I was a big fan of the BBC show Top Gear. I’m not much of a car guy, but it was never really a car show. It was a comedy show based around cars. Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond make a fun team. They are a Mr. Bean version of the Three Musketeers. Their humor is refreshingly un-PC, which is why some think Clarkson was sacked last week.
I labour the point, chippily, sure – the BBC is still run by the white, liberal, upper middle classes. Not that Clarkson is a horny-handed son of toil, of course, either. But it did occur to me that the BBC has pretty much nothing left which could be considered, uh, Right. Clarkson was an exceptionally brilliant presenter (and will continue to be so elsewhere, one suspects), but whatever the rights or wrongs of this latest ‘fracas’, the BBC was uncomfortable with him. It wanted him out. It was torn a little by the fact that – again almost uniquely for a BBC star – he was genuinely popular, and popular with a section of the audience the BBC normally fails to reach – ie British people who are not PC neurotics. Yes, millions and millions and millions of people. But collectively it loathed his politics. And that is really why he has gone. And so who is left at the BBC who isn’t left?
That’s surely true, but you can’t go around punching subordinates. It is a failing of any man who cannot treat his inferiors with respect. I think big shots can be forgiven for being rude and difficult with the help, but there’s a responsibility to set a proper example. Still, I wish they could have found a way to work it out so the show could continue.
The whining about Clarksons dismissal, however, is a bit much. He punched a guy in the face for no reason. The other guy should have knocked Clarkson on his ass and Clarkson should have been man enough to accept it. It’s how men are supposed to settle these things. But, the star-subordinate thing does cloud the issue.
The relevant facts are these. Clarkson turned on his producer because there wasn’t a hot dinner waiting for him at the crew’s hotel. (Today’s celebrities, like yesterday’s aristocrats, expect their servants to anticipate their every appetite.)
He called Oisin Tymon a “lazy, Irish c***”. The abuse went on for 20 minutes, according to witnesses. Clarkson couldn’t stop, couldn’t leave Tymon alone. Finally he attacked him, and split his lip with a punch that left the 36-year-old with blood running down his face and needing treatment in A&E. The BBC inquiry suggested that Clarkson would have kept on hitting him, if onlookers had not intervened.
Most people – well, most men anyway – would have let the matter rest if Tymon had smacked Clarkson back. They would have been square, and that would have been that. However strong my impulse would have been to hold his coat, how could Tymon throw a punch? He was the subordinate and Clarkson was the aristocratic star. Tymon was too low down the light entertainment hierarchy to think about defending himself. According to the BBC report, Clarkson left Tymon thinking his career was over and he had “lost his job,” as if it was he who had been at fault.
Forgive me. I realise I shouldn’t go on about mere facts. The last thing the right-on PC Right wants you to do is concentrate on what happened. Instead, its propagandists say you should dismiss the evidence and head off into conspiracy theory.
I think the right answer here was for Clarkson to have apologized that the time and for the other man to have accepted it. That would have been the proper way to handle it. The fact that Clarkson preferred to let the BBC management adjudicate the matter suggests he is a man of low character. He was hoping to get away with it, simply because he is a star.
Still, I loved the show and I’ll watch again if it comes back.