We are all Jay Leno, or at least Craig Ferguson

Can I play too?

Want to see Arianna Huffington’s garage?

Want to see where bankers go camping?

Want to see Barbra Streisand’s little house in Malibu?

 That’s enough blaspheming and “hurting the sentiments” for one day.

 The BBC is more sympathetic than I am. The BBC takes it all rather seriously, or pretends to.

The US has defended comedian Jay Leno’s right to free speech after India condemned a reference he made to the holiest Sikh shrine.

A Leno skit showed the Golden Temple of Amritsar as the summer home of Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

Mr Romney has faced questions over his wealth and many Sikhs are angry the temple has been depicted as a place for the rich.

But then the BBC says something predictable but incredibly idiotic.

The Sikh community has launched an online petition over the comment.

It has? The whole community? All Sikhs acting as one have launched a petition?

I don’t believe that for a second. Neither would the BBC if it thought about it. Why does it say things like that? Why does it treat certain perceived groups as if they acted as a bloc? Why does it do that so determinedly and predictably that it ends up saying something as imbecilic as “The Sikh community has launched an online petition”? Why is the BBC so allergic to the very possibility that Sikhs or Muslims or Christian can disagree with each other? Why does the BBC simply assume that all Sikhs take the same view of this ludicrous pseudo-outrage about a minor joke?

An Indian minister called Leno’s comments “objectionable” and said “freedom does not mean hurting the sentiments of others”.

Oh shut up. Just shut up, all of you. Just shut up about the babyish “hurting the sentiments” nonsense. You used that to drive Tasleema Nasrin out of India, you used it to keep Salman Rushdie out of Jaipur, you use it every time some godbotherer takes a deep breath – just cut it out. Shut up.

And by the way –

Take my Golden Temple,  please.


I’m looking for a place to store old magazines, this looks about right.


 I look forward to your letters.


Popehat is way ahead of me.

First up, we have Dr. Randeep Dhillon!  Dr. Dhillon is suing Jay Leno.  Is he suing Jay Leno for being a trite, phone-it-in placeholder?  NO!  There’s no California cause of action for that!  SAG would never allow it!  No, Randeep Dhillon is suing Jay Leno for a lame joke about Mitt Romney suggesting that his vacation home was the Golden Temple of Amritsar, a holy site for Sikhs! …

Congrats, Dr. Dhillon!  You win a date with California’s robust anti-SLAPP statute!  You’re going to pay Jay Leno’s attorney fees in this case, which I will estimate to be $50,000!  And because some people will generalize about Sikhs based on the act of one asshole — you — you’ve just done more to expose Sikhs to hatred, contempt, ridicule, and obloquy than that threadbare hack Leno ever could!  Way to go!

Exactly. That one stupid sentence of the BBC’s did more that way than Leno did or could.


  1. Skeptico says

    The real crime here is Jay Leno’s regular monologue of alleged “jokes” that are not about Sikh temples, that he delivers five nights a week. Where are the protests against that?

  2. Josh Slocum says

    I’m seriously annoyed and alarmed by what seems to be (it could be confirmation bias, I know) a sharp increase in statements such as “so and so said it was a matter of free speech, but,” Or, “so and so was seriously offended, but others defended Offender’s right to free speech.” No. No. That’s not syntactically or conceptually sound!

    It’s creepy, and telling, that people think free speech is an entity in direct conceptual contradiction to “my feelings were offended.” It doesn’t even make sense unless one fundamentally views “free speech” as something other than free speech. Apparently a lot do.

    Do you know what I mean? They write as if it’s prima facie and obviously shocking that someone would “defend his freedom of speech” even after some Victim expressed offense. That is utter fucking madness, and it seems to be spreading.

    I’m about as far from being a US jingoist as possible, but it’s becoming clear that Brits (and a whole boatload of others) do not fundamentally understand, accept, or endorse the primacy of free speech over other rights (barring violence, blah blah). Well, they’re wrong. Dangerously wrong, and the US view is correct.

  3. Josh Slocum says

    And a question for the UK folks here: Has the British attitude always been thus? Has the BBC in your lifetime always been so braindead in such a sinister way when it comes to “offense?” Or is this truly something newish?

