Jeremy Clarkson: be a man, offend a Middle Eastern religion [UPDATED]

Jeremy Clarkson Rides a Bike

On Top Gear, aired 6th February, Jeremy Clarkson made one of his deliberate errors in order to annoy a minority. Now, if he can get away with slanders about whole countries (France, Albania, Mexico etc) he’s sure as hell not going to lose any sleep over “jokes” about killing cyclists who “don’t pay road tax”. In fact, he wants cyclists to rant and rave about his loopy libertarian tosh. Ranting and raving equals higher viewing figures, and more dosh for him.

While Ross and Brand can be jettisoned by the BBC when they’re offensive, Clarkson is too important to the corporation. Top Gear is one of BBC Worldwide’s biggest grossing properties.

Now, Clarkson is a professional buffoon, a controversialist, a comedian, not to be taken seriously. But many petrolheads do take him seriously. When he jests about running over cyclists, a goodly proportion of his audience absorb such vitriol and this can influence their driving, paying less regard to those not propelling heavy steel boxes along highways paid for by all.

Clarkson has form on believing ‘road tax’ pays for roads. He’s often touched on the subject in his columns for the Sunday Times:

“Trespassers in the motorcars domain, [cyclists] do not pay road tax and therefore have no right to be on the road, some of them even believe they are going fast enough to not be an obstruction. Run them down to prove them wrong.”

He also jokes that cyclists are paupers and that it’s right and proper to run them down:

“Some people, usually on bicycles, bang on your roof as you go by and say they find your conspicuous consumption offensive. What I want to do at times like this is bang on their cycling helmets and say I find their poverty offensive. But I’m made from stronger stuff so I turn the other cheek and run them down.”

After the 7/7 bombings got more people on bikes, Clarkson wrote:

“Handy hints to those setting out on a bike for the first time…Do not cruise through red lights. Because if I’m coming the other way, I will run you down, for fun…Do not pull up at junctions in front of a line of traffic. Because if I’m behind you, I will set off at normal speed and you will be crushed under my wheels.”

All knock-about stuff and we know he doesn’t mean it. “Come on, it’s just a joke,” is the standard riposte, from the BBC and from those who believe he’s harmless.

He’s funny, but is he harmless?

Stand-up comic Stewart Lee has a 15-minute routine digging in to the harmless humour of Clarkson:

“[Clarkson] is either an idiot, who actually believes all the badly researched, lying, offensive sh*t he says, or he’s a genius, who’s worked out exactly the most accurate way to annoy me.”

Lee points out that Clarkson’s gibes are often callous and bullying.

And Lee isn’t the only comic to think Clarkson is less than funny. Steve Coogan, who has been a guest on Top Gear and was once a fan of the show, believes Clarkson’s stereotyping is now beyond a joke.

So, should cyclists complain to the BBC about Clarkson? It’s a tough call. On the one hand, his paymasters ought to be told his oafish offensiveness could lead to real-life endangerment of cyclists; but on the other hand you know that shock-jocks thrive on complaints. Indeed, if enough complaints are received that gives Clarkson another opportunity to joke about “road tax refuseniks” (even though he well knows that ‘road tax’ was abolished in 1937).

Clarkson has a thick skin. This is the man who thinks 3200 road deaths a year is a price well worth paying for mass motoring:

“Then there’s the PR issue. We need to get the message across that 3,200 deaths a year is tragic but not excessive. With 30 million vehicles on the roads it’s nothing short of a bloody miracle.”

He’s also not bothered about accuracy. He’s a joker, he’s not reading the news:

“When I get a letter from a reader saying I’ve made a factual error my first reaction is rage…And it’s a bit of a bubble burster when someone points out that I haven’t checked my facts. That’s like strutting around with a telltale wet patch on the front of your trousers. Because in the big scheme of things, when I make a mistake, especially one I’ve made on purpose, the world keeps on turning.”

