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The meaning of Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy ClarksonJeremy Clarkson has been suspended by the BBC for an alleged “fracas” with a producer for Top Gear. Innocent until proven otherwise and all that, but it does come after years of nudge, nudge, wink, wink racism and associated vicious stupidity. Needless to say, I don’t particularly like him and avoid his shows like the plague. Yet Top Gear and his contrived alpha male personage is popular and millions tune in every week for fast cars and funny haha cheeky banter. Far be it for me to stop them.

Yet in the celebrity firmament Clarkson occupies something of a unique position. There aren’t many out-and-out right wing celebs knocking about in a culture where a paper-thin veneer of leftyism is usually de rigeur. And he also trades on this too. He says what he thinks, won’t be cowed by the PC brigade, and is not afraid to acknowledge that he shares the dodgy bigoted views of some of his fans. He’s the carefully constructed maverick, the outsider whose huge BBC salary, media appearances, and member of the Chipping Norton set who’s anything but. Reminds you of any other faux anti-establishment media personality?

In fact, the parallels with Nigel Farage are quite striking. Then again, one right wing demagogue is interchangeable with another. It’s all about saying the unsayable, of cocking a snook to a largely imaginary lefty establishment, of rubbishing climate change because we sometimes still get snow, etc. etc. But what Clarkson shares above all with Farage is less a man-of-the-people thing – the media commentators keep getting that one wrong – but as someone primarily middle aged men can relate to.

As most working class blokes during their lives have come across a gaffer who showed his workers a grudging respect and gave it to them straight, as per NF, Clarkson has been middle aged since Top Gear first broadcast in the late 80s. He’s not so much what they call these days ‘a lad’ and more a down-at-heel playboy. You know the sort. Could never be bothered to get married. Always seemed to have a new sporty motor. Owned his own home. Boast about his womanising down the pub. Clarkson isn’t any of these things, of course. He’s a happily married got-lucky journo, but the hair (as was), the jeans (oh my life, the jeans), and the swagger evoke a personality millions of people can place in their social circle.

His politics too have a certain coherence about them. In the mid-80s, Mike Dreher, another terribly tedious but oh-so-anti-establishment hard right populist founded the Motorist Party of Switzerland. This before climate change was widely accepted by scientists and politicians, Dreher campaigned against conservation measures and denounced claims about acid rain. Like the kippers today, the acceptance of scientific evidence was not his strong suit.

The Motorist Party also wanted speed limits raised on the country’s roads, especially on motorways so they could let rip. It was so-called libertarianism before the internet made libertarianism a thing. You can see how car ownership is a handy condenser (and propagator) of this kind of politics. Cars give drivers freedom to roam. The road is their domain to push the motor to its limits, of being free from all authority in one’s enclosed four-wheel personal space. Bikes, pedestrians, buses, they all get in the way and should be kept off the roads. Nothing should interfere with the right to drive.

This ideology of the road also underpins (traditionally American) lifestyles, and is not-so-subtly promoted by Top Gear itself. Clarkson could be Dreher too – he doesn’t like cyclists, thinks the state is too nannying, and rejects climate change because it threatens his inalienable right to tear arse around the world in growling, gas-guzzling, CO2 emitting monsters. He is a living, breathing middle finger to anyone who wants to make the world a half-decent place to live in, and instantiation of all that is petty, small-minded, and selfish. Unfortunately, a not inconsiderable minority of voters habitually relate to this stuff.

That is why Clarkson is so potent. He bridges the gap between political mindset and social circle familiarity. When you think about it, Clarkson is perhaps the ideal celebrity replacement for Farage should the great leader come unstuck in South Thanet. What an awful thought. If that’s the case, Save Clarkson!

10 Comments

  1. David Ellis says:

    Zizek says somewhere about all the far right ethnic cleansers he met during the Yugoslav wars and how all they ever talked about was freedom. They wanted absolute freedom to do whatever they wanted. The freedom to be anti-social. Which of course echos the desire of capitalism to have absolutely no constraints whatsoever placed upon it.

  2. Robert says:

    I do not care I watched the show then gave up my two grandson have now taken over . He is a presenter an entertainer who thinks he is something more . Hell you could point to a whole house of politicians who do the same for god sake.

    This is the world we live in people who have never worked a day in their lives doing a job end up running countries.

