On Gary Lineker

Before we begin: the T&Cs. Because I know that this post is going to annoy some people, and if it does, I really do want to it to be for all the right reasons. So…

This post is NOT about:
The rights or wrongs of the UK Government’s new policy on immigration.
The rights or wrongs of the opinions of Gary Lineker on said policy.

There is enough stuff out there about those things, and I’m not even providing a link to anything about this story, because this is a political thing and so the views out there on this are completely polarised and will either strike you as “spot on” or “bullshit hate speech” depending on your political stance. It’s not difficult to google “Gary Lineker”, click the “News” tab, choose your site, read the article and then either applaud or rage. Have fun.

My point is rather more about Gary Lineker’s contract with the BBC. Contracts are important things. Gary Lineker wouldn’t get paid for his Match of the Day work if he didn’t have a contract. But it’s a two way street, because equally, he wouldn’t have to turn up for his Match of the Day work if he didn’t have a contract. But he does turn up and he does get paid, so everyone’s happy*.

The thing is, because he’s working for the BBC, Gary Lineker earns more than £1,350,000 of taxpayers’ money each year. Is that reasonable? IT DOESN’T MATTER – that’s not what we’re discussing here.
But when he signed the contract to allow him to be paid that amount of money, he also agreed to abide by the BBC’s guidelines on social media use. Is that fair? IT DOESN’T MATTER – that’s not what we’re discussing here.

The fact is that the two-way contract street says that yes, he gets paid, but no, he can’t share his political opinions on social media. And by signing that contract, he tacitly said that he was ok with not expressing his political opinions on social media, as long as the BBC paid him £1,350,000 to present MOTD.

And because it’s a two way street, and no-one has got you at gunpoint signing anything, you always have a choice:
Don’t like the terms of the contract?
Don’t sign it.
Don’t present MOTD.
Express your political opinions freely on social media.

But also, don’t get paid £1,350,000 a year.

You can’t have your cake and eat it.

And so, whether you agree with the Government policy or not, and whether you agree with Gary Lineker’s opinions or not, is completely immaterial here. He clearly broke one of the terms of his contract, and, just like you or I or anyone else who is lucky enough to have a job might expect if we broke one of the terms of our contract, his employers have taken issue with that. But are they right t… IT. DOESN’T. MATTER.
Stop bringing your emotions and politics into a simple black and white issue.

The upshot of this is several-fold:

  • There will be no MOTD presenters or commentators this evening, and the BBC viewers will instead have the international PLP feed – including Jim Beglin. Eish.
  • The BBC will be pronounced by both political sides as biased. (An aside: the fact that one can look at such polarised political opposites both complaining that the national broadcaster is prejudiced against their particular viewpoint actually indicates to me that the BBC is doing quite a good job of being impartial.)
  • Gary Lineker will either back down (nope) or he will have to leave the BBC and be seen (by some people at least) as some sort of martyr for free speech. But…
  • The more likely outcome will be that the BBC (and/or any other employer watching this and not wanting all this shit coming their way) will surely make their contracts clearer and more restrictive when it comes to this issue, thus “stifling” “free speech” even further.

Personally (and again, this is without prejudice towards this case – this goes for each and every one of them), I would love it if the opinions of celebrities and TV personalities weren’t given more credence and gravity simply because of their public status. It’s ridiculous that because Matt le Tissier had a somewhat successful career as a footballer in the 80s and 90s, we should somehow pay particular attention to his views on vaccines. It’s pathetic that because Gwyneth Paltrow won an Oscar for her acting ability, we should consider her as some sort of expert on nutrition.
Happen to be a minor celebrity because you were the keyboard player for a 90s band and you have several qualifications in particle and quantum physics? Then that’s fine: you tell us all about the universe. But tell us about it because of your academic qualifications, and not because you came up with the riff on the band’s big hit.

The Gary Lineker issue is clearly very emotive and multi-factorial. But while there are many difficult conversations to be had around each of those matters, it seems to me that him clearly choosing not to obey one of the terms of his contract with the BBC is probably the most simple thing to grasp of them all.
Equally, how that breach of contract is dealt with shouldn’t be complex at all, but given the inevitable outrage from the all-knowing public, it almost certainly will be.

* I know, I know.

This weekend: observations

Social media hasn’t been a pleasant place to be this weekend. That’s why I’ve pretty much avoided it, dipping in only occasionally to get the latest updates and to see what other people have been saying; sitting on my hands, merely observing. I don’t have the answers to the sort of thing we saw happen in Paris on Friday evening: I’m actually pretty sure that no-one else does either. But social media, with its instant, apparently consequence-free soundbites is hardly the best place for sensible discussion on big matters like these. It has, however, proven to be an interesting social experiment and a wonderful indication of people’s humanity, or lack of it. Some of the stuff I’ve seen has been fairly repugnant – it’s made me reconsider some people’s previous statements on many other things, and it has given me some insight on how I should view their future viewpoints as well.

