. . . for suggesting on BBC’s The One Show that the public sector “workers” who took part in yesterday’s strike should be shot.
This is silly. It should be patently obvious to anyone who is familiar with his style or has seen one of his programmes – ie: everyone in the world – that Clarkson didn’t mean it. For one thing, being an informed fellow he would be perfectly aware that the government simply hasn’t the money to spend on bullets right now. For another, he must know that it’s perfectly possible that among all the diversity outreach consultants, renewable energy/recycling advisers and union reps who spent their day on the picket lines/early Christmas shopping in Bluewater yesterday at least a handful might actually have jobs which make some tiny contribution to the nation’s well being – so killing at least those ones would be counterproductive.
Oh, plus, he was employing it as a figure of speech. I know this won’t mean much to half the morons who complained to the BBC yesterday, but the English language is an extraordinarily rich and nuanced thing. Sometimes, when the speaker says that someone should be shot, he really does mean it: if, say, it’s an officer giving orders to a firing squad about to shoot a deserter or a looter in 1915. More often, though, he doesn’t. For at least the last fifty years “they should be taken out and shot,” has been a socially acceptable, perfectly unexceptionable way of expressing colourfully and vehemently one’s distaste towards a particular category of unpleasantness, be it striking Unison workers, revolting students, poorly performing members of your football team or the Lib Dem members of Cameron’s cabinet. Context is all.
The BBC I know is particularly squeamish about such matters. I remember once appearing on a BBC arts programme on Radio 4, in which I suggested that Robbie Williams deserved to be killed for making some particularly dismal album. Though I said it in the mildest way and it was quite obvious that my fatwa was really not an incitement for Radio 4’s listeners to rise up, hunt down Williams mercilessly and appear outside Broadcasting House with his head on a spike, the presenter nevertheless blanched and felt compelled to offer an instant on-air apology stressing that I hadn’t meant what I said.
What the BBC and its brain-dead apparatchiks clearly fail to understand at moments like this is that they are actually endorsing and cultivating our culture of abject stupidity. If Lord Reith were still around, he really would want the entire BBC staff – management especially but also grinning half-wit presenters like The One Show’s Matt Baker and Alex Jones – taken out and shot for what they have done to a once-fine institution.
In a sensible, rational universe, the natural response of those presenters to remarks like Clarkson’s would be a knowing chuckle – as if to say: “Ah there goes old Jezza again. What a card he is. But of course, that’s why we had him on the programme in the first place: to say the kind of things that Jeremy Clarkson would say on television.” Thus, they would be signalling to those viewers idiotic enough to seek to take umbrage at Clarkson’s remarks that there was no point in doing so since the comments were obviously flippant.
Instead by looking shocked, the presenters indicated to viewers that they were perfectly within their rights to take offence at what Clarkson had said. This signal was then amplified by the official apology issued by the BBC immediately afterwards. Thus it is that our state broadcaster, whose propaganda we are forced to finance with a compulsory levy, sends out a signal to the world that the English language is no longer a complex, beautiful, nuanced thing in which meaning depends on tone and context but something we should treat with extreme caution and use in its most literal sense lest someone, somewhere take offence.
The damage the BBC is wreaking on our culture in ways both large and small is all but incalculable. The Clarkson affair is at the smaller end. At the larger end, I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to giving you the gory details of the BBC’s complicity in the Climate Change scam – as revealed both in the Climategate 2.0 emails and in Christopher Booker’s magisterial new report for the Global Warming Policy Foundation. And I’m quite sure Roger Harrabin is too.