Belfast Telegraph

What if Clarkson's TV quip had been about the bankers?

By Gail Walker

It's time to have another look at Jeremy Clarkson. Before his now infamous 'shoot all the strikers' comments on The One Show, I'd considered him little better than a clubhouse boor.

Overly confident in the 'common sense' of his opinions, smug in being an Everyman who only has to have a quick suck on the packet of Polo mints in his glove compartment to come up with the solution to any problem.

One of those 'personalities' who aren't quite comedians but aren't quite anything else either.

I mean, what is Clarkson? TV presenter? Motoring journalist? Columnist? Situational humorist? Who knows or cares? However, such has been the manufactured outrage over his 'opinion' (for which read 'joke crafted largely by the BBC') that last Wednesday's strikers should all be taken out and shot in front of their families that I can't help warming towards Mr Mondeo Man.

Read the transcript. Watch the clip on YouTube. You would have to be psychotically literal to take Clarkson seriously. No, it wasn't funny but nobody in their right mind could get huffy about it.

Cue ... thousands of people getting huffy about it. But at the root of the moaners' angst is not outraged decency, but simple politics. Faux outrage is simply a way of sticking one on a figure perceived as being 'of the Right'. In other words, it isn't primarily about what Clarkson said or did. It's about what he is - an affront to certain public decencies.

And that's the very definition of a McCarthyite witch- hunt.

If Clarkson had said that all bankers should be taken out and shot, would there have been this frenzy? I think not.

And now Clarkson has compounded his thought crime by saying that people who commit suicide are "selfish". After stating that he has every sympathy with those in such mental turmoil, he says those who throw themselves in front of trains never think about the trauma of the driver and the inconvenience to passengers.

Yes, some of his humour is gratuitous and, to these ears, completely unfunny. But you hear similar observations in every office and workplace throughout the land.

Indeed, you can make an argument that he has a point. But now there is a queue of mental health charity CEOs joining trades union chiefs lining up to be outraged. Jeremy Clarkson is fast turning into a scapegoat for all of society's ills.

Of course, Strikergate has been compared to Sachsgate, with commentators opining that the two cases are the same. Well, no they aren't: Sachsgate involved two BBC employees - the ever-trendy Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross - seeking out an elderly gentleman and telling him with delight and schoolboy sniggering that Brand had had sex with his granddaughter.

Clarkson's crack was aimed at an amorphous mass.

Similarly, the über-hip Frankie Boyle's crack about Katie Price being raped by her disabled son, Harvey, if it wasn't for the protection of Alex Reid, singled out one little boy. These were precise, disgusting attacks on individuals.

Yes, we live in PC times. And, generally, we should be thankful that we do. Long gone are the days when second rate comedians could mock ethnic minorities, gays, make jokes about rape or mock the mentally or physically disabled ...

But the same people who attack Clarkson so venomously are strangely silent when it comes to supposedly 'edgy' - ie completely mainstream - comedians like Ricky Gervais using the word "mong" to describe distorted faces imaged on his website.

The luvvies spent their time instead scratching their chins about whether the word 'mongol' is, you know, nowadays, among people like us, still an offensive usage ...

Or Jimmy Carr ridiculing those with Down's Syndrome 'all looking the same'.

But then Gervais, Boyle and Carr are not perceived as 'being of the Right' - so they are given chance after chance.

Humour is a strange thing. But we are all now largely agreed that it shouldn't come at the expense of the weak or the vulnerable.

Though union membership is at an all-time low in Britain, sadly for those moaning at Clarkson, being a Unison card-carrier doesn't quite make you a persecuted minority.

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