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Slap down Ross and Brand with permanent airtime ban

The grubby affair of Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand is truly a parable -- not so much of the corruption of the BBC (though it is that too) but of the general abasement of powerful media organisations to alpha males.

These are the creatures feminists tend to sneer at for their "blokishness", as if mere convivial and cheerful manliness were the enemy of the feminist agenda, and of public decency.

In fact, it's neither. These men are not being blokish, or convivial, or cheerful. Quite the reverse. What is at work here is one of the most toxic forces in human society; untrammelled alpha-male power.

I will briefly outline the story. Brand and Ross are two of the biggest creatures in the British media. Brand, a radio disc-jockey, is famous for his success with women. Ross is the highest paid presenter -- £16 million over three years -- in British television, and makes a point of larding his shows with explicitly sexual remarks. Which is fine, sort of, but only after a realistic watershed time, which 9pm is certainly not.

The two men decided to play a 'professional' practical joke on Andrew Sachs, the actor who played Manuel in 'Fawlty Towers'. The two of them left a conversation on his answer-phone, to the effect that Brand had had sex with his 23-year old grand-daughter, Georgina Baillie. Ross then said that Andrew Sachs probably had a picture of her on a swing, aged nine. Brand sneered that she was on a swing when he met her, which in itself has certain connotations.

Other phoned 'messages' followed along the same lines. At one stage Ross said: "She was bent over the couch . . ."

Brand then sang to the audience some doggerel, which included: "I said some things I didn't oughta, like I had sex with your grand-daughter. But it was consensual, she wasn't menstrual, it was consensual lovely sex." He finished by singing: "And even after the show's finished, we can kick his front door in and scream apologies to his bottom. We can keep on troubling Andrew Sachs."

The two men recorded all three phone-calls, and the tape of them was broadcast on BBC radio a couple of days later, with the full permission of their BBC producers -- but of neither Andrew Sachs nor Georgina Baillie.

Well, this sort of filth has been coming for a good while now. After all, it was fully 12 years ago that Julian Clary said on television that he would like to "fist" -- insert his wrist into the rectum of -- the then British chancellor of the exchequer, Norman Lamont. He was merely suspended, and was soon back on British screens. Such adolescent nastiness is only possible if a sexually indulgent alpha male can dominate his producer, and if there is no hierarchy to enable the producer assert his authority and prevent serious taboos being violated.

Jonathan Ross has always specialised in explicit sexual conversations, but always in a carefully calculated, right-on way. He made a 'joke' last year about his avowedly homosexual backing group "sucking on a little Moroccan", as in smoking a Marrakech joint, or by innuendo, fellating an Arab male-child. In other words, boy paedophilia was made "funny" -- a comparable jest about a little girl being sexually abused would have rightly led to instant dismissal.

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But Ross has been able to get away with this filth because is an alpha male, even as he has grown steadily out of control. A comparably bullying figure is Jeremy Clarkson of 'Top Gear' -- though he then turned out to be far less alpha than his television guest, Simon Cowell, before whom he recently and visibly abased himself, like an inferior chimpanzee. And Cowell himself only gets away with his abusive and bullying behaviour on television because he is truly the alpha of alphas, to whom all submit.

It will not do. All the worst human disasters that befall societies result from the unfettered domination of the alpha male.

For, true civilisation is built on controlling such males, not propitiating them. Only a primitive tribal hierarchy permits the all-powerful chieftain; but complex societies should not and cannot, or if they do, they will not remain politically complex for long. Yet powerful TV males in Britain have become an exception to all the usual social taboos, norms and controls.

They are thus able to exercise inordinate influence over watching populations, because television bypasses the traditional institutional barriers to untrammelled authority -- the law, the church, parliament, social habit, and multifarious free-standing institutions.

And when television's internal controls fold within before the power of the alpha male broadcaster, then the result is a merciless hell of triumphant, jeering, posturing primates, trampling over the lowest and the least.

Thus the fate of Andrew Sachs and his grand-daughter, Georgina. The only punishment -- for a such a studied and deliberate assault both on their lives and on the standards by which the rest of us live -- must be a condign and permanent exclusion from the airwaves. For, from the outset, Brand and Ross very deliberately ruled out 'sorry'. So be it: that some might possibly remember, and the rest shall never forget.

kmyers@independent.ie


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