Deliberately Offensive Celebrities: Why Do We Tolerate Them?
Let me let you in on a little secret.
There’s a special section of this website where the editors leave a list of topics as suggestions for the writers to tackle. Sorry it wasn’t an especially exciting secret, but bear with me a second. The title of this piece has been languishing there for a while, with the examples given of Katie Hopkins and Jeremy Clarkson as the ‘offensive celebrities’ that might be used as examples. Since it was first mooted, Jeremy Clarkson seems to have faded somewhat from public consciousness and a firm leader in the field of ‘famous people that say offensive things’ has emerged in the form of Donald Trump.
Okay, Trump has always been a bit of a cockend, because having inherited a shitload of money, which by some accounts he would have done better simply to leave invested in the stock market instead of squander on various vanity projects with his name on, he’s acted as if being rich means his opinion is always right. His ego knowing no bounds, and with no self-awareness whatsoever (the hair alone is testament to this) he’s decided he should be president of the USA. The American Republican party is not well known for a fair or balanced approach to… well… anything at all really, and seems to mostly be about keeping rich white men in the position of influence they think they’re entitled to, by fooling poor white people into blaming anyone that looks different to either of those groups for their problems and voting for them. Trump has done exceptionally well at this by stating he’d stop Muslims from entering the country and building a giant wall across the Mexican border and somehow making Mexico pay for it, and stopping school shootings by arming even more people and… well… I’m getting the rage just thinking about it, because it’s not in any sense based on evidence or reason or compassion or making anything better. It’s cruel populism and people who exist in a world where there’s an ‘us’ and a ‘them’ who create all the problems that people that look like ‘us’ face latch onto it as an easy solution.
There’s possibly an argument to make that Trump isn’t stupid and he knows how to manipulate enough people to vote for him using this tactic. I don’t think this is true. It almost certainly was true of George W Bush, who was probably far less stupid than popular opinion would have it and got into power by surfing that wave, but Trump probably does believe all he says.
But what’s this got to do with celebrities that say offensive things? Well, clearly there’s an appetite for prominent people that will blame the ‘other’ that ethnic or religious minorities represent.
It’s clear that ‘ordinary people’ don’t get away with these things, so why do celebrities? Well, I’d say that perhaps the difference is that many ‘ordinary people’ have consciences and also people in their immediate circles who will pull them up on their bullshit. There are also many ‘ordinary people’ that do think like Donald Trump and Katie Hopkins (I’m coming to Clarkson in a minute, he’s different), and in many pubs you’ll find someone mouthing off about how ‘you can’t say it because it’s not politically correct but look at the state the darkies/faggots/gypos/other bigoted slur’ have left the country in. Or possibly it’ll be disabled benefit scroungers. That’s ignoring the fact he probably never faced anything like the current jobs market and is drawing a pension the likes of which no one under 40 could ever dream of, that they’re actually paying for.
The thing is, there’s not just a few nasty celebs that are the equivalent of ‘heels’ in wrestling, who play bad guys that we love to hate. Things really are a bit shit and there are folk out there who love hearing things that target minorities or marginalised groups, because they agree!
Katie Hopkins has made a career out of cashing in on this. She’s mixed the Howard Stern style shock-jock model with casual racism and classism. She may or may not actually agree with the things she says, but has figured out that being a bile-gargling chundercunt gets the newspaper she’s spaffing off enough unique user impressions to keep its advertisers (and her wallet) happy.
That’s it, really. Everything’s a bit fucked, and everyone’s looking for someone to blame, and Trump and Hopkins, being talent vacuums in all other areas, are making finger-pointing pay.
Them and their ilk won’t go away if we ignore them, sadly. They’ll go away when the world economy gets a bit better, and there’s less pressure on resources and population pressures are reduced, so we can all be a bit nicer to each other and we stop blaming people that don’t look like us for the things we’ve got wrong.
Oh yeah, I was going to talk about Jeremy Clarkson. Even though he can be a bit of a dick, I’ve got a little bit more sympathy for him, because he does actually have talents and doesn’t really have a political agenda. He likes things that go fast, are loud, explode in fun ways, and taking the piss, but he’s also a good writer, can talk knowledgeably about engineering and science and history and can actually be entertaining without being offensive. Although he will mouth off about environmentalists wanting to tax powerful cars and pollution, I suspect that he’d genuinely love to see a zero-emissions electric car that was as fast and fun as a petrol one, as much as the next tofu-hatted hippy.
Oh, in trying to defend him, I’d almost forgotten he punches people when he’s a bit tired and pissed and can be a bit racist at times. Okaaay, I got nothing to defend that.
Fuck Clarkson too then…
But yeah – the TLDR of this piece is that we live in a pretty messed up world and if someone can distract us by blaming a person or group we already are a bit suspicious of, confirming our beliefs about them, or piss us off by being so offensive and a wrongbrain that we have to defend our sense of fairness and kindness, we’ll look their way.
And there’s money to be made from that.