Complaints are his oxygen. There’s little point complaining about Clarkson. He’s not fussed about facts, or whether his trollish views are believed by stupid viewers and readers. Complaints equal ker-ching.

Ignoring him is hard but here’s what he says about politicians. Replace ‘leaders’ with ‘Clarkson’.

“The best thing we can do is treat our leaders as bluebottles. There’s no point waving our arms about and getting agitated because it’ll make no difference. They will continue to buzz about being annoying.”

Whether we complain or not (UPDATE – see below for Top Gear producer’s answer to those who complained), Clarkson will continue to be mock offensive. But check out who he targets and see him for the playground bully that he is.

He vents his spleen on soft targets. He’s never written anything deeply offensive about the religious texts or founder of a certain Arabian religion. That would be reprehensible and truly controversial but Clarkson doesn’t have the balls to be provocative about a religion that has an extreme, unrepresentative element who would kill him. Funny that.



Richard Hammond: You know Breakfast News on the television?

Jeremy Clarkson: No?

Hammond: Come on, you must? Earlier this week they were running this story about cyclists wearing videos on their crash helmets so they can video examples of road rage and people cutting them up on their bikes

Clarkson: Yes, but cyclists deserve it

Hammond You can’t say that

Clarkson: They do deserve it. Just the other week, no honestly, there I am sitting in a traffic jam in London and a Frenchman, he was, tried to cycle between the pavement and my car, and after he’d removed most of the paint with that brake handle thing he came round to the driver’s door to tell me off in that silly accent French people have.

Hammond: A French accent?

Clarkson: Yes, that. And I said to him, ‘Listen if you just work harder you can have a car’.

Hammond: You see? You see you are exactly the reason why I want a camera on my bicycle helmet when I cycle

Clarkson: Why?

Hammond: So when idiots like you get out of their car having cut me up…

Clarkson: Who pays the road tax?

Hammond: Well…

Clarkson: You see I don’t mind if cyclists want to come on the road with their silly Victorian distractions I am not bothered, OK, but they must behave themselves

Hammond: There are a few militant cyclists I’ll agree

Clarkson: But you are are one of them

Hammond: I am not I am not a militant cyclist…

Clarkson: On a bicycle you are a peach. You are a peach most of the time. You are a big peach.

Hammond: You are just another fat car in his Mercedes who has a pop at me for riding his bike to work


BBC producer replies to those folks who complained about Clarkson’s ‘road tax’ gibe

Thank you for your feedback about Top Gear broadcast on 6 February 2011. Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying.

Jeremy was singling out what he sees as aggressive cyclists, like the one who scraped his car. I don’t think anyone can deny that, as with motorists, there are cyclists out there whose road behaviour is hardly ideal. Jeremy made it clear that in his view cyclists are free to use the roads as long as they behave themselves. Whilst he’d clearly prefer them to defer to motorists, I think his comments stop a long way short of encouraging aggression. Of course Jeremy’s views were balanced out by those of Richard Hammond, who stood up for cyclists.

Yours sincerely

Andy Wilman
Executive Producer
Top Gear

++++++++++ is an ironically-named campaign supporting the road rights of cyclists. The message that cyclists have equal rights on the roads is carried on iPayRoadTax t-shirts and jerseys.

  • John_the_Monkey

    I think there’s a typo there Carlton, JP = JC?nnThere’s a big thread about it over on Cyclechat. Personally, I find it annoying that a man who is intelligent & well educated should have to act like a cretinous boor to earn a crust, and further, that such a man would be willing to do that. There’s also the whole thrust of the comedy – while jokes are often at the expense of others, there’s a trend where, rather than the old story of the picked on kid fighting back at his tormentors, it’s the bullies who are succeeding – and that’s not just Clarkson, I see it in some of Ricky Gervais’ stuff & some other comics too. I think Richard Herrring described it as “punching downwards”.nnStill, I’ve seen that Stewart Lee clip all over the place today, so hopefully, some good will come of it (Mr. Lee selling more DVDs).

