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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Taking offence

Jeremy Clarkson is a man who says controversial things and gets paid for it. Nice work, if you can get it. I’m sure he earns a beautiful dollar, what with his TV appearances, his books, his DVDs and all the rest of it. In the run up to Christmas, I’d wager that he’ll be looking for opportunities to promote those products.
Last week, Clarkson said something on TV about the public sector strike and duly sent the electronic lynch mob into a frenzy of righteous indignation. Twitter, by all accounts, was in uproar. Some 20,000 viewers are said to have complained to the BBC, ‘offended’ by his remarks about shooting the strikers. Ed Miliband claimed that Clarkson's words were "disgraceful and disgusting." To be fair, Clarkson probably reminds poor Ed of the bad boys who used to throw his satchel up on to the roof of the school shed. UNISON, at one point, threatened legal action. The union, according to sources, was “considering reporting the Top Gear presenter to the police over comments made on The One Show.”

Oh dear. A man cracks a not very funny joke on TV and union leaders want to go the police. Is this the level to which our political discourse has sunk? If you say “I am offended by that” do you somehow qualify for a special set of rights and privileges that allow you to stamp your little feet and sulk on the moral high ground until you get your way? Does being ‘offended’ entitle you to seek and expect punishment for a man who was, let’s remember, doing his job by attempting to make a series of humorous remarks? What an extraordinary state of affairs.

I am by no means a fan of Mr Clarkson’s work. If however, I had to choose between supporting, on the one hand, a moderately amusing blowhard polemicist and, on the other, those who would seek to use their sense of outrage to silence the expression of ‘unpalatable’ opinions … well, I know which side of the barricades I’d want to be on.

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