Jeremy Clarkson Must Parade Naked through Every Town in Britain, while Crowds Throw Lumps of Shit at Him

Collage by Charles Thomson.

That is obviously the only recourse left for Clarkson to make amends for the remarks that have caused so much outrage, now that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (aka Harry and Meghan) have (again) rejected his grovelling apology. My female mentor thinks he should be cut up into meat and sold in his farm, but that is, I think, a tad excessive, and would leave a bad taste in the mouth, something not entirely inappropriate.

I am of course referring to Jeremy Clarkson’s comments about Meghan Markle in his Sun newspaper column. They have been judged in the court of public opinion as second only to Mein Kampf in their heinousness. The words causing the most offense are: “At night, I’m unable to sleep as I lie there, grinding my teeth and dreaming of the day when she is made to parade naked through the streets of every town in Britain while the crowds chant, ‘Shame!’ and throw lumps of excrement at her.” I will return to his comments later, but must first address the reaction to them.

The whole affair is stupid. The first stupid thing is to take anything Clarkson says seriously and the second to take anything in The Sun newspaper seriously. However, when I last checked, over 40,000 stupid people had done both of those things, making a record number of complaints to IPSO (Independent Press Standards Organisation), beating the previous record of 16,860 complaints against a Scottish Sun article (do you see a pattern emerging here?) about the Stonehaven train derailment – definitely a subject worth taking seriously, as for that matter is the Hillsborough stadium disaster, when 97 Liverpool football fans died in a crush, blamed in a screaming headline “The Truth” by The Sun (definitely a pattern) on fan behaviour, whereas it was subsequently established the fault lay with the police.

As a result The Sun has been boycotted ever since by many in Liverpool, a number of newsagents refusing to sell it, and some residents renaming it “The Scum”. That story would probably have been an all time IPSO record, but the tragedy happened in 1989, a quarter of a century before IPSO was founded. I digress (the temptation was irresistible).

We can also add to the Clarkson complainants 60 stupid Members of Parliament (nothing surprising there, then) and stupid public figures, including John Bishop (who’s he?), Carol Voderman, Philip Pullman and even Clarkson’s daughter Emily, who, ironically, appeared near-naked a couple of years ago, covered in crudely daubed paint to promote healthy body image. If that’s a healthy image, I hate to think what an unhealthy one is. Being covered in excrement, I suppose.

One lone voice of sanity is surprisingly Sir Mark Rowley, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, who confirmed Clarkson’s remarks were not sufficiently egregious to merit any prosecution. In other words (excuse any inadvertent pun), just for the record, you are allowed to hate someone and say so (as Clarkson did) without it being a crime. Before freedom of expression is prematurely celebrated in the UK, we must remember Isabel Vaughan-Spruce, who in December was arrested by police, despite standing in the street in silence and causing no disturbance to others, because she admitted to praying in her head near an abortion clinic. This actually happened and is not a comedy skit.

Apart from Sir Mark, the other voice of objectivity and insight, perhaps even more surprisingly (lots of surprises in this article), is Piers Morgan, formerly exceeding even Clarkson as an egocentric, bullying buffoon, when he was a presenter on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, where reasonable co-host Susanna Reid’s attempts to encourage him to a modicum of reasonableness usually had the opposite effect.

Now he is a solo presenter of Piers Morgan Uncensored (thank God something is) on Rupert Murdoch-owned News UK’s talkTV channel, he is emerging with a certain amount of gravitas, at least in the YouTube clips I’ve seen. I can’t claim a comprehensive review: I’m not that interested.

To bring Morgan into this part of the article, we need to meld Meghan Markle (Duchess of Sussex) with her husband Prince Harry (Duke of Sussex) and more specifically with his autobiographical effusion, Spare. It is justified to treat the couple as one, as they present a unified front, even using the same photographer, Ramona Rosales, for his book cover and her interview in Variety magazine. In honour of Harry’s being “spare” (i.e. a reserve for the throne), I will call them the Suffixes, as that’s something added on as an afterthought.

Morgan has a track record with Markle (and for that matter with Clarkson who once punched him – in fact, Morgan has a track record with most people), but his point is undeniable and his accusation of the royal couple’s hypocrisy is presented with surprising (that word again) assurance not hysteria. Basically, he proves that what the Suffixes object to and are outraged by, they are doing or have done themselves with an unashamed, blinkered narcissism. A “Sussex spokesperson” characterised Clarkson’s comments as “a series of articles shared in hate”. The royal family are no doubt fully appreciative of Harry’s loving depiction of them.

Morgan has picked out some particularly odious passages from Spare. One of the worst is Harry’s schoolboy mockery of a disabled matron, for whom using stairs was “torture”. His “reward” was “making my mates laugh”. The Suffixes are very keen on respect for women (an undeniably worthy attitude), but Harry has no compunction describing a female news editor as a “loathsome toad … an infected pustule on the arse of humanity.” The Suffixes accuse Clarkson of misogyny for his derogatory remarks about a woman (Markle), but Harry’s comments are more vicious, because they have to be taken more seriously and are about a real event, not a hyperbolic fantasy.

Harry describes his stepmother Camilla as “dangerous”, while elsewhere in the book putting in real danger his own family with a callous account of his military service in Afghanistan, killing 25 Taliban. The Taliban say they were not operating in the relevant areas on the relevant days and the dead were civilians. He has certainly made himself and those associated with him a target.