Specifically, I’ve seen that France, as an example of “The West”, “deserved it”.
I’ve watched as people have suggested that it would be right to use nuclear weapons against IS.
I’ve seen, countless times, that the media only concentrate on violence in “The West” – ignoring the events that occurred in Baghdad and Beirut. On that, perhaps stop watching Western media, in much the same way that I stopped watching Look North when I got fed up just hearing what was happening in Leeds. I’m quite sure that Iraqi, Lebanese and Middle Eastern media generally have disproportionate reporting as well. Go watch them for some of the time. But honestly, don’t watch Western TV news and use Western-based social media the day after the biggest attack on France since World War 2 and expect to hear about much else.
I noted, with some dark amusement, the suggestion that Britain should “ban the burqa”, citing examples of the Netherlands and France as leaders in this policy. Yes, and that’s worked really well in at least 50% of those nations.
I’ve been told, over and over again, from every side, how I should react, what I must and must not say, what’s acceptable to think and what is not. No, thank you.
I’ve seen incredulity that a passport could have apparently survived a suicide bomb. People seem to think that everything nearby simply ceases to exist. Science says otherwise.
I’ve watched as the traditional conspiracy theorists theorise conspiratorially: it was a false flag, it was Israel, it was merely a government plot to push for more control in their homelands, more bombing abroad, more restrictions on immigration.
I’ve seen people say “don’t blame religion”. No. Of course, don’t blame every individual from one one specific religion, but please don’t insult me by telling me that I must pretend that religion has nothing to do with this.

As I have said, I don’t have the answers. But, importantly, neither do any of those other people who have been sharing their differing opinions. That’s not to say that they can’t do so. I’m lucky enough to come from and to live in countries which allow their citizens to speak freely. But after watching the hateful exchanges on Facebook and (more so) Twitter this weekend, I’m reminded of the old adage: Speak Only if You Can Improve Upon the Silence.

I didn’t believe I could, and so I chose to keep quiet. I wish a lot of others had done so too.

Why Top Gear willl get into trouble, kumquat may

To quote this story, please use the hashtag #kumquatgate. 

I believe in freedom of speech, I just wish that those who have that luxury would use it sensibly. I fully recognise that they don’t have to – that’s what freedom of speech is all about – but that’s what I’d like.
Jeremy Clarkson is a good example. Sometimes Jeremy Clarkson gets in trouble for saying naughty things. Things he’s allowed to say, legally. Just things that you’d think he would have the sense to choose not to say.
But then again, sometimes I think Jeremy Clarkson’s previous actions in this regard have made Jeremy Clarkson into an easy target for people who don’t like Jeremy Clarkson. And it’s that sort of person who has complained about Jeremy Clarkson nicknaming the Nissan Qashqai (I’ve driven one, by the way: terrible), the Nissan Kumquat.

…one Top Gear fan complained to the BBC in February about Clarkson’s choice of words. According to an appeal made to the BBC Trust, the complainant, “said that Jeremy Clarkson was ‘pronouncing Nissan Qashqai as Nissan Kumquat and [he] would like to know why”. He said he had a car of this type himself and no one on the programme had explained why they were not saying the name correctly.

Fantastic. Not only does this waste time, effort and money, it also trivialises any legitimate complaints made about Clarkson, Top Gear, or indeed any other show on the BBC or any other media outlet.

But of course, things didn’t end there:

 BBC Audience Services responded a few days later, “explaining that ‘Kumquat’ was a nickname Jeremy had given the car, and had referred to the Nissan Kumquat for quite a few seasons”. The viewer was unhappy with the response saying, “his question as to why the car was given the nickname ‘Kumquat’ had not been answered.”

This guy is obviously a bit of a twat. And I thought long and hard (not really) about whether he might read this and find that offensive and I actually decided that I really don’t care either way. I suspect that the people at the BBC who had to deal with Mr Twat also share my feelings.

The BBC explained in a letter that: “It’s simply a nickname for the vehicle, a play on words. Obviously the two words share a phonetic syllable similarity thus like Jeremy does with literally countless car names, he jokingly substituted one with the other, the kumquat of course being an exotic fruit.”

Eish. Why does this need explaining to him? How is it that difficult? Well, at least that’s the matter sorted now, finall… wait… he’s not given up yet, has he?

No. No, he hasn’t:

In April, after two months of what the BBC described politely as a “high number and length of calls” made to the corporation, the viewer appealed to the BBC Trust. In its September appeals roundup the trust went into five pages of detail about the case, concluding that it had decided not to put it to appeal as: “Decisions relating to the use of a wordplay in how to describe a car, or which presenter should work on a programme were editorial and creative matters that rested with the BBC.”

[my emphasis]

This is the downside of free society. Yes, there’s Clarkson’s previous foolishness as I mentioned above, but then there’s this here Mr Twat who chooses to get offended at anything and everything (as is his right) and then write, phone and generally badger the BBC about it (as is also, unfortunately, his right).

Just as Jeremy Clarkson’s disappointing decisions regarding what should come out of his mouth regarding bridges, nursery rhymes and so on, does no favours for those fighting for free speech in these trying times (nor for the BBC), Mr Twat’s desperation to find offence in the mention of a small, orange, Asian fruit belittles those decrying genuine harassment, racism, this-ism and that-ism or whatever other stuff happens when people don’t understand the sometimes paper-thin divide between free speech and hate speech. And long sentences. They’re also bad.

I strongly dislike Mr Twat.