Julie Burchill: Just how famous do you have to be to make it OK that you're a rapist or racist?

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The Independent Online

When the alleged comedian Frankie Boyle was banged to rights for picking on handicapped children, I wondered why so soon after picking on Jews he hadn't simply picked on Jewish handicapped children instead, and thus made his set more streamlined.

But – Boyle's dismally predictable Israel-baiting aside – one of the most interesting aspects of the whole row was that the parents of a Down's syndrome child who complained had not merely heard OF the aren't-handicapped-kids-uncool "joke" but had actually heard it being told first-hand, as they were in the audience of Boyle's live show. And they confirmed that they were previously fans of the scumbag! Which pretty much made their complaint worthless.

If you find amusement in hearing people who you personally have no relation to mercilessly monstered – as a paid punter for a man notorious for his monstering – then you really do look rather stupid when you take offence at a jibe that hits you where you live.

I thought of this when the most recent unravelling of Mel Gibson's rep came to light last week. Of course, he shouldn't have called his gorgeous Russian girlfriend a fat pig who deserved to be sexually violated by racial minorities, but on the other hand, what was SHE doing hooking up with a man already revealed as a rabid anti-Semite? And similarly, how hypocritical do the showbiz pals now turning on him look for standing by the creep the first time he was caught out? Are we to assume that, as they now appear to object to racism against black people, then they must to some extent have shared his prejudices against a minority who it is now acceptable in certain liberal circles to abuse: the Jews?

How much is too much, when it comes to standing by one's racist friend? Or indeed, rapist friend, if one considers the case of Roman Polanski, in whose defence some real corkers have been trotted out by the hundred or so film-industry luminaries – including Tilda Swinton, David Lynch and Woody Allen – who appear to believe that because he makes good films, he should have been allowed to molest this child with impunity.

Best was Whoopi Goldberg, who said last year on television show The View – of the sodomy of a drugged child – that "I know it wasn't rape-rape. It was something else, but I don't believe it was rape-rape." She added that the experience wasn't one she'd have wanted for her own underage daughter; well, yes, we gathered that – it's called HYPOCRISY. Hypocrisy-hypocrisy, even.

The novelist Robert Harris, who wrote a New York Times article defending Polanski after the perv made a film of one of Harris's novels, was similarly cavalier with other people's children. "Social mores change all the time," he told The Guardian earlier this year. "In the mid-1970s, it would've been astonishing, say, to see two men holding hands in the streets. And the attitude to having a fling with a girl, or whatever, was quite different then – I wasn't characterising what he did as 'a fling'," he added. "But social values do change." A fling-fling, perhaps?

Harris is also friends with that other charmer, Peter Mandelson, currently making waves with his Judas-kiss-and-tell tome, of whom he has said: "I'm really pleased that some of the qualities one had seen in him are now more widely detected. When the pack turns on anyone – and this goes back to Roman – then that is when I instinctively head in the other direction." What a strange mentality it is which sees some sort of maverick merit in acting as cheerleader for a child rapist – and again for a creature who comes across as an unholy hybrid of Machiavelli and Hyacinth Bouquet. And how odd was it that Gordon Brown knew him to be a viper, yet freely clasped him to his bosom; THAT was when I for one started to believe that Brown was insane. He can't complain about being bitten now – it's just like that old soul song, "The Snake"!

Almost as odd as Oksana Grigorieva being attracted to aged, drunken, anti-Semitic multi-millionaire Mel Gibson. Still, if she's seen the light, let's hope it's not too late for Roman's legions and Peter's friends. Can't you just imagine Mandy threatening to bury his ex-beloved Tony in the rose garden? Back away from that spade, Robert Harris, while there's still time! Or at least before Mandy demands his wicked way with your doubtless divine collection of extra-virgin olive oils.

Trouble with five-star swimming pools

Look on the bright side, I always say, and even being a peri-menopausal semi-cripple can have its advantages. When I first got together with my husband 15 years ago, the effort to persuade him that I was a cultured, open-minded sort found me slinking in his wake round every museum and art gallery in Christendom.

But now I am married and in poor health, I will never need to see another Surrealist sofa or Gothic gate again. Result! Instead, my husband has learned to appreciate the finer points of five-star swimming pools, from the calm of the Indian Ocean to the fevered fleshpots of Marbella. Well, if it's good enough for David Hockney...

Only one things spoils these visions in blue: the number of jet-set brats who infest them. Low-level kiddy-grizzling is a given on holiday, like cystitis, but the degrees these well-bred lulus take it to is something else. See how many of these Euro-morons you can spot:

Jack the Ripper

(stubbed toe)

Screamin' Jay Hawkins

(thwarted inflatable use)

Boston Strangler

(perceived favouring of sibling over self)

The haemorrhoidal stevedore

(unexpected introduction of sun hat)

The unbearable lightness of being

(sudden denial of alphabetti spaghetti and substitution of something green instead)

And a special category just for German tots: The Kaiser contemplates his dwindling empire

(dummy removed from gob)

Women's expectations of gay men are simply tragic

Tonight sees the return of Gok Wan's How To Look Good Naked on Channel 4, hot on the harassed heels of Gok's Fashion Fix. When did this simpering ninny become the Oracle?

What men want from lesbians is almost movingly simple: they want to watch them having sex. A good number of women, on the other hand, appear to want rather more from gay men: best friend, surrogate husband, therapist, wardrobe mistress. Tragic or what?

Trust me, the definitive sign of ageing for a feminist isn't noticing that the policemen are getting young. It's asking, à la Professor Higgins, why CAN'T a woman be more like a man?