It Is Good To Be Laughed At; It's Better Than To Be Ignored

from the wisdom dept

Aaron DeOliveira points us to a wonderful "letters of note" entry concerning UK prime minister Harold Macmillan's 1962 response to the news that his then Postmaster General, Reginald Bevins, had declared that he was "going to do something about" the new late-night political satire show That Was The Week That Was. Despite being a regular target of the show, Macmillan sent Bevins the following letter telling him to not do anything about the show, and (effectively) to chill out and enjoy being laughed at:
Broadcasting (Gen)
Urgent

Admiralty House
Whitehall. S.W.1

Post Master General

I hope you will not repeat not take any action about "That was the week that was" without consulting me.

It is a good thing to be laughed at.

It is better than to be ignored.

HM

10.12.62
Those last two lines are wonderful: "It is a good thing to be laughed at. It is better than to be ignored." Of course, you could claim that statement was somewhat derivative of Mahatma Gandhi's famous quote: "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Either way, it seems pretty accurate, and highlights something that so many people miss. All too often we hear of people -- politicians, companies, celebrities, etc. -- trying to stifle criticism or satire, rather than recognizing that there are much worse things in the world: such as being completely irrelevant.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    GeneralEmergency (profile), Jun 28th, 2011 @ 1:41am

    I disagree, slightly...

    .

    Mike,

    I think you're veering off the farm by thinking this a derivative of the Gandi quote you cited. I think this is far more likely a derivative of the famous Oscar Wilde quote:

    “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

    Had you grown up a "proper nerd" and spent the requisite 500 plus hours rolling around in Monty Python recordings as a teenager, you would have known this.

    I leave you well fish slapped with this Python Clip:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UxXW6tfl2Y0

    .

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
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    AG Wright (profile), Jun 28th, 2011 @ 2:17am

    Wisdom

    Some people are wise. Some people are smart. A few are both and Mr. Wilson was obviously the rare individual who was both.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2011 @ 2:39am

    harold macmillan not wilson!

    We went through a stage where PMs has to be Harolds. Currently its Dick.

     

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  4.  
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    Richard (profile), Jun 28th, 2011 @ 3:42am

    Re: harold macmillan not wilson!

    AH the days when PM's were wise and smart. (true of both Wilson and Macmillan).

    Of course Macmillan was responsible for the famous "night of the long knives" in which he sacked half of his cabinet. Wilson's comment was "the wrong half, as it turned out..."

     

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  5.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Jun 28th, 2011 @ 3:45am

    Could just be "response to the news", meaning damage control.

    After some fool opened his mouth about actual plan that the PM wanted. And/or could be a use of "the criminal's code" in which the reverse is said (from The Firesign Theatre comedy group, the American more than equivalent to Monty Python).

    Regardless, many politicians rely on stealth, so being laughed at isn't a severe drawback, one can still be truly nasty; whether it can be used to advantage depends on personality.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2011 @ 5:19am

    are you sure that's what the note says? It looks more like a prescription for Penicillin from where I'm sitting...

    Geeze,but that's some poor penmanship on display there.

     

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  7.  
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    Greg G (profile), Jun 28th, 2011 @ 5:51am

    Re:

    I'm glad someone else agrees on that. Before I read the transcript at the bottom, I think I could make out the words "I hope you" and the initials HM at the bottom.

    "We're not laughing at you, we're laughing with you."

    "No, No... we're laughing at you!"

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2011 @ 6:32am

    Re:

    I was wondering what language that was written in...

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    New Mexico Mark, Jun 28th, 2011 @ 6:42am

    Re:

    The British elite write like they talk?

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2011 @ 6:49am

    I am trying to figure out which current politician is trying to "stifle criticism or satire". There has certainly been action against outrageous claims, but can you point to a politician currently using the courts to stifle anyone?

     

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  11.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Jun 28th, 2011 @ 7:15am

    Re: Re:

    I was wondering what language that was written in...

    Seriously. I thought maybe it was written in a shift cypher or something.

    Maybe we need to run this note through a decipher program - it might actually say something completely different.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2011 @ 7:52am

    It is best to be ignored if you are a fugitive from justice.

     

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  13.  
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    Jesse (profile), Jun 28th, 2011 @ 8:27am

    ...there are much worse things in the world: such as being completely irrelevant./

    As an irrelevant person, I am deeply offended. Of course, no one is reading this...

     

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  14.  
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    The eejit (profile), Jun 28th, 2011 @ 8:35am

    Re: Re:

    It was originally written in Alienese, then we found out Harold MacMillan was just a doctor.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2011 @ 8:56am

    Re:

    It looks like it's written in shorthand, which is based on phonetics, and some shorthand glyphs are "simplified" to allow you to write it at normal talking speeds. Perhaps this is actually a dictation taken by a secretary, who forwarded it on to the Postmaster's secretary...

     

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  16.  
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    Gwiz (profile), Jun 28th, 2011 @ 11:01am

    Re:

    As an irrelevant person, I am deeply offended. Of course, no one is reading this...

    I'm sorry Jesse...I wasn't paying attention....were you saying something?

    ps: just kidding :)

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2011 @ 11:31am

    I can see a rough correlation between the number and grouping of the marks and the number of letters and words in the so-called 'translation' but that's all I can tell. Geez. But I guess if someone can discern words from Stephen Hawking's eye blinks, someone could figure out these scrawls, too.

     

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  18.  
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    Andreas, Jun 30th, 2011 @ 8:30pm

    Re:

    I was thinking some sort of shorthand too. I hear it is amazingly useful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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