Saturday, 3 December 2011

Just a joke

Blistering outrage as the famous petrol-head and loudmouth Jeremy Clarkson says public-sector strikers should be executed. So far over 22,000 complaints have been received by the BBC.

Some people insist it was just a stupid joke. Others believe he was being deliberately inflammatory and offensive.

Whatever your opinion, it once again raises the tangled question of whether to allow total free speech, however outrageous and vicious, or whether to restrain people with a battery of legislation.

The UK has a mass of laws forbidding discrimination and hate-crimes, and promoting equal treatment for all citizens. But it's often asked firstly if such draconian laws are necessary and secondly if they actually work.

There seem to be remarkably few court cases relating to any of the equality laws, even though scandalous examples of homophobia, misogyny, racism and workplace favouritism and bullying go on day after day.

The legal constraints may act as a deterrent in more formal and public settings where prejudice will be immediately visible and acted on, but in more private situations many people are still happy to mouth off and ostracise as freely as they like.

Okay, so laws will always be flouted if people can get away with it. They may be only a limited restraint on inflammatory behaviour. But without them all hell would break loose and we'd see the sort of mass-hatred that in other countries leads to routine beatings, lynchings and executions.

The local equivalents of Jeremy Clarkson aren't just making mindless "jokes", they're running amok with machetes and machine guns. I don't want to go down that road.

Pic: Jeremy Clarkson

Jenny has a related post on living with diversity in Northern Ireland

13 comments:

Jenny Woolf said...

When I heard the complete clip on PM it is obvious they clarkson had been invited to say something outrageous. One could make a point about brain rotting programmes I suppose. Anyway it is great publicity for clarksons book - I would never know he had even written one if it hadn't been for this. Publicity/ there really isn't any bad publicity...

Nick said...

Jenny - It was a pretty dumb "joke" but as you say excellent publicity for his latest book - and all the other books. He'll be laughing all the way to the bank.

e said...

As I said on another blog, the man should be sacked.

Nick said...

e - A lot of people have said that. Unfortunately, Clarkson is hugely popular and pulls in vast audiences for his TV programme, so the BBC will find all sorts of excuses to keep him.

Baino said...

His error was more saying it on telly than anything. I think it's a sentiment many have due to the perks that so many public servants enjoy. I know, I used to be one! Par for the course for Clarkson I think, anyone who watches Top Gear expects it from him. Perhaps a leading public servant should come out and say all petrol heads should be shot for being environmental disasters.

nursemyra said...

What Baino said

Nick said...

Baino - This stereotype about the lavish perks for public servants drives me nuts. Many civil servants have lowish salaries and pretty mediocre pensions. On the other hand some private sector workers, like bankers and consultants, pocket staggering amounts of money.

Myra - As I said to Baino!

Macy said...

What Jenny said. Though the blame for the fuss lies with the producers of the One Show for not either cutting the comment, or challenging him on air.

Nick said...

Macy - Apparently his remarks weren't off the cuff, they were actually scripted. Presumably in a deliberate attempt to be controversial and talked-about. They succeeded rather too well.

blackwatertown said...

Clarkson should have apologised - for being lame and unfunny. But the furore is a silly over reaction I think. His comments didn't fall into the same category as Belfast City councillor, the late George Seawright's about people of a particular religion, their religious representatives and incinerators.

Clarkson's were in very bad taste, but I agree with Macy that the producers and presenters of the One Show should have challenged him then and there.
Having set him up to be outrageous, they should have immediately taken him on, instead of timidly sitting back and saying "oh well, those are his views". Other presenters would have said, "Hold on a minute, that's an appalling thing to say. How can you possibly justify it." The far too dainty attempt to distance and disassociate themselves from what he said was a bit rubbish. Of course to challenge him, you'd have to have the courage and wit to go off-script. Can't imagine Stephen Nolan or Richard Bacon letting him off so easily.

Nick said...

Blackwater - Yes, any responsible presenter would have challenged his remarks straightaway and said "Execute? You don't really mean execute, do you?" But as I said to Macy, I think they just wanted to be as controversial as possible.

blackwatertown said...

New BBC channel to be launched - BBC Sorry - collating all offensive bits... http://www.newsbiscuit.com/2011/12/04/broadcaster-launches-new-dedicated-apology-channel-bbc-sorry/

Nick said...

Blackwater - Excellent idea! Non-stop grovelling apologies for all the outrageously offensive items broadcast by the BBC. But can I be the first to complain that the tears being shed by the repentant presenters are not copious or sincere enough? And that apologies should last for at least ten minutes?