James Delingpole: All those going on about Jeremy Clarkson's silly comments should be ... shot!
JEREMY Clarkson got into tremendous trouble last night for suggesting on BBC's The One Show that the public sector "workers" who took part in yesterday's strike should be shot.
This is silly. It should be patently obvious to anyone who is familiar with his style or has seen one of his programmes – ie: everyone in the world – that Clarkson didn't mean it. For one thing, being an informed fellow he would be perfectly aware that the British government simply hasn't the money to spend on bullets right now.
For another, he must know that it's perfectly possible that among all the diversity outreach consultants, renewable energy/recycling advisers and union reps who spent their day on the picket lines/early Christmas shopping yesterday at least a handful might actually have jobs which make some tiny contribution to the nation's well being – so killing at least those ones would be counterproductive.
Oh, plus, he was employing it as a figure of speech. I know this won't mean much to half the morons who complained to the BBC yesterday, but the English language is an extraordinarily rich and nuanced thing. Sometimes, when the speaker says that someone should be shot, he really does mean it: if, say, it's an officer giving orders to a firing squad about to shoot a deserter or a looter in 1915. More often, though, he doesn't.
For at least the last fifty years "they should be taken out and shot," has been a socially acceptable, perfectly unexceptionable way of expressing colourfully and vehemently one's distaste towards a particular category of unpleasantness, be it striking Unison workers, revolting students, poorly performing members of your football team or the Lib Dem members of Cameron's cabinet. Context is all.
The BBC I know is particularly squeamish about such matters. I remember once appearing on a BBC radio programme in which I suggested that Robbie Williams deserved to be killed for making some particularly dismal album.
Though I said it in the mildest way and it was quite obvious that my fatwa was really not an incitement for Radio 4's listeners to rise up, hunt down Williams mercilessly and appear with his head on a spike, the presenter nevertheless blanched and felt compelled to offer an instant on-air apology stressing that I hadn't meant what I said.