Headlines in all the papers for days at a time ...
Across the board, tabloids and heavyweights are united in condemnation.
Gordon Brown pitches in (how delighted he must be for the distraction from the economy) and David Cameron is in full agreement.
All are in accord - it's a scandal of the highest order.
Who's to blame? they all ask with righteous indignation.
Is it the over-sexed, over paid likely lads themselves?
Or is the real issue about governance and responsibility at the Beeb?
I've read article after think piece after editorial and I've come to one screaming conclusion:
They're all missing the point!
Let's look back at what was actually said in the beginning to unleash this storm of controversy.
R 'n' B left messages on the answerphone of Andrew Sachs claiming B had slept with his granddaughter and that Sachs might kill himself as a result.
Tasteless? Of course it is.
Puerile? Without a shadow of doubt.
Offensive? Well, yes.
Does it make any difference that the granddaughter is 23 year old Georgina Baillie, a dancer known as Voluptua with a band called the Satanic Sluts and that she's admitted to having had a relationship with Brand? In theory, it shouldn't but ...
Excuse me, but while I agree with the tasteless/puerile/offensive definitions of the so-called prank, as far as I can see R 'n' B have done nothing more than act within the current cultural limits of acceptable behaviour on tv and radio.
In fact, compared to many other examples I could cite, this particular offense seems relatively mild.
Check out these shows (which I confess are among my favourites): Have I Got News for You, Never Mind the Buzzcocks, Mock the Week, Graham Norton and many more.
What do they all in common with the R 'n' B approach?
True, Graham Norton does camp bitchy as opposed to macho laddish, but many of the jokes are the same. The targets certainly are.
- They're all genuinely funny much of the time.
- All these shows are male-dominated.
- They all have people considered fair game for a cheap laugh.
So who's in this particular hit list of acceptable laughing stocks?
Amy Winehouse, Kerry Katona, Britney Spears, Jade Goody, Jodie Marsh ...
And what is it that these regular victims have in common that makes it acceptable to belittle, insult and bully them and still be considered funny?
For crying out loud, it's obvious, isn't it?
They're all women.
And they're all working class.
They're all also, to a greater or lesser extent, damaged and on the edge.
And if Amy or Kerry or any of the others die a miserable and tortured early death, will they still be considered appropriate targets?
Will any of these bright but arrogant men, convinced of their own superiority, feel a twinge of shame for the part they have played in the character assassination that will have contributed to the misery of these young women?
If you need convincing that misogyny and classism are firmly on the cultural media agenda, have you heard any of these men spitting incoherent hatred at Loose Women?
Their fury takes a very different form to the smirking superiority Amy and co are subjected to.
The only conclusion I can come to is that Loose Women are witty, warm and articulate (and middle class incidentally).
Oh and they're on air together, making it far harder to isolate and bully them as individuals. How threatening is that???
Ironically, I can think of only one working class woman who's subverted the genre and taken ownership of her trashy image. Her response to any insult is to laugh, yell 'Bring it on' and add to her burgeoning empire.
And so it is that I find myself in the unlikely position of admitting to a sneaking respect for a pneumatic Barbie Doll - Jordan aka Katie Price.
To return to the Ross/Brand debacle.
Bearing in mind all of the above, it's clear they were acting well within the dictates of their genre. Their main crime was chortling their empty-headed jibe at an aged male national treasure instead of directly at a vulnerable young woman.
So Brand may resign, Ross may be suspended and directorial heads at the BBC may roll, but unless someone looks at the wider culture within which these men operate, nothing will change.
Male comedians, many of whom are capable of being genuinely funny and clever, will continue to demean themselves, their victims - and all those of us in their audiences who accept bullying and insulting vulnerable women as entertainment.
Now that's what I call a real scandal.