  4. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    freedom does not mean hurting the sentiments of others

    Actually it does. Speech that everyone agrees with doesn’t need protection. Speech that angers others has to be protected or else the concept of free speech is meaningless.

  5. Tony says

    Suing someone for offending you? Wow, I get to sue a lot of religious people. And that’s just for the gay comments many of them make. After that, can I sue the Catholic Church for offending me with the child rape scandal?

  6. says


    It makes me wonder: how much of the “Muslim problem” is due to the piss-poor state of the establishment media today? The sort of “he said/she said,” stenography, and false equivalence that plague every other form of reporting seem to be at play here as well, and with the same result. The whole thing is unfairly skewed in favor of the people who are in the wrong, in the name of false balance.

  7. says

    Actually the BBC’s spiel is unbiased reporting. They don’t really take sides in arguments. This isn’t even a big deal in the UK (My phone gets UK news and this was buried somewhere in the back of the BBC). It’s a pretty unbiased article (bear in mind they cannot support Leno or the Sikhs). Saying the “Sikh Community” is just a nebulous way of hedging bets. The BBC are very centrist. They are happy to smack right wing politics and left wing politics. The entire point is that they vaunt their objectivity. If you notice it merely reported the facts with a bare minimum of bias. I am sure somewhere else it will carry someone who is anti-Leno and someone who is pro.

    The BBC article actually specifically states later that members of the US Sikh Community started the petition.

    The BBC news is relatively unbiased but incredibly brutal compared to american news interviews. There are a wide variety of topical news shows that routinely mock the news and more serious variants. Par Example.


    And this is Paxman at his most polite. And he is still slipping in barbs (I read the first chapter. Does it get better?) about her. The BBC’s news reporting is unbiased. It’s commentators however are given relatively free reign. The kind of questioning the BBC puts on politicians is astounding. I have simply seen nothing similar in the USA.

    At some point? Newsnight will host some Sikhs who are for and against Leno and probably will hammer it out. But for now it’s basic reporting. I don’t even think it’s a big issue bar being made by India because elections are coming up. Got to make all those Muslims and Sikhs happy to vote Congress…

    The political parties in India are like choosing between being kicked in the balls and robbed or being kicked in the balls and robbed by men wearing orange. It’s why the outrage exists.

    It’s actually really REALLY weird that India didn’t put pressure on France for it’s turban laws. I mean very few muslims actually have turbans. It’s Sikhs who mainly wear them. And Sikhs don’t like cutting their hair. The turban is out of necessity.

  8. Egbert says

    Sorry, that’s bollocks. The BBC is biased. Like showing 3 days worth of the Pope’s visit on BBC News for example, or the continued framing of Islam as a poor minority victim, or its obvious socialist perspective in presenting news and TV programmes, or its yearly 100 hours of compulsory religious programming, and so on. As for news presenters, they’re constantly antagonistic to their guests/experts in order to be ‘balanced’ rather than moderating between two guests with opposing arguments.

  9. says

    Anyway saying “the Sikh community has launched an online petition” is just illiterate, whether biased or not. It’s literally nonsense. People launch petitions, or it may make sense to say a particular organized group launched a petition, but it’s just gibberish to say that all Sikhs did.

    The BBC has a longstanding pattern of lumping huge disparate groups of people into a single “community” in this way, but I think this is probably the most nonsensical example I’ve seen yet.

    It’s annoying because sentimental and deeply misleading but also because just dumb.

  10. says

    I know; I never ever watch him, because he’s terminally boring.

    He should be locked up!

    Ophelia, are you saying “freedom does not mean hurting the sentiments of terminally boring others” 😀

  11. says

    1. The pope’s visit is big news. We are a minority mate, he is a pretty big deal to a lot of people. A lot more people than us. The majority of people think he is important so want to see news about him. They also carried alternative viewpoints and condemnation about his statements since he wailed on atheists and secularism in the UK. And they also carried critiques on his Africa policy.

    2. The BBC has reported against Islam on various things. Lest you forget the BBC has carried various anti-fundementalist stances on it before. The BBC however wants to distance itself from the fucking lunatic Anti-Islam movement. Lest you forget, every person trying to discuss islam does so under the spectre of the goddamn BNP whose criticisms of Islam are tarnished by the fact they want to round up all the dark skinned people (such as myself) and ship us off to wherever we came from. It’s very hard to actively criticise Islam without those downright unsavour gentlemen being brought into it.

