Clarkson, go home

Dear Jeremy, or may I call you Jezza

ImageYou and I actually have a lot in common.   Apart from the fact that my husband quite likes both of us (actually possibly you more than me), we both come from relatively small towns. We both had working class parents who worked hard and did quite well for themselves. We were both relatively clever and so left to seek our fame and fortune in the big bad world.

I, unlike you, actually returned to the town of my childhood, the town where you, the voice of the working man, now send your children to boarding school. I believe we frequent the same Pizza Express.

Therefore, because of our kindred spirit, I thought you would appreciate me explaining a few things about the current pickle you are in.

I, although younger than you, grew up around a fair amount of casual racism. Wiggy, Waggy and Wally was my Gran’s preferred book at bedtime. When asked where Mum was, I would often be told that she’d ‘run off with a black man’, and we had an affectionate name for the corner shop that was largely based on the ethnicity of its owners. My Dad thought Alf Garnett was hilarious, and not in the satirical way it was intended. My parents were not bad people, they were not BNP members although my Dad did have an unfortunate fondness for Margaret Thatcher.  I am not disrespecting their memory to say this and I’m not patronising them when I say that they didn’t know any better.  In fact, I would go so far as to say they were incredibly kind and decent.  However, hey – it was the 80s.  Just as we didn’t wear seat belts, or thought Vienetta was classy,  they were ‘of their time’.

This is not that time. I am not that time.  I grew up, I left home, moved to the big city and learnt a lot about life and the world outside my small town. I can honestly say I have never used the language of my childhood as an adult. It could well still be in my head somewhere. It has never slipped out, it has never been uttered when I thought no one was listening, taken out of context or mumbled.

I just don’t say it.

The reason I don’t is not because I don’t believe in free speech, or want political correctness to go mad. It is because it is wrong. Not just to huge number of people it is used against, but also to me. That is because I am not racist.  Therefore, as someone who is not racist, I neither use these words nor allow others to use them in my company, overheard or not.  You see they are not just words, they are weapons that have been used for generations to put people in their place. At it’s very root, this is the language of slavery, of oppression and violence. It doesn’t matter that you use these words mischievously, or out of context, and you haven’t got a baseball bat in your hand. These words matter.

We are quick (quite rightly) to denounce people who desecrate or vandalise war memorials, even though they mean nothing to the offenders. Whether it’s mischievously spray painting Churchill or absent-mindedly mistaking a monument for a urinal. They are symbols which mean something to us, and to others. They matter.

The Sun, and many of your fans, may leap to your defence saying that ‘hard to believe this was once innocuous’, but it was NEVER innocuous. It was never innocent or a bit of harmless fun. It was an expression of power and humiliation. We just, on the whole, never used to care that much. But we should care now.

You knew exactly what you were doing. This did not just pop out like ‘fuck’ when you’ve stubbed your toe. You had a decent run in, and had the forethought to pause, switch to mumble mode and carry on regardless. This was no slip of the tongue. This was a deliberate attempt at straight talking, no nonsense, I just don’t care Clarkson. It was no more a genuine mistake than the ‘slope’ comment, or gag about the Mexican, or the murdered prostitutes.

You’re not stupid. Much like Farage, you have made your career on your ability to connect with the common man (and it usually is men) when you are largely anything but. You have earned millions of pounds, both directly from and off the back of the licence fee because you claim to represent average people – straight talking, what everybody’s thinking. MY MONEY. You’ve earned so much money that, just like the city bankers, you think you are too big to fail. Like an ungrateful indulgent child you are constantly pushing the boundary of that power to see just how far it goes, like nicking tenners from your mother’s purse.  Poor Carol Thatcher couldn’t survive a similar ‘off camera, off the cuff’ remark and her Mum used to BE the Prime Minister, never mind just have dinner with them.

Possibly the world’s greatest thinker once said ‘With great power comes great responsibility’ and everyone needs to remember that. In a time when bananas are still being thrown at footballers and wannabe politicians think Lenny Henry should move to a black country, it’s about time you took that responsibility and showed people how to behave, showed them what is acceptable and what a ‘thoroughly good bloke’ really looks like. I will tell you now that it is not a man who thinks it’s big and clever to not so accidentally use racist language in a humorous context and then cowardly grovel in order to keep his job.  I’m not sure you know what a thoroughly good bloke is.

So Jeremy, go home.   Honestly love, for your own sake, put your feet up, count your money, shout at the telly and let someone decent have a go.


