I am amazed at some of the reactions to the Jeremy Clarkson sacking. Over 1 million people have signed a petition to get him reinstated1. It carried the tag line “Freedom to fracas”. OK if two guys want to go toe to toe, that’s a fracas but if one guy attacks another for no good reason, that’s assault.
I don’t get it, he physically assaulted someone. Are we saying that if you’re popular, then it’s OK to hit someone that doesn’t do what you like? On the train home last night I read an editorial that expressed displeasure at the sacking. In the Australian commuter paper, MX, Michael Mann claims that “This is the ultimate triumph of bureaucracy. We might as well raise the white flag to the PC police now.” He goes on to say that because of Clarkson’s sacking, the BBC is run by morons.
Whilst I agree that we are tending to be a little too PC these days, Clarkson’s actions have nothing to do with being politically correct or incorrect. This is a clear cut case of workplace bullying and assault. It really doesn’t matter what Oisin Tymon said or failed to do (that is, make sure there was a hot meal ready at the end of a cold day’s filming), Clarkson’s reaction was completely out of line. I’ve seen other friends claim that his sacking is nothing more than a witch hunt by the BBC and actually pillory Tymon for having the temerity to be attacked and not “take it like a man”. Really?
According to the Guardian’s write up of the BBC’s findings2 “It was not disputed by Jeremy Clarkson or any witness that Oisin Tymon was the victim of an unprovoked physical and verbal attack.” So by his own admission, he attacked Tymon. Why are we defending him. Sure he is popular. I’ve loved watching him over the years. He is an intelligent and witty man and has the guts to call out things that others shy away from. Does that mean I should tolerate him crossing the line. Absolutely not! Actions have consequences and in this case the consequences are the loss of his job and possible criminal proceedings. That would be the same for any of us. If this happened in our workplaces we would be calling for the perpetrator’s head. The BBC did the right thing in suspending and then sacking him.
What I find surprising is the level of bad behaviour we are prepared to tolerate. At one extreme, as soon as Rolf Harris was accused of child sexual abuse there were calls for his execution. This was long before anything was proven. No benefit of the doubt given because of how distasteful the charges were. Even after the charges were proven, there was outcry at the perceived leniency of the sentence (5 years). I get it, we think of our own children and our protective side comes out. Step up Clarkson, who verbally abuses and punches a producer because he was unhappy with the situation at the end of the day. Apparently, this behaviour is OK. Is it because he did what we would like to have done on occasion? We’ve all been there. Tired, frustrated and you want to scream and hit something or someone, but you don’t because it’s the wrong thing to do.
It does beg the question. Where does the line sit? What sort of bad behaviour are we prepared to tolerate from our “heroes” before we draw the line? For me, the line must be the same for anyone.