I’ve written about bullying before on this blog and once again, I find myself writing another blog on the subject. Bullying in Britain is a national institution. The nation’s leaders and the captains of industry, many of whom were educated at Britain’s top public (independent) schools, learnt to bully others at an early age through the institutionalized regime of fagging. Yet the rest of us, in other words, those of us who didn’t go to an independent boarding school either become victims of their relentless bullying or internalize it. This internalization often finds its outward expression in the ridicule of people for the colour of their skin, their sex, their gender, their occupation, their disability or their social status. Whether we want to admit it or not, Britain is a nation of bullies.
When Jeremy Clarkson told the viewers of The One Show a couple of years ago that public sector workers “should be taken out and shot in front of their families”, he apologised but brushed it off as a “joke”. He is not the first person to do this: Bernard Manning and the other club comics of yesteryear, used a similar excuse: “I can laugh at myself, why can’t Pakis, nig-nogs and poofters do the same”? The issue here isn’t humour itself, but the racist and sexist discourses that are couched in humour, which has the effect of legitimizing such discourses. These jokes chime with the joke-teller’s inner world. For jokes and humour, unless I am very much mistaken, are not created in an ideological vacuum; they are affected by discourse, and the joke-teller is very much aware of this. Brushing off something as a “joke” convinces no one but the joke-teller.
Yesterday, David Cameron’s feeble, almost jokey, defence of Clarkson saw the latter being recast as a children’s entertainer (sic). Cameron claimed that he “was a great fan” of Clarkson and that his children would be “heartbroken” if he was taken off the air. “He’s one of my constituents”, Cameron added. Yes, and the rest of it. Others lined up behind Cameron to repeat the same spiel: Clarkson is a national treasure; a favourite with children. Laughable.
But what about free speech? What about it? The Clarkson incident wasn’t about free speech. Clarkson punched a producer because he couldn’t get what he wanted. In the vast majority of workplaces, it’s a sackable offence to use violence towards your work colleagues. When Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand made prank calls to actor, Andrew Sachs, they were dismissed. No questions asked. Yet, Clarkson is seemingly in a different league to other workers. He punches a producer and 300,000 people sign a petition (that was started by Guido Fawkes) to have him reinstated. If you or I punched a workmate, we’d be told to leave the premises immediately and we’d be threatened with prosecution. Not Clarkson. In the end, the BBC merely suspended him, which effectively amounts to little more than a slap on the wrists.
The Cat thinks Clarkson should be sacked with immediate effect and Top Gear should be cancelled and replaced with a new show. Preferably one that isn’t hosted by bullies and their mates. By allowing Clarkson to return after a period of suspension, the BBC sends out a message that bullying and violence are the legitimate means to get people to do what you want. Indeed, the BBC’s record when it comes to dealing with pederasts in its own ranks is woefully inadequate. It is, after all, run by members of his class who attended the same kinds of educational institutions. I’m not holding my breath for change.
UPDATE 24/3/15 @ 1940
Well, Clarkson’s been given the boot and already Brendan O’Neill has penned a paean to the man. In characteristic style, O’Neill has claimed that Clarkson’s sacking was because of “the dogmatic liberal elite”… now prepare to suspend your disbelief because I’ll repeat that, Clarkson’s sacking was because of “the dogmatic liberal elite”. A question: is O’Neill for real? What’s this really about? Look, Clarkson punched his producer after verbally abusing him for 20 minutes.The producer, Oisin Tymon, was taken to a local A&E for treatment for a cut and swollen lip. There’s no “liberal elite” involved here… unless you’re talking about the BBC’s management and even then, you’re barking up the wrong tree. The only people who believe the BBC is [coughs] “left-wing” are Tories, Kippers and assorted far-right knuckledraggers. But then, they’re fantasists and drama queens, so they make up stuff all the time.
This is O’Neill’s [ahem] argument in a nutshell.
Their main interest is not in protecting a BBC producer’s face from Clarkson’s fists — it’s in protecting the public’s ears, and our allegedly putty-like brains, from Clarkson’s words, from his consensus-pricking, fast-car loving, two-fingered salute to modern liberal orthodoxies.
So, Clarkson’s on his way out. His former co-presenter, Quentin Willson, is less than flattering about the Repton Reptile, saying he was “difficult to work with”.
“If you’ve got a global audience of 350 million people hanging on your every word, then that makes you detached from your sources. It’s so sad that this is his requiem, if you like.”
Yeah, I’m all choked up.
However, that’s not the end of the story. Apparently North Yorkshire Police may want a word with Clarkson. Stick that in your pipe, O’Neill.