Jeremy Clarkson Sent Us Reaching for Our Dictionaries
Posted on April 15, 2015
Jeremy Clarkson has always been a controversial figure. Hated by some, revered by his fans, he is notorious for not mincing his words. Some of his most outrageous one-liners include statements like "In typical French fashion it just gives up! A bit like the French did with the Germans."; on civil servants “I’d have them all shot. I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.”; on less-privileged people "I don't understand bus lanes. Why do poor people have to get to places quicker than I do?"
Whether you are short, tall, man, woman, dog, nobody is safe from Clarkson’s offensive comments!
So what happened this time? What is this “fracas” the BBC reported that sent us reaching for our dictionaries?
From an Italian word via French, it means “A noisy, disorderly fight or quarrel”. It doesn’t sound like something that would make the international headlines though. But then the English have a reputation for understatement.
This is what happened: there was an argument over a steak…
While Jeremy Clarkson and the crew members were out on the road to film an episode of Top Gear, they happened to arrive late at the hotel where they were to spend the night. The chef had already gone home so the hotel wasn’t able to cook hot food, but offered platters of cheese and cold meat.
Clarkson was apparently unhappy about this, as his heart was set on a juicy steak, and he blamed the producer for not organising hot food for their arrival and is said to have expressed his displeasure with every single swear word you can think of, in front of the whole crew.
Some witnesses insist that it was the extent of it, copious verbal abuse, and that the Top Gear presenter never punched the producer in the face as reported. However, the producer felt the need to go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital to be treated. That gives a whole new meaning to the saying that words can hurt!
Now, if you and I punched a co-worker in the face, or insulted them, we would immediately be disciplined or fired and it would be the end of it. But when you are a celebrity bringing in huge revenues and with a massive fan base, well, it’s not that simple and it turned it all into something somewhat farcical.
First, the BBC seemed to minimise the incident by calling it a “fracas”, saying that they needed to investigate thoroughly what happened before they could make a decision. While they were doing that, the producer, who was blamed by Clarkson’s supporters for getting him in trouble, received threats and clearly felt so intimidated that he didn’t press charges.
But that’s not all, no… When rumours started that the star may get suspended, and his contract possibly cancelled, his fans came to the rescue and organised an online petition signed, to date, by over a million people, demanding his reinstatement. Interestingly, the last time Britons signed a petition of this magnitude was in the nineteenth century, to demand democratic rights!
The petition was brought to the BBC offices in London by Stig, the show’s anonymous car driver, sitting on top of a military tank, accompanied by a significant crowd of Clarkson’s supporters – without tanks. News channels captured the occasion, interviewing dejected fans who pleaded that he be reinstated. When asked whether they thought Clarkson was right to punch his producer, they argued that firing him was “unfair” to all his fans, and they would be the ones punished.
In the end, even Prime Minister David Cameron felt he had to comment and backed Clarkson – general elections for the next Prime Minister are around the corner in the UK, you see, and politicians are keen to show that they are just like everybody else - calling him a "huge talent" and saying that his children would be "heartbroken" if the situation wasn’t resolved and the show was cancelled.
Amid all this pressure, the BBC finally decided to sack the presenter, saying "a line has been crossed" and "there cannot be one rule for one and one rule for another".
The limelight might have been on Clarkson all this time, but how about his two co-stars, May and Hammond? Well, May decided to quit the show, touchingly saying that it just wouldn’t be the same without Jeremy.
However, in a rather puzzling u-turn, the BBC announced on April 22 that Clarkson hadn’t been banned from the BBC forever, and he would return to the channel at some point in the future, explaining that he needed time to recover from what had happened to him. You mean “to the producer”, don’t you?
What the future will hold for Jeremy Clarkson is everybody’s guess. He certainly is big enough a brand to start his own TV show, especially if his former co-presenters follow him, but it sounds as though the BBC would quite like to have their golden goose back. On the other hand, reinstating him would be a very risky decision, as it would seem to imply that the BBC, as an employer, condones bullying and assault in the workplace and the broadcaster has been in the centre of controversy a bit too often in recent years.
So, hero or villain? Do you love Jeremy Clarkson or hate him? If you want him back, there is still time to sign the petition at www.change.org/p/bbc-reinstate-jeremy-clarkson; if you hate him and want him gone for good (you know who you are), there is a counter petition at you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/sack-jeremy-clarkson.