  • Shaun Murray

    btw the reference to ‘peach’ wasn’t meant as a compliment. In line with the Albanian stereotyping earlier when reviewing cars the Albanian Mafia might like, it turns out that apparently ‘peach’ is phonetically Albanian for ‘lady bits’ and ‘car’ is Albanian for penis.n

  • Chris Garrison

    Well said, as usual Carlton. All of this falls into the ‘acceptable level of being ist’ category. Nothing will happen to Clarkson because the targets of his ‘jokes’ don’t exist in large enough quantities to affect the bottom line of the BBC with their complaints. There are certainly enough Mexicans, but there won’t be enough of them that have heard about the episode to do anything about it. nnAnd Mexican food is my absolute favourite, and the one thing I miss more than anything about the US.

  • Kim

    I posted up my complaint to the BBC about Top Gear on my blog, interestingly most of the hits, so far, have come motoring forums (and from a Dr. Who forum), where the death of non-motoring road users is very much seen as a joke. It is a sad reflection on our society :-(

  • Anonymous

    Complaint already lodged.

  • Pigdog42

    Brilliantly put as always. It’s not Clarkson’s comments that scare me but the ‘monkey see monkey do’ attitude of some of his fans. I’ve been run over twice, one by a driver who did it on purpose. I’m the one who suffered the consequences of the joke, not the driver.

  • Londonneur

    +1nnMe toonn complainnn

  • BirdOnABike

    It’s not only impressionable adults who take on board Jeremy’s pronouncements/rantings as gospel, but small boys too. I’m a keen road cyclist and cycle in various competitive events too and the kids my sons go to school with (they are 10 & 9) know this. Today my sons were teased ?? (or should that be bullied) by their TopGear loving class-mates – apparently the general consensus was that I (their Mum) deserve to be run over and killed because I take up valuable road space that should be taken by motorists. Lovely. Not only is it not enough for Jeremy to reinforce these prejudices to the existing ranks of inconsiderate motorists but you are also responsible for pre-prejudicing the next generation, oh and by the way causing my sons to be bullied and rendering them inconsolable. Nice one Clarkson, my sons really needed to know that they deserve a dead Mum!

  • carltonreid

    That’s awful. rnrnIt also explains some of the recent behaviour of my 13-year old son. He’s been taping Top Gear or watching it on iPlayer. I had assumed he found the programme by accident. Perhaps, in fact, he found it by peer recommendation?rnrnI don’t want to be such a cycle freak as I won’t let my kids take any part in ‘motor culture’ – which, after all, is mainstream culture – but your anecdote brings home the fact that Top Gear has an appeal that could be damaging on quite a few levels.

  • spaceyjase

    Well, I logged a complaint. I find the stereotype image of cyclists amusing and it was a funny section on Top Gear, for a while. I can let go the ‘fact’ that we all jump red lights, queue jump and filter through traffic. Fair enough, I reckon. It’s the cyclists choice. I can handle a few harsh words about my milky white Lycra clad legs. But to then justify aggression and road rage towards cyclists under the (knowingly incorrect) assumption of road ownership and class difference is wrong. Especially when you consider the Top Gear’s audience. It doesn’t do any good in perpetuating the myth.nnThat’s why I complained.

  • Anonymous

    For me he knows what he says and knows it will get the attention he wants. He can be genuinely funny, that cant be denied. Personally I wasn’t offended, I expect him to do it, just as I expect Jim Davidson to be a racist for the camera. nnHowever, yes it is sadly true that some do hang on his every word. You only had to read some of the comments on The Sun’s websites, and the letters to their paper to see this is true. The question is, how do you show the link, and show that someone has been influenced by said bluster? nnIts not as if someone has sent a letter or an email and admitted to doing their bit for removing cyclists from the Queen’s Highways. nnMy advice on Facebook (Save A Cyclist encouraged people to complain, also) and Cyclechat was that to complain meant he got the attention he wanted. If you do, you also have to be extremely careful how it is worded. My experiences with complaining to the BBC (with what I feel were very justified points) over cycling issues has taught me that the BBC will continue to kiss his arse as the money he raises is far more important to them than how their viewers feel or are effected.nnOne thing has to be made clear. Even drivers have been turning on him in this past year. The Telegraph and Independent have both published anti-clarkson letters recently.

