While I've had this argument too many times today I do feel pretty strongly about it so I'll just copy my essay from The Guardian. A lot of it was aimed at the the commenters there so if I sound like I'm insulting you, I'm not
"Is this tedious witch hunt over yet? Because that's what it amounts to.
To sum up all of my arguments from yesterday:
On Clarkson Himself:
He isn't racist. He made a nursery rhyme from the 1950s and he even mumbled out the offensive part. He apologized for it after in case it was mistconstrued. He's a man with a lot of controversial opinions, but he is ultimately a caricature of himself. Nobody really takes his opinions seriously about anything other than cars, and he isn't a member of the news team, so he's entitled to those views even if we don't always agree with him. I know I don't - but does that stop me enjoying Top Gear? No.
On who is and who isn't racist:
I've seen the point being made on here that because I'm white and have never been subject to racism, my opinion is invalid. Does that count for all the white, upper-middle class keyboard warriors as well? I don't subscribe to those arguments. Indeed, I have been the subject or racism when I lived abroad. Obviously it can't compare to what Britain did around the world but the point still stands.
I've also seen the point being made that those standing up for Clarkson are, by default, almost, racist. That's a judgemental and dangerous line of thought and is the kind of thought that people through history have thrived upon to get their opponents silenced. Whip up a bit of moral outrage and you can brand anyone an enemy. It makes you just as bad as those you claim to hate.
Context is everything, and malice has to be there for it to be real racism. If Clarkson had gone up to a man in the street and called him the n-word to his face then yes, fire him. That would be grossly immoral and offensive. But he said it in the context of a nursery rhyme, and one in which he mumbled out the offensive part anyway. You can't lynch a man for that. The same goes for the 'slopes' incident - it obviously wasn't malicious and was just some cheap wordplay, so it was utterly harmless.
On Why PC is Dangerous:
PC is, itself, institutionally racist. It offers certain protections to some groups over others based on skin colour or other uncontrollable factors. No matter how you look at it, that is discrimination, and it creates inequality in some way. The only way to achieve true equality is to treat everyone equally. That means either everything is fair game for insult, or nothing is, and the latter is a thought-police state with no freedom of speech. I hate groups like the BNP with a passion - I find their views vile and abhorrent. But I also believe that censuring anyone for what they say is wrong. PC can only lead to a society with the arbitrary fragmentation of people based on uncontrollable factors, or to a police state. Neither is satisfactory.
On Stereotype-based Humour:
Clarkson's slurs on Mexican people and similar were jokes that play on stereotypes, but that isn't racism. It's a joke - not one to everyone's taste, but also not intended to actually offend people. Stereotype-based humour is common and popular, like it or not. If it weren't, then most of the Looney Tunes (Pe Pe Le Pew is a French stereotype, Speedy Gonzalez a Mexican one, Yosemite Sam a Texan and so forth) would be banned, as would a lot of cartoon shows, as would a lot of classic comedies and heck, even Disney movies. It isn't racist because everyone knows that it is exaggerated and not meant to be taken seriously. If we all got offended every time an American TV show made reference at British people's apparently bad teeth then OfCom would have millions of complaints per hour and we'd all be very miserable. In short, lighten up a bit.
On Being 'Anti-racist' On the Internet:
It's pointless, and you're the most annoying and pretentious type of person. If you really cared about stopping racism (which is a very worthy cause) then you'd go out into the world, come back, and disseminate the things that you've learned, or you'd pay for others to do the same. Punitively banning words is pointless and only serves to counter your own cause - both for the reasons above, and also because it just creates resentment. But going out into the world or paying for someone else to takes effort and/or money, while being a pretentious little keyboard warrior is free and easy. If you really care, and frankly I doubt that a lot of people here really do, then education is the only way to effectively counter racism.
I'm going to leave on one of my favourite quotes from Star Trek: 'With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censured...the first thought forbidden...the first freedom denied--chains us all irrevocably. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we are all damaged."
And I stand by every word.
"Our world cannot be viewed through the glasses of common sense" - Masato Arai.
JRPG/Japanese Culture blog: http://shrinetoamaterasu.blogspot.com/