Jeremy Clarkson, BBC presenter, with an estimated salary of £2 million, recently caused controversy when he appeared on The One Show and stated striking public sector workers should be executed in front of their families. These remarks were meant to be tongue in cheek, he apologised, adopting the Bernard Manning defence that surely racist jokes are, at the end of the day, just jokes.
Clarkson’s rightwing boorishness is more tedious than funny. But what truly beggared belief were comments he made about suicide. His take on humour plumbed new depths when he wrote in his newspaper column about 'Johnny Suicide' hampering train services. "Change the driver, pick up the big bits of what's left of the victim, get the train moving as quickly as possible and let foxy woxy and the birds nibble away at the smaller, gooey parts that are far away or hard to find."
These remarks have been roundly condemned, particularly in the wake of the Gary Speed tragedy. What Clarkson is most lacking is empathy. Empathy is what makes us human. This is the ability to recognise the pain our fellow human beings often go through, and the urge to try to understand it. This is particularly the case when they’re experiencing such emotional distress they think the world would be a better place without them.
Clarkson's main claim to fame is salivating over metal objects with four wheels. And fame this most surely is, as Top Gear is beamed to around 150 million worldwide viewers, earning the Beeb around £33 million per year - the reason why he has free reign to mouth off about everything from speed cameras to endangered animals to gays to Mexicans to Johnny Suicide. He has devoted so much of his life to verbal bullying he now seems incapable of showing empathy for anything except flash, gas-guzzling motor cars.