I suppose it can be no great surprise that #JeremyClarksonisDisgusting is trending on Twitter. Some years ago, maybe, it’d be good news for Clarkson, his dependents, the local Mercedes-Benz dealer and his bank manager, because social media – and indeed much of his career – has been devoted to monetising notoriety. The naughtier (generally) the better, and, like The Stig on a Top Gear racetrack, Clarkson instinctively knew how far he could push it.
But this time, by his own witness, he lost control of his top-heavy ego, slid off the track, crashed straight through the woke barrier and ended up in something resembling the manure heap on his vast agricultural estate.
The world has moved on, and crudely abusing a woman of colour for no apparent reason is no longer acceptable. Someone changed the design of the race circuit, and Clarkson’s aged reflexes weren’t able to adjust. Even as he dragged himself out of the mire he made things worse – half-hearted, unserious non-apologies culminating in emails to Prince Harry but not Meghan, Duchess of Sussex. The wheels have fallen off for Clarkson, at long last.
Those using the #JeremyClarksonisDisgusting hashtag are entirely right. He’s pushed things too far – and the world has had enough of him. With global fame can come global disapprobation. As Women for Australia tweeted: “I love how a raging career misogynist thought he’d atone for his raging misogyny by apologising… to the aggrieved woman’s husband.”
Of course, there are the usual claims that free speech has been violated and “Jeremy’s been cancelled”, but no one has a human right to a multi-million pound contract from Amazon. How we used to laugh at his antics, though. In less enlightened times, it was a case of people at the bus stop or the water cooler, asking, “have you seen what Jeremy Clarkson said on the telly?” – like when he called East Asians “slopey” or took the mickey out of farting, bone idle Mexicans on his Sunday evening show.
He assaulted a BBC producer who hadn’t provided him with a hot dinner, splitting the guy’s lip and calling him an Irish four letter c-word that isn’t Cork. (OK, that one probably was a mistake, as the BBC ended up firing him, but soon enough he got picked up by Amazon Prime, with a fat fee and no harm done.)
Well, now Amazon have sacked him, with no further series of the car show or that thing about his farm planned when the present commissions run out. Surely ITV can’t be far behind? As far as we know, they’re even now looking lovingly towards Paul O’Grady or Amol Rajan to be a new, more appealing presenter for Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
To a cynical eye, Clarkson’s uncharacteristic recent humility stems purely from a desire to hang on to whatever media gigs he has left. He is, of course, independently wealthy to a fabulous degree and could easily crawl into a hole and stay there perfectly comfortably for the rest of his days, but that’s not really what he wants, one suspects. He likes his fame, going to luncheon parties with Camilla Parker-Bowles, playing with cars on screen and writing.
Who wouldn’t? Hence the increasingly abject apologies, which grow ever less convincing because they are so far removed from the vain, arrogant, “politically incorrect”, “I’ll light up a Marlboro wherever I like, thanks very much” Clarkson of old. He’s desperate – not so much to be loved – but to be seen and read and famous.
Now, ironically, it is he who has been metaphorically stripped naked and so many normal people – even his own age group – are dreaming of the day when he is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while crowds chant, “Shame!” and throw lumps of excrement at him.
Clarkson is as obsolete and unloved as a belching old diesel SUV limping to failure at its final MOT. He’s not getting cancelled; he’s being scrapped.