  3. John.P reid says:

    He’s the last of a generation, who can remember, Bernard manning be Co. On the atav, before the 1980’s comedians oust them, the fact that Richard little john and co. Came out to back him when he said a racist word,as some kind of expert view in his defence, said it all,
    We in labour should use the fact that this racist,is a key supporters of theirs

  4. John.P reid says:

    Posted to soon, to reveal what the tories stand for

  5. Henry says:

    You scoff at libertarians for being a product of the internet; but your hatred for the notion of free-speech, and your enthusiasm towards nannying people over every little thing in case their cars disturb the endangered bunny rabbits, is the reason that the left-wing in general spends such a huge amount of time fighting amongst their own ranks. I would much rather listen to Clarkson spout his useless opinions than sit through some lengthy whinge from a self-loathing male who’s easily offended on everybody else’s behalf.

    The world you want your kids to live in is one where they’re blacklisted from their profession for a racially insensitive comment they made over twitter. That’s the world you want. Where any question of agency is decided for them – for their own good, by the state. There would be no point in living within a world like that.

    Certainly, Mr. Clarkson’s demagoguery and arm-flailing is hardly as annoying as a left-winger who is unironically an advocate for authoritarianism.

    1. James Martin says:

      I realise I may be falling for a heavy dose of irony here, but just in case you actually believe any of that Henry, perhaps you can answer this:

      If it is the case, as various newspapers report, that Clarkson threatened to get an employee sacked, called him a “lazy Irish c**t” and then after 30 minutes of shouting in his face punched him so hard that the victim needed hospital treatment and stitches, why shouldn’t he be facing a gross misconduct dismissal as any other worker in this country would be (even for an incident out of work)? Indeed, why is he not being investigated for possible assault (and, given the apparently racist nature of it, the far more serious aggravated assault)? Because he is a ‘celebrity’, or perhaps because he pretends to be a bit of a lad (rather than the posh public schoolboy wanker he really is)?

      Of course the more serious question is why hundreds of thousands of other wankers sign petitions supporting him before the facts are known, or without seeming to care that an apparent nasty assault has taken place by their hero. Welcome to the land of stupid, as imagined in a Nigel Farage dream after far too much cheese the night before…

  6. Chris says:

    Your attitude to Clarkson is a good indicator of what kind of leftwinger you are. If you think he’s just a TV presenter with no real political significance, you’re a real socialist. If you think he’s a menace to society, you’re a bourgeois liberal.

    1. Robert says:

      My grandsons like him they says he cool knows his stuff and make them laugh.

      And that is what they pay him so much for and to be honest unless he has killed somebody he will be back on sooner rather then later.

      Is he racist no more or less them many people I have seen like him well off middle class types, who think England is the end all of life.

      I do not know what all the fuss is about.

      1. Henry says:

        The BBC is a huge corporation which has a special connection to the British public (after all, it’s financed by them) and a situation like this raises questions about the BBC’s operating procedures in general. In my opinion, the BBC wants to be a self-appointed moral guardian. It has no authority for it or a clean track record by any means, but because it’s financed by the public, they want to maintain this idea that they’re the producers of wholesome shows that don’t offend anyone.

        But the BBC are also under pressure to run a business, and to produce television that’s creative and funny. This is the latest major “thing” that’s called into question the viability of the BBC as an institution, and so you can bet that it’ll receive it’s five minutes of attention.

        I dislike the BBC. I think that it’s standards towards journalism have slipped over the years to the point that it’s now beyond the pale. I think that state owned news is archaic and that I don’t want to fund it.

        But the other reason I care about this, and the reason I’m throwing my toys out of the pram and trying to hit Phil with them, is because Left Futures has a habit of producing good quality journalism. A habit of sourcing their claims, of not being afraid to question the left, even though they’re left-wing themselves. And I’m glad for stuff like that.

        But what we’ve got here is an opinion piece oozing the same rhetoric that I see from the left all day every day: “Please censor (x), not because he is a violent man but because his opinions are wrong”.

        The majority of the Labour party scoffs at the notion of being a civil libertarian, of granting ordinary people (even those you disagree with) a list of inalienable rights… and Phil here has nothing at all to add on that.

        1. Robert says:

          Clarkson is a clot we all know it, he is also an entertainer but it’s him that made the program a money spinner for the BBC.

          I really do not give a toss whether he goes stays or ends up on Channel four/five with the other two doing the same thing.

          To be honest they are over paid and in fact doing what most children or teenagers dream about driving big powerful cars fast.

          I really have little or no interest if he stays goes or is given a knight hood with Tony Blair taking him on as an ambassador for his Charity.

          The BBC I think the Tories have it right, you should have the choice to opt out or opt in pay to view is now easy and I can save what is it £145 a year to spend on something else.

          But with all the issues in this country the BBC and Clarkson comes do3wn near the gutter next to Blair.

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