Friday, 2 December 2011

Jeremy Clarkson, Justin Bieber and Mob Justice

Jeremy Clarkson in London, this week
"Frankly, I'd have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families. I mean, how dare they go on strike when they have these gilt-edged pensions that are going to be guaranteed while the rest of us have to work for a living?"

So said Jeremy Clarkson, commenting on BBC’s ‘The One Show’ about the massive public sector strikes in the UK this week.

Since then, the BBC has received 21,335 complaints, one of the biggest unions here, Unison, called for him to be sacked and the President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, recalled all of his diplomatic staff from London in protest.

Jeremy said he was taken out of context…

… and he was.

A knee-jerk, uninformed and dare I say ignorant reaction to his comments, above, would of course lead to condemnation, because when reading it out of context of the rest of the conversation, it appears as though he’s making a grossly insensitive, highly inflammatory statement calling for the murder of millions of people.

But he’s not doing that at all.

As right-wing as he may be, if you look at his comments in context, you’ll see that he’s simply exaggerating some of the more scathing views on the strikes.

Before he blurted out the above, he said: "I think they [the strikes] have been fantastic. Absolutely. London today has just been empty. Everybody stayed at home, you can whizz about, restaurants are empty. It's also like being back in the 70s. It makes me feel at home somehow."

Then he said: "But we have to balance this though, because this is the BBC…” – and went on to make the comments about execution.

Whether or not you like Clarkson, it would be na├»ve to think he’s not a very intelligent man, and he knew just what he was saying (at least on this occasion).

Guaranteed, gilt-edged pensions? He’s mocking the government, there. It’s a lampooning of the pensions nightmare that’s going to affect millions of people in years to come – which is one of the reasons why there were so many people out on the streets.

The ‘austerity’ measures in the UK are going to see an astonishing 710,000 people from the public sector made unemployed in the next few years. He knows that.

Absolutely, there were people caught up in the disruption of the strikes, being unable to do what they wanted to do on that day (despite having weeks of advanced warning) who were blaming the strikers (who are trying to protect their futures) for their misery – and Jeremy Clarkson just took that to the extreme.

It would be a travesty if he were sacked. He shouldn’t even have had to apologise.

How many of these people who complained even watched the clip of him talking, on The One Show, or looked at the context of the transcript before angrily prodding their keyboards and emailing their indignation?

It’s the same sort of uninformed, mass hysteria that caused Monty Python’s The Life of Brian to be banned by councils across the UK when it was first released in the late 1970s. Without even watching it, people were condemning it. They didn’t understand or try to understand what it was about, but that didn’t stop them from vocalising their revulsion – a revulsion which was formed in the minds of others, projected at them and taken onboard without question.

Pop hero or Antichrist?
How many people criticise Justin Bieber, without having ever taken the time to listen to his music? I can’t say I’m his biggest fan, but he’s clearly an extremely talented singer and he’s become one of the most popular performers in the history of humanity.

We’re so quick to judge people and situations without educating ourselves first… prejudice, based on mob rule.

I remember a story, a few years ago, about a ‘vigilante’ in the UK who daubed ‘PEDO’ in red paint across someone’s front door and windows…

It was the house of a paediatric doctor – a woman - who’d studied and practiced for years to save children’s’ lives.

Ignorance and blind condemnation is dangerous.


  1. Yes, it is and hurtful to those at the other end of it.

    Take care,

  2. Thank you, Les for some common sense. Clarkson always sails close to the wind with his exceedingly dry and rather acerbic wit and I for one am not always, but usually am in the mood for it. He may, however, have underestimated how sensitive a lot of people may be feeling right now about the issues of public sector pensions. I do believe that the reaction has come from those who are feeling a little over sensitive or who may simply need to get a sense of humour.

    They should try working in the medical profession - although of course many of them do - and see how they maintain their sanity with 'gallows' humour.

    And finally, if Clarkson was a standup comic, giving it large, there would not have been so many complaints. It's a funny old world.

  3. Completely agree with you. People are far to quick to judge others based on rumours or what they were told. They don't take the time themselves to make their own decision.

    Personally I hate Bieber. His voice drills through me and gives me a headache. but I have listened to his music, unlike a lot of people so quick to condemn him.

    The whole thing about Clarkson is just funny. We are a country with free speech and he should not have to apologise even if that wasn't out of context. He has a right to say what he will. But in context, what he has said takes on a whole new meaning.

    You can't make a judgement based on half the story. It takes all of half a minute to find out the whole truth. Maybe everyone should try it from time to time and realise just how little they can judge negatively.

  4. Les - he teed up the nasty comment with a jokey one. His comments were nonetheless inappropriate and politically motivated. I took the time to watch it on play back prior to responding. He did need to apologize; I cannot agree with your analysis.

  5. I'm afraid that in the current world we live in, one must be very careful of the words we chose if in the limelight. Our over public informant fueled sensationalism news agencies love to feed on this stuff. Sadly, they are the ones that don't care as long as the outcome is higher ratings or viewership. :(

  6. I take your points and want to say it is a very balanced and interesting article. I complained to the BBC about Jeremy Clarkson's comments for two reasons. Firstly, as a license fee payer I essentially pay Jeremy Clarkson's wages. I find this difficult to stomach as he is a right-wing, elitist, bigoted bully.

    More important than my personal feelings towards the man is this - Freud noted that tendentious jokes are a cover for socially unacceptable thoughts and feelings, not least discrimination and hostility. Clarkson's political ideology is no secret and his feelings about public sector workers isn't either. He showed his total disdain for the public sector on the One Show before he made the comments you have highlighted. Deep down, Jeremy Clarkson wouldn't mind if all public sector workers were to be shot.

    I agree with you about mob justice but I think as a license fee payer and having watched the show live I'm entitled to complain to the BBC about something I found unacceptable.

  7. Words have tremendous power and energy. I'm from the US, so I'm not that familiar with Clarkson but just looking at the US's media, opinions trump news and these individuals spouting opinion from their own viewpoints can poison. I'm glad he apologized because it shows that perhaps he can take responsibility for the power of his words, in or out of context. Obviously, people are very sensitive and emotional, given the mass strikes, the high rate of unemployment and the uncertainty of the future. I do agree with your view that kneejerk reactions on any side of the issue need to be tempered worldwide. Media has become gladitorial games.

  8. I can't help but think he said what he said knowing he'd get that reaction. And enjoys it because of the outrage. He's a troll. For me it'll always be best by said Atticus Finch, via the wonderful Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird), who advised use all that we should 'walk a mile in a man's shoes' to find out how he is. Clarkson hasn't done so, clearly he'd never be bothered, but have those of us who would condemn him, either?

  9. Amen! I posted similarly on a blog yesterday and received my first ever death threat. So that's nice.

  10. When I had the audacity as a person who campaigns on the subject of mental illness, to say on my weblog that I thought Clarkson's comments on 'rail suicide' were inappropriate and in bad taste (especially in the wake of Gary Speed's tragic death this week) it resulted in a tirade of abuse, in which one commenter told me to "Go fucking hang yourself stupid cow".

    Clarkson has a huge audience in young males, the tragic irony? Suicide affects that age group the most.

    Do I think he should be sacked...NO, but I think in the way that Ross and brand were treated, he should face a penalty, and perhaps the BBC should dock his stupidly huge salary and donate it to The Samaritans.

  11. Sensible words Les. I agree with you that Mr. Clarkson is a smart man. However, in my own experience brains don't always stop you being foolish:)


  12. Just dropping in to let you know that you got a blog award :)

  13. Everything you say makes good sense. Mobs are one of the most ugly aspects of humanity.
    However it is Jeremy Clarkson they are out to get. You've got to have sympathy with their anger. It's his stuck up smugness that gets me.
    BTW - spectacular wallpaper, I guess that's where you live?

  14. Hi Les, Love the short bits on many subjects you have here.
    Quick comments: Jeremy Clarkson clearly overestimated the wide berth of his audience and two... Justin Beiber is morphing into something predictable and unattractive. Would that we could stop performers in there tracks the second they "make it," and keep a bit of what sent them above all the rest.
    Merry Christmas from Tennessee.

  15. Hey,
    this is true people do jump into conclusion without first giving the views expressed in a detailed and scrutinize what was said. Its true that words can break and build nations they really have incredible power. Please let us first do a snap review then lets complain later

  16. Sometimes the truth needs to be said public sector workers cry 2 much like trust fund babies,clarkson is a man who speaks his mind.trash men with million dollar pensions really who's paying for that

  17. If you make a sweeping generalisation of public sector workers, it could seem that way, but if you look at them as individuals, with their own life struggles - trying to make ends meet and hold their families together - there's a much deeper story.