Comment by S.L.Chambers
Today, in an unprecedented move, Match of the Day will be aired without any pundits or presenters due to fellow sports journalists deciding to boycott the programme in solidarity with Gary Lineker.
Lineker was asked to step down from presenting today’s Match of the Day after he wrote in a tweet: “This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the ’30s, and I’m out of order?”
The rhetoric that is being put out there against him is that he is comparing the Conservatives to the Nazi party. Of course, it is impossible to compare Britain in 2023 to that of Germany in 1933, but that is not what has actually been said.
Despite claims that language is important, definitions seem to elude the people attacking Lineker’s tweet. To say something is ‘not dissimilar’ is not to say something is identical; what it is saying is that there are shared traits or characteristics.
Now, you don’t have to agree with his statement, and you certainly don’t have to think he should continue his job, but we should certainly take this situation seriously. Punishing someone because you assume you know what they meant, sounds eerily like the thought police to me.
I understand the complex position the BBC finds itself in. As a publicly owned institution enshrined in the British constitution, it has a responsibility to remain impartial and apolitical. However, the BBC needs to be careful not to turn its role as an impartial reporter into an excuse to censor its reporters.
It is my view that the BBC needs to review what it means to be a publicly owned and impartial broadcaster, because there is a fine line between reprimanding a journalist for misconduct and policing their thoughts.
The accusations, therefore, against Gary Lineker are not based on his own words but a misinterpretation of what he wrote, so maybe it is not 1930s Germany, but in my opinion, it’s not dissimilar to Orwell’s 1984.
This isn’t about freedom of speech; as far as I am concerned, a BBC presenter has been suspended over an interpretation of his inner thoughts.