Fantastic Tricks That Make Angels Weep

I have always thought that being a television newsreader was an easy job, overpaid and over adulated. Looking solemn when you read bad news from an auto cue and looking happy when you proclaim t happy news is not the most intellectually demanding of tasks but nevertheless those who perform these tasks are not morons (although they could be) and have their own opinions and ideas, to which they are entitled.

But opinions and views these days are dangerous if they do not conform to the views of the politically correct section of society. These days there are those who make an art form taking offence.

Mr Alistair Stewart, a newsreader, has been sacked from ITN News for apparently making a racist tweet. ITN are coy about revealing the true reasons and have resorted to secret briefings to those trying to find out why Mr Stewart was sacked. It seems that Mr Stewart made what was considered by his boss to be a racist tweet in quoting these lines from Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:

but man, proud man,

Drest in a little brief authority,

Most ignorant of what he’s most assured,

His glassy essence, like an angry ape,

Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven

As make the angels weep;

I first came across “fantastic tricks before high heaven as make the angels weep” in one of Frank Richard’s numerous Billy Bunter stories in the 1950s. I love the concept of man behaving so badly that angels weep, and quoted this passage in my book, “the Energy Age” because I felt it encapsulated the way in which some people, when given power, abuse it and the way in which all people abuse power, to the sorrow of heaven.

It seems that in quoting this passage one Mr Shapland took offence. He seemed to think that Mr Stewart was calling him an angry ape. and to Mr Shapland (being black) himself this was a racist comment.

It is astonishing that any person could regard this quotation as a racist comment or accusation. It is even more astonishing that ITN could regard this tweet by Mr Stewart as worthy of dismissal from his employment. I think that the quotation, if adapted by substituting the words “but man, proud man” with the name of those who made the decision to sack Mr Stewart, would hold very true and accurately describe what has happened.

I understand that Mr Shapland has himself received abuse and even death threats., and did not want or expect Mr Stewart to be sacked, but merely wanted him to apologise. Mr Shapland does not deserve any abuse. He simply needs to educated in understanding that Shakespeare was not denigrating people of any race in particular, but commenting on the numerous flaws of humanity when humanity has power. Once that is understood, it is clear that there is nothing for which an apology is required.

I quoted that passage in “the Energy Age” because I felt it expressed the way in which humanity, which has power and dominion over all life forms on this planet is abusing its power with its relentless selfishness playing fantastic tricks on the environment and on eco-systems. It works well to describe all abuse of power.