All too often, casual racism is explained away by saying that “it’s only banter”, that anyone likely to hear it “won’t be offended”, that some of the author’s best friends are from an ethnic minority, and in any case, where’s your sense of humour? King of the laddish faction in such matters is Jeremy Clarkson, professional slob of no fixed waistline, who is inexplicably still hosting Top Gear.
"Fired"? Hmmm, that's an interesting word
What is also important to bear in mind is that Clarkson, in addition to his presentational duties at the BBC, is also a columnist for Rupe’s downmarket troops at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun. The symmetry of this arrangement leads to the Murdoch press turning a blind eye to his foot-in-mouth moments, whereas the Mirror has no compunction in giving him both barrels.
And so it came to pass that previously unscreened footage was unearthed, showing The Great Man in the act of choosing between two similarly priced cars, the Toyota GT86 and Subaru BRZ. Clarkson starts off with “Eeny, meeny, miny, mo”, then starts to mumble his way through the next two lines. But on the Mirror’s video he can be clearly heard saying “catch a n***** by his toe”.
That this was unacceptable is merely reinforced by the finished version of the show, in which he has replaced n***** with “Teacher”. So, even if Jezza didn’t know that it was wrong, someone else certainly did. And, to make things worse, Clarkson has tried to suggest he didn’t say it: “I did not use the n-word. Never use it. The Mirror has gone way too far this time”.
This latest slice of “only banter, where’s your sense of humour” comes after Jezza revealed that he had named his black West Highland Terrier after footballer Didier Drogba, and inappropriately used the work “slope” at a time when it appeared to have been directed at an Asian man (the word is a derogatory reference to Asian people, especially in Australia).
So, apart from the Murdoch press, where else is this story not being reported? Well, at the BBC, for one, and with good reason: although the Corporation has deployed a straight bat and responded with “We've seen the story. The Mirror didn't approach us before publication. Clearly we will establish the facts before commenting”, there are commercial considerations in play here.
Top Gear is BBC2’s top rating show. The spin-offs, notably the marketing of the programme to many other English-speaking countries’ broadcasters, bring in additional revenue. But there has to be a point where Clarkson’s inability to exist in the 21st Century outweighs the benefits. Even his co-presenter James May concedes that Jezza is a “massive bellend”.
The time must surely be approaching when the BBC chooses to bite the bullet.