Thursday, 19 March 2015

A Long Hastily Written Defence of Jeremy Clarkson

So many things I could write about this morning, including this gloriously beautiful spring morning. The only downside to spring is that it's a sure sign that summer is looming and I despise summer with a passion. However, I'm trying to remain upbeat. It's sunny and cold: my favourite combination.

I could also write about the lamentable services provided by foreign web hosts. Without getting into too much detail, I've been moving a website for people I do occasional work for. The site is going to be hosted on a new server and the operation takes about three days. I had the nameservers changed last night, which is a bit like asking the Post Office to stop delivering mail to your old house and to forward it to your new house. In computer terms, it means asking the 'internet' to stop sending traffic to your old computer and send it to you new machine. Like moving house, just because traffic is going to a different destination, it doesn't mean that your old house no longer exists. Except, in this instance, it does. Some birdbrain at the old web hosting company decided that changing the name servers meant deleting everything from the old server, which amounts to a previously undocumented form of madness. During the migration process, parts of the world can still have the old address, meaning that emails are getting delivered to the old place. Normally, after the migration is finished, you pop over to the old server, collect any outstanding files, and upload them to the new place. This time, I can't. It also means a headache for me and my not looking forward to this gloriously sunny spring day. Say what you like about working in a global market but cheap does not always mean good. My experience of working with companies in some countries is that it would be easier just to put your valuable company data in a large bucket, pour paraffin over it and dance wildly around it waving a match.

Sigh. And now Word just crashed but thankful came back with this document still intact. I think it's going to be one of those days.

Speaking of World Stupidity, I've not spoken about Jeremy Clarkson but, really, I wish the whole ridiculous story would end. I've heard two suggestions in the past two days which make me go grey. The first is that the BBC are planning to offer the 'Top Gear' job to Stephen Fry. It's the kind of news you hear and there's no deep breath deep enough to allow you the oxygen needed to explain why it's such a bad idea.

Clarkson is a prat but anybody with eyes can see that he's deliberately a prat. About 80% of his shtick is just that. Watch the earliest episodes of 'Top Gear' and I think you'd be astonished at how he's changed. I know I was, having just watched the very first episode again. His voice is different(he was so damn posh), his manner is different. What you realise is that he has carefully crafted the character of the big prat who believes in certain things which might or might not be completely wrong. Clarkson is, effectively, 'Top Gear'. His humour is also mannered and very well honed. You know what Jeremy Clarkson will say. He uses the same comic tropes over and over until, frankly, you want to take them behind the shed and shoot them in the head with a Glock automatic. And, yes, that was a typical Clarkson trope. It's called hyperbole and hyperbole can be a lot of fun. In fact so much fun that if you do it too much, your head will explode.

It also doesn't bother me that he speaks to a large portion of the country who, frankly, aren't in tune with current BBC policy. I admit, I'm not in tune with current BBC policy. I also quite like 'Top Gear', though I occasionally go through periods when I don't watch it. Steve Coogan was correct when he criticised 'Top Gear' for their Mexican adventure. There they went too far and it was around that time that I stopped watching. However, I've drifted back and I've found the show has been much improved. Sometimes they still do go too far but, damn it, there should always been room for people to go a little too far. It's the nature of comedy. Similarly, the BBC take their license fee from the entire nation. Not just from those people who enjoy 'Strictly Come Dancing' and the 'Graham Norton Show'. I happen to dislike with a deep intensity both 'Strictly Come Dancing' and the 'Graham Norton Show'. Yet I also enjoy 'QI' but find my Stephen Fry tank is rarely far from brimming over. I really don't want any more of him. I definitely don't want him anywhere near 'Top Gear', which people seem to forget, brings more into the BBC than the BBC spend paying Clarkson all that so-called 'licence payer's money'. Also, even if he was costing the taxpayer, I'd rather pay Clarkson than about 100 other chancers I could point at on the BBC books... Cough. Winklewoman.

This is turning into an unstructured ramble but forgive me. I have time to write quickly. Haven't time to write anything shorter.

The other dumb suggestion (though it's not so dumb as it is essentially redundant) is to give the job to Alan Partridge.

On the face of it, it's not a bad idea. Except we'd be changing one largely fictional 'character' with another. The only difference is that every offensive thing that Partridge does is done with a sense of postmodern irony. I'd argue that the same is true of Clarkson but I suspect not everybody thinks it's an act. Yet that's the joy of 'Top Gear'. You never know how much of it is real or staged. One of their best episode was when they drove a hover van through Stratford Upon Avon. They seemed to upset people drinking on the banks of the river (the van threw spray everywhere) but it was impossible to tell if people's response was real or staged. What's more, it really doesn't matter. The bloody thing was fun and funny. If you don't like it, it's easy to turn off.

I think the main problem is that Clarkson is too successful (and good) at what he does. Too many people seem to think he's the character he plays. I don't believe he is. Take, for example, the way he writes for the Sunday Times and the way he writes for The Sun. You wouldn't think they're the same man. Yet even if he is that same man and he is, in the words of James May, 'a knob', then I really don't care. Also in the words of May: 'I quite like him'. That's about the most sensible thing that's been said about this whole stupid debacle.

Clearly, somebody at the BBC wants him out for political reason and, I'd surmise, Clarkson is bringing this long simmering argument to a deliberate boil. Well, sod it. I've written enough times about the right of people to enjoy the things that make them happy. If you enjoy watching three white middle age prats fool around with engines on a Sunday night, then that's also fine by me and most weeks I'll join you. Just don't force the 'Top Gear' three over to Sky where they will become year another fragment of our nation reduced to a pay-per-view basis. Not everybody who watches Top Gear is a UKipper but the very fact that many in the media suggest otherwise is precisely why UKip exists in the first place. Keeping Clarkson would show that we're actually comfortable with our sense of nationhood. Getting rid of him would, I think, show how bad things might have become.


  1. The problem with Clarkson is that it's very difficult to separate the things that are meant in a tongue in cheek way and what he actually believes.
    I don't care for his programmes and I don't find him amusing but his humorous boorishness doesn't really bother me, I just don't watch him.
    The latest incident is rather different though, it was allegedly an assault of a fellow worker at the BBC. If he did assault the guy then the BBC have to do something otherwise they leave themselves open to legal action.

  2. Clarkson is an oaf but there's some weird thing about him that I like. I suspect it's because he reminds me of one of my earliest friends in life: in looks, manner, and clowning he's a bit of a ringer. Perhaps that makes me susceptible to his lack of charm. Hammond annoys me more. I genuinely like May.

    I know what you mean about having to investigate but I come from a generation where that kind of thing just didn't happen. I think the part that worries about this is that the BBC really do seem to have become a place where male values aren't really accepted. I don't like the feminisation of masculinity: the pretty boy presenters who are on all documentaries. I like old fogies with character and rough edges. It's like the BBC's budget day coverage. They had the basic Daily Politics set up, kept Jo Coburn, and replaced Andrew Neil with the less-impressive (but more photogenic) Hugh Edwards. It seems wrong and getting rid of Clarkson is more than simply getting rid of a clod. It's getting rid of (what appears to me) a type of normality. Hmm... Not sure I'm explaining that well enough.