The British public are no strangers to controversial humour and the ensuing public outcry. On Thursday, Jeremy Clarkson made comments on the One Show about executing, in front of their families, public sector workers who went on strike. The BBC received over 20,000+ complaints and apologised for the comments. UNISON has threatened legal action and called for Clarkson to be sacked.
Jeremy Clarkson has, once more, raised the question about when does humour go too far? Firstly, lets start off by highlighting some recent examples of humour that has led to public outcry; Brasseye's episode "Paedogeddon" which challenged the hysteria surrounding news coverage of paedophilia; Prince Philip's "throwing spears" quip to aboriginal tribesmen; Prince Harry's SS uniform at a fancy dress party; and Ricky Gervais' use of the term 'mong' on Twitter.
Over time, I have come to the conclusion that controversial humour is either the folly of youth (Prince Harry); the challenging of society's views (Brasseye); the outdated ramblings of someone not in touch with society (Prince Philip); people trying to use comedy to put an acceptable face on unacceptable beliefs (Bernard Manning); or someone vainly seeking a reaction to grab attention (Clarkson).
By now, we should all be familiar with Clarkson's stale act and stage persona. He's become a parody of himself. Often the best reaction is to just ignore the fool and pay no attention to him. To do otherwise fuels his rule-bending and gives his outlandish remarks an air of credibility within scandalous debate. This was exemplified by UNISON's reaction; namely Karen Jennings. Not only was their reaction highly politicized but it was extremely misjudged.
It is no coincidence that Jeremy Clarkson is a close-friend of David Cameron. UNISON's reaction was an attack on David Cameron through Clarkson. In essence, I believe they are trying to portray that, through their friendship, Cameron's beliefs on public sector workers are not too dissimilar to Clarkson's. The politicised reaction by UNISON is predictable but comparing his views to "how Gadaffi would speak of a demonstration" are distasteful, scandalous and devoid of reality. I can only assume she won't rest until we see Jeremy Clarkson's bloodied and battered corpse being dragged through the streets on the 6 o'clock news. To accuse Clarkson of "incitement to hatred and extremism" disparages the intended actions and political beliefs of the English Defence League and Muslims Against Crusades.
When it comes to controversial humour, there can be a thin line between applause and society baying for your blood. Some celebrities, like Jeremy Clarkson and Frankie Boyle, make careers out of it whilst public figureheads should be exempt of it in their ambassadorial roles. As a society we should be discerning in our reaction to what's socially acceptable, and act upon this by complaining through the appropriate channels. Equally, publicly elected officials, such as Karen Jennings, must represent their union members tactically and responsibly.
Yesterday's TV coverage of the public sector strikes made intriguing viewing and raised a lot of important questions. In particular, Mark Serwotka's forthright debate and exchange of views with cabinet minister Francis Maude. Mark Serwotka highlighted that the poor state of private sector pensions do not justify the reduction of public sector pensions. In other words, to quote Bakul Patki;
'A Banker, a School Teacher, a Tory MP and a Daily Mail reader are sat around a table. In front of them is a plate, on which there are ten biscuits. The Banker scoffs nine of the biscuits, then the Tory turns to the Daily Mail reader and whispers in his/her ear "Watch out, that teacher is after your biscuit."'
Replace Daily Mail reader with private sector pension holder and you see Serwotka's point. Instead of taking this point further, what UNISON and Jennings have achieved, is for the spotlight to be placed on a buffoon like Clarkson instead of the public sector strikers. As a striking member of the NUT I am particularly aggrieved. Furthermore, by UNISON seeking legal action it has cemented views, in some corners, that the left wing cannot be trusted to be responsible and prudent with the public's finances.
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