The language of hate

Is an apology enough?

Back in those “all you need is love” days, Ringo Starr was everyone’s favourite Beatle, not counting the one they actually fancied. He was also, publicly at least, a man of few words, and remains so today, with “Peace and Love” his brief but oft-repeated mantra. Yoko Ono is more expansive in her pronouncements on the way forward for humanity, but her choice and use of language also encourages love – a love for oneself and for others. Down the centuries, this language of love has had numerous notable practitioners. Sadly, though, so has the language of hate. Television presenter and journalist, Jeremy Clarkson, is, like everyone else, entitled to his opinion.

In his column for The Sun he is always opinionated, frequently angry and often provocative. He pushes the boundaries, that’s what his readers want. But when he wrote of Meghan Markle, The Duchess of Sussex, that he hated her “on a cellular level,” and dreamed of the day “when she 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,” he took freedom of speech to a different, and many say, totally unacceptable level. Clarkson has since apologised, twice, but even his apology has a hint of mockery, when he writes, “It’s a mea culpa with bells on.” Clarkson is not the only populist, high-profile writer of hate rhetoric, of racist, misogynistic, divisive language with the potential to incite violence. And it’s easy to say sorry after the damage is done, but is it enough?

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