I've only just caught up with AA Gill's pathetic comments about Clare Balding, via this excellent post at the F Word.
Gill is one of those casually offensive controversy-seeking professional trolls who spend their lives dancing around the boundaries of what's acceptable and what isn't. And occasionally not giving a shit about it:
Some time ago, I made a cheap and frankly unnecessary joke about Clare Balding looking like a big lesbian. And afterwards somebody tugged my sleeve to point out that she is a big lesbian, and I felt foolish and guilty. So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise. Sorry.
Now back to the dyke on a bike, puffing up the nooks and crannies at the bottom end of the nation.
Yeah, hilarious. Sunday Times editor John Witherow wrote to Balding after she complained, essentially saying "You lot don't have special victim status, you should just get on with it". Which is entirely disingenuous and misses the whole point about abusing someone because of their sexuality. Calling someone a 'dyke' and chortling about 'nooks and crannies' isn't worthy of the playground, let alone a national newspaper shoved behind a paywall because it's so damn good you're going to want to pay to read it online.
Is it really acceptable to call someone a 'dyke' and snigger about their sexuality? I know AA Gill's TV reviews are rather baroque constructions, but this kind of monstrosity seems superfluous, not only because it's not about the programme, but also because it's just never needed. Slagging people off is fine, calling them names, saying they're rubbish, of course, and I'm all for a healthy freedom of expression and the 'right to offend' and all that; but calling a lesbian a 'dyke' and tittering like an adolescent about 'nooks and crannies'? Jesus, that's just painfully low. I think it's the out-and-out lack of class of it that's worse than the wanton offensiveness. Is this the brave new world behind Rupert Murdoch's Times paywall? It doesn't seem to be any bastion of quality at all.
I know that, just as when he shot a baboon for a laugh a while ago, any controversy that gets stirred up will probably be good publicity for Gill; he might even enjoy being in the crosshairs himself for a bit. But that doesn't mean that base homophobic insults like his shouldn't be tackled. I'm glad that Clare Balding hasn't meekly accepted the Sunday Times's attempt to fob off her entirely justified criticism; I'm pleased she's made it clear there's a difference between simple name-calling and something more unpleasant, which is what Gill was indulging himself in.
Now Clare Balding is going to try and pursue a complaint via the PCC, having found no apology from the Sunday Times editor. Of course I wish her luck - and I'm sure she knows she'll need it. If nothing else it will be a good test of Paul Dacre's claims that PCC regulation is a wonderful thing which works beautifully well, and that if only we weren't so ignorant about newspapers everything would work just fine. Maybe in this instance it might. Or maybe not.