Forget ‘Dust Ups’ And Assault – Clarkson Should Have Been Fired Years Ago
Jeremy Clarkson is a great TV presenter and a pivotal cog in the creation of one of the world’s most popular television shows. He is a car expert who, at his best, can impart his views with knowledge, cutting wit and good humour. He is also a racist, sexist, homophobic bigot who has used the very public platform he has been given to routinely tread on the faces of marginalised and minority groups that are already struggling for air.
Though I do not condone his actions, I am not one of the people outraged that Clarkson allegedly assaulted one of his production staff – this just makes him like thousands of other celebrities that have lost their rags with their colleagues, Madonna, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lopez, Naomi Campbell, Mike Myers, Russell Crowe to name just a few. What I am outraged about is the fact that this is what has pushed the BBC to finally take action against him – apparently pushing a colleague in a fit of anger is not ok, but racism, xenophobia, discrimination and sexism are. Why was this incident the straw that broke the BBC’s back? Clarkson should have gone long, long before this, but thanks to his exalted position as one of the network’s most lucrative cash cows he has been forgiven for a litany of sins that would have seen any normal person handed their P45s and possibly a lawsuit.
He is a poster boy for every conservative, insular, frustrated, middle-class British man who yearns for the good old days of the empire, hating Germans and loving the black and white minstrels. He is an example of the worst of Britain, a virulent sore on the body of the country standing as a breakwater against progression, tolerance and multiculturalism. I will make no bones about the fact that whilst I have a modicum of respect for his professional capabilities, I despise him and what he stands for. Let me explain why.
Clarkson Gets It Right
Firstly, perhaps the most intelligent and prescient thing that Clarkson ever did, albeit in a cloying fit of nauseating self-pity, was to compare himself to a dinosaur. It works on several levels. To begin with, a dinosaur is a creature that – for the most part – preys on the fragile, using its distinct advantages to crush and consume its weaker opponents. As a wealthy, privately educated, white, middle-class man, Clarkson has bravely used his prominent position in the public eye to stamp upon everyone from Muslims to Mexicans. He has used his pedestal amongst the advantaged elite to persecute, intimidate and silence minority groups who barely had voices to begin with. Secondly, dinosaurs were, despite their supposed strength, vulnerable relics perilously out of step with the world around them and unable to adapt to changes in their environment. Ditto Clarkson and his cronies, who linger like bad smells, stinking up a world that doesn’t need them with the putrescence of every form of bigotry going. Like faded swastikas still faintly visible beneath coats of paint, they are the foul residue of darker times that hang over the afflicted like spectres that everybody wished they could banish from their memories.
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
Clarkson’s attempts at contrition and penitence have traditionally been emblematic of a man who is sorry, only he’s sorry that he got caught, not for what he’s actually done. Just like status-obsessed, new-money arsehole Arthur Birling, in Priestley’s An Inspector Calls, the only sorrow that Clarkson feels is for himself, the only responsibility he takes is enforced, the only lesson to be learnt is how better to not got caught the next time – and with Clarkson there will always be a next time. This has been demonstrated in his Twitter feed since the BBC ‘fracas’, but is perhaps better showcased by the ridiculous po-faced apology in which he claimed he did ‘everything in his power’ to not say the word ‘n****r’ during a Top Gear shoot; what kind of a man despite supposedly doing everything he could, was unable not to say one of the most offensive words in the English lexicon? The fact that Clarkson claimed in his apology that ‘n****r’ was common parlance in the rhyme ‘Eenie Meenie Miney Mo’, was instructive of both the kind of environment he grew up in, and what he deems acceptable when the cameras are not upon him.
Must The Show Go On?
Noel Edmonds suggested that the show should go on with just Richard Hammond and James May presenting it. However Clarkson’s two schoolyard lackeys are inextricable from his bigotry, baiting and bullying, three heads of the same abhorrent monster, parasites incubating within the same host. They have stood behind Clarkson, peering over his shoulder and sniggering whilst he kicked the prone bodies of women, the working classes, Mexicans, Argentinians, the black community, and the Vietnamese, complicit as passive henchmen who have provided Clarkson with a stage on which to perform. They have routinely affected that obnoxious half grimace half smile of faux judgement and the raising of both eyebrows as if to say ‘oh Jeremy – you’re a one aren’t you – whatever will you say next’ without ever once openly criticising him, or daring to challenge his inherent narrow-mindedness and intolerance dressed up as ‘comedy’. Without an audience (and that includes the 700,000 presumably white, middle-class, Conservative or UKIP voting, leather driving glove wearing morons who have signed his petition), a bully like Clarkson couldn’t and wouldn’t exist. As Edmund Burke said ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing’; I guess that makes May and Hammond a couple of megalithic shithouses then.
