I’m heartsick, today, folks – and not because Zayn Malik has left One Direction (I’ve been there – sobbed buckets in 1985 when the BBC failed to film the third series of The Tripods. I have the diary to prove it).
No. I’m sad, and baffled, because there are people I know and respect who seem to think that Jeremy Clarkson being dropped by the BBC is a bad thing. Normally I’m pretty good at seeing other people’s point of view, I think it’s important to see both sides in an argument for the sake of balance, to learn from mistakes and to understand others better.
But in this particular case, I’m frankly bewildered. He presents a TV show about cars. Personally I’ve always found that he reminds me of playground bullies (both in terms of the arrogance and, quite possibly, in the underlying poor self esteem that just occasionally you catch a glimpse of) and yet I can see that the show is at times funny, informative and enjoyable.
I may not agree with what you watch, but I will defend to the death (not really) your right to watch it.
He’s made mistakes before, has Jeremy – with various examples of loutish, provocative behaviour, which may or may not have been staged for publicity purposes, and that is one thing…
…but physically and verbally assaulting a colleague to the extent that they have to go to hospital?
I’ve been wondering all day how anyone can think this is acceptable.
Because by signing a ‘bring back Clarkson’ petition, or bemoaning his departure to Sky or ITV or wherever, or being so abusive on social media to the poor guy who ended up with a split lip thanks to Jeremy’s fists that he has to go into hiding, that’s what you’re saying. That it’s okay to hit someone.
And what caused this ‘fracas’, as Clarkson described it?
….Clarkson was upset because there was no catering on set, or something.
Let’s put all this in another context. How many people get free food at work? How many people would actually punch someone if, for once, free food wasn’t available at work? How many people would blithely expect to get away with punching someone at work? How many people would get a million signatures asking for their reinstatement after they’d been suspended for punching someone at work? It’s unreal.
I’ll let that sink in while I change the subject for a moment.
Last weekend I was in Manchester as part of the SICK! Festival, sharing a stage with four intelligent, witty and positive people for the purposes of discussing why books about trauma and suffering are so popular. As one of the fabulous people was Dan Davies, the subject of Jimmy Savile inevitably came up. We discussed at some length how it was possible that so many people knew or suspected that something was not right, and yet he managed to continue to abuse vulnerable people for decades, until his death. Part of the answer to that question lies in the personality of the man himself – the way he was able to hide ‘in plain sight’ – but some of the blame has inevitably been directed at Savile’s employers, including the BBC.
It was Jimmy Savile. He was famous. Who was going to believe he was capable of any wrong? Who was going to risk trying to expose someone so popular?
Now back to Jeremy Clarkson.
I’m not for one minute comparing him to Savile, or suggesting that he is anything other than that he has proven himself to be – a man who assaults someone in the workplace because he can’t get a free meal – but what I would like to draw your attention to is the reaction to his departure.
Why is his behaviour acceptable? Why should he be given a second (third, fourth, fifteenth) chance?
Because he’s famous. Because some of us like watching his TV programme.
And whilst people like him can get away with violence just because they happen to be on the telly, we continue to send out a significant message to all those who are in positions of power and fame. It’s different for you. You can do what you like. You can abuse anyone, if they get in your way, or they don’t do things you want them to do.
So no, don’t bring back Clarkson. Gather evidence, charge him with assault, wipe the smug grin off his face and let everyone know that violence isn’t acceptable, no matter who you are.
End of rant.
(If the BBC would like suggestions about possible programming options to replace Top Gear, may I humbly suggest they consider filming the third series of The Tripods?)