20 thoughts on “Clarkson, go home

  1. Bravo – this article is absolutely brilliant. Thank you: you get it so precisely when you say that it was never an innocent word of a bygone age. No adult accidentally lets it slip. It is a deliberate act of, well, shit-stirring.

  2. Amazing read! You couldn’t have hit the nail any cleaner on the head if you tried. I’ve gave myself a stiff neck from nodding so much 🙂

  3. well done .. more balanced than I would be … but I doubt that Clarkson, like so many overpaid arrogant people around today, has any interest in anyone else or what anyone thinks about them …..

  4. Clarkson is actually not very talented and is now well past his sell by date. He should take to heart the advice in the last line of your blog.

  5. I’m afraid that you’ve missed the point in more ways than one.

    Clarkson appeals to the ordinary man, because he thinks and talks the same way. It’s this attraction that has made Top Gear one of the BBC’s biggest exports with well over £300 million in sales – far more than Clarkson is paid to behave like ordinary blokes having fun with cars.

    More importantly though, Clarkson ignores political correctness and treats it with the contempt it deserves. The counting game that he used on the show (not broadcasted because the editors thought it un-PC!) is an innocent rhyme that dates back to the early 19th century. It is the most used counting rhyme in the UK, apart from One Potato, Two Potato (offensive to Irish!) or Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (offensive to members of MI5!). When children learn this nursery rhyme, they might be taught the offensive version with the ‘N’ word or the alternative with a Tigger instead (offensive to Winne the Pooh!), but the point is that it is not meant to be perjorative, because children that young are not racist. Racism is something that comes later in life when someone attempts to marginalise or belittle someone on the basis of the colour of their skin. It is a behaviour that society discourages. Clarkson simply did not think that the rhyme would be offensive if he mumbled the offensive word. Unfortunately, others considered that he was being racist when all he was doing was echoing childish behaviour.

    Let’s look at the ‘N’ word for a moment. There is a great deal of controversy over this word, as many African Americans have adopted the word with an ‘a’ at the end instead of an ‘er’ as a term or affection or endearment. They still consider it racist for a white person to use against a black, but they feel it is perfectly acceptable for black people to use amongst themselves. This is reverse racism is action. It’s hypocritical to suggest that a word is offensive when used by someone of one skin colour and not when used by someone of a different colour. If the word is offensive, then as both spellings are pronounced the same, then neither skin colour should use it. If the word is pejorative and used to belittle someone, then it should never be used by anyone, period.

    Could there be another reason that Clarkson was using these words? Have you thought about the possibility that Clarkson used the ‘n’ word and the ‘s’ word to invoke the reaction that the BBC took? As I pointed out above, Top Gear makes the BBC a fortune in revenues. Clarkson is paid millions for his contribution, but sees little of the profits that the BBC gets. Could it be that Clarkson is calling time on Top Gear as a BBC show and intends to take it to Sky or ITV. Jonathan Ross’s BBC salary was controversial enough, until he moved to ITV, but the replacement is no where near as popular. Other channels have car shows, but they are no where near as popular as Clarkson, Hammond and May. If Clarkson and his merry band were to be ‘fired’ from the BBC for political uncorrectness, then they would have the perfect opportunity to set up another TV show, identical to Top Gear in every way, but instead, the hundreds of millions would end up in Clarkson/Hammond/May’s pockets.

    Have you thought for one second that this is what he’s up to?!

    The presenters on Top Gear have stated that they want to continue for many years to come. They’ve only touched the surface of boys goofing off with big boy toys. If they were given unlimited funds, just think of the things they could do. Top Gear is easily one of the most watched shows worldwide, especially on You-Tube. Do you think the many millions of foreigners who watch his shows are offended by inadvertent racism? No of course not. The show is as popular abroad as it is in the UK. Indeed, it is one of the most popular shows in some of the most unlikely of places.

    So think before you say that Clarkson should go – because that might be exactly what he wants – and the BBC will lose out (and the license fee would go up!) because of it!

    1. Your own ignorance is really shown up by the fact that you think that “tinker, tailor, soldier, spy ” would be offensive to members of M15 ! You missed the point that “tinker” is an extremely offensive word to certain members of the community. He could have tossed a coin, said “ip,dip,sky,blue”. I do not like the fact that people sneak off to the papers with this kind of thing- especially as it was never due to go on TV, but the bottom line is that what he said or insinuated by his mumbling was rascist. You are sitting there in your HM Forces sailor hat, representing establishment, suggesting that somehow it alright for a white middle class man to use the N word because black working class people have reclaimed it and use it ironical after hundreds of years of abuse. Clarkson knows better than that. BBC producers know better than that and at the moment he started reciting the rhyme, someone should have said “Look Jeremy, that might not be a good idea” but then again, perhaps they did and he just thought it would be a jolly good wheeze.

