Julie Burchill: Let's be clear on hate crime


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The Independent Online

Some years back Private Eye ran one of their spoof competitions – something like, MURDER SOMEONE AND WIN A MINI METRO! I couldn't help recalling this when it transpired that 31-year-old bricklayer Nathan Hageman, the first contestant on the new quiz show Red Or Black? to become a millionaire, was a convicted woman-beater. BEAT UP A BIRD AND WIN A MILLION!

With all the sneakiness, cowardice and blame-shifting typical of your average practitioner of the delicate art of domestic violence, Hageman at first claimed that he had spent two-and-a-half years in jail after defending himself from a threatening love rival – and went on to blame it on his parents' divorce when he was 11! "My education suffered very badly. I wasn't going to school and ultimately I didn't take my exams. It's no excuse and I take full responsibility for what happened." He added that he was also planning to give his mother "the retirement she deserves".

And a clip round the ear if she looks at him funny, no doubt – in my experience, men who beat up women are generally up for slapping their old mums too, these have-a-go heroes of the home and hearth. If they have a kiddie, why should we trust them – they'll probably lash out at it, too. Until it gets big enough to hit them back. And woe betide the cat if it gets in the way of their foot. In fact, the one type of sentient being they're NOT interested in engaging with violently is one who looks remotely equally matched in terms of physical strength. So they're not just a nutter, but a bully. JACKPOT!

Hageman was sentenced to five years for aggravated burglary and assaulting a former girlfriend – of which he served half. This creep's anger was directed at a woman, and therefore his crime is not taken as seriously as a "hate crime" – one based on racial origin or sexual preference – would be, despite the fact that there are not two racially – or homophobically – motivated murders each week, every week. If Hageman had been jailed for a homophobic or racial attack, would he still be allowed to keep his million pounds? I very much doubt it.

ITV have belatedly set about beefing up the background checks on their would-be beneficiaries, and weeded out two who didn't come up to scratch – we can only surmise why, but probably one of them mugged an old lady because he saw mummy kissing Santa Claus and the other set a cat on fire because he was goosed by the Tooth Fairy, judging by Nathan Hageman's rationale of why he feels the need to assault women.

No matter, the message that domestic violence is not as bad as other kinds, that a man's home is still effectively his castle, harem and torture chamber – in the same week as the crimes of Fred West came under the spotlight once more – came over loud and clear from this most unlikely of prime-time playpens.

Illogical and hysterical I may be, and no doubt I'd benefit from a swift slap, but I will find it hard to look at those cheeky chappies Ant and Dec from now on without seeing – to paraphrase an older, nastier big brother – a fist punching a female face, forever.

The only time Jonathan Ross ever made me laugh

Jonathan Ross is back – lock up your grand-dads, because we all know what a kick this half-wit gets from tormenting pensioners. I'll NEVER understand what anyone sees in this woefully unwitty man. I can honestly say that the only time he's ever made me laugh was when those paparazzi pictures of him blubbing like a baby at a sidewalk café because he thought he thought his missus was doing the dirty with some little-league pop-star were published, many years ago. Almost as funny as dry-drunk Russell Brand's face this week when he had to act as his well-refreshed wife Katy Perry's designated driver. Again, again!

Here's how to deal with online abuse

In the old days, many sexual and social inadequates wrote anonymous letters; now, many go online and post under fanciful names, as my colleague John Walsh pointed out in this column yesterday with reference to the trolls of University Challenge.

The producers of the show have reassured us that contestants are given a number to call if they needed "advice and support" over abuse. But the key to dealing with the abusers is the same as it was with curtain-twitching spinsters – which online trolls are merely the souped-up, potty-mouthed male version of. Like your dad used to tell you about spiders, they're more frightened of you than you are of them – for envy is a kind of fear, a creeping kind which eats the soul and murders empathy. If you are chosen to bear the brunt of trollish wrath, think of it as volunteer work for an unspecified charity. If you think of yourself as a useful outlet for people who might otherwise be beating up prostitutes or tormenting animals, you will find it much easier to bear – enjoyable even.

A splendid, elderly, rigorously Christian ex-Samaritan of my acquaintance once told me that of all the imminent suicides and terminally ill people she had listened to over the years, the people she felt most sorry for were the anonymous masturbators – "And I never hung up the phone until they were finished, for the poor creatures must've been SO lonely..."

Just think of your trembling trolls in this way, O lovely University Challengettes, and you won't be able to help but smile – kindly, one hopes. But heck, if you want to laugh at them instead, it's all good.