On 25 March, the BBC announced that it would not be renewing Jeremy Clarkson’s contract
We don’t know – yet – whether Jeremy Clarkson lamped his producer. He’s been suspended by the BBC and the last two episodes in the current run of Top Gear dropped while the BBC investigates the allegation (Clarkson denies any violence). We do know there is evidence that the BBC has a bullying problem, thanks to the Respect at Work report, commissioned in response to the revelations of endemic child abuse by Jimmy Savile and other BBC stars. Published in May 2013, this found evidence of bullying and inappropriate behaviour at the corporation, while staff revealed a troubling fearfulness of raising complaints – especially against the biggest names. “Some individuals are seen as being ‘untouchable’ due to their perceived value to the BBC”, said the report.
No one is more likely to have been protected by this culture than Clarkson, the hulkingly recognisable, braying everyman face of a show that’s broadcast in 214 territories worldwide, to an audience of 350 million. Perversely, the reputation of the BBC as a haven of nervous lefty rectitude has also probably given Clarkson some cover, as over the years he’s crashed from crude chauvinism to crass faux-fascism to just muttering racist slurs. All this has been more or less indulged with an eyeroll and a shrug as evidence of his “Jereminess”, as if coyly invoking bigotry and then shrugging it off with a shit-eating grin were a public service in its own right. “He’s anti-establishment, isn’t he?” piped up one of my acquaintances, which he might be, if writing a column for the Sun, wearing blazers and being pally with the Prime Minister were all part of his deep cover for an anarchist insurrection now sadly stymied by the Beeb.
We also know that a lot of people don’t care whether he lamped his producer, because 350,000 and some (at the time of writing; it will be more, much more, by the end of the day) have signed a Change.org petition demanding his reinstatement. And this is not because they hold a dear attachment to due process, and misguidedly think that any action should only follow the investigation. It’s because they like the fact that Jeremy Clarkson is the kind of celebrity they can imagine punching a much less powerful colleague. “Freedom to fracas,” demands the letter attached to the petition, written by the ever-enlightening Guido Fawkes operation, which never knowingly misses the opportunity to wave its putrid arse in the face of public life and guff out some incoherent right-wingery.
Here’s “Nick”, declaring his reason for signing: “This is just left wing BBC censoring the only right wing comedy left.” If anyone knows Nick, I would be highly interested to hear exactly how much laughter he emits in the event of a sock to the jaw from his manager. Then there’s Daniel, clearly in the grip of a terrible confusion between “saying things” and “hitting people”: “We are sick of paying our license fee to be spoon fed your political [sic] correct left wing crap. Let people speak their mind and exercise their right to offend.” However, I accept Daniel’s statement as a representation of his own views, and am sure he’d welcome the opportunity for someone else’s knuckles to enter into an open dialogue with his cheekbone.
Donnchadh has been mysteriously misled into believing that the BBC is a representative democracy, complaining that “its still our democratic right or does BBC refuse us that and just take our money”. No, Donnchadh. Just because you get to vote for your favourite glittered-up newsreader during Strictly season does not mean that you get to vote for everyone who appears on your telly ever. You dolt. Meanwhile, John is furious: “Its shocking the way the bbc has handled this! its supposed to be an entertainment show!! BRING BACK CLARKSON!!” Anyone who knows John: if he offers to “entertain you”, SAY NO IF YOU VALUE YOUR UNBROKEN BONES.
I don’t wish to sound extremist, but I have no doubt that if every signatory to this petition were boiled down for biofuel, the world would be a cleaner, smarter place. Not that much smarter though: they are idiots in a world of idiocy, the kind of world nurtured by the BBC’s inane terror of exposing audiences to anything too clever for too long, where political journalism is the domain of the beefy pugilist who can bark loudest, and where anything with the terrifying scent of being a bit intellectual is forced to go and sit on BBC Four and think about why nobody likes it. We live in a world of stupid, and Clarkson is its king.