Jeremy Clarkson’s gone and got himself embroiled in yet another scandal. Quelle surprise, I hear you sigh.
Not satisfied with his spectacular bubbling feud with the tabloid monstrosity that is Piers Morgan, he’s only gone and supposedly offended yet ANOTHER ethnic group. Coming mere weeks as it does after the last ‘scandal’, the level of vitriol being unleashed in his general direction might even be deserved. Except, perhaps not. Political correctness and the desperation to see scandal where none exists is rearing its ugly head once more.
Now, I’m not an entirely unbiased observer here. I was raised on a diet of petrol fumes, classic cars and the throaty roar of a V8 engine. Top Gear constituted an almost embarrassingly significant part of my adolescence. If the Soton Tab would allow me to, I would fill these pages with reams of automotive tripe; segueing seamlessly between reviews of friends’ latest forays into the automotive market and the realisation of my ultimate dream, the right to summarily execute all those who actually voluntarily purchased a Fiat Multipla.
That caveat out of the way, the accusation is that Clarkson, while reviewing the Toyota GT86 in footage dating from 2011, recited an ancient nursery rhyme which originally featured a racial slur. In the broadcast version of the review, Clarkson replaced the word with “teacher”. The accusation stands that Clarkson repeated the rhyme as it would have originally been recited, n-word and all, in the trial run. This was ‘proven’ in a tape released by The Mirror (that paragon of journalistic integrity). Watching the tape, it’s bloody easy to hear what you want to hear if you’ve already made your mind up.
Clarkson catches his fair share of flack for other errors, and he is by no means perfect. He can be a blundering, offensive ignoramus. But coming as this does so soon after another patently overblown accusation of “racism”, it is laughably easy to make the association. Indeed, the idea that a man who has made his fortune off of controversial opinions might have overstepped the line is not a difficult one to sell, as The Mirror is finding now. But the idea that he should be forced to resign for a video clip that proves nothing whichever side you choose to take is utterly moronic. It is too easy to feign offence, to pretend to have been mortally offended to self-publicise, or to merely inconvenience or embarrass a public figure you object to.
As such, we should really be querying the reasons behind the release of the clip. The Mirror and Clarkson have never exactly seen eye to eye, what with it being the paper that Piers Morgan edited at the time of their feud’s beginning – he has also mocked it for the publication of the falsified torture photos. The clip in itself proves nothing, the only benefit from its release is the aspersions it casts upon Clarkson’s character.
If the clip could prove beyond reasonable doubt that he uttered the rhyme in full, then I would fully support Clarkson’s sacking from the BBC, and his hounding out from his position of privilege in the UK media. Racism is wholly unacceptable, that goes without saying. But without concrete evidence? This becomes just an unsubtle attempt to tarnish a reputation.
Common sense is falling by the wayside, being insidiously replaced by a desperation to please everyone. 24-hour news and social media mean that every purported misstep in the public eye can spread like an ideological wildfire. ‘Reputations’ can be made and broken in hours – and, as the saying goes, a lie can make its way around the world before the truth has got its boots on. All I’m saying is that we cannot jump to conclusions without proper examination of the circumstances.
But perhaps that’s not good enough. After all, I am a white, middle class man sticking up for another white, middle class man. If his mumbled and incomprehensible sentence has truly offended you, and I am just too obtuse to understand why, then it is of course only reasonable that you should demand his immediate resignation. We should focus on eradicating such brazen, unpublished behaviour, years old as it is: Clarkson must pay! Syria, Ukraine – utter tosh, irrelevant tasks for another day, say I! This is far more pressing, and we’re failing in our civic duties if we don’t immediately march upon the BBC and demand his crucifixion.
What do you think? Mountains out of molehills or RACISM? Let us know in comments.