A week ago comedian Joe Lycett issued an ultimatum to footballer David Beckham over the latter’s £10m deal with World Cup host Qatar to act as an ambassador for the tournament and make the state “look good”. He demanded that Beckham end his relationship with Qatar, in which case Lycett would donate £10k of his own money to LGBT+ football charities, or else he would shred that £10k live on the internet!
As the week wore on Lycett issued updates: photos of the money, photos of the shredder, and he told us that he’d heard absolutely nothing from Beckham or his people.
And then the week was up and Lycett still hadn’t heard a thing from Beckham or his people. Would Joe really shred the money?! Then this happened…
…and people started talking. Only, they weren’t talking about David Beckham’s £10m deal to launder the image of a nation that executes LGBTQ people for a western liberal audience. They weren’t talking about how much money other presenters and personalities were getting paid to fly to Qatar, deliver a milquetoast critique of its human rights abuses, then say “now for the football!” They weren’t angry about the fact that 36 migrant workers died building the stadium, or that more than 6,500 others had died since the announcement of Qatar hosting the World Cup back in December 2010… No. People were angry at Joe Lycett for “shredding” £10k of his own money.
“People are unable to pay their energy bills in this time of crisis!” they tweeted, “it’s disgusting that a privileged celeb would waste money like that!” And on they went… “That’s a total waste! And a crime!” one person posted on Facebook, adding that Joe Lycett should be “sent to Qatar to see how his camp stunts go down over there!”
And in this moment Lycett’s secret moral trap was sprung!
Like when Just Stop Oil threw soup at the Mona Lisa to make.the point that even priceless works of art were worthless if the planet they are on is uninhabitable due to climate change, the point Joe has wonderfully made is “why are you more angry at me doing what I want with the money I earned than you are about your sporting heroes taking money from a despotic regime that murders LGBTQ people and has committed countless other human rights abuses?”
Predictably, many missed the point altogether and made the whole thing about Joe “wasting money during a cost of living crisis” such is their Britain-centric myopia. And the best bit is – of course – the money wasn’t really shredded. Lycett had donated that money to LGBTQ charities before the stunt had even begun.
An example of the madness that ensued is included below, from a long and tedious exchange between me and the twitter account Socialist Voice (who pay a billionaire $8 a month for their blue tick, because that’s real socialism, folks!)
The whole affair has shown up those who care more about what one guy does (or doesn’t do as the case may be) with his own £10k than they do about the thousands who died making this world cup happen, and the sporting stars who are more than happy to take blood money in the tens of millions to promote and launder the image of the Qatari state.
But such is life, I guess… Nobody likes to admit they were wrong, do they?