Should we Cancel Clarkson?

Is Jeremy Clarkson a racist, misogynist, bigoted old white man who’s had his day?

The biggest automotive celebrity… in the world… is back in the headlines again, and the cause of furiously erupting controversy after he made some astonishingly vile comments about Meghan Markle in a Sun newspaper column. 

Basically, he said something along the lines of him lying awake at night, grinding his teeth and waiting for the day Prince Harry’s wife is paraded naked through the streets of Britain’s towns, with people throwing shit at her. This inevitably has created a… well, shit storm. 

He’s broken records, yet again, this time for the most number of complaints ever about a published article – I believe the number is 17,000 and rising as of writing. The column has been withdrawn and Clarkson Tweeted an apology which wasn’t one really. It was a case of: “oh damn, did I actually write that out loud? Probably shouldn’t have done that.” 

Hardly contrite. And you should know not to expect any remorse from a guy who happily walked away from a global empire he pretty much built at Top Gear, just for physically smacking an employee in the face. Or the pathetic excuse he made for using the N-word when caught on tape reciting ‘eeny meeny miny moe’ – oh yeah, did you forget about that one?

I have to confess though, personally speaking, Clarkson was one of my early inspirations. Well before he was on Top Gear, I used to religiously read his column in the back of Performance Car magazine. It was brilliant! 

His word-wizardry and mastery of phrase would often leave me breathless or in stitches. The ability to go off on a complete tangent but still hold your attention, was staggering.

To then be able to translate that creativity, innovation and pseudo-relatability to the medium of television at Top Gear, injecting fun, attitude and yes, controversy, into what was a dour and straight-faced ‘factual’ news-information television programme at the time, was simply sensational and ground-breaking. 

Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of nostalgia and respect for the days of William Wollard and Co, but they were of a different time. 

Clarkson turned a niche special-interest BBC2 programme about cars into a multi award-winning mainstream entertainment show. In fact, it became the biggest car show on the planet. Much emulated but never bettered. 

By all accounts his relentless work ethic, single-minded focus and obsession for perfection is legendary, and the results speak for themselves. 

So I am a fan… was a fan. Okay… maybe still am a fan… But did I ever get to meet him or hang out with him?

No. And I wouldn’t want to. 

As it happens, I found myself in the orbit of his presence on several occasions over the years and even took the picture you see on this page. But you know when you see a ‘celeb’ and maybe even catch their eye; you can usually tell if they’d be amenable to you saying hello, shaking their hand and perhaps even grabbing a selfie. 

And you can tell when they’re not. Clarkson always seemed to me to be in the second category. That phrase about never meeting your heroes would apply for sure. 

Let’s tackle the key questions that have been raised by his comments on Meghan. Is he a racist? I don’t know of course, but I’d guess not. Not in the determinedly vindictive and oppressive way that most people mean when they say ‘racist’. 

Undoubtedly there’s creeping unconscious bias at play here, but I don’t believe he’s deliberately discriminatory, despite a litany of written and recorded evidence that certainly exists – don’t forget he likes to light the touchpaper, and other times he plays to the stalls – the cheap stalls. 

Is he misogynist? Based on the specificity of the comments about Meghan, you could say yes. The imaginary stripping of the subject of his vitriol, not just of her clothes, but her dignity and standing, along with the public humiliation, entirely demeaning not just what she stands for, but her existence as a woman, would appear to confirm so. 

Again, I would really like to believe not. But it’s getting harder to bat away these accusations in light of the overwhelming evidence. 

How about bigoted? Yes, okay, sure. Actually of course he is, pretty much by his own admission from his actions and words throughout his career. Bigoted in the sense that he is secure and confident in the brilliance of he himself and steadfastly antagonistic and dismissive of anyone who is, well, not him. 

However, this is often an inherent trait of the very top performers in the world. Arrogant self-conviction is something of a requirement in bolstering that unwavering self-belief required to rise above all others and be the best in the chosen field of endeavour. 

I hate to say this, because it’s not my nature, but perhaps you need to be a bastard to be the best, to reach the heights, to grab the accolades and to beat the clamouring hordes off. 

Jeremy Clarkson is unfortunately then, the product of his own design. Oh the other hand he has long-since peaked. His previously finely targeted judgement in appealing to his core audience has faltered. 

And, like the William Wollards he once rendered obsolete, he has let time outpace him and now he himself, has been left behind. Arguably, Clarkson is now irrelevant and outdated. 

I like to remember the best in people, and not let the worse overshadow their achievements. 

To the question – should we cancel him? I would say no. He revolutionised automotive media, he and his team created some of the most memorable motoring moments in TV history. He has entertained, informed and amazed us more than often. 

He deserves credit for all of that. And I will continue to be an admirer of all of that. 

Nonetheless, it’s probably time now that he go quietly into the night. 

Clarkson, mate, you’ve had a great run, don’t tarnish your brilliant record with your facetiousness. Leave us with the good stuff, and hopefully the bad stuff might just fade from memory, for most although not all of us. Open intolerance hurts, and sometimes leaves a permanent scar. Don’t compound things. 

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-64029690


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