So Madonna says she doesn’t really want to blow up the White House. Her remarks at Saturday’s women’s march -- 'Yes, I'm angry, yes, I am outraged, Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House' – have, she says, been 'taken wildly out of context'.
She has missed the point. No-one remotely thought that she would personally mix the Semtex, or offer any help to someone else to do so. But she was using inflammatory language which she ought to know somebody, somewhere will take seriously. If an unhinged loner in the backwoods of Virginia heads to Washington with a pick-up full of explosives she will be culpable in the same way as Henry II was in asking, rhetorically, so he thought, who would rid him of a turbulent priest.
Last June, following the murder of Jo Cox, there was, rightly, a great-deal of soul-searching among politicians and commentators over whether the tone of political debate had contributed to the decision of Thomas Mair to murder his MP. Much was made of a Ukip poster unveiled hours before showing a picture of migrants in the Balkans and carrying the words 'breaking point'. Few in the months following would have dared to use any kind of graphic language which could possibly be interpreted as an invitation to violence.
But now the Left has a bogeyman in the White House, the rules seem to have changed somewhat. 'Assassinate Trump' is now a hashtag on Twitter. According to Paul Wood, writing in this magazine, polite conversation at Washington cocktail parties revolves around possible military coups. The Left is behaving as the Left always does: it is all peace and love until something or someone comes along with whom it disagrees – in which case the end will justify the means. I am still waiting for the Left to condemn Madonna for inciting the world’s Thomas Mairs. I have a horrible feeling I might be waiting a long time