The Good. The Bad. The Asinine.

Clarkson’s Big Fat Mouth

So, I am given to understand that some time in the recent past, BBC presenter Jeremy Clarkson used the word N——-. Which is not a word, but a letter with some dashes after it. So why the big fuss?

I can only assume it’s because the word in question is ‘nigger’. Which is a hateful word. Insulting, degrading, breathtakingly racist and, interestingly, a common metric device in certain genres of popular music. Also, it is a word that forms part of a child’s rhyming game. Eeny Meeny Miney Mo, to be precise.

It was in this context that Clarkson apparently used it, in a not for broadcast take where he is clearly at pains to replace it with something else.

Now, I am no fan of racism. I’m also strongly against the sort of casual racism that is made up more of insensitivity than of bigotry (the recent blackface performance on a popular tv show is a good example of this kind of thing), but I am even less of a friend to reactionary hysteria.

I was taught this rhyme with ‘that word’ in it before I even knew what ‘that word’ meant. It is locked, deep in my brain, and when I find myself using the rhyme, I have to make a great mental effort to use the bowdlerised version. I can only assume that Clarkson was in the same predicament. His explanation and his actions chime nicely with this version of the facts. He made strenuous efforts to avoid using an offensive word, took several takes to make sure he didn’t, and then some puerile troublemaker decided to broadcast one of his practice takes.

This being the case, the question has to be asked. What in the actual fuck has Clarkson done wrong and why, by all that’s rational, are we all screaming at him?

It is perhaps because the progressive left, or whatever you want to call the more liberal section of society that tends to be pro fair trade, anti cruelty, anti bigotry and pro environment, would seem to have just as many pig ignorant, mindless, knee-jerk reactionaries as the right.

If true, this is regrettable, not least because it is a section of the community to which I belong. People who sit on the liberal side of the political spectrum should be about thoughtfulness, the application of context and, most importantly, deep repugnance for anything remotely resembling a witch hunt.

Sure, Clarkson has a history of ‘racist’ gaffes – in exactly the same way as my father’s dinner table conversation has. Which is unsurprising, considering that they are roughly the same age. Now, I know that my father’s problem isn’t so much racism as it is generational – he has imperfectly adapted to a world where Social Darwinism is no longer taught to school children as an immutable truth. I was able to adapt, but I think that adaptation was made somewhat easier by the fact that it happened when I was six years old.

So, bearing this in mind, I believe Clarkson’s problem isn’t so much racism as it is foolishness. Which isn’t really problem, when you think about it, because being foolish on camera is what the BBC pays him for. It’s the larger part of his market appeal.

It’s not his blood we should be baying for, but the blood of the traitor who released the clip. It is not he we should be disgusted with – our disgust should be reserved for those troglodytic members of society who seem to live in a constant state of outraged victimhood, made all the more ridiculous by the fact that it is so often vicarious.

And as for Clarkson, let’s just hope that the next time he puts his outsized foot in his larger than life mouth his sins are of a more loveable, laughable kind. And that it doesn’t involve the use of a word that is so rightly charged with such animus, and avoided with such assiduity by all right thinking folk. That is, after all, why we all liked him so much not three days ago.

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