By on January 13, 2015

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The only part that was not scripted was James May’s broken ribs.

Much has been written about Top Gear’s Patagonia Special, which aired in Britain over the holidays. The show premiers on BBC America this week. Bloggers and journalists wrote, ad nauseam, about the authenticity of the inflammatory license plate and the barbarity of the Argentines. Nuanced discourse? Not so much. Let’s delve deeper.

First, a little bit of background. The Falkland Islands is a remote British possession in the South Atlantic near Argentina. Argentina, which refers to the islands as Islas Malvinas, claims them as its own. In 1982, the military dictatorship in the South American country miscalculated Britain’s resolve and naval power and invaded the Falklands. Quickly, and tragically, the British fought the poorly trained and poorly commanded Argentines, killing over 1,600 soldiers. Argentina was humiliated and its people quickly realized that their leaders were incompetent. A paper tiger–disrobed emperor moment, if you will.

The Cliffs Notes version: Argentina was humiliated, and it was made worse given the pride and machismo of Argentine men.

Then, we have Top Gear. It is an irreverent, vastly entertaining BBC series about cars. The show tries to come off as improvised and unpredictable, but is in reality heavily scripted. Its star, Jeremy Clarkson, has famously insulted virtually every ethnicity, nationality, celebrity, and political party under the sun.

Last year, Top Gear went to Argentina to shoot a special. Clarkson drove a Porsche 928 with the license plate “H982 FKL”. Argentine nationalists took this as a big F*** YOU, as they interpreted the plate to read “1982 Falklands”. This was made worse by the fact that the show was filming in Tierra del Fuego, an Argentine province which includes the Islas Malvinas.

As the Top Gear crew with the offending Porsche 928 entered Tierra del Fuego, enraged Argentines threatened violence, threw rocks at the crew, and chased them out of the country.

I watched the special for the first time last weekend, after the Charlie Hebdo tragedy. These thoughts came to mind:

  • The license plate: I am convinced that Top Gear knew about the significance of the Porsche license plate going into Argentina. The license plate might have been a concoction of the BBC art department. Or, it might have been a real license plate that was truly registered to the Porsche. No matter its provenance, Top Gear knew it would piss off the locals. Shit stirring was its intent. It just underestimated the extent to which the shit was going to be stirred.
  • Humiliation: As Americans and Brits, I humbly ask you to stand in the shoes of the Argentines. Imagine yourself from a country that was never a world power, that was not always a democracy, that does not have a .900 batting average when it comes to wars. In a time of turmoil and doubt, you were certain of only one thing– that your military was strong. One of the few sources of the military dictatorship’s legitimacy was its perceived strength. That belief was shattered when the British, whose seat of power was 13,000 kilometers away, kicked the shit out of your proud sons in uniform. You’re down. And with the current Fernandez regime, the economy is not so hot. Inflation is high and so is underemployment. This is a perfect recipe for nationalism and blind rage. How would you feel if a bunch of rich Brits, and one clown, came to your ‘hood with a car that coincidentally reminded you of the year in which your country was brought to its knees and your brother lost his life for a meaningless regime’s hubris?
  • Freedom of speech: Every country has its own norms and laws. Some we agree with, others we can live with, and still others are downright barbaric. But there is the notion of a universal right to freedom of speech. Of course Clarkson and Top Gear had the right to put H982 FKL, or even 1982 FALKLANDS, on a license plate. It is their right, no matter where they are on this planet.
  • The ethics of courtesy: While Top Gear had every right to say what they wanted, was it right, was it ethical, to say what they said through the license plate? If I go to your house, can I just start insulting your wife and kids? If I visit your church, can I just start insulting your god and your beliefs? And from an ethical point of view, is it right to inflame the locals if there is a chance that the locals might rise up (reasonably or not) and physically harm your film crew?
  • Charlie Hebdo: And that leads to the insane tragedy that took place in Paris last week. We all agree that the cartoonists had every right to draw insulting works. We all agree that to react with assassinations is absolutely unacceptable. It is downright evil, let alone misguided. But as I watched the BBC crew getting pelted with rocks, I guiltily thought– those people had it coming. Was I wrong? Is it a matter of gradation? Is it a matter of absolutes?

As a postscript, I want to disclose a little bit of my personal background. Some bona fides, if you will. I was born and raised in Taiwan and Japan, countries that have lost wars and lived through humiliating times. I majored in Latin American Studies, focusing on the military dictatorships of Cold War Latin America. I have also traveled by bus, albeit briefly, through Chilean and Argentine Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. And most importantly, I am a long time fan of Top Gear.

Image source: The Telegraph

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132 Comments on “The Geopolitics and Ethics of the Top Gear Patagonia Special...”


  • avatar
    juicy sushi

    Did they have the right? Likely under UK law, I have no idea under Argentine law. Was it ethical? As you say, not in the slightest. Did they deserve the over-reaction? Given the number of times the show (and Clarkson in particular) have played with that particular kind of political fire, it’s hard not to see karma at work.

    Ultimately, I just can’t be bothered to give a damn about Top Gear anymore, and these big scripted spectaculars in particular. The thrill is gone.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The last thing they did that was watchable may have been the most recent African adventure. I DVRed last night’s episode, so I’ll find out if it’s more of the same, so something worth watching.

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        “Top Gear” the “Jerry Springer” of the auto-world

        One more time, TV is FAKE, the movies are FAKE, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Why do we have such trouble with this?

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I agree everything in our world is fake, the “recovery” is fake, the nation’s leaders are fake, our futures are fake.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          I don’t care that it’s fake. It hasn’t been very entertaining in at least two years. Some of their specials, Africa, Middle East, Vietnam, Amazon, etc, are epic TV events that have no duplicate.

