Karl Arbuthnot writes for PinkNews on Jeremy Clarkson’s “gay c*nt” controversy to say that it should not be confused for more damaging hate speech and warns that giving too much attention might make the Top Gear presenter think his opinion matters more than it does.
The inexplicably-still-famous Jeremy Clarkson landed more column inches this week by tweeting a picture of himself apparently asleep holding a sign that read ‘Gay Cunt’.
Naturally, people were offended, and an exhausting argument over the derogatory usage of words such as ‘gay’ was temporarily reignited and, with it, a barrage of accusations of homophobia were hurled in the direction of the Top Gear presenter. But while we pick apart the etymology and linguistic implications of terms such as ‘gay’, do we also risk undermining the word ‘homophobia’?
This is not the first time Clarkson has been accused of being a homophobe, nor is it the first time the label has been assigned to a BBC employee. And so, in response to liberally sprinkled accusations of hatred we get liberally applied apologies for nothing.
Clarkson apologised to “anyone I offended while I was asleep”, simultaneously acknowledging the offence caused, glibly dodging any responsibility for the offence and slyly mocking anybody who may have taken that offence on.
It’s the same kind of pseudo-apology that the indignant offender fires off that belittles our own argument; the apology is for our reaction, not the behaviour that caused it.
In a way, of course, we get what we ask for. Generously piling on accusations of Homophobia to any thoughtless gay slur only serves to discredit the genuine, painful, often violent homophobic actions that thousands of men and women up and down the country have to endure every day, actions that are reinforced by bigoted leaders and hateful legislation all over the world.
We should, of course, address these tactless outbursts but, rather than labelling Clarkson as a monster of hatred, we should regard him for what he really is; a thoughtless millionaire buffoon and the rough outline for a cartoon of an outdated breed of male.
One could argue that leaving this behaviour unchecked would be tantamount to giving permission and on one level that is entirely correct, we cannot allow our children and our peers to believe that these actions are acceptable, but neither should we send out the message that puerile humour and moronic insensitivity should be given the same status as real hate crime, physical or verbal abuse or institutional prejudice.
It’s safe to assume that Clarkson has been widely unaffected by discrimination on the grounds of his age, race, gender or sexual orientation, and trying to teach a figure this entrenched in his isolated world-view about prejudice is rather like giving a Labrador a maths equation, it’s cock-headed, cross-eyed stare doesn’t stop one and one making two, but neither does it progress our cause any further when wagging a finger at it.
We risk being too engrossed in our own offence to remind ourselves exactly why figures such as Clarkson are still so publicly visible, like John McCririck and Katie Hopkins, Clarkson’s entire oeuvre desperately clings onto carefully choreographed outrage.
As self-appointed bastions of ‘common sense’, they emerge not as mouth pieces for the voiceless underclasses but as foghorns for the already over-represented privileged. They are the televisual equivalents of museum relics, something to be gawped at in appalled fascination but not unduly offended by because, well, we didn’t have Sky Plus back then so it’s all we had to watch.
Clarkson should be reprimanded publicly by the BBC, but this is the same organisation that puts Mrs Browns Boys under the category of ‘Comedy’ and believes that Will.I.Am is qualified to judge people based on their singing abilities, so I wouldn’t hold your breath.
While we get on with the serious business of tackling ignorance to people who can be taught, we should remember that Jeremy Clarkson is an occasionally amusing man who presents a show on telly whose opinions are probably taken just as seriously as they should be, and we shouldn’t flatter him into thinking anything else.
As with all comment articles the views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of PinkNews.co.uk