  • Jamesnonchalance

    Someone send Clarkson this: interesting is this little finding on average u2018driver logicu2019 in regards to ‘their’ perspective on sharing road space, which iu2019d like to christen Clarksonu2019s Paradigm:nn1.tBikes are anomalous and really do not belong on the road.n2.tThey should be given somewhere else to go.n3.tHaving been given somewhere else, they should not then be on the road.n4.tNothing should be taken away from drivers in the process. u201dnnKnow your enemy, so to speak. (Thanks to Londoneur for the initial link on his blog)

  • Dake

    I think one of the best responses to the scumbag is the way Climate Caravan visited his house in Oxfordshire and dumped manure on his drive…and photographed it with them in the background. I think as they were leaving they saw a press photographer being arrested by the police who had just arrived! Wouldn’t it be terrible if Clarkson got stuck in traffic somewhere….. behind some bikes…and someone had a video camera rolling…..makes you think! If it was suitably humiliating it would spread like wildfire on youtube!

  • ironmancole

    Have complained to the beeb as well. Have demanded they justify their reasons for condoning the concept that I have no lawful right on the raods as ‘I don’t pay road tax’ and complained that Clarksons deliberate comments were designed solely to cause offemce and spread misinformation. nnGiven the fact that a mexican lady has started a test case against the BBC for the slur against her home country perhaps cycling bodies should act together to bring another case against them for their willing participation in helping Clarkson spread such hateful and dangerous bile. nnGiven his frequent postings in his newspaper columns such as the one following what possible defence could he give for his hateful antics? He has a demonstrably clear history of hatred for those who don’t happen to be in their car and given the fact this is being broadcasted it must fall foul of acceptable content. nnu201cTrespassers in the motorcars domain, [cyclists] do not pay road tax and therefore have no right to be on the road, some of them even believe they are going fast enough to not be an obstruction. Run them down to prove them wrong.u201dnnWe need to act together and somehow get this idiot to account for his actions.

  • Pleasedontpesterme

    Clarkson: the living proof and perfect justification for “crime passionnel” to become part of accepted criminal law in the UK.nnPerhaps his wife and mistress are both being serviced right now by cyclists and the evidence put up on YOU TUBE. Tee hee hee!!n

  • carltonreid

    What a disturbing thing to say!

  • bristolboy

    i was thinking today whether anyone has ever tried to reach clarkson, and make him answer some basic questions to camera, eg does road tax exist, do drivers have more right to the road officially in UK law, and expose his bigotry even further…?

  • Roadpeace

    Jeremy Clarkson has surely past his sell by date! Maybe not for the good of the BBC’s bank account, but most certainly for the health and well being of the nation. The last thing our hospitals now need are unneccesary visits to A&E: they and indeed the nation, don’t need and don’t want victims of violence, of bullying, of hatred, of intolerance, of revenge, of stupidity, and of ignorance! Don’t Clarkson’s comments have the potential to, and undoubtedly do, create such victims? He undoubtedly makes ‘bullets’ that cause senseless death and serious injury!nnEarlier in the week Breakfast News highlighted the concerns of the Child Protection Agencies: the personal details, the bullying/threatening comments, the photo’s/videos (some of a sexual nature)that goes out from mobile phones, to be picked up by some of the most disturbed and disturbing people in society, and which then has the potential to leave youngsters in a very vulnerable position, if not destroy their lives, must be a serious worry for many parents.nnFor me Clarkson, with his bullying, and hatred inciting comments, is one such disturbed and disturbing person. And if he only had one ‘disciple’, it would be one to many. If child molesters and the like should be hung, drawn and quartered, then so should he.

  • carltonreid

    He’s a professional presenter. He’d make a big joke of it. It’s a toughie.

