So said BBC Director General Tony Hall yesterday, in the only acceptable outcome of the inquiry into Jeremy Clarkson’s behaviour. The BBC investigation found that Oisin Tymon was “subject to an unprovoked physical and verbal attack by Jeremy Clarkson”. It said the attack lasted around 30 seconds and only stopped when a witness intervened. Some of the abuse was racial in content and the victim drove himself to hospital with a bloodied face.
A number of heavy weight influencers supported Clarkson – albeit when the details of the assault were still not fully clarified – but there’s a measure of irresponsibility from David Cameron, who supported the ‘huge talent’ and claimed ‘My children will be heartbroken if Top Gear is taken off air’. Talented he may be, but his credentials as a TV presenter are irrelevant. Cameron also told the BBC that his 11 year old daughter “has threatened to go on hunger strike unless Jeremy Clarkson is restored.” Of course he is joking, but again the sentiment feels uncomfortable.
I was surprised that BBC Newsround entertained the idea that Clarkson’s removal from Top Gear should be questioned in an article this morning: ‘Should Jeremy Clarkson have been dropped from Top Gear?‘ As children’s news outlet they have a responsibility to deliver fair messages – yes they should be balanced and of course encourage people to question – but the only answer to the headline is a firm yes.
Where celebrities are concerned, people seem to forget the fundamental values of common humanity – which includes the freedom to feel safe, and to see justice upheld when this is abused – and instead enjoy the theatre of a great hero being ignominiously called to account, and then championed.
A huge backlash greeted the news that, God forbid, Clarkson should answer for his racial and physical assault of a colleague. A million people signed a petition called “Bring Back Jeremy Clarkson” which was delivered via a tank to the BBC with the Stig atop it and a #BringBackClarkson banner on the side. Did I mention a base love of theatrics?
The cult of celebrity is not a new thing – fascination with those elevated above the ordinary person is as old as time, be it the rise of gladiators to athletic superstardom in ancient Rome, or the scandal of a king abdicating for an American lover in the 20s. People love a good spectacle, and the fact that the verdict on Clarkson is headline news today above the air tragedy in the French Alps speaks volumes.
There seems to be little sympathy for the victim of the attack (if anything Clarkson is seen as the victim) and where celebrities have commented, such as Gary Lineker and Dara O Briain, it is to joke about the Top Gear replacement. It seems to be unpopular to reduce the situation to its bare essentials: a man has been sacked for punching a colleague in the face. The Huffington Post reported the story as such, and has received 36,000 Facebook likes to date – paltry in contrast to the hundreds of thousands of retweets for #BringBackClarkson.
If someone in the office hit someone else there would immediately be calls to fire said person: why should the violence and the gravity of the situation be diluted by the popularity of the perpetrator?
The BBC is allegedly set to lose as much as £67million a year following the removal of Clarkson from Top Gear – but they would have lost a whole lot more in integrity if they had not.