In Defence of Jeremy Clarkson 75

I only today realized that the “Eeny meeny” rhyme contains the word nigger – despite having said it many times in my childhood.  I really attached no meaning at all to the word then – I though it was just nonsense like “eeny meeny’.  I certainly had no idea it meant a black person.  I had only ever met two or three black people, and did not think of them as any different.

Once I did know the word “nigger” and its hateful sense – probably from TV – I never made the cognitive connection between it and that old nursery rhyme.  Absolutely not until today when I read about Jeremy Clarkson.  I then closed my eyes and said the rhyme.  I was genuinely astonished – and horrified – to find myself saying:

Eeny meeny miney moe

Catch a nigger by the toe

If he squeals let him go

Eemy meeny miney moe

I am quite sure that was the version I chanted as a child when counting out a random choice.  It was just a counting rhyme.  I had as a small child  no associations at all with its meaning, any more than I associated “ring a ring of rosies” with bubonic plague, or “Here we go round the mulberry bush” with pagan fertility rituals.

Clarkson said the rhyme in the context of making the point that there was nothing to choose between two cars, as a way of indicating the choice would be random – an entirely natural context for the rhyme to spring to mind.  Plainly he realized what he had done, and recorded another version.  Clarkson is even older than me.  I might very well have made the same error.  He denies he ever said the word “nigger”.  I can conceive I might have done it without realizing it is there, until too late.  If that sounds incredible, I think it is because you are not taking into account the way children learn and continually repeat rhythmic counting rhymes.

Naturally I hope that version of the nursery rhyme is never used again.  There can be few things harder to eradicate than ancient playground chants, but parents and teachers must explain why it is wrong if they hear it.  I don’t know if children still use it.  But while we may deplore attitudes of the past, we have to exercise wisdom in dealing with people who were products of a very different environment.  Like Clarkson.  Oh, and me.

Which leads me to a further thought.  I am pretty sure I had no concept of people’s colour as a small child, and the following I know for certain. My elder children attended a primary school in Gravesend in which a little over half the children were Sikh.  By age seven, they had absolutely no conception of any racial difference between themselves and any others in their class.  It is a slender piece of evidence, but I am generally fairly convinced that racial difference is a taught construct.



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75 thoughts on “In Defence of Jeremy Clarkson

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  • Duncan McFarlane

    I knew that rhyme, but my parents told me it as “catch a tiger by the toe”. Defending Jeremy Clarkson is a waste of effort though. The arrogant, rude, insensitive, smug, over-privileged idiot will just say something else moronic thirty seconds later. And pretend to be talking for the “average person” and standing up against “the elite” while playing tennis with his best friend, a Prime Minister who went to public school and worked in public relations.

  • Herbie

    I’d always assumed that “nigger” was a corruption of “negro”.

    But anyway, what you’re all describing is structural racism manifesting itself in the language.

    No individual knowledge of meaning required.

    Craig has made the argument that the elites of the British Empire were liberal or leftist, but what he forgets is that even were that the case it was necessary that these elites instilled in their armies and peoples an inherently superior attitude to “foreigners” and racist language was openly encouraged and even celebrated in British television up until the 1970s.

    Whilst the elites themselves benefitted from wealth extracted, the troops and peoples were paid in status uplift.

    That residue of British Empire nationalism is very much alive in Britain today despite the PC sanction, and I suspect that progs like Clarkson’s are a nod and a wink to that important demographic for the BBC, in much the way Littlejohn’s column operates.

    I think that the import of American PC into Britain in the 1980s ought to be considered in light of Britain adopting a neo colonial Atlanticist approach to empire, a marked shift away from the tactics employed by Britain when it was running its own show.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !

    “My own theory is that the word may well have developed from those poor people made slaves from Nigeria, but I don’t know.”