  • Phillip B

    Hit them where it hurts – ratings!nnAs this article points out, Top Gear is a very popular show, so I suggest that hitting Jeremy and the BBC where it hurts will be most effective – so start a pledge that people can sign that says they will not watch Top Gear until Jeremy passes all three Bikeability training levels. In fact, why not all three presenters – it could be like their Vietnam special they did on mopeds/motorbikes.nnAnd if we get ignored or further bad content, then include in the pledge a commitment to escalate the switch-off from BBC – stages could be: not watching BBC TV whilst Top Gear airs; then dropping radio out too; then their website; etc.

  • JT

    Wow you people need to get out more! It’s what’s known as a joke – you are taking it far too seriously. And truth be told, controversy gets people talking, just like you are – and that my friends is what makes it interesting. If Top Gear was as pc as the news it would be boring. I’m a cyclist – i’m a commuter, I race and I work in the industry, but I’m not offended! strange that. And if you are wondering why i’m on here… I have to use twitter as part of my job, I happened to come across it… I do have things better to do with my time, but people moaning cause they have nothing better to do really irritates me. BBC2, Sunday 8pm.. enjoy ;)

  • Guy Chapman

    That Stewart Lee video is a masterpiece. It’s so easy to forget that the reason political correctness is taken seriously by us Guardian readers is that bigotry actually is not funny unless you are severely lacking in human empathy.

  • Sally

    I cycle to work every day, and recreationally most weekends, and found his comments humorous – pretty much like all his other comments on various topics. The worry, as other people have pointed out, is that some people take him seriously. Is it not these people we should worry about? Yes, you could remove him from the television, but someone else would step up to the plate. I was watching BBC Breakfast News a few months ago when an MP mentioned road tax. If an MP can get away with it, and not be corrected on national television, what chance has anyone got with Top Gear, which is specifically produced to be that way.nnOn another note, whilst waiting at a set of traffic lights the other day a cyclist approached from behind and then cycled straight through the red light. When I pipped my horn at him, I got a rude gesture back, and then a load of verbal abuse when we ended up on the same car park not a minute later. Personally I think Clarkson (and anybody else for that matter) has every right to have a go at these people on Television. If I had such a platform to try and get certain cyclists to see sense I would certainly use it.

  • carltonreid

    Maybe it would be fair enough if Clarkson also berated motorists for speeding and running red lights and pavement parking. But he doesn’t.rnrnTop Gear is beyond redemption, really. Which is why I didn’t complain to BBC.

  • mikey2gorgeous

    Come on, Carlton, “it’s only a joke”!

  • mikey2gorgeous

    Is there any case whereby, should a cyclist be deliberately run down and the driver subsequently admit they watched ‘Top Gear’, that the BBC could be held partly liable?

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  • drpaysroadtax

    Lee’s routine was shit, I cringed for so much. It wasn’t that funny, didn’t have a good point and he is guilty of the same things.nnTalk about a big name, to get a rise, and more money etc… sounds like someone else mentioned?

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  • Gerry Cruz

    This is the reason why I don’t Subscribe to the BBC, although I get lots of threatening letters. I haven’t subscribe to them for 20 years! Perhaps all Cyclist should stop subscribing. There are enough of us to make a dent on their self imposed Tax and then maybe they will listen.

  • Matt Thrower

    I don’t understand why Stuart Lee saying that Richard Hammond should be killed apparently passes muster sufficiently to be worth linking to, butu00a0Jeremyu00a0Clarkson saying that either cyclists or trade unionists should be short is offensive and dangerous.nnTo my ear, both are examples of unpleasant, unfunny attempts at humour. But it seems that whether a comedian be considered offensive enough to complain about stands entirely on how the complainers’ politics relates to that of the comedian.nnI don’t like Jeremy Clarkson. I do happen to like both cycling and trade unions. But suggesting thatu00a0petrol-headsu00a0take his commentary as incitement to murder cyclists is nuts.u00a0