A tale of two apologies

Jeremy Clarkson’s appearance on the One Show this Thursday – November 30th, the day of the public strike has become notorious for the deeply offensive comments he made.  On Friday, he issued not one but two apologies for comments made on the One Show.  The first relates to the following statement

I only love some birds — obviously not brown sparrows.

He apologized with the following

I realise the ordinary brown sparrow is just as important as the peregrine falcon.  I caused grave offence. I hope people can find it in their hearts to forgive me.

All well and good.  This may be remiss of me, but I have to confess that I care very little about the Brown Sparrow.  I do appreciate that despite a decline of 68% in the population and its virtual disappearance in Central London it has no protected status in law: that trapping, poisoning, or shooting of adults; the destruction of their nests and eggs; or less directly, blocking nest holes and scaring off sparrows with noise, glue, or porcupine wire are commonplace.  In such a situation I can appreciate that perhaps denigrating a species which is becoming endangered is bad form.

He then went on to apologise for the following statement

Frankly, I’d have [the striking workers] all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.

He apologised with the following

“I didn’t for a moment intend these remarks to be taken seriously – as I believe is clear if they’re seen in context.  If the BBC and I have caused any offence, I’m quite happy to apologise for it alongside them”

It is quite astounding that a man who is so clearly sensitive to the effects of his words that he would apologise at length for expressing a dislike of a type of bird, appears to be completely oblivious to whether or not his remarks about shooting trade unionists have caused offense or not.

Unlike his dislike of sparrows, presumably, his desire to have trade unionists shot was not serious – which is really quite a relief to hear.  David Cameron was drawn into the row, calling his remarks “silly”, while in an official statement Downing Street stated.

Execution is not government policy and we have no plans to make it government policy

Well that’s good then.  I am relieved to hear that Downing Street has no plans to authorise the use of rubber bullets – as they did for the student protest on November 9th or capitulate to populist demands such as the demand to use live bullets during the English Riots as a third of the populace desired.

Jeremy Clarkson may have intended his remarks in jest, but they really weren’t funny.  In the Philippines sixty four trade unionists were murdered between 2001 and 2006, many in front of their families. In August this year two public services Guatemalan trade unionists were killed in machete attacks; in September  Byron Arreaga, a member of the Guatemalan administrative workers union was shot dead, and again in October, another trade unionist was killed. In Columbia, one of the most risky countries to be involved in the labour movement twenty four trade unionists have been murdered this year alone.  In 2010 the last year for which there are international figures, ninety people were murdered for their trade union activities.  These murders aren’t a joke: being taken outside and shot in front of your families  is real risk and fear for many many trade unionists around the world.

And I have no doubt that there will be some members of the trade unions in the UK that will hear Clarkson’s comments and feel a chill go through them as they recollect the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends and comrades that they have lost because someone thought that suggesting that trade unionists be taken outside and executed was a good idea.

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Bill Scott
Bill Scott

Actually the number of complaints is approaching the number received after the Brand/Ross call. 21,000 on Thursday and an estimated 5,000 yesterday - but it could be more. The Brand call totalled 28,000 complaints but over a longer period of time and with the tabloids stoking people into a frenzy.

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