by Kolby LaMarche
Britain always seems to be one step ahead of the United States – for good or for worse. And in this case, it isn’t good.
In December of 2022, motoring genius and global media personality, Jeremy Clarkson, published his regular column in the Sun. In this particular piece, Clarkson rattled against Meghan Markle, the wife of Prince Harry, and detailed a Game of Thrones-type fantasy he had, saying “At night, I’m unable to sleep as I lie there, grinding my teeth and dreaming of the day when [Meghan] is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant, ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her.”
As Clarkson’s charm would have it, and as you might expect, some members of the public boiled over enraged. More than 25,000 individuals from the British public lodged complaints against the piece to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO), the regulatory body which oversees the newspaper and magazine industry in Britain.
While Clarkson’s remarks certainly warrant discussion, the crux of this story lies not in his column itself, but rather in the reaction from IPSO.
Established in 2014 by Royal Charter, the IPSO’s essential function is to take in complaints, assess the complaints, issue public rulings, and legally compel editors to retract and correct. For nearly a decade now the IPSO has done just that. However, where the IPSO was once concerned with genuinely holding newspapers and magazines accountable for professionalism and accuracy in reporting, they have now set their eyes on policing opinion.
Before all this, the IPSO had a clear policy stating that only individuals directly impacted by statements made in an article could file a complaint. Consequently, in this particular case, it would have meant that only Markle could file. But, without notice, the IPSO changed their minds.
The Fawcett Society, a UK organization for gender equality and justice, was chosen as the complainant in the case against the Sun and Jeremy Clarkson. The decision came during a change in leadership at the Fawcett Society. Sitting senior MP and former chair of the Labour Party, Harriet Harman, took the reigns as chair, bringing with her a powerful political network. The Fawcett Society’s assertion? An accusation of sexism on behalf of, so they claim, the women of Britain.
A little over a week ago, the IPSO ruled in favor of Fawcett, finding Clarkson’s comments ‘sexist’. The IPSO mandated that the Sun display the findings on the front page of its print edition and website homepage for 24 hours, something which the outlet hasn’t been compelled to do since 2016 when it published inaccurate information on Brexit. And, to add insult to injury, the IPSO further ordered that the Sun advertise a summary of the IPSO’s findings in the space which Clarkson’s column regularly occupies.
Could an organization, social group, or friend group decide to label Clarkson as sexist and cancel him? Sure, though toxic and not constructive. Could Clarkson have omitted his wild fantasy? Yeah. But to have a state-backed regulatory body publicly reprimand a private citizen on behalf of a political organization chaired by a member of parliament is painfully concerning.
While I am not inclined to engage in slippery slope arguments, the IPSO’s actions raise serious questions about whom or what they will target next. With this precedent, any political organization can abuse the IPSO’s legal authority and stifle speech they dislike on behalf of whatever population they claim to represent.
The IPSO’s willingness to entertain complaints from anyone on any subject that may offend them has opened the door to, and I hate sounding like a Republican or a Tory, liberal elites and correctness radicals who are hell-bent on training the public like daycare doggies. And America should be watching.
Burning Sky is dedicated to providing critique and commentary on the issues of the day from an unapologetic perspective, fueling change in the heart of Vermont. Authored by Kolby LaMarche weekly.