Last night we ought to have gotten a new episode of one of my favorite series, “Top Gear.”  As I wrote earlier this year, there is just so much I love about the show.  It does so many things so very well and is a success in no small part due to the chemistry amongst its three hosts – James May, Richard Hammond, and Jeremy Clarkson.

Now, as I said, “we ought to have gotten” an episode, but we didn’t, and we didn’t because Jeremy Clarkson has been suspended by the BBC for a “fracas.”  We may not get any episodes remaining in the current season due to this and, naturally, rumors abound that things may change down the line for the series, but no one knows (at least no one talking does).  A petition to reinstate Clarkson has something around 940,000 signatures (as of this writing).

There is a whole lot to chew on here, but I’m looking at what I think is the biggest of the issues – that petition demanding he be reinstated.  That is an insane rush to judgment, and one done without actual facts.

Facts are, to be very clear, important.  They are important here, just as they important in discussing something like global warming or vaccines or really just about anything else.  Facts are not something to be dismissed when they don’t fit your worldview, nor something to be glossed over if you simply happen to be without any on your side.

Yes, there are rumors about the specific event which occurred that led to Clarkson’s suspension, but there isn’t a single set of agreed on facts about what happened being disseminated to the public from those involved… actually, I don’t think there’s any set of facts being issued from anyone involved whatsoever.

How then can people suggest that Clarkson be reinstated?  Saying as much means that no matter what he did (and Clarkson has a long history of approaching and/or crossing the line depending on whom you believe), it cannot possibly have risen to the level of being suspension-worthy.  Even Clarkson himself, prior to this incident, has said that he’s been given a final warning by the BBC.

I do not know what happened with this incident.  I do not purport to know nor do I claim any sort of involvement with anyone who does know.  I have not in any way been tipped off about anything.

All I know is this – it is hypothetically possible that Clarkson did something which deserved a suspension.  In fact, that would be a possibility even if Clarkson didn’t have a track record of pushing the envelope.

Again, I’m not saying he did something worthy of suspension.  I am just saying that we live in a world where, occasionally, human beings do things that they shouldn’t and that said things should lead to suspensions.  Why then is it so impossible to imagine that Clarkson did just such a thing?

Not that he necessarily did.

I would like nothing more than for Clarkson to be vindicated, for “Top Gear” to return, and for the show to continue well on into the future even if it has to take some sort of “Futurama” turn where Clarkson, Hammond, and May are nothing more then heads kept alive in jars.  I think there’s a lot of potential there with this last idea, just FYI.

That being said, I also think that it’s ludicrous to suggest that he should return until the BBC has conducted whatever investigation they feel is appropriate.  Everyone knows that the show is popular, we don’t need 900,000 people signing something to tell us that.  But that isn’t even what the 900,00 are saying, they’re saying that Clarkson should be allowed to return immediately, no matter the offense and that’s patently absurd.

There is, of course, a far larger problem here – the world in which we live has pushed us all to demand answers now and to offer up opinions even when we are not qualified to do so.  Unless one of the petitioners was present at the event in question and has an objective point of view, zero of the 900,000 petitioners are in a position to accurately make the assessment that Clarkson should be back on the job.  They can only go on—at absolute best—conjecture and hearsay.  It is more likely that the decision to sign comes from wishful thinking.

We ought to all just stop, take a breath, and think about it.  Then we should let the appropriate process unfold.  Once the facts do come to light, well then we can, maybe, debate about the right outcome.  I am still not convinced that we would have appropriate standing to do so, but at least we would be far closer than we are now.

photo credit: Ellis O’Brien, © BBC Worldwide