Daily Mail outraged at outrage

Have a look at the third paragraph of the Daily Mail’s article on Jeremy Clarkson’s comments about strikers:

In a day of extraordinary overreaction to what was clearly meant as a joke, one union official threatened to report him to police, while another said his comments were worthy of Colonel Gaddafi.

This is from the newspaper that has regularly given front page leads to its campaign against wheelie bins and just this week published Melanie Phillips’ article in which she claimed that two disturbing examples of criminal behaviour:

suggest a total absence of empathy for another person, which is the basic requirement of morality and, in turn, of a civilised society. They illustrate a brutalisation of humanity.

She continues:

Evidence of this sickening tendency has been accumulating for years. While violent crime has always been with us, elements of sadism, cruelty or total indifference to anyone else’s distress are becoming frighteningly commonplace.

And what does Phillips propose as the only solution? Well, the clue is in the title: ‘A sneering burglar, a callous mugging and why only faith can fill Britain’s moral vacuum’. Yes, we don’t read the bible enough:

it has long seemed obvious that this is intimately related to the breakdown of religious belief. It is the morality embedded in the Bible that expressly requires us to put the interests of others first.

Irrespective of what your opinion of Clarkson’s comments is, let’s just take a few seconds to giggle over the Daily Mail – who went to front page war over Ross and Brand’s answerphone ‘joke’ that they branded ‘Sachgate’ and demanded that they both be sacked – talking about a sense of humour failure or how ‘you can’t even make a joke these days without silly outrage’.

My thoughts on Clarkson’s comments are simple: make them on TV and you can expect to get lots of complaints and outrage; make them in a newspaper and you’d be handsomely rewarded as a ‘star’ columnist. If anything, Clarkson has just provided a perfect example of the kind of jokey hyperbole he gets away with in print without a whisper of outrage being deemed as the work of Satan just because he said it on TV.

There is a very interesting double standard in this country when it comes to what is acceptable on TV compared to what is acceptable in print. Just imagine – for example – a TV news broadcast flicking from a serious news story to an upskirt shot of some female celeb getting out of a taxi or a video report about what Suri Cruise has worn during the week or how ‘she looks all grown up’. It, of course, would probably crash the phone network as outraged masses call in their disgust and complaints.

Yet this is what we get in the tabloids. It seems to me that British Society finds the medium of TV inherently more offensive than the medium of print.

7 thoughts on “Daily Mail outraged at outrage”

  1. “There is a very interesting double standard in this country when it comes to what is acceptable on TV compared to what is acceptable in print.”

    That’s because people are used to a regulated TV sector through an effective and independent regulator, whilst Newspapers got have been allowed to get away for too long without any effective regulation.

  2. I suspect what the Clarkson and Ross/Brand episodes have in common is that the most outraged complainants in both cases probably didn’t see/hear the original broadcast. There are so many TV channels and other competing forms of electronic armchair entertainment – it is not like it was in the old days when it was compulsory by order of the Ministry of Entertainment for the family to sit down together at Saturday tea time and watch Dr Who followed by the Generation Game.

    People complained about Ross/Brand because the Daily Mail told them to be outraged, and people complained about Clarkson because they heard about it on the news or Twitter.

    I don’t watch the One Show so I only saw the episode on the news, but they played quite a lot of it, including the lead-in that put it in context. As I understood it Clarkson was attempting multi-layered irony: he started by making comments that were supportive of the strikers, but with an expression and in a tone of voice that said “I don’t really support them”, and then pretended that he had to make a balancing comment so that he would not appear to be making a politically biased statement, so he adopted the ironic position that in fact he didn’t support them at all and they should be executed. Adopting one ironic position, then counter-balancing it with another ironic position that opposes his first ironic position.

    I firmly and unironically did support the strike and my wife took part in it, but I thought Clarkson’s joke was mildly amusing actually.

    What is truly ironic is that the Daily Mail normally pretends not to “get” irony when it is orchestrating public outrage about something or other, while Clarkson’s joke was actually way off the end of the scale in that respect but now suddenly the Mail understands these things after all, at least until Frankie Boyle’s next gig.

  3. The bible? LOL!
    Anyway…. When liberal comedians such as Frankie Boyle, Jimmy Carr and Ricky Gervais et al make offensive jokes it’s the end of civilisation in the DM’s eyes.
    To give my two-pence worth, I don’t think Clarkson did anything wrong. Although I don’t agree with his stance on the strikes he didn’t lie or slander anyone, he said what he said jokingly, it’s his opinion and he’s entitled to it. I can’t stand the bloke but those calling for him to be sacked and even arrested are just as idiotic as the Mail writers who bemoan edgy and offensive stand-up comedy.
    You’re right about the double-standard between T.V. and print. Until that disparity balances out people should be less offended by a crap joke on the telly and more concerned with the way the press conducts itself and has conducted itself every day since god knows when. Clarkson’s comment may have been offensive but at least he wasn’t photographing the late Anna Nicole-Smith’s 7 year old daughter with a telephoto lens so the DM and it’s readers can letch over her and say how gorgeous she looks in those tights and boots!

  4. What annoys me is that his comments were rather taken out of context. He started off by being rather pro-strike saying how quiet London was that day, then he was asked to provide “balance” & that’s when he made the remarks about executing the strikers. He made a far more offensive remark later on regarding trains being delayed by people throwing themselves under trains ( he didn’t think the trains should stop but just carry on). Great, now I’m standing up for Jeremy Clarkson!

  5. is it “TV” that gets it in the neck, or “BBC TV”, against whose standards (and income) many papers have a visceral hatred?

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