July 28, 2011

Why I Can Stand Jeremy Clarkson

I like Jeremy Clarkson. Sort of.

It's a tricky thing to justify, as he's part of the right-wing hysterical journalists and media types that will bark up any tree that looks remotely like it might be pulped to produce the Guardian. Much like the likes of Littlejohn, Platell, Phillips, Fawkes et al, Clarkson enjoys smugly vomiting out whatever reactionary opinion his pancreas squeezes into his brain. Like the others, he has his pet peeves that he barks on about in an endless cycles (in particular, he hates traffic safety devices and climate change prevention) without ever reviewing evidence contrary to his own immalleable opinion.

But, gosh, I just can't despise him in the way I do the others. I think part of it is that I enjoy Top Gear and don't want to spend the entire time scowling and swearing at "Jezza" the whole hour long. Whenever Clarkson says something stupid or sexist, yes, my wife and I look at each other and shake our heads in disapproval. We're not ignorant of his dickheadedness, not by a long shot. The way he treated Olympic Champion, Amy Williams, was detestable (frankly, she should have slapped him).

But... when mouthing off, I really don't think he takes himself seriously. He operates under the character of 'Jeremy Clarkson, moron' in the same way that Warren Mitchell worked the avatar of 'Alf Garnett, furious bigot'. Whether he uses the character as a comforting shield from which to assert his own opinions, or whether the character's opinions are entirely artificial and used for flamebait - I don't know. Either way, his potency as a force for hypnotising his audience are greatly reduced, compared to someone who takes themselves very seriously, like Bill O'Reilly, who still has a massive following despite twice saying no one knows how the sun goes up and down every day. Clarkson is a clown. He knows he's a clown and he plays up to it. Hopefully the rest of his audience know he's a clown, too.

He delivers his hyperbole with a cheekiness and a swagger deliberately engineered to make his audience chuckle and facepalm and to manufacture a faux-argument between the co-hosts who often call him a 'completely idiot' and a mindless petrol-head. His co-hosts on Top Gear operate similarly, behind the character of grinning-hyperactive-teenager and comely-Warburton-eating-uncle, neither of which you'd trust to even recommend a car to you.

And Clarkson isn't always wrong: he's a big advocate of science and engineering, for example. He once punched Piers Morgan. He's not all bad. Yes, he suffers from the syndrome that a lot of columnist have which I have called I'm-not-an-expert-but-I've-been-spouting-my-opinion-for-so-long-I-must-be-right Syndrome. The name needs work, I'll admit.

A simple Google search for "Jeremy Clarkson column" leads you quickly to this column, which begins:

Call me a spoilsport but I’m glad my dad wasn’t a lesbian

When it comes to sweeping generalisations, I am the daddy. All Germans have no sense of humour, all instruction manuals are pointless, all cruise ships are ghastly, every single American is fat, all golfers are boring and all Peugeots are driven by people you wouldn’t have round for dinner

I really don't think he expects anyone to take him seriously. At least I hope he doesn't.

Oh god, what if he does?

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