    3. The BBC also has let Frankie Boyle on air. And if there is one person guaranteed to insult someone it is that magnificent man.

    4. We are a socialist nation. It’s blatantly obvious that we follow socialism. I don’t understand what it is with people who whinge about it but you know the socialist society we have isn’t half as bad as many other nations.

    5. Their entire point is to produce a solid interview. Challenging people to defend their points of views is fine by me. I don’t think any american show even comes close to matching the kind of integrity the BBC has regularly shown. For heaven’s sake the biggest scandal of integrity was that the BBC didn’t go film a wild polar bear despite the fact that polar bears are insanely dangerous and poking around near with one a camera crew is a good way for an accident to happen.

    6. I suspect you are complaining about Songs of Praise? Let’s see. There are 4 BBC channels and songs of praise is around 100 hours a year. Roughly 2 hours a week plus two hours more for Christmas and Easter. And the rest of the time? The BBC carries more educational programs on the open university (At Night) shows per month than religion per year. And this is without the massive documentaries or the journalistic reviews it has done.

    In short? Seriously? Have you seen the alternatives? Of the other channels only Channel 4 comes CLOSE to the BBC’s quality. Channel 5 is laughably terribad and ITV is as well.

    I think the problem is that we are spoilt. We don’t realise how good it is until we are exposed to horribly trashy channels. If I want fair and unbiased reporting in India (yeah seriously) of all places? It’s a safer bet to watch the BBC than anything else.

  12. David S. says

    All Leno had to do was flash up a picture of his summer house and say it was Mitt’s to make the joke work.

    It’s amazing how these religious types are always telling everyone what free speech isn’t, thereby showing they have no idea what it actually is. The whole concept is obviously completely foreign to them.

    All these religions that claim to be the pure word of the creator, whole communities supposedly secure and certain they know exactly what He wants of humanity and therefore stronger, invincible in fact, because of it. Yet the slightest criticism, the smallest joke made about them or their beliefs and they are completely outraged, apoplectic with anger. Could they appear any more insecure in their beliefs?

  13. Francisco Bacopa says

    I know a lot of Sikhs. My former and soon to be again mechanics are Sikhs. You can sit in there and hear the wife of the owner of haggling over the price of car parts. Always found them very calm and collected people. They have their Bhangra dancing teams. GenerAsian radio on KPFT, and martial arts demonstrations at the local high school’s spring festival.

    I never would have suspected that there would be such a reaction to Leno’s joke. The joke was really a kind of honor, as Jay was basically saying “this is the most awesome building ever”.

    Are they trying to copy phony Muslim outrage? I thought they were better than that. They pledge to carry the kirpan, a little dagger, at all times after the anointing ceremony to remind them of their obligation to fight injustice. When they fly on planes, they have a tiny kirpan on a chain around their neck. Do they really think this joke is a serious injustice, or have they perhaps made a mistake out of fatwah envy?

  14. says

    I would agree that the BBC is better than a lot of the alternatives. Nevertheless, there is a huge amount of bias in the BBC’s reporting. I don’t see how watching Jeremy Paxman sneer at Anne Coulter for ten minutes is supposed to convince me otherwise. (Fish? Barrel? Anyone?) If you want to see a painstaking analysis of BBC bias over several years, trawl through the archives of medialens.org, a thoroughly excellent site.

    And if wanting to see global news coverage which is completely (or even largely) independent of elite interests makes me spoilt, then colour me spoilt, Avicenna. You seem to be saying that things could be worse, so don’t rock the boat.

  15. says

    I think some Sikhs are developing fatwa envy. It’s kind of sad. In Edinburgh Sikhs are best known for running all the Tartan Tatt shops. It’s quite an interesting fashion statement, a turban and a kilt.

  16. Egbert says

    I have a big problem with active moderation, which seems to me oppressive and authoritarian. When a presenter is actively antagonistic to their guest, they are in a sense talking on behalf of the media organization, giving a kind of legitimacy to their ‘balancing’, an official stance.

