel

      And I bet he was a lot funniier than this obscenity of a human being.

      I wonder how many times he managed to utter the word paradigm

  • Colin

    Ask yourselves; if he was a Tory politician, would he get away with it? In a world where a football fan can be arrested for asking if a horse is gay, you have to conclude that some “hate” speech is more hateful than other “hate” speech, depending on who utters it.

    • James Strong

      There is a very serious point that should be addressed at much greater length:
      One law, applied the same way to everyone. Taking no account of whether or not they come from any ‘community’ or if they are complete prat poseur ‘comedians’.
      If people from ‘communities’, or complete prat poseur ‘comedians’ are not prosecuted for being ‘offensive’ then nobody should.
      In fact the idea that being offensive is a crime should be stamped on.
      Then I could say, post, tweet what I like without fear of plod calling.
      Let’s try it: I think B&B owners should be allowed to refuse a double bed to homosexual couples.
      Oh dear, that might be ‘offensive’.

      • disqus_KdiRmsUO4U

        I agree totally.tho’ I do think the law does not equate ‘hate speech’ with being offensive.

        Many things seem to be offensive to someone.
        As far as I can see that’s the only growth industry we’ve got….taking offence.

        The next person to use the f word on televison must be prosecuted.
        It offends me.
        I am serious !

  • la catholic state

    He’s just pushing the envelope against the social mores of our day.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Sorry. I haven’t the faintest idea what you are talking about.

  • Frank

    Silly sods for inviting him to speak. So cutting edge!

  • sfin

    In the context of the discussion? No of course it wasn’t.

    Is the fact that an august institution like Cambridge University (and before it, the BBC) gives this odious cretin a public platform, such that he infects all of our households, offensive?

    Actually, yes!

    • Mellow Jessica

      hyperbole. much?


  • Ron Todd

    What would be the reaction if somebody who was not rich famous and on the telly said the same thing?

    • post_x_it

      Actually there are lots of people who ARE rich, famous and on the telly and who wouldn’t get away with it. It’s just that, for some reason, the outrage brigade regards this cretin as one of them, and this makes him safe from repercussions.
      The same principle applies to Assange: all the bolshie feminists are perfectly happy to become groupies of a fugitive rape suspect, as long as he’s in the correct political camp.

    • Mellow Jessica

      someone who is neither rich nor famous wouldn’t’ve been on TV in the first place…

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