Privileged White Men As Victims
Like many men like him, Clarkson seems to feel an acute sense of victimhood despite being a multi-millionaire born into comfort, ease and opportunity. It is his Britain and he feels like he should be able to do whatever he likes in it. Being a white, middle-class male from a background of privilege, he is not used to being told that he can’t do something, and like all brattish children who have failed to decenter, he throws his toys out of the pram, assuming a persecution complex that ends in a vague criticism of someone, anyone: the government, the media, the BBC, of having adopted strategies that according to his invective make 1984 look like Woodstock. In Clarkson’s mind, having a national speed limit lower than Germany’s makes him as downtrodden and oppressed as unarmed civilians gunned down during the Vietnam war, or Muslim women pelted with stones for wearing headscarves.
The Daily Mail Defends
As usual Clarkson found a staunch defence in the Daily Mail, Richard Littlejohn penning a typically balanced and factually objective article about his ‘great friend’ Jeremy. His argument hinges on the fact that Clarkson has earned the BBC an enormous amount of money (which he has) and that this somehow precludes him from any further judgement. Given Littlejohn’s typical frothing with rage over all things Islamic, would he use the same rationale when judging ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who is believed to have made ISIS the wealthiest terrorist organization in history. ‘Don’t worry about the beheadings Abu, you’ve raked in a small fortune for us.’ And so his defence continues, maintaining that because of the profits that Top Gear has made, Clarkson should be given a free pass and shown some loyalty. Since when did success and morality become mutually exclusive? I wonder if Littlejohn would have come out and vocally supported Liverpool for their backing of alleged – and later convicted – racist Luis Suarez. Given that footballers are predominantly overpaid foreigners from working class backgrounds who never played with Bobby Moore I seriously doubt it.
Littlejohn goes on to defend Clarkson over the ‘n****r’ clip, exonerating him because he asked for the clip not to be aired. In Littlejohn’s warped world of right-wing, jingoistic, classist ethics, this constitutes a moral decision. It’s nothing to do with the reality that Clarkson feared the perfectly warranted backlash over using despicable language, no, it was an act of humanitarian kindness to save mankind from hearing racist language. The fact that Littlejohn suggests that had it gone to air it would have elicited ‘artificial outrage’ just goes to prove how deeply entrenched the residual prejudices of the Mail writer are. Dan Cohen of the BBC is chided for not ‘supporting’ Clarkson, but how exactly was he supposed to support him? ‘We here at the BBC appreciate the physical assaulting of our production staff, and fully support Jeremy in beating his subordinates because he is richer, better and more successful than them.’ Just like Clarkson, Littlejohn externalizes his frustrations by blaming anyone who happens to disagree with his politics, or letting him do or say whatever he wants.
Littlejohn and Clarkson – Peas In A Pod
Clarkson and Littlejohn belong to a particularly heinous section of our society. They are central right conservatives who perceive themselves as being rebels or outliers, striving to save the country from the foreigns and their funny hats. Their belief system functions on the fallacious notion that they are the mouthpieces of the unspoken thought, the outrageous truths that everyone allegedly thinks but daren’t say. In truth, their ideas couldn’t be more conservatively mainstream, and they are the furthest point that one could be from a voiceless, oppressed sub-group. As Hadley Freeman bitingly put it in her article for The Guardian:
‘It’s really great to have Jeremy fighting in our corner for that under-represented demographic, the self-entitled, middle-aged white man who just wants to beat up on those in a less privileged position than him – from ethnic minorities to a producer who, we are now told, failed to provide Jezza’s din-dins on demand…Saying the unsayable is actually dully conformist. Pick on anyone different and mock them. Endeavour to take away not just their rights but the concept that they ever had rights in the first place. All this is done preeningly, while a white middle-aged man pretends he is downtrodden and now some kind of freedom fighter.’
With even the prime minister refusing to condemn Clarkson despite his readiness to weigh in on everything from banker’s wages and the behavior of footballers (naturally Dave wouldn’t denounce the actions of another privately-educated, middle-class, conservative voter), I can’t help but feel that the Teflon coated Clarkson will survive once again. He comes from the most powerful, well-resourced and influential demographic within our society, a demographic – as seen through other prize tools like Piers Morgan – who too often seem to be above the law, able to say whatever they like, about whoever they like, with the bile of their utterings being dismissed as comedy, banter, or worst of all ‘what people really think’.
And this is why Clarkson, and his cronies, should have gone years ago. Not because of a hot-blooded ‘dust up’ but because they are terrible human beings. I will leave the final words to two genuine comedians, in Steve Coogan and Stuart Lee who say it better than I could:
‘There is a strong ethical dimension to the best comedy. Not only does it avoid reinforcing prejudices, it actively challenges them. Put simply, in comedy, as in life, we ought to think before we speak. This wasn’t one of those occasions. In fact, the comments were about as funny as a cold sweat followed by shooting pains down the left arm. In fact, if I can borrow from the Wildean wit of Richard Hammond, the comic approach was “lazy”, “feckless” and “flatulent”… and they are the voice of one of the BBC’s most successful programmes.’