Lineker gate, as luckily no one is calling it, has to be one of the dumbest scandals of our increasingly dumb times.
A high paid, low IQ ex-footballer decides to Tweet that our eco-socialist government, led by a Hindu Prime Minister with Indian parents, is somehow like the Nazis. The BBC says this may be a breach of their impartiality guidelines and that he will not feature on the upcoming episode of Match of the Day. Now his colleagues all refuse to appear, mass migrating away from the show on small boats of imaginary virtue.
Where to begin with this complex yet incredibly stupid saga?
Lineker’s initial tweet, stating that the rhetoric around the illegal immigration crisis was “not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s” is typical leftie celebrity drivel. But the question of why he would tweet it in the first place throws up some interesting possibilities.
The simplest explanation is that it is just high-status virtue signalling for the metro lib dinner party set. Speak to the average London-dwelling foot solider of ‘The Blob’ these days, and you realise they all hold such opinions. Talk to them about their area of expertise – liability driven investments, for example – and they will seem smart and reasonable. Then, out of nowhere, they will say something like “Jacob Rees-Mogg should be in jail”, with no explanation given, and you realise you are talking to an ideologue who is simply repeating the increasingly hysterical leftie groupthink of their workplace and social set.
Another possibility, and these can very much co-exist, is that Lineker is simply ready to graduate to somewhere like LBC, where he will be free to express the opinions he has already been expressing for years, without any annoying BBC pushback for emitting his complacent, predictable metro lib brain sludge. In other words, he is ‘doing a Maitlis’.
Far more interesting, and suddenly elevating Lineker to ‘4D chess’ status, is the theory that this all relates to Lineker’s £4.9m tax bill. As the Guardian has explained:
If Lineker wanted to avoid paying a large retrospective tax bill…he would need to prove that he was a true freelance worker who had control over his work life that went beyond that of a typical BBC or BT Sport employee…Lineker’s Twitter account, which has caused many headaches for BBC management with the former footballer’s strong views on Brexit and the Conservative government, could form part of the case that he was not a traditional employee bound by traditional rules.
“Lineker can argue that he is not subject to the same level of control as BBC employees given his apparent freedom to express personal and political views on social media.”
There is something brilliantly stupid about this argument. “Look at all this rubbish I’m tweeting about Nazis! I ask you, Your Honour, would a normal BBC employee do that? I must be free(lance)!”
If that is what Gary is up to, perhaps he is a little smarter, though even less moral, than one imagines.
Whatever Lineker’s motivations (and can we ever truly know the mind of this enigmatic anti-hero?) the reaction has been extraordinary.
Alastair Campbell immediately leapt to Lineker’s defence and claimed there was merit to his comments. Perhaps not too surprising, as Lineker’s production company funds Campbell’s podcast. Lineker then retweeted the praise, in what amounts to a kind of virtue signalling pyramid scheme.
Others referred to Lineker’s potential replacement as a ‘scab’, to the point where the term was trending on Twitter, thus drawing a fascinating parallel between miners struggling to feed their families and a man who gets paid over a million pounds a year to say “Leicester’s defence looked ropey at times, Alan?”
Danny Baker went even further, calling the hypothetical successor on MOTD a “f****** collaborator”, while Carol Vorderman invoked George Orwell’s “If liberty means anything at all” quote.
In one extraordinary exchange with Douglas Murray, Murray pointed out that a key difference between Nazi Germany and 2023 Britain is that in the former one did not get “showered with praise” for criticising the regime. Lineker appeared to counter this by claiming that was because they didn’t have social media back then, an epic display of idiocy that makes me suspect his accountant is the brains behind the operation after all.
What Lineker’s fate should be remains an open, and much tweeted about, question.
Former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron seems to believe it is a free speech issue, and has implied he will commence a devastating boycott of MOTD until Lineker is reinstated, while also invoking a version of the Libtard classic ‘I’m sure the Free Speech Union will get involved’ (a line that is snarkily used even when the Free Speech Union actually is involved, because feelings don’t care about your facts).
To me, the BBC’s chastising of Lineker actually is a rare instance of them showing some backbone, standing up for all the staff who have to follow impartiality guidelines while Lineker flaunts his special status all over Twitter. The fact that the BBC continues to extract a licence fee from the public puts their employees in a different situation from other broadcasters, and the good people of this country who effectively pay Lineker’s wages should perhaps not be subjected to his open hatred of many of them via Twitter.
Still, we can argue about whether the BBC should get to control Lineker’s Twitter output simply because he is a sports presenter on the channel. Since to me it is a question of BBC policy rather than free speech, I’m not that arsed either way about whether he keeps his job, or whether someone else has to step in to say “Was VAR at fault here, Ian?”
What is infuriating, however, is the sudden discovery of free speech amongst the media classes now that Saint Gary is under threat. They have consistently ignored actual free speech issues, yet they are desperate to jump on the bandwagon of the Lineker pseudo free speech question. As Brendan O’Neil puts it in the Spectator:
The shamelessness of the British chattering classes never ceases to amaze me. In the past couple of hours, the kind of people who stared at their feet as JK Rowling was threatened with rape and death for saying ‘men aren’t women’ are running around like modern-day Miltons, shouting ‘Free Gary!’ on a loop. Folk who say ‘Well, free speech has consequences’ in a cavalier way whenever an ex-Muslim is blacklisted for ‘Islamophobia’ or a TERF is cancelled for ‘transphobia’ now decree that free speech should not have consequences.
To the sane person, the Lineker spectacle is a deranged outpouring of virtue signalling and fake oppression. A high tax, Net Zero mad, woke-appeasing, conservative-in-name-only government is actually trying to tackle the difficult problem of illegal immigration, and meeting all kinds of resistance from shrieking libs who are safe in their wealthy communities, and will not face the consequences of unchecked immigration of the legal or illegal kind.
Meanwhile, in the world of the terminally online media metro lib, a brave freedom fighter is taking a stand against a brutal Far Right government, and is doing this by tweeting inane things while also presenting a football highlights show.
I’m sorry, I tried to ‘steel man’ their position, but I am struggling to put myself in the mindset of anyone this thick or disingenuous (it’s never quite clear which it is).
Wherever you stand, arguing about Gary Lineker is certainly easier than solving the ‘small boats’ crisis, and perhaps that is why we are spending so much time on it.
At the time of writing, MOTD is set to go ahead without a presenter, pundits and several regular commentators.
In my opinion, they should also remove the football. Like John Cage’s 4’33, MOTD tonight should just be a duration of time. A conceptual space in which a football highlights show could theoretically exist, but never will.
It would not be any more absurd than the rest of the Lineker ordeal.
Nick Dixon is Deputy Editor of the Daily Sceptic. You can follow him on Twitter and Substack.
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