We were rather shocked at the reaction of social media to last week’s news story that presenter of Top Gear, and long running controversy-monger Jeremy Clarkson, had been suspended by the BBC, pending an investigation into an alleged incident in which he punched a producer.
We are not going to speculate about what went on before, during, and after the incident; quite frankly we don’t really care, but the general consensus online seems to be that Jeremy Clarkson, did indeed punch a member of the Top Gear team, in an attack which may or may not have been accompanied by a racist slur.
Whether this event actually took place is neither here nor there as far as we are concerned, but the reaction of a large proportion of the online community was in our opinion, a complete disgrace.
Uproarious support of Clarkson was almost immediate, as the BBC faced a torrent of condemnation for having suspended him. In TheEmployable office, we couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing.
Just think about it for a moment…an employee of one of the UK’s most prized institutions, punches a lower ranking member of staff, and the British public condemns the institution for meting out some discipline; as though there is some level of seniority at which it becomes acceptable to behave violently towards your co-workers.
Such was the strength of feeling in this regard that within hours an online petition calling for Clarkson to be reinstated had received hundreds of thousands of signatures.
“Oh but thats’ just Jeremy” “He’s just like that” and “He brings in millions for the BBC” were the much clichéd pleas given in his defence…pretty poor excuses from people who were at best, unaware of how foolish they were being, or at worst willfully supporting someone who had behaved so shamefully.
Just imagine for a moment; there is a consultant in a hospital who is known for being a bit ‘controversial’ and ‘temperamental’. During a verbal altercation on a ward, he punches a cleaner. Should we come out in support of the consultant, demanding that he be immediately reinstated to his post because ‘that’s just his way’? Of course not, that would be utterly ridiculous; then why have people felt the need to express so precipitously their support of someone who did the very same?
But most insulting to anyone with an ounce of human decency were the so called “experts” coming out in support of Clarkson, and blaming the BBC for not being able to ‘handle such a great talent’. The very idea that being talented or ‘highly strung’ gives one a licence to treat other people in the workplace with disdain is downright Dickensian, and an affront to a century of struggle to achieve meaningful employee rights and equality within the workplace.
Equality in employment is never optional, it is for everyone and can never be enforced ‘in moderation’.
Every employee has the right to work in a safe environment, and know that there is no member of staff so senior to them, who as a result will get away with treating them in such a disgraceful way.