Archie Bland: In Topeka or Harare, a sense of humour is a must

 

Share
Related Topics

There are a lot of reasons it was stupid of Kansas governor Sam Brownback's staff to get their knickers in a twist when a teenager tweeted that their boss "sucked", but chief among them is surely this: Mr Brownback now looks slightly more like Robert Mugabe.

Being vulnerable to such a comparison is never great news for anyone looking to project himself as a vision of shining-eyed, democratic nobility. But a sense of humour failure in Topeka is really no less ridiculous than one in Harare, and both serve as a reminder of the same point, which should be engraved in stone for powerful people everywhere: nothing makes you look so absurd, so undercuts your authority, as failing to see the funny side.

In Harare yesterday, the sour-faced culprits were the members of a militant youth group who demanded a boycott of South African Nando's in retaliation for an ad featuring their beloved old bastard alongside his fallen despotic comrades. It wasn't high art, exactly, but it included a fine segment where Mr Mugabe and the late Colonel Gaddafi sprayed each other with water pistols. Also, it was for Nando's, and if these pompous so-and-sos don't realise most people like Nando's more than they do Robert Mugabe, they need to commission a few more focus groups.

The same advice could be applied to Mr Brownback's political operatives, who managed to create a calamitous media firestorm where no threat of one existed by taking exception to an 18-year-old's throwaway tweet and reporting it to her school. Besides anything else, the girl in question, Emma Sullivan, was displaying exactly the civic engagement we're supposed to nurture in young people; so when her head teacher demanded she write an apology, and Emma refused, it didn't take political antennae of Alastair Campbell-like acuity to divine who would come out of it better. Sure enough, Brownback ended up apologising on behalf of his advisers. Ms Sullivan, meanwhile, got an extra 15,000 Twitter followers – quite an increase on her original 60. As yet, no-one in the Mugabe camp has withdrawn their foolhardy demand for a boycott.

Presumably they are less concerned about the impact on the polls than their American counterparts. All the same, as they jump up and down ineffectively, and the ad mocking their standard-bearer sweeps past half a million views on YouTube, they may want to consider: while they reinforce the sense that Mugabe is an inhuman old sod, everyone else is eating delicious spicy chicken. And the rest of us are having a much better time.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron has reiterated his pre-election promise to radically improve the NHS  

How can we save the NHS? Rediscover the stiff upper lip

Jeremy Laurance
 

Thanks to Harriet Harman, Labour is holding its own against the Tory legislative assault

Isabel Hardman
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club that later became synonymous with Hillsborough has dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor