Social media has shown me that at least one unionist politician has a sense of humour - Jake O’Kane

At its worst, the internet is a cesspit; at its best it informs, educates, entertains - and connects in surprising ways

Jake O'Kane

Jake O'Kane

Jake is a comic, columnist and contrarian.

Jake O'Kane in his recording studio
Jake O'Kane in his YouTube recording studio

Like most of you, I have a love/hate relationship with what I call ‘antisocial media’. At its best, it reaches the ambitions proclaimed by John Reith, the BBC’s first director general, to ‘inform, educate and entertain’; at its worst, it’s a cesspit of misinformation, ignorance and mediocrity.

I continue to adapt to whatever new modes of communication the web throws up. Having established a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, I’m presently working on my YouTube channel. This has proved the most challenging as it’s taken a year to get from being what I’d term ‘You’re a tube’ to ‘You’re a YouTuber’.

It involved setting up a small recording studio, necessitating me doing my own soundproofing and set design plus learning how to use a sound desk and operate video cameras and studio lighting. An even steeper learning curve was editing what I filmed and uploading it onto YouTube.

I’m hoping the cognitive challenge of doing all this will keep my ageing brain operational for longer than if I’d taken up playing darts instead. If you’re interested in watching my online rants, then search on YouTube for ‘jakeokane’ and you can decide if my efforts have been worthwhile.

I’m now able to upload content on a weekly basis which means I can be as ‘current’ as I want. Hopefully, I’ll be moving from what is presently talking to camera to talking to other people, so if you do manage to find me online, don’t forget to ‘hit that follow button’.

One aspect of the web which I’ve always found wonderful is the tangential links you can unexpectantly make. For instance, having denounced Belfast’s ‘hate preachers’ in this column in March 2022, I happened upon a YouTube clip where one such preacher got his comeuppance in Australia.

It’s taken a year to get from being what I’d term a ‘You’re a tube’ to ‘You’re a YouTuber’

He was an American evangelist who’d decided to loudly preach in a crowded subway carriage much to the annoyance of the other passengers. An elderly man reading a book shouted back at him, ‘Keep your opinions to yourself’, which resulted in the other passengers bursting out in applause.

Stung by this response, the preacher doubled-down, denouncing them all by saying they were blind to sin and selfishly obsessed with money instead of the Lord. The elderly man politely yet pointedly countered, ‘It’s you who’s being selfish because you won’t shut up’.

I posted the clip onto my Facebook page with the comment: “An arrogant, ignorant American tries to preach on the Aussie Underground. Doesn’t get the response he hoped. God – pun intended – I LOVE Australians.”

It’s taken a year to get from being what I’d term a ‘You’re a tube’ to ‘You’re a YouTuber’, says Jake O'Kane
It’s taken Jake a year to get from being 'a tube’ to 'a YouTuber’

I thought no more about it until a friend said my post had ‘hit’ 1.3 million views. While this was nice, what really made my day was the following message I received this week: “Hi, Jake. I am the Book Man. The encounter on the train in Sydney occurred in 2019. All the best, Malcolm Frawley.”

This is an example of the web at its very best. A video is made and uploaded in Australia; I see it and upload it onto my Facebook page with a comment which leads to over a million people watching it, resulting in the hero of the video contacting me from the other side of the world to say hello. If you want to see the clip yourself, search YouTube for ‘preacher Sydney underground’; it’s well worth a few minutes of your time.

A local example of such serendipitous internet connections occurred when I came across the recent story of UUP leader Doug Beattie, who’d gone on a ride-along with the PSNI drug squad. It was subsequently reported in this paper that Doug had been a lucky talisman for them as they’d not only arrested three individuals following 11 house raids but intercepted £150k worth of herbal cannabis in a postal delivery.

I couldn’t resist cheekily commenting on ‘X’ that following the interception of the cannabis, Doug was last sighted standing giggling hysterically outside an all-night garage trying to buy 10 Mars bars.

Again, I thought no more about it until someone pointed out that my comment had been both ‘liked’ and ‘retweeted’ by none other than Doug Beattie, proving once and for all that at least one unionist politician possesses a sense of humour. I know, who knew?

And before you write in telling me that Jim Allister’s funny, I’m talking about intentional, not unintentional humour. I’m now expectantly waiting on Allister, Sammy Wilson, Jeffrey Donaldson and Ian Paisley Jnr to follow Doug’s example. I’ll keep you informed of developments.