Peter Benchley, author of Jaws, is dead at 65.
Apparently he died from pulmonary fibrosis, and his passing was “peaceful”. No sharks are reported to have been involved. However, requests for comment from various shark “community leaders” were met with stony silence yesterday, so obviously time has not healed all wounds there.
A lot of red-tinged water has flowed under the pier since those long ago days of the shark fatwa against Mr Benchley for his unwarranted demonisation of their kind. Who can forget the sight of great whites fruitlessly trying to burn copies of Jaws in thirty feet of water? Or the ill-fated attempts of suicide hammerheads to commandeer speedboats and plough them into local marinas, foiled only by their lack of lungs, opposable thumbs, or even the most rudimentary sense of direction once out of water.
After thirty years spent living under police protection, no sink, bath or toilet bowl left unchecked, Mr Benchley’s departure might be assumed to mark the end of an ugly chapter in human-shark relations, but how much have we really changed? Despite the best efforts of brave multiculturalists like Fabien Cousteau, there are still too many of us for whom the word “shark” conjures only the dark and ugly stereotype of the vicious, insensate predator.
Isolated incidents of sharks incontinently ripping defenceless swimmers to pieces are blown up out of all proportion and used by unscrupulous demagogues to keep the old hatred alive. “To hear some people talk, you’d think that sharks killed and ate everyone they met” sighed one enlightened activist recently, brushing away a tear with his sole remaining limb. “In fact they only kill and eat the ones they can catch – but you never hear that on Fox News, oh no.”
Liberal groups have long campaigned for humans to leave the sharks in peace to enjoy their natural habitat. If people didn’t keep swimming around in the sea in so provocative a fashion, they argue, no-one wouldn’t get attacked. “It’s their own fault, you see? Bikinis, indeed! They’re asking for it dressed like that.”
But now that the battle to shift the mantle of victimhood from insensitive swimmers to aggrieved sharks has been largely won, shark-rights activists have opened a new front in their war on discrimination. “Humans aren’t paddling around in our feeding grounds anymore, which is good, of course” explained Bruce, an 18-foot-long Great White spokes-shark for the Council for Shark Rights and Freedoms (Pacific). “But in the end all that means is that the imperialists have retreated to monopolise their own environment, ghettoising us by default. And that’s unacceptable.” The solution? “We want state-aided positive discrimination and mobility programmes to allow our community access to human habitats on land. A combination of welfare benefits and adapted go-karts will allow us to take our rightful place in society, making our traditional contribution in the fields of terror, merciless slaughter and savage targeting of the weak and defenceless. We have a right to live according to our own laws and culture, and you have a right to pay for it.”
A joint statement issued by Greenpeace, the Democratic National Committee and the UN High Commission for Human Rights yesterday was broadly supportive of the “Freeding Frenzy” Initiative, as it’s been dubbed by supporters. However, the NAACP has expressed concern about the lack of Great Black sharks in the higher echelons of the movement.
Bruce has invited the NAACP leadership to “stop by the beach tomorrow morning to discuss the issue over breakfast”.
CSRF activists bravely battling discrimination, yesterday. Jack Straw later issued an apology to all sharks on behalf of the swimmer’s family.