    2. He may talk the same way, but honestly, don’t *ever* make the mistake of believing he thinks the same. I’d be willing to wager that when you scratch the surface, Clarkson actually regards “ordinary people” with the kind of utter contempt most people reserve for whichever dog excreted what they just coated their left shoe with – but recognises that there are more of them, and if you’re going to appeal to the lowest common denominator, that’s where you have to go. The Sun does the same with its readership; when it compliments its readers’ common sense, you can almost *feel* its editors crossing their fingers and sniggering into their shoulders; they have more contempt for their circulation than anyone else does. Anyone else.

      You don’t manipulate people you respect.

    3. ” This is reverse racism is action.”
      It is reclaiming a racist word and rubbing the white man’s nose in it.
      You object to that?
      When young black people use the word nigger, the message to white people is ‘we have reclaimed this word for ourselves, and we can use it when you can’t.’
      That’s all. It is a minor act of petty linguistic theft, in part to make up for the appalling crimes of history. The fact that it’s ‘not fair’ is the whole point. ‘This is a tiny taste of what it feels like.’
      So there isn’t any hypocrisy, merely a chance taken to make white people feel uncomfortable.
      The new street usage may not be a productive or rational tactic, and many black leaders condemn it. But it probably feels good. And another thing. It’s use requires CONSENT, which requires contact and communication. In other words, you need to have some form of relationship with the recipient before using it. This again reinforces a sense of identity and kinship and places the emphasis on human contact.. And who can argue with that in a society in which the sense of community is all but dead?
      When there is no racism, white people will be allowed to say ‘nigger’.

  6. “The reason I don’t is not because I don’t believe in free speech, or want political correctness to go mad. It is because it is wrong.” And apart from this, what other evidence do you have of Clarkson’s racism?
    There is masses of evidence of his preposterous politics and adolescent recidivism. But this is no smoking gun. And trying to turn it into one juumps the gun and botches a chance to really catch him. Pinning your hopes on this is just embarassing to the cause. And the moral lecture is noted, but not required.
    Clarkson is undoubtedly a ridiculous reactionary with the politics of Atilla the Hun. Unfortunately, possibly because of his alienation, he is able to use words more freely than most. And when he does this on the one subject he knows about, he is a breath of fresh air. His general appeal is not his abominable politics, but his enthusiasm, and the half-deranged permanent adolescent attitude which underlies it, one which most adults are unable to live for themselves. Plus of course the essentially pornographic nature of the fantasies on offer.
    A bit like the appeal of Jonathan Swift, who was an even bigger misanthrope than Clarkson, but who is routinely admired by his political opponents for his freedom of language and thought.
    If we all made sure we avoided all taboos, we would all end up thinking the same. If Clarkson is to be the fallguy for a generation of racism, great. It will amuise a few people for a weekend. But it will not cure the problem. In fact, this approach merely obscures and trivialises the real reasons for racism, which are nothing to do with the semi-Tourettic outbursts of TV presenters.
    A genuinely progressive, tolerant mind would seek to expose the genuine link between Clarkson’s explicit politics and the existence of racism, especially his economic dogma. Trying to pillory him on this evidence is degrading. And a huge distraction from the wider problems. Issues, not personalities, please, as Michael Foot and Tony Benn used to preach.

  7. Oh please! with all that’s going on in the world this is news? Very different when rappers rap using the ‘N’ word isn’t it. It is just the PC brigade over reacting as usual. My grandparents fought for free speech, stop being so sensitive. Oh and my dad named his dog Tyson does that make him racist? probably does to the PC brigade!

    1. Nah, Mad. I’m guessing that his implicit belief that the opinions of people who look, sound and think like him should be presumed to be more important than those of anyone else is what makes him racist.

      Just like it does Jeremy Clarkson, for that matter.

      1. “his implicit belief that the opinions of people who look, sound and think like him should be presumed to be more important than those of anyone else ”
        Where is this ‘implicit’?
        Quote some text which demonstrates this particular ultra-chauvinism.
        And then demonstrate why it is any different from your simple conviction that you are right.
        Everyone thinks their politics is ‘correct’ – unless they’re quite mad.

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