    “Nigger” derived from “Negro”, and I think – but am not sure – that the latter word existed before the development of slavery (hence no connection with “Nigeria”), probably derived from a Spanish or Portuguese adjective denoting dark colour? Were the Spanish and Portuguese the first European countries to make contact with Black Africa through exploratory voyages and the like?

    MY OED doesn’t give the etymology of the word.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !


    Thx for the link. Do you have anything to underpin the Spanish/Port origins of the word eg, exploratory voyages?

  • guano

    Edward Stourton is a BBC ‘people like you’ toff twit like Jeremy Clarkson. It’s hard to decide whether their accents or their racist opinions are more offensive. No doubt they serve as nob camouflage to the Zionist subterfuge.

    When I say racist, I mean the plummy English assumption that in spite of its faults, the UK represents the best of all possible alternatives in spite of its worse components , the status quo of royalty and class.

    If ordinary listeners are unaware of the underlying prejudices which are part of the patter of older upper classes, these guys know only too well what they are saying.

    They should be kept in a Museum. Or Mausoleum.

  • Mary

    Clarkson has issued an apology according to the 10pm News. He was ‘mortified’. It did not sound like an apology. Laughing in our faces.

  • fred

    Some people will do anything to get some attention.

    Others are more than happy to give it to them.

  • CanSpeccy

    It’s OK in Britain, apparently, to call someone a “cunt,” but not OK to call them a “nigger.” Obviously that is a preposterous distinction. Why is it made? Britain used to be a free country, a country that prided itself on the freedom speech, and where people lived by the maxim that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

    Well I’ll answer my own question because no one else here is likely to do so.

    PC is the new state religion, a religion being a set of rules of conduct to which people attach great emotional significance. Those rules acquire emotional significance because they are the subject of endless brainwashing in school, from the British Broadcorping Castration, and the Corpo. media, and because there are anti-blasphemy laws that jail people who say “nigger” in the wrong context, or even “niggardly” in the right context (The latter, being reminiscent of Victorian prudery, which, it is said, sometimes went to the extreme of covering the “legs” of a table.)

    The particular set of rules that constitute the PC religion have a purpose, naturally. PC is the religion of the NeoLiberal global empire (about to be blown apart by ethnocentric nationalism, quite likely beginning with a UKip landslide in the EU Parliamentary elections). PC is part of the machinery of NeoLiberal-driven universal genocide — the destruction of the ethnic, cultural and religious identities of the subject peoples of the Euro-American empire.

    Notwithstanding the above, I fully recognize that if you call an African a nigger with intent to insult, you better be prepared to accept whatever’s coming to you (from the African, I mean, not from the stupid, brainwashed PC idiots, although come to think of it, they are probably more dangerous than the person you insulted). And if you start a riot, by the use of insulting language, any language, then sure you will by liable for prosecution and punishment for actions liable to cause a breach of the peace, but that has nothing to do with the insane PC idea that no one can ever, under any circumstances, call someone a nigger, without risk of judicial punishment.

  • Tony M

    Stourton I’m sure it was absolutely nailed NuLab’s Margaret Becket in a radio interview as part of the program ‘The Summer War in Lebanon’ (about 2006), having her absolutely squirming under pointed questioning. I wouldn’t be so quick to judge him on the basis of his perceived accent, it might even be the case that he’d been demoted or shelved after that watershed interview for laying bare the barking-mad and murderous Zionist mania of the NuLab mafia. Becket appeared to go doo-lally and disappear off the face of the earth after that interview, I’m sure it damaged whatever could remain of a war-criminal’s career as their personal judgement day nears, damaged it terminally and if it didn’t then it certainly should have; the same fate awaits anyone foolhardy enough to continue standing by Blair and his cancerous clique.

  • Roderick Russell

    @ CanSpeccy 12:25 above: Re your comment “I’ll answer my own question because no one else here is likely to do so”; your question being “why is it OK to call somebody a “cunt” but not a “nigger””.

    CanSpeccy, I’ll answer your question – The “N” word goes far beyond a reference to a persons origin or skin colour. It is pejorative and insulting in the extreme, and meant to be – it carries horrible baggage with it.

