This has got out of hand. As I speak, the controller of BBC 2 has just resigned over what was a very minor crossing of the line by two comedians who have said far worse things in the past.
Andrew Sachs should know better than top allow this witch hunt to continue. He himself made his name with one of the most controversial of comedians, John Cleese. And now the prudes and fascists who campaigned against ‘The Life Of Brian’ seem to be scoring major points on the back of this complaint.
Sure, Ross and Brand should not have left the answer phone message, and the producers should have been wary of the possible legal issues. Perhaps they thought Sachs was good for a laugh. And truth be told, Sachs seemed only to be annoyed by the event. But this is not about Sachs or his granddaughter (who clearly is enjoying the limelight her dalliance with Brand has afforded her). This is about the BBC and its freedom.
There is a large faction in the British press that constantly burns with self-righteous outrage. When I worked at Channel 4, I remember doing the daily press cuttings and always being stunned by the amount of homophobia, racism and prejudice masked as tv criticism was put out by the Mail and other fascistic newspapers on a daily basis. The Mail talked about ‘Queer as folk’ as being disgusting moral corruption, and seemed to set itself an agenda to sweep out the smut (black, pink or otherwise) from culture.
Now they have the ball rolling against the BBC. On the night of the fateful broadcast, only two people complained. Now they have nearly 30,000 complaints. Very alarming – these complaints are people signing up to a campaign, not responding to the original offence. This mob is outraged at Ross and Brand. They hate their success, their rudeness, and their pay. Now they see it is their time to collect some scalps for the cause of getting back to good old-fashioned traditional values, good manners, and blood-curdling intolerance.
But the BBC has itself to blame for this. It is so paranoid about being accused of being biased that they have gone over-board in their coverage of this story. They leave it as the leading article on the BBC news website for far too long, it leads tv news reports, and they have not come out with any balanced views of the episode. And worst of all, when they first broke the story, the BBC made the message out to be far worse than it actually was. They made it sound malicious. It was not, it was a joke taken too far.
The BBC needs to learn how to stand up for itself. It has shown itself to be vulnerable to tabloid mob campaigns, and susceptible to the partisan pressures.
I don’t mind one outraged tabloid, but when they bring their prejudiced red-tops over wiv em and start taking our media spaces, thinking they can change our country, well I say send em all back bloody bastards