Piers Morgan has the best summing up of all, when he describes Clarkson’s diatribe as “a stupid joke in a column” (he might have continued “in a stupid newspaper for stupid readers in a stupid world”). Clarkson was of course playing the media game (just like this and every other article in fact), which is to get as much attention as possible, often through controversy in order to sell newspapers (as in The Sun) or to communicate ideas (as in Counterpunch) or both.

Morgan also comes out with the most hilarious (and honest) reference to public apology, when he refers to a previous spat with Markle, who demanded his contrition. He muses: “even if I pretended I was sorry…” This pretence is exactly the state many public figures are intimidated into. It undermines democracy, where debate and difference are fundamental. It violates the First Amendment in the US and Article 10 of the Human Rights Act in the UK, both of which protect freedom of expression.

Clarkson followed King Midas in succeeding beyond his expectations, but in both cases they should have borne in mind the adage: “Beware what you ask the gods, for they shall surely grant it.” That’s probably a misquotation. I can’t find it via Google. If anyone knows where it came from, please let me know.

Clarkson’s remarks have the mentality of a playground insult, albeit with the mitigation of a cultural reference to a tedious and mediocre, pseudo-medieval TV drama, Game of Thrones, where Queen Cersei is forced on a naked “walk of atonement” for her sins and pelted with rotten fruits and vegetables (Clarkson got a bit carried away with excrement in his dreams). It might be noted the TV drama has some gender equality as a male High Septon (what exactly is a Septon, low or high?) was forced on a similar walk and made to keep his genitalia revealed. How glorious.

These fates were apparently loosely based on King Edward IV of England’s mistress, Jane Shore, who, after the king died, was forced by his brother (plus ça change…) Richard III to walk barefoot in her petticoat through London. A 13th century French statute lists a punishment where a man and woman are roped together naked and forced to walk through the streets preceded by trumpeters. Now there’s a dream for someone.

Clarkson misjudged his cultural reference badly. It is understandable that he overestimated the ability of his audience to appreciate gross humour (they are obviously not fans of Jimmy Carr), not to mention the intelligence to appreciate parody, irony and the like. Not long ago, a writer could rely on his readers’ understanding of Greek mythology and Biblical quotation, where there are ample opportunities for public punishment (at least 22 Bible verses advocating stoning to death for a start). It was stupid of Clarkson to underestimate the stupidity of his audience’s cultural awareness and even more stupid of him not to take the precaution of mollifying the impact by pointing out the reference, which he belatedly did.

Above all, Clarkson deserves sympathy and compassion. The man clearly has major mental health issues, when he writes of Markle: “I hate her on a cellular level. At night, I’m unable to sleep as I lie there, grinding my teeth and dreaming of the day…” etc. What on earth does hating on a cellular level mean? That you should be locked up in a cell? A padded one perhaps?

On the subject of the errant Suffixes, I present a solution to the conundrum of the Coronation, which King Charles, it seems, would like his prodigal son to attend on 6th May, while shrinking from the potential controversy. As the Suffixes want the freedom of private citizens and certainly act in that way, I suggest stripping them of all their titles, except Mr and Mrs Windsor.

This would reduce the impact of their presence and enable the King to welcome his errant offspring for the big do. Charles’s magnanimity and generosity, preferably accompanied by the same from Harry’s brother, the Prince of Wales, would also be the best refutation of Harry’s accusations. It seemed to work in my family (except I didn’t have any royal titles to start with).

Are there more important issues we should focus on, instead of three loudmouths flinging mud (or something else) around? Perhaps the fact that every day 25,000 people, including over 10,000 children, die from hunger and related causes? That would make a very boring headline 365 times a year. The human mind craves novelty and titillation (particularly in certain newspapers).

So what is the correct response to Clarkson’s offending words. Maybe just say, “What a wanker” and don’t buy The Sun or, if you prefer, The Scum (which, as a point of information, happens to be the acronym of the Society For Cutting Up Men, founded by Valerie Solanas, the woman who shot Andy Warhol. This is definitely not a suggestion to shoot Jeremy Clarkson).

As it is, the rabid reaction to one trivial and throwaway column in a tabloid newspaper has generated 18,500 Google results for “lumps of excrement” AND “Markle”. The remarks have been condemned in the strongest and most outraged terms, but everyone doing so has taken the opportunity of repeating and hence promulgating them. Surely I can’t be the only one who thinks there is something here that doesn’t quite add up.

By the way, in my previous article, “Judgement in Reverse: the New Design for the Sainsbury Wing Entrance of the National Gallery, London”, I stood out in what, as far as I know, was a lone voice in favour of the proposal by New York architect, Annabelle Selldorf. My view subsequently received unexpected endorsement from Sir Timothy Sainsbury of the family which funded the existing build in 1985. He was quoted in The Art Newspaper: “Writing on behalf of the original donors, I would like to confirm that we entirely accept and recognise the need to make those modifications.” I don’t suppose he knew of my article, but… you read it in Counterpunch first!

My next article will feature a grovelling (and completely false) apology to Jeremy Clarkson and, to be on the safe side, to The Sun newspaper, the 47,000 complainants, the Suffixes, Piers Morgan, Tom, Dick, Harry, and Uncle Tom Cobley.

Charles Thomson is co-founder of The Stuckists.