So Jeremy Clarkson has done it again. Not for the first time, the news agenda has been hijacked by the idiocy and anachronistic opinion of this called so called ‘Journalist’. Being an established ‘leftie’ so vocally despised by Clarkson, I have received at least three invitations to sign petitions calling on the BBC to sack him. l decided against adding my name to those petitions despite being emphatically underwhelmed by his 90 second apology.
Whereas Clarkson has form in terms of aiming to thrive on the back of self generated adolescent controversy, I have form in taking up the pen to rebut him. Back in 2012, The Guardian published an article I wrote in response to Clarkson’s comments about striking workers and railway fatalities. Looking at Clarkson’s comments as a Train Driver who has experienced a fatality, and as a trade union activist, l found them to be ignorant, tactless, and lamentably irresponsible. I didn’t however, feel that Clarkson needed sacking at the time. Looking at this as a Stand up Comedian, l don’t think he does now.
Understandably, the BBC have pirouetted clumsily from allowing Clarkson’s latest ham fisted mutterings to lie quietly on the cutting room floor, to hastily issuing him with a final warning. But Clarkson’s own defence is hinged on his desperate attempts to stop anyone seeing the footage. He seems not to realise that making repeated attempts to hide evidence does not absolve you of your crime. This also raises questions about the integrity and outlook of the production and editorial staff on Top Gear. If Clarkson is to be believed, he pointed the footage out to editors, yet no action was take in respect of Clarkson’s conduct. If I engaged in racialIy inappropriate language whilst working for my employer, l would be risking a disciplinary charge of gross misconduct. Not only do we have a failure of judgement, we have a failure of management. Overall, the implicit acceptance of Clarkson’s conduct suggests a blokishly ‘Billy Bunteresque’ culture at the beeb, which when placed alongside suggestions that Clarkson is unsackable due to the revenue earned by Top Gear, is really quite worrying for a public service broadcaster, despite my belief that the BBC are right to put Clarkson on notice rather than sack him.
It’s tempting to fall into the massed clamour for Clarkson’s blood, but the man has simultaneously proved himself to be a performer of the highest contextual ineptitude, and an individual only capable of communicating via inflammatory sound bites and threadbare stereotypes. There are three things that Jeremy Clarkson just doesn’t get. Firstly, the genre, or vehicle of the performance or media discipline dictates the limit of acceptability, not the performer’s moral compass. Whilst it is NEVER acceptable to racially abuse anyone, it is for comedians, columnists and dramatists to occasionally offend by using language that banters with, and challenges the audience, not a high profile TV presenter paid from the public purse to show off in an aircraft hangar full of overpriced cars. Had he made a racial reference in his column, the vehicle for that reference would have been more acceptable even if the reference itself was offensive.
Secondly, there are consequences for your deeds, thoughts and words. Whilst I believe that sacking Clarkson would have been a kneejerk reaction, posting a short film online offering a few excuses was feeble. If Clarkson can befriend a prime minister, albeit a particularly vacuous one, see his way to a commercially successful series of books, and make a rational person want to spend a decade’s salary on a car with a name they can’t pronounce, he can invest a smidgen more effort into making a believable apology.
What was the third thing that he doesn’t get? Well, he doesn’t understand that humour, society, and expectation of obscenely well paid celebrities has changed, largely due to the fact that it’s no longer 1946. Do try to keep up Jeremy. Your job may very well depend on it in the near future..
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