It’s been a bad few days for free speech. First, we had the sacking of TalkSport DJ Jon Gaunt for calling a Tory councillor a “Nazi” and an “ignorant pig” during a discussion on a ban on smokers fostering children.
The second reverse was the hysteria whipped up by the illicit release of the names and addresses of members of the British National Party. And with it, nasty McCarthyite-style witch-huntery.
Both stories, in various ways, illustrate that the spectrum of acceptable opinion is narrowing dramatically.
Trouble is, I don’t think Gail’s examples illustrate her point, and I think she may realise this. One senses that the column she’d like to write is one about how decent rightwingers are being persecuted by the politically correct elite, but it’s not exactly easy to defend a bunch of neo-Nazi thugs, so she waffles around that question – had she actually come out and defended the BNP, it wouldn’t have made her popular, but it might have made for a more interesting argument. And while I agree that Gaunty’s sacking was over the top, I fail to see what it has to do with political correctness or a narrowing of acceptable opinion. He was sacked for being abusive to a guest, which is something different.
Elsewhere, Gail does Strictly, and jumps on the “sack the judges” bandwagon. I noticed unemployed Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy speaking out along similar lines, and, while I expect nothing better of the Murphy excrescence, I’m a little disappointed in Gail. She accuses the judges of having damaged the show’s credibility by doing what they were paid to do and giving their professional verdicts on the dancing. This confuses me a little – the Sarge’s defenders had one good argument in that the show was just light entertainment and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, so it seems odd to bring credibility into this.
By the way, Gail, who doesn’t like the Strictly judges being nasty to the contestants, still manages to get in a dig about “C-list celebs” and in particular “desperate-to-win Rachel Stevens”. What has the inoffensive Rachel done to provoke her ire? I suspect it’s that, unless she’s doing one of her occasional columns bigging up a feminist icon (Madonna, Sarah Palin, Jade Goody), Gail likes nothing better than sticking the boot into a female celebrity. Since there are three women left in Strictly and one of them, local girl Christine, is immune from slagging, the only question would be whether it was little Rachel or the big Snowdon girl who would get it. You may as well toss a coin.
And we have a rare turn-up for the books as Gail attacks the Tories while decrying commercialism on TV. No, she hasn’t suddenly become a defender of the BBC, but she does object to Ed Vaizey’s proposal for product placement on Corrie. You know, Coronation Street as sponsored by Harveys furniture. You can’t let the forces of commerce into Weatherfield.