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Why Clarkson's Comments Are No Laughing Matter

Infantile Disorder | 01.12.2011 14:02 | Analysis | Workers' Movements

As you've probably heard by now, Jeremy Clarkson is in hot water this afternoon. Last night, following the biggest show of working class power in many people's lives, he straightfacedly told BBC's The One Show that striking public sector workers should be killed:

"I would 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?"

Notwithstanding the obvious hypocrisy of these comments, coming from someone who's idea of "working for a living' is driving about in cars and occasionally writing drivel for Rupert Murdoch, they do set a dangerous precedent. As Deterriorial Support tweeted, the Top Gear presenter has "opened up the discourse of ritual slaughter as part of the class war."

No doubt Clarkson's defenders will claim that he was 'only joking', and indeed Jimmy Carr has already complained that "The largest public sector strikes in a generation" are being overshadowed by "a joke".

Carr had already Tweeted support for the strike, so he is partly concerned that the strike will be overshadowed by a celebrity controversy. But Carr is also worried that if Clarkson is hauled over the coals, his own 'it's only a joke' schtick will be weakened. Carr - like his friend Frankie Boyle - is a genuinely thoughtful comedian, who nevertheless often resorts to scapegoating of the vulnerable to get a cheap laugh.

As I wrote in a comment on the comedy evolution of Boyle:

"It's one thing to attack "political correctness" - the 'moral' norms of the establishment - but comedians have to go beyond this if they are going to make most of us laugh. Especially in these times of great economic crisis and naked political corruption, people increasingly want to see those at the top - rather than those scraping along the bottom - cut down to size."

The danger of Clarkson's 'joke' is made clear by the political context. The man is a friend of Prime Minister David Cameron, at a time when the latter is leading an unprecendented attack on working class living standards. Yesterday's strike is sure to be only one battle in an escalating class war. Just last week I wrote how the European appointment of financial placemen to government was:

"[...]another big step in the eventual abolition of bourgeois democracy. When the time comes, military and para-military forces from the far right will be used in an attempt to crush the fighting battalions of the working class."

Some politically confused, utterly misled people amongst the working class - members of the EDL for example - will doubtless be laughing at Clarkson's 'joke' right now. But let us not forget, shooting trade unionists and activists is not some outlandish idea plucked from Clarkson's brain - it does happen. It regularly happens in Colombia. One hundred years ago, Winston Churchill gave orders for the army to shoot striking Welsh miners. At the end of this October - police in the 'land of the free' shot rubber bullets at Occupy Oakland demonstrators, nearly killing a man. And just three weeks ago, Met Police Commander Simon Pountain threatened protesting students and electricians with rubber bullets.

This time, the BBC may be compelled to severely censure Clarkson, but his idea is now out there. It is an option 'on the table' - perhaps discounted for now, but still, it remains there until a time when the ruling class is more desperate to maintain its grip on society.

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Display the following 58 comments

  1. Why we need to make formal complaints about this — Jase
  2. Some people have way too much time on their hands — Grown up
  3. this video link will amuse most!! — jd
  4. stewart lee on top gear humour — hamsterhammond
  5. Jeremy Clarkson - 4,700 complaints and counting ;) — Direct
  6. Let's get this in perspective — Mark Thompson
  7. How to complain to OFCOM — Link Wray
  8. Nothing will happen — BBC employee
  9. Make joking comments about riots and you'll get locked up... — anon
  10. Have you watched the interview — Calm down dear
  11. The BBC is clearly part of the problem — non licence holder
  12. Stewart Lee is number 40, not 41! — Jeremy Hitler.
  13. It's all about money — BBC employee
  14. As was said already "watch the video" — Has sense of humour
  15. Faux suspension — Doesn't care much either way
  16. BBC, its a gas! — James May
  17. Reply to "BBC employee" — Chipping Norton
  18. Reply to "sense of humour" — Chipping Norton
  19. E-mail the links to all your friends — Kodak
  20. Good grief , you stole your ice cream ? — BBC employee
  21. Chipping Norton — Much calmer person
  22. What killed the News of the World — Journo
  23. "BBC employee" & 5,000 complaints — Chipping Norton
  24. Are you deaf? — X
  26. "Journo" knows nothing about The News of the World — Gordon Bennett
  27. Own goal — Striker
  28. Ignore the professional buffoon — Bob
  29. EDL attacks on Occupy camps and pickets etc .... — Geotherm
  30. "Large number of people" report Clarkson to the police — Max
  31. camerons friends — thalia
  32. Obituary — Requiem
  33. A — A
  34. Just as I predicted — BBC employee
  35. Reply to "BBC employee" — Chipping Norton
  36. this is about hypocrisy - of course ex public-schoolboy Clarkson was joking — anon
  37. Comment approved by BBC producers BEFORE the show — Self defence
  38. I think you are confused — BBC employee
  39. ex Public schoolboy Clarkson went on strike himself as a young reporter! — anon
  40. 21,335 complaints by 9:30 this morning — Flash mob
  41. Want to make a bet ? — BBC employee
  42. killing strikers — Grateful to be here
  43. Hiding ? — Very funny
  44. Thanks + very funny — Norm
  45. tanks — non-tankie
  46. easy tiger — anon
  47. Pull the other one — Global Citizen
  48. If you work for the BBC, tell us how many people have complained now? — Rebekah Brooks
  49. @Rebekah Brooks — ITV
  50. Portrait of Jeremy Clarkson — Rupert Murdoch
  51. Clarkson did NOT apologise, the BBC have LIED — Dan
  52. how? — stevey jones
  53. Reply to Stevey — Diane Coyle
  55. Ofcom confirm they're investigating Clarkson 20/12/2011 — Dean
  56. New Clarkson racism — Sportz
  57. Even more Clarkson racism — Trey
  58. The morality of the BBC — Update