    This is particularly relevant to a propaganda piece by Christine Odine where she gets her knickers twisted thanks to the wisdom of the UCL Union imposes moderation to open day events: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/cristinaodone/100133725/abortion-a-student-union-and-the-closing-of-the-british-mind/

    See the irony, they’re imposing passive moderation onto clubs. It’s all very politically correct and authoritarian, and the UCL Union seeks a kind of legitimacy in doing so. And now any club that seeks to talk about pro-choice issues has to sit and listen to pro-life nonsense.

  17. eric says

    Avicenna @9:

    The BBC are very centrist. They are happy to smack right wing politics and left wing politics. The entire point is that they vaunt their objectivity.

    You highlight a problem with today’s media, which is that many media organizations confuse “centrist” with “objective.” They are not the same. If one side in a dispute is clearly correct and the other side are being idiots, the objective thing to do is point that out.

    If some news organization (not just the Beeb) is being centrist when centrism is clearly not called for by the facts, they are not ‘vaunting their objectivity,’ they are explicitly rejecting objectivity in favor of ratings.

  18. says

    The pope’s visit is big news. We are a minority mate, he is a pretty big deal to a lot of people. A lot more people than us. The majority of people think he is important so want to see news about him.

    Complete nonsense. Other way around. Media outlets treat the pope as a big deal (to everyone, not just to Catholics) and newsworthy, so people are conditioned to think he is. In reality he’s just another Catholic priest. Being a priest is in no way a “big deal”; it’s a very small deal.

  19. Svlad Cjelli says

    “Actually it does. Speech that everyone agrees with doesn’t need protection. Speech that angers others has to be protected or else the concept of free speech is meaningless.”

    Quite so. “Freedom doesn’t mean you can.”

    “Protection not intended for defensive purposes.”

  20. iknklast says

    What ever happened to the British? What happened to the culture that was willing to tell Hindus that burning widows with their husbands was murder? That was hardly politically correct; but it was, and is, and will always be, morally correct.

  21. christopher moyer says

    Concerning comments 1 and 2, I feel motivated to stick up for Jay Leno. He just seems like a genuine and nice guy to me, and because I am into old motorcycles I have enjoyed reading about and watching videos about his amazing collection (which he has a hand in working on, though he also has a full time staff that does it).

    Also, OB, I remember reading many years ago that his wife Mavis was engaged in activism to deliver increased rights to Afghan women.


  22. says

    CM – sure, I’ll buy that. I saw him being interviewed at some point about the whole Conan hooha, and thought he seemed like a sensible grown-up and ok guy. But for standup? Not my taste. Neither is Letterman. I’m picky.

  23. says

    Iknklast –

    I am an ex-hindu and quite aware of Hindu history so this may be kind of interesting. Sati was actually not practiced all that widely and was romanticised in the same way that the west romanticises samurai (Who are basically no different from the western knight ideology with bushido replacing chivalry.)

    There were massive hindu reformists such as Mohan Roy or the various educated upper and middle class people in India who were trying to cut down on the problem years before the british got involved. Infact the people who petitioned for it to be outlawed were other hindus…

    Amusingly? The practice was born out of a practice similar to the Masaada massacre in Judaism. When Kshatriya strongholds were taken it was regarded as incredibly dishonourable to give up. For both men and women. Women would cremate themselves while the men would dress in funeral finery for a fight to the death. The practice was called jauhar.


    The handprints are maintained as memorials to those who did this. The practice died out during the 17th century. Sati was an extension of that.

    As is the mistreatment of widows in large parts of India. But the problem is mainly in the north. The south is famous for it’s matriarchal societies which tend to not require it’s widows to either immolate or be thrown out nor fantasise about it.

    Sati since it’s ban has been seen only in Rajasthan which is home to the Jauhar cult.

    It’s actually kind of interesting. Hinduism is a rather malleable religion. A lot of it’s practices are cultural rather than proscribed.

    But back to the Sikhs? They are allowed to complain (free speech and all that) but Leno is allowed to make Golden Temple jokes. It’s really that simple. The vast majority of Sikhs seem to think it’s a terrible joke so go “HA HA Very Funny Jay” rather than “ZOMG You insulted us!”.

    For a group of people so insulted by random things Indians didn’t really say anything about the Temple of Doom. Now that’s very slightly borderline racist (I don’t know the last time I ate monkey brains dans la tete or where indians around Calcutta looked like Short Round…)


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