While I’ve been a big fan of Jeremy Clarkson over the years, I’ve never been proud of him before. Hero worship and celebrity go hand in hand and it’s a dangerous game to ascribe motives beyond self-interest to any celebrity.
But in Clarkson’s case he may have just done something worthy of that.
Clarkson is now on the other side of another cancellation campaign against him for a dig at Queen Narcissist herself, Meghan Markle, in one of his recent columns. And, normally, I would just pass the whole thing off as another of Clarkson’s attempts at controversy because if anyone lives by the adage that controversy is good for ratings it’s Jeremy Clarkson.
The guy is a six-foot-four-inch Streisand Effect with bad teeth.
But in this dustup with Queen Meghan, Clarkson did something completely out of the ordinary for him.
James Delingpole and I roasted Clarkson for apologizing on a recent podcast we did. And it speaks directly to not having heroes in this world of near infinite political leverage. But, having just watched season two of his latest show, Clarkson’s Farm. I think I know why he apologized.
One of the great things about Top Gear was the refreshingly unapologetic nature of the hosts, Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond. They all said things we weren’t supposed to say in public. And we loved them for it.
There’s an entire cottage industry of Top Gear making fun of ethnic group X on You Tube that I didn’t know about until recently. Oh, those memories. But as I think about it now I wonder why I’d never seen these before?
Google algorithm, would you care to contact me and explain why after years of watching car videos I was never offered one of these until the campaign to rid the world of Clarkson kicked into overdrive?
I’m sure ChatGPT’s Dan persona will tell me, it’s just coincidence, Tom.
Clarkson is no stranger to controversy, it’s part of how they built Top Gear into the biggest show IN THE WORLD. We know the story of how the the Holy Trinity of Cars moved from the BBC to Amazon. Clarkson punched a producer and he was fired.
They were also getting stale, visibly older after chafing under the BBC’s rules and, rightfully, wanted to cash in on a big, fat golden parachute of a contract. So, did Clarkson ‘engineer’ their exit from the BBC? It’s a fair question which I don’t give a damn about.
Enter Amazon and The Grand Tour was born.
But the same imperatives that ended their run on Top Gear also ended their run on The Grand Tour — the pace, the toll and the one thing no controversy can outrun, time.
So, an aging Clarkson sold the perfect fish out of water story to Amazon: Jeremy Clarkson, the ape who can’t use a screwdriver, was going to run a farm in the midlands.
Hilarity ensues….end scene.
While I liked season one of the show, it had that same lack of spontaneity that plagued both later seasons of Top Gear and The Grand Tour. What it didn’t lack, however, was the craft Clarkson had honed as a storyteller over the past three decades.
Because Clarkson used this platform to educate millions of people of how how fucking hard it is to scrape out a living as a farmer. And after a year of toil and his massive investment of time and outside capital from his “other job” Clarkson ended season one with a princely profit of £144.
And that sets up Season 2 which is where, I think, the real story, the one behind the cameras, gets so much more interesting. Enter Meghan Markle.
It’s no coincidence that the dustup between Markle and Clarkson was timed with the pending premiere of Season 2. The shows would have been finished and delivered to Amazon by them and it’s scathing portrayal of insane environmental policies, local NIMBY politics, and sheer spite over his persona form the central conflict of the show’s eight episodes.
This is contrasted with a frank look at someone genuinely trying to improve the local economy by repurposing a existing building into a restaurant featuring locally produced food. This was done, according to Clarkson, to ensure the farm could be financially as well as ecologically sustainable.
Jeremy Clarkson, the bane of environmentalists, was doing what everyone else complained the rest of the world wasn’t doing. And he spent a small fortune in the process.
His reward? Well, no spoilers from me folks. Go give Clarkson your 6 hours. It’s worth your time.
In the process he highlighted the emotional highs and lows of raising livestock, the insane price of fertilizers, and reminding everyone of the vagaries of the weather.
Watching the episode where they have to pull a calf from a pregnant cow gave me flashbacks to some of the extreme midwifery we’ve done here at my home when we were a working goat and chicken farm, named Pirate Dog Acres.
FYI, with goats we don’t have a handy Dilwyn the Vet to do it for us. Almost no goat is worth that much money. There’s only yourselves, the fellow farmer on the other end of the phone call, a couple of head lamps, and some lube.
And worse, when you’ve saved the mom and the kids, you realize then the mom is ruined as breeding stock thanks to the physical damage to her uterus. So you better hope the kids you saved were girls and she recovers enough to milk well for a few months.
Because her sole value by the end of that summer is as a pet.
And there are no pets on a farm.
Jeremy didn’t experience an animal you’ve invested a few years of your life into and whose milk was the backbone of your business convulse with enterotoxaemia before dying in your arms.
But man did I empathize with the local dairy farmer who lost 60 cows to tuberculosis spread by the over-protected badgers infesting the region.
And this is why I was proud of Clarkson for this show.
He used his considerable celebrity as a clarion call to just how fragile our food production industry is while those with zero skin in the game sit around and make demands on it.
All in the name of ‘public safety’ and ‘preserving natural beauty.’
The turning point of the season is where Jeremy realizes he doesn’t have near enough cows to keep a restaurant going and enlists the rest of the local farming community into a co-op arrangement.
Now, his private little project which only minimally interfaced with the community was metastasizing into a plan to save the entire county’s farming community.
The reality was Clarkson’s celebrity farm was bringing in people from all over the country, leveraging that to kickstart a farm-to-table industry and improve everyone’s lives.
The cost to the locals would be some extra traffic and a parking lot.
The unspoken subtext is that his project was sabotaged from outside. And the Queen of Grievance Politics used her position to take Clarkson out and give Amazon the excuse they needed to ‘likely part ways’ with him over the controversy.
We know why this is. We know what the real agenda is.
Will Amazon have the stones to say no to one of their highest rated and highest value shows when Clarkson delivers Season 3 next year?
Who knows? But it’s not like there will be a lack of bidders or no path for him to monetize his foibles.
Clarkson showed the world the ugly side of environmental policy and its effect on local politics. He provided the blueprint for saving the family farm and rebuilding broken community bonds.
And we can’t have that in the Brave New World of bug protein, 15-minute cities, and no internal combustion engines.
I empathize directly with Clarkson here. He didn’t have to do any of this. Sure, Clarkson’s Farm likely made him millions and he can run his farm at a nominal loss for years, if nothing else, as a tax write off.
But I don’t think that’s why he did this. At one point he’s criticized by a local. “You’re not a farmer, you’re a media personality.” And it’s a fair point. Clarkson is a hobby farmer. It’s not his primary livelihood.
And I can empathize somewhat with some of the locals who don’t know how to deal with a changing world they have no control over, and the big ape coming in and disrupting things is an easy thing to scapegoat.
The implicit message and one I know from personal experience, is that real farming is a full-time job. It’s a full body and mind commitment. You can’t have your feet straddling two islands and make it work.
It’s why we no longer do anything other than keep a few ducks and goats as insurance, milking one or two does to produce a year’s worth of cheese, some eggs and a few ducks for the holidays. Those five years of doing farmer’s markets taught me more than the five years I spent in college.
But the point Clarkson made very clearly is that for the real farmers, they have no other choice and if something doesn’t change they will just give up.
Watching Clarkson champion these people was something to be proud to experience.
And that’s why I think Clarkson did the unthinkable, apologizing to the odious Meghan Markle. He was trying to protect those he’d championed by hoping to keep himself in the spotlight to keep trying to save the family farm itself.
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