Another Clarkson abomination and a claytons apology

Posted on December 2, 2011

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Jeremy Clarkson was forced today to issue an apology for his comments on The One Show yesterday evening. Clarkson controversially said that people who joined the UK’s first general strike in 40 years should be taken out in front of their families and executed.  Clarkson also claimed the strike was actually good because it meant he could drive more easily as there were fewer people on the roads, and also, that train drivers should not stop after people had thrown themselves onto the tracks to commit suicide.

Following more than 21,000 complaints, Clarkson was quoted as saying ‘if the BBC and I have caused offence I am quite happy along with it to apologise’.  According to the Guardian this evening, the BBC is standing by Clarkson and does not intend to haul him over the coals for these remarks – labelling him as a ‘performer’ who slightly ‘overegged’ his brief.

The incident is worrying enough – Clarkson deeply offended many people, not least those who may have been victims of home invasions, or who have escaped war-time violence including indiscriminate murder of civilians (the UK is home to many refugees from the Kosovan wars as well as many escaping African conflicts).  But the BBC’s defence of Clarkson is far more disturbing.  Clarkson’s popularity can never be an excuse for excusing his offensive behaviour and comments.  Afterall, if popularity was the test, none of us would be able to criticise the unmentionable horrors that have been wrought by popular leaders like Hitler.   Humour is also no defence.  Comedians who offend people because of differences in values is part of the cut and thrust of comedy, but people who use humour to put across opinions about others who they do not like need to be extremely careful.  This is, afterall, where so much racism, homophobia and sexism lurks in the bad jokes of bigots.  Clarksons’s most recent outrage is not funny.  It is not even understandable.  It is just thoroughly abhorrent and disgusting.

So why does the BBC continue to support this gross, untrammelled, offensive man?  And how can they possibly justify such a position given that popularity should not and cannot be the only indicator of appropriateness?  Well, it is not surprising to find that David Cameron is a friend of Clarkson’s.  Nor is it a surprise to realise that Top Gear is enormously lucrative for the BBC in its syndication around the globe.  Letting go of the milch-cow is always hard, but for my money, the BBC needs to step up and do the right thing.

At this time when youths are being locked up for inciting people to violence (and who claimed it was a joke), it is astounding to think Clarkson and the BBC are untouchable on this issue. So come on BBC, show some leadership and dump this insufferable bigot.

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