THIS is not a defence of TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson.
I’ve never seen an episode of Top Gear and find his in-your-face style of presenting overbearing.
But Clarkson enjoys pushing his non-PC humour to the limits of public acceptance.
Like it or not, that’s what he gets paid for. Thousands of people lap up his cynical patter – when they’re not being “deeply offended” by his material.
As with most stuff on the telly, no one forces anyone to watch Top Gear. If you don’t like it, switch it off.
Yet hardly a week goes by without someone getting “deeply offended” by some latest Clarkson barb.
Clarkson has been hauled over the coals for apparently uttering the “n-word” in a TV broadcast.
But it took a team of audio forensic experts hired by that bastion of public morality, the Daily Mirror, to identify the alleged offending phrase.
And unless you possess the hearing powers of a bat with ultrasound, I doubt you would have made much of the garbled audio.
But within minutes, the latest Clarkson controversy went viral.
As I say, I’m not supporting racism or tiresome TV stars, but I think there are proper limits to public outrage and our appetite for telly trivia.
It often feels like being “deeply offended” has become a default setting.
Someone just has to utter a syllable outside the norm and the moral weight of millions of Twitter and Facebook users comes crashing down.
But it often seems our media-savvy population often gets more worked up by some cheeky Clarkson comment than the horror stories coming out of Syria, Ukraine or Nigeria.
Moral outrage nowadays just feels far too facile; something to amuse smartphone addicts, fill column inches in newspapers and keep 24-hour TV news channels occupied.
Where is the spirit of broadminded, healthy dissent in all this sea of moral outrage?
In the 1960s, the satire boom poked fun at the establishment, the Church and Parliament included.
This was profoundly shocking at the time, as Britain was still a highly deferential country, where people tended to know their place in society.
Fast forward 50 years and it often feels like we’ve gone too far the other way, with nothing considered sacred.
But the current climate of knee-jerk morality surely has little to do with traditional English free speech.