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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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As surely everybody on Twitter now knows, a certain multi-million pound contractor to the BBC (therefore paid out of public funds) has shot his mouth off with a statement that those on strike should be "shot". It was, to provide context, supposed to be humorous. The jovial chap first gave his lighthearted take on the strike being convenient as nobody was on the roads before providing the "balance" he claims the BBC requires by suggesting that unionists should be taken out and killed in front of their families. I know Clarkson is a troll. I want to demonstrate here, though, why it is in NO WAY acceptable to joke about the murder of those protesting for labour rights.

1.) Trade unionists are regularly shot in front of their families in Columbia. Have a look at these stats. In 2007, 39 unionists were murdered. In 2008, 49 unionists were murdered. In 2009, 46 unionists were murdered. Over the past 20 years, over 2,500 unionists have been killed by paramilitary death squads. Many of them had families. "I'd have them all shot. I would take them out and execute them in front of their families". Ha ha.

2.) Allow me to cite Martin Niemöller's renowned poem/statement, "First they came...":

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

The poem documents the inaction and failure of groups (particularly academics) during the Nazi regime to protect Jews and communists from the Holocaust. Remember, that minor event in 20th-century history where millions were shipped off to be murdered in death camps such as Auschwitz? Have a look at the second stanza. Yes, let's kill the trade unionists. Again, how droll! Hang on chaps, isn't there some historical precedent for this actually being done?

To finish off, I wanted to address a slightly different argument in respect of pensions. The argument goes thus: "if I promise you £5 and I only have £2, you can only have £2". This "clever" rephrasing of the economic situation neglects several aspects. I promised my bank to repay my mortgage. This was more than £5, but if I don't repay, they'll take my house. Secondly, the government found £850bn to bail out the banks. That's a bit more than the pensions they promised to pay. Finally, if you don't give me the £5 I promised, in this situation you go to prison.

Featured image by Kheel Center, Cornell University under a CC-BY license.