The other day the laddish journalist Clarkson wrote a column in which he owned up to detesting Meghan Markle “on a cellular level”.
He was “dreaming of the day”, Clarkson added, when Meghan was “made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while crowds chant, ‘Shame!’, and throw lumps of excrement at her”.
Commentators more securely plugged into popular culture than I am detected a reference to a scene from the TV series Game of Thrones, of which I haven’t seen a single episode. Whatever its cultural antecedents, however, Clarkson’s remark is highly objectionable.
It shows most lamentable insensitivity to Meghan’s personality and her mission in life. For she’d welcome this chance to play the role of an excremental, dismounted Lady Godiva. Where onlookers would see shame and humiliation, she’d see a golden rain of Netflix dollars coming down to cover her nudity.
Both in her previous incarnation of a B actress and her present mission of building a capital of money and notoriety on the ruins of the royal family, Meghan has always lived or died by publicity. The worst possible fate for her isn’t being shamed. It’s being ignored.
There would be little chance of that in a scene spun out of Clarkson’s vivid imagination. Anyway, public nudity is no big deal for a B actress, and hardened excrement wouldn’t even sully her unduly.
But imagine the publicity value of such a stunt. Why, Netflix executives and their competitors from other services would be racing one another to add zeroes to Meghan’s already bloated fees.
Think of TV rights, photo rights, book rights, interview rights and you’ll realise that Meghan would see no wrongs in that little performance. She’d be thanking Jeremy Clarkson all the way to the bank.
Now Jeremy, for some subliminal reasons known only to our nattering nabobs of wokery, is perceived as a man of the right. I suppose they’ve arrived at that nomenclature by a process of elimination: he who isn’t conspicuously Left has to be Right.
That’s how, for example, Hitler got to be known as a right-winger the moment he attacked Stalin. Stalin was undeniably and commendably left-wing; Hitler started out as Stalin’s ally but then became his enemy; ergo, Hitler was extreme right-wing.
Later the same tag was attached to people like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, whose similarity to Hitler wasn’t immediately obvious to those untouched by ideological afflatus.
Clarkson made his journalistic bones as a petrol-headed host of an entertaining car programme on TV. In the eyes of the woke brigade, his fanatic devotion to automotive transport alone would be sufficient to stigmatise him as an inveterate conservative.
Clarkson can detect a deep metaphysical significance in a powerful engine driving four wheels. That, his irrepressible laddishness and an innate gift of the gab make him a good watch, for a programme or two.
After that, that petrol-headedness grows a bit tiresome, but Clarkson remains good value for a snappy phrase and the odd putdown that makes the pinkish fringe see red. That’s precisely the effect his fantasy of Meghan has had.
Unlike sensible people, our woke mavens don’t mind Meghan. In fact, they see her as a comrade-in-arms, a sort of ideological Parteigenosse. By knocking lumps out of the royal family, she is fighting their fight too. And her half-caste origin adds much welcome frisson to her trenchant attacks launched from the beachhead of solipsistic narcissism.
Her and Harry’s obscene show has broken all Netfix records, in the UK at any rate. That makes her a successful media personality, another feather in her cap (and in her arrow aimed at the monarchy). In short, Meghan is one of them, and Clarkson isn’t.
That’s why his crude comment caused an outburst of hysteria completely out of proportion with the gravity of the offence. And what do you know, it’s not Clarkson’s misreading of Meghan’s personality that his detractors object to. It’s his rudeness.
He has committed a hate crime, they scream. And specifically? Never mind specifically. A hate crime’s a hate crime. Fine, if you insist: misogyny, at least. And at most? Oh well, possibly racism as well.
And perpetrators of hate crimes are, well, criminals. Clarkson must be arrested, tried and sent down for a long stretch, ideally for life. He is guilty of a felony, not just a boorish remark.
I can confidently predict that, if he says something similar about any woke icon a couple of years from now, Clarkson will indeed have his collar felt. Yet evidently we aren’t quite at that point yet.
Hence Sir Mark Rowley, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, ruled out a criminal probe into Jeremy Clarkson’s misdeed. Police officers, he explained, were “not there to police people’s ethics”.
“The legal lines are only crossed, generally, when things are said that are intended or likely to stir up or incite violence,” continued Sir Mark. But then a sinister overtone crept into his statement: “I don’t think this is one of those cases but of course we will keep a close eye on it.”
Since ‘we’ isn’t a royal pronoun but a collective reference to the police, Jeremy Clarkson should watch his step. Another intemperate remark, and he may indeed be charged with a hate crime. As it is, he is likely to be punished only professionally, by losing some of his lucrative engagements.
Pity the same exacting standards aren’t applied to woke mouthpieces screaming hatred for those they see as their enemies. When the comedian Jo Brand publicly wished that someone threw battery acid into Nigel Farage’s face, she suffered no censure, much less a police promise to keep an eye on her subsequent utterances.
Labour politicians screaming “Rejoice!” when Lady Thatcher died received no opprobrium. Guardian and Independent journalists routinely describing as ‘fascists’ anyone who voted Leave aren’t censured in any way.
On the contrary, they are welcome guests at academic events, such as those at the Oxford Union, from which conservatives are banned as a matter of course.
Back in the late 80s, my son spent a couple of terms at the LSE. On his first day there he was stunned to see a lobby poster announcing a university debate. The theme was: “Resolved – this house will assassinate Thatcher.”
This sort of thing could have been treated as incitement to violence in some quarters – but wasn’t. Vituperative attacks on anyone perceived as even remotely conservative are an exercise in free speech. The shoe on the other foot makes it a hate crime, something for the Met to “keep a close eye on”.
As to Jeremy Clarkson, he ought to learn how to wield a rapier rather than a bludgeon. And a course in psychology wouldn’t go amiss. If he took one, he’d refrain from giving Meghan ideas for self-aggrandisement.