In every community and every walk of life there are people with extreme, irrational and frankly deranged views on every topic you can imagine.
We all know the type, and most of us at one stage or another has been trapped next to one, in a bar, a taxi, an aeroplane, a bus or at a family gathering. Some of us humour them, others ignore them. It is generally not a good idea to challenge them unless you have an hour or so to spare and enjoy listening to strangers ranting.
None of us take them seriously and their views are of no importance because they don’t make any sense. My biggest concern whenever I’ve been trapped into conversation by one of these people is to hope and pray that nobody else is listening for fear that they will think that I am also deluded, illogical and deranged.
Which brings me to Willie Frazer.
Mr Frazer is the political equivalent of the loony on the bus, the pest at the family gathering and the boorish stranger on the plane.
He has no electoral mandate and although his buffoonery can sometimes be, well frankly hilarious, he is an embarrassment to the cause he purports to uphold.
Of course we all know people with similar views I’ve sat next to a few in my time and been cornered at social gatherings just like everybody else.
In that context I am utterly at a loss to understand just exactly why there has been such massive media coverage this week about Mr Frazer’s comments about the actress Mandy Hill wearing a school PE top logo during an episode of Eastenders. Search for long enough on Twitter and you’ll find many equally silly tweets on a bewildering variety of topics. The top is manufactured by a company that supplies the GAA but does not actually have any GAA associations on it.
Mr Frazer believes that this is unacceptable and just as bad as if she were wearing a Nazi or Ku Klux Klan uniform and is somehow glorifying terrorism.
It is a laughable argument, not worthy of discussion. I own a brown shirt. It doesn’t mean I am a fascist, I just happen to like it and nobody seeing me wearing it has ever suggested that I am endorsing any kind of view. It’s just a shirt.
If Mr Frazer was an important political player in Northern Ireland his comments would have been newsworthy in that we’d be entitled to be concerned as to why a political leader had shown such a lapse of judgement.
As he is only famous for being foolish, then it is not a story. Foolish Man Says Foolish Thing is the real headline, and is neither a news story nor a piece of entertainment.
Sadly by indulging Frazer and giving him widespread coverage two false impressions are given.
First that he is a significant enough figure for his comments to be noted and debated. And secondly that he is somehow representative and that his views are commonly held and have support.
It is this second inference that concerns me. The Protestant Unionist Loyalist community, to use a phrase I don’t especially like, does have concerns, frustrations and issues around expressions of culture and identity.
These deserve an audience and should be taken on board as part of a serious discussion about how people can live together with mutual respect and understanding. The two traditions in Northern Ireland need to be reconciled and that can only happen when legitimate concerns are properly addressed.
By picking out the loony on the bus as being representative of widely held views and taking those views seriously misrepresents what the real issues are and contributes nothing to an important debate.
Of course there are people here with ridiculous ill-formed views but they are not representative of the vast majority of any of us. Mr Frazer has no mandate and precious little support. He only gets coverage because he has extreme opinions which he voices at every conceivable opportunity.
We should remember that because there is a danger that by holding up Mr Frazer as being representative of anything, unfairly exposes an entire community to ridicule and contempt.
And here’s a simple question for local news editors: why does a man with no influence or mandate whose only claim to fame is being a boorish buffoon excite so much media attention?