Friday 22 November 2019

Has the man we hate to love punched above his weight?

Top Gear Team
Top Gear Team
Top Gear team
Top Gear
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

So, having managed to offend virtually every country, every race and every lobby group you can imagine, it now looks as if Jeremy Clarkson has finally gone over the line.

The reports that the 'Top Gear' presenter apparently punched his Irish-born producer, Oisin Tymon (36), because no dinner had been laid on for him after a day of filming has come at a difficult time for Clarkson, who has already been told he is on a final warning from his increasingly exasperated BBC bosses.

Controversy follows the presenter like a murky cloud of noxious exhaust fumes and while there is more to him than just being an extravagantly remunerated version of Katie Hopkins, even his most vociferous supporters will find it hard to defend their hero punching a workmate.

After all, many people may have wanted to smack a colleague at some stage but they don't act on the impulse and stating that violence in the workplace is a sackable offence is hardly a case of political correctness gone mad. It's basic decency.

In many ways, the most interesting thing about Clarkson is not actually the man himself, but what he represents and the reactions he elicits from the kind of socially inadequate bed-wetters who think a Twitter campaign is a valid form of social activism.

Indeed, as a loud critic of social media petitions, he will be forgiven for allowing himself a wry smile because, at the time of writing, 400,000 people have endorsed a #BringBackClarkson campaign.

While it's fashionable to sneer at him and his mischievous remarks, he is, in many ways, the broadcast equivalent of Ukip - avowedly unapologetic and driven by an urge to buck against the prevailing cultural winds of idiocy which see every public figure - and that now means anyone who is even on Twitter - talk as if they have a libel lawyer and race relations expert living inside their head, parsing their words before they're even uttered.

That's why he remains a truly important figure. Because as much as his critics may despise him, he represents a large, and largely silent, constituency which is weary of constantly having to check their thoughts in case they offend someone.

And what a talent for causing offence he has.

Whether it's infuriating the Mexican ambassador, the entire nation of Argentina or those public sector workers who took umbrage when he politely suggested they should be shot in front of their families, he revels in ruffling feathers through that old medium of . . . jokes.

Of course, only the most delicate soul could honestly think that Clarkson genuinely wanted to see striking teachers publicly executed.

But jokes are combustible material these days, as society loses its sense of humour and ability to laugh at anything that hasn't been approved by those self-appointed commissars of the Thought Police who pick over every utterance and wisecrack to ensure nobody, anywhere, could possibly be upset.

As one might have expected, the reaction to this latest SNAFU has been one of unbridled delight. 'The Guardian', inevitably, came up with the ultimate response yesterday when it suggested a complete revamp of 'Top Gear' which would see it become 'an eco-feminist' show: "Feminism is relevant because only a macho culture would have allowed a bunch of idiots to elide heedless fossil fuel use with mindless racial slurs and scientific illiteracy."

If Clarkson himself had come up with a parody of his critics, he would have struggled to match that level of wilful stupidity.

But that partly explains his appeal.

It's not so much that people are avid fans of the man (I've no interest in cars and have never watched a full episode of 'Top Gear'), it's more down to the fact that they despise his prissy detractors so much.

But once you punch someone, unless it's Piers Morgan, you have to go.

Meanwhile, as rumours of his imminent departure from the BBC grow in conviction, it looks increasingly likely that he will decamp to Sky, who have been busy tempting him with lucrative offers.

A nice sacking if you can get it...

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss