Look, I dislike Jeremy Clarkson as much as the next person. He’s an embarrassment to Yorkshire. He says horrible things, Top Gear is shit, and he’s just a crap old man in bad jeans who shouldn’t have a media platform. If he was muttering “eenie meenie minie moe, catch a nigger* by the toe,” then the BBC should sack him. But he didn’t call for striking public sector workers to be shot in front of their families.
I was a striking public sector worker that day. I got up at the crack of dawn, picketed my workplace, attended a radio debate, stewarded the Edinburgh march and went to the rally. I was as invested in, and supportive of, the strike and the campaign as any other public sector worker. And I came home, and I watched The One Show.
The One Show, that evening, had a fairly lengthy report about the strike and the reasons for it. If I remember correctly, they had vox pops with quite a few of the striking workers. Then they went back to the studio, and they let Clarkson talk. He had nothing sensible to say about the strike, but a) it’s The One Show – when do they ever say anything sensible? and b) it’s Clarkson. He might be a man who thinks and feels things very deeply, but his public persona doesn’t give that impression, unless you count his attention to motorised metal and glass boxes. So he muttered for a minute about how the strike was great because London was quieter and it was easier to drive about, which is not a comment on the rights or wrongs of the strike, or on the rights or wrongs of the government’s attacks on public sector workers. It’s just Clarkson doing his shtick of trivialising important events to promote his image as a petrol-headed fuckwit. And then he said “but this is the BBC so we have to have some balance” and then he went on to say that striking workers should be executed in front of their families.
Anyone who believes for a second that he was serious or that he meant it is, somehow, too stupid to watch The One Show without a carer to explain it to them. His remarks, hilarious as they weren’t, were “the balance,” the extreme opposing view to his previous “support” of the strike on the grounds it was easier to hoon it around London that day. His tone of voice was sarcastic (is it still sarcasm if it’s 90% of what you say?), it was hyperbole, and it was clearly not meant to be taken seriously. It was in bad taste, particularly when you consider that in some countries trade unionists are murdered for their activities, but Clarkson is bad taste.
If you’re going to get angry at Clarkson, get angry because he was reported as saying that the people working on the Hyundai stand at the Birmingham motor show had “eaten a dog” and that the designer of the Hyundai XG had probably eaten a spaniel for his lunch. Get angry at Clarkson because during an episode of Top Gear, he made a mock Nazi salute, and made references to the Hitler regime and the German invasion of Poland by setting the GPS system of the car he was looking at to Poland. Get angry at him for calling Gordon Brown a one-eyed Scottish idiot and a silly cunt. Get angry because he suggested the Welsh language should be abolished, or because of his remarks about how to deal with people who commit suicide by jumping in front of trains, or because of his mockery of India and Indian people, or because of his attitude to the Health and Safety laws which protect many people in the course of their jobs, or because of his attitude to climate change, or because he drove a car into a tree to see what would happen to the car, or because he punched Piers Morgan. No, wait, not that last one.
If you don’t like how Clarkson attempted to mock the BBC’s need for balance by going for the most extreme criticism of striking workers his brain could think of, fine. I didn’t like it either. But please stop perpetuating the myth that he called for the execution of workers. He didn’t, it’s obvious he didn’t, and when people say he did, it makes it all too easy for him to claim that all the really horrible stuff he says is being taken out of context too.
*I would not say the word, but I see no point in not typing it. Writing it as n*gger or n***** or “the n-word” doesn’t stop people knowing what the word is, doesn’t protect anyone from anything, doesn’t mean the word wasn’t used. The way to stop the hurt and anger caused by the use of the word is to not use it, rather than to blank some of the letters out.