But while Channel 4 said it will not tolerate any racist abuse on Celebrity Big Brother, the broadcaster defended its decision not to intervene in the group dynamics despite the unpleasantness, saying it had to portray events "accurately".
"We don't tolerate any racist abuse in any form," the Channel 4 spokeswoman said. "Big Brother is closely monitoring all the housemates and will take appropriate measures to reprimand such behaviour where necessary."
"The social interactions and dynamics of the group are one of the key parts of the Big Brother story and viewers have a right to see these portrayed accurately - however, this is balanced with our duty not to broadcast material that may cause unjustifiable offence," the spokeswoman added. "We take this matter very seriously and Big Brother does not tolerate bullying or racist abuse in any form.
Well, firstly, Big Brother certainly does tolerate bullying. It's one of the reasons people tune in. No-one wants to watch a show in which a bunch of quite dull people are quite nice to each other, and Channel 4 know it.
I'm with Channel 4 on the duty to portray events accurately. What would be the point of reality TV if it were all heavily edited so that what the viewers saw was not, in the end, reality? Celebrities go on this show knowing that they'll be watched by millions, yet some of them still can't quite manage not to be utter bastards for a few days. I think that when people who make a living out of being liked by the public behave thoroughly unlikeably, the public should know about it. Quite why anyone's complaining to Channel 4, I don't know. Wait till the bastards get out, then complain to them, their agents, and anyone who hires them.
But the really interesting thing is Channel 4's insistence that, if the abuse were racist, they'd step in to stop it. The whole point of Big Brother is that the housemates are completely isolated from the outside world. In fact, after September the 11th 2001, the producers of the Dutch version of Big Brother decided not to make an exception to the rules to tell the housemates what had happened. That's how isolated they are. But racism is, apparently, such a bad thing that it would cause the British producers to break their own rules and step in, despite the huge amount of money they're making out of people worldwide tuning in to see the racism.
The way I see it, racism is one of many examples of the extreme nastiness of human beings. People, on balance, are bastards, and will behave like bastards given half a chance. Racism is a particularly unfair reason for nastiness, since the victims couldn't be a different race even if they wanted to, but then much the same can be said of sexism — and does anyone think Big Brother would be talking about preventing a housemate from opening his mouth if he kept saying that women should stay at home and cook?
Channel 4's defense appears to be "It's OK: they're bullying her, abusing her, and doing everything they can to make her feel bad, but not because of the colour of her skin. So that's OK." I mean, look:
Channel 4 has also confirmed that Jack Tweed called fellow housemate Shilpa Shetty a "cunt", not a "Paki".
And the whole debate does seem to be based on those terms: is the abuse racist or isn't it? Personally, I don't give a damn whether it's racist. The problem with the abuse is that it's abuse. Nastiness comes in many flavours, of which racist is only one. I oppose all of them.