I HATE Jeremy Clarkson
Kate Smurthwaite // 26 May 2008
There are some things that just need saying. I HATE Jeremy Clarkson. Phew, now I’ve said it. Maybe it seems harsh of me to single him out from a number of car show presenters and general public personalities. I feel he merits it though and I’ll tell you why:
Clarkson is not just a car show presenter, he’s the car show presenter. He defines the genre. For many years he’s been the driving force behind the way the television-shows-about-cars industry works. When he first worked on Top Gear in 1988 it was a show that mostly reviewed different cars and advised would-be buyers on the advantages and disadvantages of different models. When it was re-modelled in 2002 he was the main presenter.
Now even when the show first started it had a mixture of male and female presenters. The new version has always been 100% male – and for that matter 100% white and British. And the standard of the banter went with it. Cars that Clarkson doesn’t like are referred to as “gay” or “girly” – as though those were insults. Women are standardly referred to as “birds”. The focus of the show shifted from reviewing cars to frivolously taking pointless journeys, racing sports cars against military vehicles and aircraft and sometimes even destroying perfectly roadworthy vehicles.
As the environmental movement raised awareness of the impact carbon emissions had on the climate, the show could have incorporated advice on reducing emissions, on lower emission vehicles and emphasised that high-speed low-efficiency sports cars were the sort of things to be driven occasionally as a treat if you enjoyed that sort of thing. But with Clarkson at the helm of course that didn’t happen. We can only imagine that after all those years of being given privileged access to fancy cars and events he was so far in the pockets of the motor lobby that he couldn’t see the wood for the burnt stumps where once there were trees. Instead he started making insulting remarks about environmentalists. He bragged about breaking speed limits and complained at length about fuel and congestion taxation, which aims to cut emissions.
Now that in itself would be enough reason for some people to hate the man. I am not so quick to use such strong terms. I can sympathise that there is a market for that sort of misogynist, homophobic* planet-murdering prattle and someone was always going to step up to the plate.
The trouble is he isn’t just a (or the) car show presenter any more. He’s gone to great lengths to present himself as a spokesman for the white middle-class male adrift in a sea of political correctness. His website (and I know, I know, it’s a joke…) says “Jeremy Clarkson – Clarkson information, books, DVDs, forum, and news from Britains next prime minister?”. And if that’s just a joke, why have nearly 50,000 people have signed an online petition asking for him to become prime minister? He writes newspaper columns – and they appear in the political pages, not the motoring pages. His books include collections of poltical essays. The style may be “fun” and chatty to read but he’s covering topics like Basque separatism and war in Iraq.
The first article on the Top Gear website is clearly a 100% political piece written by him and titled “CLARKSON: Soon the annual tax bill for a commuter will be £10k”
Firstly that is a straightforward lie. Road tax on even the most polluting vehicles is £400 a year. If your commute goes in to central London (and if so why the hell are you driving!) you’ll pay £8 a day congestion charge (5 days a week, 49 weeks a year = £1960) and if your commute is 50 miles each way (then get the train! or at 8 miles per litre, 65p tax per litre, 5 days a week, 49 weeks a year = £1991) then that’s £4351 a year – less than half the number he is suggesting.
Secondly the whole point of increasing tax on higher emissions vehicles on unnecessary routes is to encourage drivers to switch to other means of travel and lower emission cars. He grumbles the cost of a tax disc on a Lamborghini Gallardo could rise to nearly a thousand pounds. But given the car itself costs £133,000, I think owners can afford it. And given it emits at least 325g of CO2 per kilometer (more than twice that of, for example, a Renault Megane or a Vauxhall Astra) my feeling is great, lets put the tax up even higher. No-one needs to drive a car like that.
Thirdly – and for the sake of my mental health I’m trying to limit myself to only looking at one of his horrible articles – the thing is littered with offensive remarks. The first sentence refers to a woman as “some bird”. He refers to a female politician as “some orange-haired old bat”.
Then he gets on with denying climate change. Now of course he never says it’s not happening, because it is. Instead he says certain events may not be a direct result of it. Sure, sometimes a freak wave gives you wet feet when the tide isn’t actually coming in – but when it’s up to your knees, best to fold up the deck-chairs just in case. People are already dying around the world as a direct result of climate change. There’s no probability about whether or not it’s happening, it is already happening, the uncertainty is how much worse is it going to get.
His conclusion on the cost of taxing so-called “super-cars” is this: “That’s not taxation. That’s rape.”. I won’t even say anything, I think it’s pretty obvious that’s not an appropriate thing to say.
And that’s on his car show website. So it’s not that he’s been “spotted” on his car show and asked to branch out in to politics – he’s actively choosing to use his car show as a platform for his political opinions. And here’s the real rub: It’s working! He’s kind-of accepted on TV as some sort of lovable right-wing not-afraid-to-speak-his-mind pundit. He’s on Have I Got News…, QI, even Who Do You Think You Are? as though he’s an institution that we’re all comfortable with in the UK.
But are we really all comfortable with vicious anti-environmentalism on the basis of lies? With misogyny and homophobia* from someone who is genuinely trying to influence policy-making in the UK? Personally I’d like to present the alternative point of view in a one-off BBC TV special called “Jeremy Clarkson: Who The F*** Does He Think He Is?”
* Actually he’s been pretty racist too, I’ll leave that for now, I think we’ve got enough to be getting on with!