So you think that’s funny, Mr Clarkson?

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Middle class thuggery in print, an advert for Clarkson’s latest drivel

I guess it’s only cyclists that understand just how idiotic and dangerous most drivers are. The reason I’m not dead yet after years of cycling in London is only because I assume that everyone in a car is applying make-up, looking the other way when they turn into a main road, texting, phoning, getting something off the back seat, drunk or drugged, racing to get their kids to school, or racing to get to work after the school run. That’s just the normal ones.

But then there’s a class of driver who actually hate cyclists. They don’t think they deserve to have space on the road. Rather like the person who  said travelling by bus was a sign of failure, cyclist-haters are usually those who are inexplicably proud of owning an expensive car, as if that changed anything about them as a person. They beep at you, overtake you with no room to spare, and act like bullies. They endanger you for no other reason than they don’t think you should be there in the first place.

Cyclist haters are largely made, cultivated by the media. You can almost tell when some drive-time radio talkshow host is having a go at cyclists, because you seem to meet more unforgiving, reckless and aggressive drivers on your way to work. I wish I had complained about the presenter I heard inciting hatred of cyclists. If cyclists were an ethnic group, he would have been jailed.

On that occasion, I didn’t do anything about it. But this advert for Clarkson’s latest book infuriates me. There is absolutely nothing funny about developing a dislike of any group of people, particularly when this dislike might lead them to be treated even more recklessly than they are now. I am going to complain to Penguin about this advert, and if you’re a cyclist, I urge you to do the same.  It’s only because Clarkson is middle class that he gets away with it – listen to what he says as if he had an Estuary accent, and he’s just another thug.

Update: I’ve just complained to Penguin, Boris Johnson & the Advertising Standards Authority about it. I mentioned to Boris that it’s a bit odd that TfL should be advertising a dislike of cyclists below the ground, while the mayor is trying to develop cycle routes above it.

Update on May 21st 2013: My local MP Sadiq Khan was the only person who took my complaint as seriously as I did back in 2010 and referred it immediately to the Mayor of London. Responses from the others could be summarized as ‘lighten up, it was only a joke’. Now a driver has admitted on Twitter to knocking over a cyclist, adding #bloodycyclists as a hashtag. Not so funny now, eh? 

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7 thoughts on “So you think that’s funny, Mr Clarkson?

    1. jonathan Post author

      I totally agree – everything in that advert is obnoxious: the attitudes towards cyclists, vegetarians and Canadians. Even worse, the advert appears to condone the development of a dislike towards anyone on the grounds of nothing but their adherence/belonging to a group.

      I hope that Canadians & Vegetarians complain to Penguin/ASA as well, but the reason I focused on cyclists in my complaint is because these attitudes get played out on the roads with two tons of metal travelling at high speed, and cyclists (unlike Canadians and vegetarians) are visible, and an easy target.

      Reply
      1. Vicky

        I’m just in the process of complaining to the ASA myself. I’d always imagined that being a vegetarian and non-driver made me a better person not one for whom people should be stoking up hatred. But I agree dislike of vegetarians and Canadians is less likely to cause road accidents.

      2. Damien

        I happen to be a vegetarian, Canadian, cyclist and I complained to the ASA. I just received a letter from them stating:

        “we did not consider it likely to cause serious offense to cyclists, vegetarians, or Canadians”

        “we did not consider the ad likely to be seen as irresponsible or to encourage or condone behaviour which might result in cyclists being harmed”

        “we did not consider the ad likely to be seen as encouraging racial hatred towards Canadians”

        They have received 13 complaints for this ad.

  1. Peter Buckler

    I’ve been cycling as an adult in London for 31 years now. I’m a Canadian but not vegetarian. Many say re Clarkson, “I don’t take him seriously”.

    However many do and they threaten me when I’m out on my bike.

    Reply
  2. jonathan Post author

    I’ve just had the same response from the ASA too. Very depressing – on the one hand you have Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor of London’s transport advisor talking about ‘mutual respect’ as in:

    ‘While the vast majority of cyclists and motorists behave with care on the Capital’s roads, targeted operations such as these encourage considerate, safe and lawful behaviour from all road users and help to create a culture of mutual respect where all road users can share the road safely.”

    And on the other, you have those ads on the tube. Where is the ‘culture of mutual respect’?

    Reply

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