While the Sunday Times lands some long-overdue blows in his defence, I am generally with Clare Balding in her dispute with Times TV critic AA Gill.
Gill can argue to the contrary till he’s blue in the face but his review of Balding’s programme Britain By Bike has absolutely no need of the following:
“Now back to the dyke on a bike, puffing up the nooks and crannies at the bottom end of the nation.”
“I wonder if the production team noticed that, even through three layers of Viyella and Gore-Tex, Clare has heroically assertive nipples”
This isn’t criticism, it’s the journalist as smart aleck, proffering crass, unnecessarily personal digs that he hopes will bring almost as much of a smirk to his peers’ faces as they did to his own. It is pathetic and there are too many newspaper people who abuse their power in this way, whether it’s a writer or a sub-editor egging him on.
And it’s a shame that the hopelessness of his case detracts from an otherwise valid point made by Gill’s editor, John Witherow, in response to Balding’s complaint:
“In my view, some members of the gay community need to stop regarding themselves as having a special victim status and behave like any other sensible group that is accepted by society.”
Agreed. Watching homosexuality acquire almost reverential status in recent years has been somewhat bewildering. If only this particular case fit his rhetoric. Prejudice, however, starts with name-calling that goes to the core of what a person is. Unchecked, it becomes legitimised and a civilised society takes a step backwards.
As it does when vulgarity rules and people with the intelligence to do better communicate publicly in the language of the taproom.
Clare Balding was never likely to dignify her stance by taking it onto Twitter but the following input, as reported by The Guardian, drags the issue down to a yah-boo level, at which point those of us who don’t enjoy watching adults embarrass themselves start to move on:
“Balding, who made her debut on the microblogging site earlier this week to call Gill a “twat”, is now seeking advice from fellow tweeter Stephen Fry. Last night former the Labour deputy leader John Prescott tweeted his support for Balding, referring to Gill as ‘a shit’.”
Balding, I should remind you, was educated at Cambridge University. Prescott, I won’t need to remind you, as you’re probably still wiping the tears of laughter from your eyes, is now a peer of the realm.
There was a time when people in their position, whatever language they might use behind closed doors, would have felt obliged to raise the bar slightly when venting their anger in an open forum.
Nowadays, it seems, anything goes. Propriety is once again subjugated to the cult of self and its overriding need to emote.
Yes, Clare Balding, AA Gill gave us ample cause to wrinkle our noses at the state of Britain’s intelligentsia.
What a shame you then had to go and do likewise.
Bald truth on Gill is vulgar, vulgar, vulgar – Rhoda Koenig, Belfast Telegraph