Yet another hoo-ha over Jeremy Clarkson and his bad behaviour. As usual, the right wing coalition unite to defend him. “Top gear is nothing without him…..It’s political correctness gone mad!”, while the left loudly remind us that Jeremy Clarkson has a long history of being racist, sexist and xenophobic. Cue the petition online to reinstate Jeremy Clarkson which has managed to garner 180,000 signatures to date.
It’s quite obvious that Jeremy Clarkson is racist. It’s quite obvious that he is sexist. The only reason why there could be any debate over whether he is or isn’t is because the type of racism and sexism he espouses is so par for the course in this country that to call Jeremy Clarkson a racist is to call a significant proportion of this country racist.
It’s also quite obvious to me that a large part of the reason why Jeremy Clarkson is popular is because he gives air to the type of bigotry that people are scared is becoming less publicly acceptable. The ‘little’ jokes that ‘don’t hurt anybody’. The casual sexism. The slurs of yesteryear that are now ‘banned’ in mass media. They all mumble in disgruntlement as yet another celebrity has to make a faux apology about a comment they made at an award ceremony or a bad joke captured secretly on video. Everyone is oversensitive and thin skinned and bending over backwards for immigrants. Those guilt ridden left wingers ruining Britain – why can’t we go back to the good old days?
Jeremy Clarkson embodies the beer guzzling, don’t give a monkeys about climate change or Islamophobia type of chap. The sort of chap who everyone wants to share their Carlsberg with at the local pub. He strikes fondness in the hearts of both middle England and the ordinary working lad, (and some women too), precisely because of his bigotry.
Which is why Jeremy Clarkson isn’t really the problem. Sure, I want him to lose his job as much as the next do-gooder – mainly because I think it’s important that the BBC as an institution that professes to serve the whole population does that. Ethnic minorities and women pay the TV license too and deserve to not to be insulted while they watch.
The real problem is that clearly Clarkson represents a large sector of the general public who view him, and his views favourably. In fact, I’m not even sure that that’s problematic – it’s to be expected. What I find worrying, and what is so dangerous about covert racism and sexism, IS the covertness. These are people who are our bosses, colleagues, ‘friends’ and dare I say, family. At least Jeremy Clarkson doesn’t hide it.