Robin Brown

Journo. Editor. Tutor. Dour northerner.

Archive for the ‘Jeremy Clarkson’ tag

Twitter blows its own lungs out over AA Gill

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I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about AA Gill’s revelation that he shot a monkey on holiday for the sheer hell of it.

Included in Gill’s restaurant review for the Sunday Times was a sizeable chunk of the text given over to how he ‘blew its lungs out’ in an effort to see what it would be like to kill something, or kill ‘a close relative’.

I’m uncertain as to what Gill thought he would learn from this experience, though to wind back a bit I do think his first principle is an interesting one.

A charitable reading of his column might suggest that Gill is dubious about how we’re inured to violence both real and fictionalised these days, through the news and shoot-em-up films.

The way that modern life shields us from the reality of death is a common theme in newspaper columns these days too – and I think it’s an issue worth exploring.

But to go from this to shooting a baboon is like worrying what we can do about sexual crimes and then raping someone in an attempt to acquire a greater understanding of the issue.

Anyway, I suspect all the predictable attention on Twitter will only serve to provide Gill a satisfied feeling of validation. Rather like Clarkson he’s a superbly entertaining writer who frames his various chunterings on the world in a column ostensibly concerning cars in Jezza’s case and food in AA’s case.

But both marry their talent to a tiresome iconoclasm that rails against civil society and accepted mores, serving to provide a thrill of the taboo for conservative readers and an object of anger for others.

Media and public alike lap up this kind of mould-breaking, which often skirts taste, decency and – for want of a better word – political correctness. It’s a well-established routine, and well-practicsed by the likes of Clarkson, Gill and Julie Burchill.

Some might say that Gill has misjudged his act this time. I don’t think he’ll see it that way, in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if he went and shot a primate in the knowledge that he would attract exactly this sort of response.

I’ve indicated before that I believe newspapers, with an online audience in mind, are deliberately courting this sort of controversy and I don’t expect this will be the last outrage of its kind.

Twitter AA Gill

Twitter has duly gone into attack mode, but I think to raise Gill’s idiocy to the ranks of Jan Moir’s nasty Gately column is a mistake.

This latest episode also raises the prospect of a semi-regular apoplexy of the week on Twitter, where the right-on fraternity go bonkers over any perceived slight, act of stupidity or ideological movement that captures the imagination of Twitter’s lefty groupmind.

It’s not an attractive prospect because I’m not sure the Twitter fraternity, acting as one, can really discern between what’s worth mobilising over and what’s worth writing off as an attention-seeking publicity stunt.

I was with the Twitterati over the NHS, Trafigura, the Mail’s gypsy poll and Jan Moir. But Twitter’s wrong over Gill, and I don’t think it will be the last time.

• UPDATE: Jon Henley has written an article over at The Grauniad that follows on from some of the stuff in this post and uses some quotes from me. See The power of tweets

Written by Robin Brown

October 27th, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Michael Schumacher is NOT The Stig

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There was a lot of hoopla over the weekend over the identity of The Stig – Top Gear’s boiler-suited tame racing driver – after Jeremy Clarkson let it slip that his identity would be revealed in tonight’s new episode, the first of the latest series.

It was such a naked publicity stunt that I didn’t take much interest in it, but dashed of a quick piece from memory for the MotorTorque Blog, secure in the knowledge that there’d be plenty of search engine queries on the subject.

In the post I explained that the Stig would undoubtedly remove his helmet to reveal either Damon Hill or Michael Schumacher.

Clarkson would tease whether the F1 driver was, in fact, The Stig but it would evident to anyone with half a brain that thrashing a Honda Civic Type R around the Top Gear racetrack would not have been high on Schuey’s list of priorities as he was winning the last of his F1 titles.

This hasn’t stopped most news outlets reporting the news as if it were fact, regardless of the fact that it’s patently obvious that Schumacher has never been the Stig, apart from his exercise in hooning around the test track in a Ferrari FXX in a neat and rather blatant bit of product placement (Mike went on to reveal his love of the Abarth 500 and Fiat Croma) for both Fiat and Bacardi.

The news reporting riles me, as it’s so weak and lazy as to be insulting. It smacks of churnalism – the modern phenomenon of simply rewriting coverage from other news outlets, or press releases.

I’m not going to debate the pros and cons of churnalism, as almost every journalist in the land has to swallow their pride and dash off some rubbish based on online articles or PR bumph, but this instance is such a naked piece of headline-grabbing will-this-do? crap, which is actually untrue, that it’s quite insulting.

Needless to say the search engines are currently awash with ‘Michael Schumacher IS the Stig!’ headlines from news portals that have simply recycled each other’s reports, or cut’n'pasted Press Association articles.

Schumacher Stig

It’s annoying for smaller sites when larger sites can wield their page rank to monopolise search engines with dross like this – inaccurate dross at that – but it’s even more useless for users, who find the SERPS full of the same article loosely rewritten.

Clarkson, Schumacher, Bacardi and Fiat must be laughing all the way to the bank.

Schumacher is The Stig reports:

The Guardian:

The mystery surrounding who is Top Gear’s mysterious test driver, the Stig, was solved tonight after Michael Schumacher revealed himself as the show’s secret driver.

Yahoo:

Michael Schumacher revealed himself as Top Gear’s mysterious test driver the Stig.

Channel 4:

Michael Schumacher has revealed himself as Top Gear’s mysterious test driver the Stig.

The former Formula One driver took off the Stig’s famous white helmet during an interview with presenter Jeremy Clarkson after the studio audience urged him to reveal his true identity.

Written by Robin Brown

June 22nd, 2009 at 12:22 am