What the last week has told me about the UK

For those of you who live outside this sceptered isle, and those of you that live here but prefer to live lives unencumbered by the ‘news’, this last week has seemed to me like a fairground mirror held up to the nation.

First we had a the second week of the Leveson inquiry into press intrusion. This has provided some interesting opportunities: to sympathise with Hugh Grant and JK Rowling; to marvel at the irony of Sienna Miller complaining about the paparazzi then leaving the court only to be besieged by paparazzi, and to consider the phrase ‘privacy is for paedos’ and its myriad implications.

From where I was sitting, it made those of us who buy tabloids look pretty darn shabby. I no longer buy them but I’ve definitely been complicit in the process that led to everything heard in that court. I realise that the tabloids went too far  in their acquisition of stories, and if we’d had the choice none of us would have asked for Milly Dowler’s phone to be hacked, but the supply is created by the demand. You put a story about EU law amendments out there and no one gives a shit, but give the British public a nice juicy story about a pretty girl (it has to be a pretty girl) abducted by a paedophile and we’ll keep buying the papers till we’re broke. And pictures of celebs walking down streets, and scoops about professional sportsmen drinking alcohol, and stories about what consenting adults do in their bedrooms…

I know it’s not the whole nation, but there are millions of Brits (and people in other countries) who lap this shit up and they are as culpable as anyone else. The grotesque thing is that most of them are watching all this unfold with an accusatory finger pointed firmly in the direction of the press. It’s always someone else’s fault so string ’em all up.

Then we had the furore over a man saying a not particularly funny joke on TV:

This caused 5000 people to complain to the BBC and the Prime Minister to feel the need to pass comment gently condemning this misguided attempt at humour.

I thought the best quote to invoke here would be Evelyn Beatrice Hall’s, ‘I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it’, but then I realised the problem started way before that.

The man was being humorous (I’m going to stop using inverted commas for words like that; let’s just accept that someone somewhere found it funny), so he didn’t even mean what he was saying. Any vaguely intelligent human being must know that Jeremy Clarkson doesn’t really think the strikers should be shot in front of their families. He’s a well-known humourist whose schtick is chucking out incendiary right-wing opinions that many people in this country actually agree with. He just did it again, so why the big deal?

Well, for a start, we as a nation love to cut people down to size. Jeremy had been getting too big for his boots for years, so any chance to stick the boot in was going to be welcomed by many. Second, this was an opportunity to magnify a dispute between left-wing liberalism and right-wing conservatism: look at the great big, nasty bastard; he epitomises all that is wrong with this country and its unelected coalition government (Cameron is also a friend of Clarkson). Third, it happened on THE BBC. Now, for those of you unaware, the BBC is sacred (this is an attempt at humour) and therefore it must not be sullied by mean spirited jokes or naughty comedians ringing up grandparents to tell them they’ve had sex with their granddaughters. You can tell naughty jokes on the other channels (hang on… isn’t Lee Nelson’s Well Good Show on BBC3?) but heaven forbid you do it on the Beeb, because it is funded by our license fee, which is basically tax. This means that people can say that they haven’t paid their license fee to hear Jeremy Clarkson say people should be shot and feel very self-righteous when they do it.

Dave Prentis of Unison said the unions were consulting on taking Clarkson to court and called on the BBC to sack him. The TUC general secretary, Brendan Barber, said the jibe was “more than silly”. He added: “If it was intended as a joke it was in pretty awful taste.”

“If it was intended as a joke”? Mr. Barber, I’ll just have to confirm this fact to anyone who hasn’t noticed, but you are evidently a fucking idiot. Call for Clarkson’s sacking and take him to court if you wish, but why make publicly clear that you are utterly fucking stupid?

Anyway, the upshot of it all is that if you want to look at the above stories from a different angle you can find a whole new set of arseholes leaping about in the background, and it doesn’t look pretty.

Rule Britannia.