    Let me give you an example of how a word (or symbol) can change its meaning from neutral to evil. The other day I looked at an old Kipling book that had been given to my Great Aunt Lillian in 1905. On the cover was a “Swastika”. Now in 1905 the Swastika was seen in a good light, as a symbol of religious purity, of goodness, of Hindustan; but that is not how the Swastika is seen today after the Nazis forever changed its meaning into a symbol of mass murder. And this is what has happened to the “N” word; its meaning has changed – when it’s used it’s used in a derogatory fashion and meant as an insult. It is grossly unfair.

    Strangely enough my Gt. Aunt Lillian had been in St. Petersburg in 1917 and picked up some rather nice jewelry. My wife and I had to sell this to survive because of a retired “Cunt” who authorized the professional spreading of very nasty lies about me and is one of your neighbors in Victoria

  • CanSpeccy

    Roderick, of course “Nigger” can be, and usually is, used as a pejorative. But, as usual, you miss the point, which is that “Cunt,” as you demonstrate by your use of the term, can be just as much a term of abuse as “nigger” but it’s not un-PC. Why is it not un-PC? That was the question I raised, and I answered it. You’ve merely muddied the water, with an irrelevance.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !

    re “Cunt” :Why is it not un-PC?”

    Probably because for most people (men and women) cunts are usually associated with pleasure; also, perhaps, because cunts are not usually considered as a minority group to be discriminated against and insulted (statistically their possessers are a majority of the population)?

  • N_

    Jeremy Clarkson most certainly is a racist. Moreover, he plays to an appreciative audience of racist right-wing arseholes. The recent incident was probably deliberate. Getting his name in the media makes him money. Does the latest story help his brand or not?

    Never forget that Clarkson was one of the inspirers of Anders Breivik, the ‘cultural nationalist’ who murdered 88 people in Norway. In his ‘manifesto’, Breivik repeatedly quotes both Clarkson and Melanie Philips with approval. Had Clarkson been genuinely ‘mortified’ about inspiring a right-wing mass murderer, he would not have called shortly afterwards on British TV for strikers to be shot.

    Long before the present “nigger” incident, he made racist comments about gypsies (“pikeys” – a word now also applied with hatred to many poor working class people) and Asian people (“slopes” – standing for “Silly Little Opium Peddling Easterners”).

    With you, Craig, it would have been an accident. But justlook at Clarkson’s form.

    He has even called Gordon Brown a “one-eyed Scottish idiot”.

    Of course racial difference is a taught construct. Fuckers like Clarkson teach it.

  • N_

    That statement by Jeremy Clarkson’s executive producer Andy Wilman is a lie! “We” used the word “slope” in “light-hearted” reference to an Asian man’s ethnicity, but “we” didn’t realise it is “considered by some” to be offensive? Bullshit!

  • John Spencer-Davis

    I agree entirely with N_ , if you are aware of the word “slope” at all, as applied to humans, you cannot fail to be aware that it is offensive and racist, that’s just nonsense.

    Charles Hamilton used the word “nigger” frequently in his school stories in the British publication The Magnet, in which he wrote from 1905 to 1940. I am not sure of his earliest use of the word but it cannot have been later than 1920. He always put it in the mouths of arrogant and racist characters, and he never failed to make it clear that the word was offensive to black people.

    Incidentally, the first time I saw the whole of the “Eeny meeny miney moe” rhyme was in a tale by P.G. Wodehouse, probably about thirty years ago, and the second line really shrieked at me. Perhaps it’s more obvious when reading it than when saying it.

    Kind regards, John

  • Mary

    To cap it all, Poison Gove was acting as Clarkson’s PR on Sky News just now. Jeremy this and Jeremy that. ‘Would never want to insult’…. blah, blah. Are they perhaps best mates? I think we should be told.

  • Mary

    There was a brand of marmalade which produced little enamel badges for children to collect. The tokens were on the labels. I think the advertising slogan was ‘By Golly, it’s Robertson’s’.

    ‘In a statement reported by the BBC, Virginia (Ginny) C. Knox, previously brand director for Robertson’s and later Chief Operating Officer of the Culinary Brands Division of RHM, told The Herald Newspaper in Scotland in 2001 that the decision to remove the Golly symbol from Robertson’s jam and marmalade jars was taken after research found that children were not familiar with the character, although it still appealed to the older generations. “We sell 45 million jars of jam and marmalade each year and they have pretty much all got Golly on them,” said Ms Knox. “We also sell 250,000 Golly badges to collectors and only get 10 letters a year from people who don’t like the Golliwog image.” Today, Robertson’s Golly badges remain highly collectible, with the very rarest sometimes selling for more than £1,000.’

    So that’s alright then Ms Knox. No relation we trust. Innocent children’s hero!!

  • nevermind

    Anybody who would like to excuse the fourwheeled twat and his PR antics, Radio Norfolk is giving him some publicity via Norfolks erstwhile public broadcaster, Nickolas Conrad.

    just ring 01603 617321 and you can defend or speak up for this twatspat, giving it further publicity.

  • fred

    “decision to remove the Golly symbol from Robertson’s jam and marmalade jars was taken after research found that children were not familiar with the character, ”

    I though that was retaliation against Iddi Armine for taking the picture of the Queen of their stamps.

  • fred

    “Anyone remember that awesome piece of TV light entertainment, the Black and White Minstrel Show? Now that was a class act. Not.”

    Al Johnson and G H Eliot.

  • Briar

    “Sadly you’re wrong. If you watch the version which was actually broadcast you’ll hear that it is in fact the very same clip in which the word “nigger” has just been very deliberately replaced with the overdub of Clarkson saying the word “teacher”. The dubbing is very very crude and obvious – so obvious in fact that it can only have been done deliberately in a standard Top Gear stab at humour & was intended to be noticed and chuckled at by those “in the know” – much as with the more recent “slope” remark.”

    And evidently done before the murder of Ann Maguire. I hope. Of course Clarkson likes to pose as a champion of anti PC free speech (much like Farage) and will doubtless be surrounded by armies of supporters determined to bash in the faces (metaphorically) of anyone opposed to their hero’s antics. It seems the thugs will always be with us.

  • Ba'al Zevul (Ba'ali Nomates)

    Hero of the famed ‘Dam Busters’ raid, Guy Gibson’s dog was called ‘Nigger’ and that was the codeword Gibson chose to signal the successful breaching of the Moehne dam…it all depends on context.

  • Moniker

    This keeps happening to Jeremy Clarkson! It’s amazing how one ends up having to defend the daft car-loving daft person!

    But it’s true. The first racist comment I ever made was a deliberate “it’s not fair” grumble to a girl in my class who was taller, far more elegant and cleverer than most of us and we were all desperately trying to get a sun tan and she was standing there being the colour we were all trying to become. In the ensuing conversation, I learned the word “racism”. It was probably the first time I noticed the fact that there were different skin-coloured people in our class and to some people it was more significant than different eye- or hair-colours. How can it be that in the second half of the 20th century, some of us grew up in pretty thoroughly non-racist environments and now we’re all constantly struggling with it?

  • Mary

    What is this about? A list of Clarkson’s gaffes. Boasting? Laughing in the licence fee payers’ faces?

    Top Gear: A vehicle for controversy?

    BBC taking Clarkson clip ‘seriously’
    Hammond: We’ll keep making Top Gear
    Top Gear admits staging road jam

    Top Gear is one of the BBC’s most popular and profitable series, but it has a history of controversy.


  • arsalan

    I always thought it was “catch a rabbit by the toe”. At least that is what we sung. I never heard of the nigger thing till this Clarkson case.
    So if he says he said rabbit, I would believe him.

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