I don’t like cars. Let’s get that out straight off the bat.
Oh, I recognise their worth for getting individuals from A to B. I don’t have a Green antipathy towards them. Just, I don’t like them, in that barely developed teenage boy way that so many men do. You won’t catch me having a long discussion about the merits of a particular model. I don’t buy Practical Car Masturbation Monthly, or whatever any of the specialist titles are called.
I’m also, as may be probably guessed from my political views, not really a sharer of the world-view of Mr Clarkson.
Which leads me to only make two observations regarding the latest racism row that recently erupted around the fellow.
Observation 1 is that, I have no idea what his intention was in using the language, whether he is actually a racist, I don’t really care, and I believe nobody should be fired for their unbroadcast, private language in a free and open democracy.
However, this is not the same as a public service broadcaster employing them. We shouldn’t be at this stage. We shouldn’t, because way before this point, the BBC should have stopped making the show, or stopped making the show in this current format, with these current scripts.
This isn’t a call for him not to be allowed to make a TV program in which he “hilariously” mixes jokes, which are occasionally aimed at the disabled, referencing people’s sexuality or exhibiting petty, oafish low level (at best) national chauvinism with comedy car reviews.
He should be free to make whatever program he likes.
A commercial channel could – if it feels it could attract and keep advertisers for that time slot, when he’s busy offending potential clientele (good luck with that) – then air it. Entirely up to them, there. But a public service broadcaster, paid for by the licence fees and from the general taxation of the disabled, the license fees and general taxation of people of all sexualities and all ethnic backgrounds, should not be airing it. That’s a simple principle. You expect your providers of public services – be they NHS, broadcasting, or bin-men, to be impartial as much as humanly possible.
That isn’t about censoring “views” away from public service broadcasting. Because what Mr Clarkson represents shouldn’t even be dignified with the word “views”. It is merely about making sure that such a service is impartial. I wouldn’t want my NHS doctor to call people, say, “slope”. Because he represents a public service organisation. If someone chooses to go on – say – Question Time and use the word “slope” to describe a man of Southeast Asian origin, let him go ahead. Watch how it affects his popularity. The stage is set for you, Mr Farage.
The private sector? Well, let the market decide. Strangely enough, I feel Mr Clarkson’s antics are both justified by the market (the massive sales of Top Gear DVDs) and protected from the markets, because I suspect very very few commercial providers would handle the flocking away of advertisers from a particular time slot that such open and constant low level charmless bigotry would provoke.
If you look across the Atlantic to America, with their first amendment rights, whilst racist attitudes are present in drama (as an integral part of the drama) after a certain point at night, you wouldn’t catch any of their channels broadcasting such witless stuff (and it is the witlessness of it that makes it so bad – something like “South Park” will be gleefully offensive to all races and nations including its own. But that has wit to it. People get there is humour present. “Top Gear” doesn’t even begin to approach wit. It gazes, longingly, at the foothills of wit from the trench of lumpen blokeish idiot banter it inhabits). Because the market will iron it out.
There’s also the fact that Top Gear has grown into this role. Its had a very strange evolution into quite a weird beast, one that bears little resemblance to the original program, which was a magazine program about cars. Imagining it being pitched today leads one to think of the scene where Alan Partridge pitches more and more desperate shows, culminating in “Monkey Tennis”
Partridge: “Its a car magazine show”
BBC Commissioning Editor: “No, I don’t think…”
Partridge: “But wait! Every so often, the presenter says something controversial and borderline racist”
I can’t really see it happening, can you?
The second point is a shorter summation of the first:
IT’S A FUCKING CAR REVIEW SHOW, YOU FUCKING MORON. CAN’T YOU JUST REVIEW A CAR WITHOUT BEING BIGOTED? WHAT WOULD THE SHOW LOSE, PRECISELY, FROM YOU NOT MAKING HILARIOUS REMARKS ABOUT LAZY MEXICANS? WHAT DID THE ‘SLOPE’ ‘JOKE’ ADD TO THE SHOW? 0.10 SECONDS OF LAUGHTER? DO YOU THINK YOU WERE STANDING UP FOR SOMETHING? WHAT, PRECISELY?