          And Johnny, it’s Crab People we have to worry about. Crab People, Crab People!

        • 0 avatar
          bunkie

          This is true.

          A few years back, I was a contestant on a game show which culminates in a final round question. On my episode, the question was flat-out wrong in that the answer did not fit the question (the question implied real events while the answer was a work of complete fiction). None of us got the right answer, although I came the closest (the answer they wanted came to me just as time ran out). We pointed this out to the producers but got no response. When the show aired, the question had been changed to fit the answer. Curiously, the host actually corrected one of the other contestants referring to the original question (they couldn’t edit that interaction after the fact).

          So yes, television lies. Never so much as when it seeks to protect itself.

          Postscript: I actually don’t feel bitter or angry about this, being a contestant was a really fun experience and I would certainly recommend it with the caveat that one has to understand that it’s entertainment and that the producers have the final say in everything.

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            I thought we learned this with the “$64,000 Question” scandal, but I guess not

            Cool story, though

          • 0 avatar
            bunkie

            “I thought we learned this with the “$64,000 Question” scandal, but I guess not”

            It’s not really the same thing. I felt that the producers went out of their way to make the contest fair. Mistakes do happen and this was just a bad question, I can’t really fault them for it. Furthermore, I’m not sure what they could have done *except* to edit the question. On the one hand I suppose I could feel entitled to another appearance, but if they did that for everyone who was in the same position, I could see how they would have to do so for lots of people.

            I’m not slamming television at all, just pointing out that expecting the unvarnished truth therefrom is folly.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        It’s truly awful. I watched it right after it aired, and it’s just a waste of time.

        Let’s take three sports cars to a country with no roads and see how they do. Also we’ll cross the Andes! Then we’ll get “mad” and cross the Andes again!

        Oh also, all three of these cars are old and unreliable, and we don’t state what we paid for them.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          So I should just press delete and watch “Frozen” or “Tangled” with my 2 year old daughter instead?

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Unless you’re desperate, and want something to watch in like 20 minute increments for 6 days – yeah. It’s utterly boring, except for the end when the mob part starts, which isn’t that entertaining either. They over-narrate and trump up the danger quite a bit. Lots of words like mortal, abandon, and flee are used.

            The cars are a 928 S2, a late Esprit V8, and a Mustang Mach I (in bad mechanical condition).

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I’ll just bust out the Magna-Doodle and draw some farm animals instead.

    • 0 avatar
      philadlj

      The last three (Nile, Burma, Patagonia) have been made infinitely worse by being two-parters, which means they plod on and on and on. At least the locales are beautiful, and they are actually THERE…but the magic of earlier specials in the Arctic, Africa, and Vietnam is long gone. I’m also partial to the GT-R vs. Bullet Train in Japan. It wasn’t technically a special, but it felt at least a LITTLE spontaneous and fish-out-of-watery, which is all I ask. I KNOW it’s mostly scripted. I just wish the show wouldn’t rub it in my face!

    • 0 avatar
      RUFukkinCrius

      Grand sweeping ethical judgements. Do you have any rights, well no, or do you say no one has the right to say no one has the right to say anything you don’t have the right to disagree with you? go fuck yourself.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Fair comments all. Two supplementals:
    1) By bringing disgrace on the ruling Argentine junta of the time, which also was guilty of murdering Argentine dissidents and students (‘the disappeared’) can the Brits not take some credit for helping to restore democracy in Argentina?
    2) Wasn’t the Top Gear crew also subjected to stone throwing and threats when they were in Alabama? If so, then it seems that they strive to attract this sort of reaction.

    Regardless, Top Gear (UK) is one of the most entertaining shows on the planet and it is my belief that James May would be one of the most interesting drinking buddies extant.

  • avatar
    kovakp

    Thanks for trying to provide a Controversy in case we ran out of cars to talk about, but stretching this to in any way parallel professional islamic terrorism is lower than even Fox News.

  • avatar
    spreadsheet monkey

    Saw this a couple of weeks ago. Aside from the deliberately manufactured drama over the license plate, this was a very dull and formulaic TG Special, and nowhere near as good as those in previous years (Florida and Vietnam were great)

    The scenery was stunning, but the jokes and the inevitable trashing of the cars (the Esprit looked like it was in nice condition) were drearily predictable. As the article suggests, it was just three rich Brits smashing up cars and being rude to locals in a foreign country.

    Here in the UK, public opinion is turning against Clarkson and TG. I don’t think the show will last much longer, despite being a huge money earner for the stars and the TV production company.

  • avatar

    Saw the episode. IMO TopGear offers nu surprise any more whatsoever. The testing had to make way for the same old antics a long time ago. Same sorts of jokes lend itself for endlessly repeating themselves. It’s why I like watching Seinfeld reruns over and over again. TopGear is more about three middle-aged men who still think that their very limited repertoire is funny.

    • 0 avatar
      RHD

      Speaking of warmed-over, have you watched Survivor lately?
      Like the original Beetle, it’s the same thing as last year, but this time there’s another small detail that’s different.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Darned filter seems to have eaten my first post!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1) They also had stones thrown at them in Alabama.
    2) Seeing how the Brits ‘disrobed the Emperor’ don’t they deserve some credit from Argentine nationals for helping to restore democracy in that country? Didn’t Argentine junta actually kill (execution style) more Argentines than were killed in the war.

    I still find Top Gear (UK) to be one of the most if not the most entertaining show on TV and think that James May would be a great drinking buddy.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      You are right, that junta wasn’t full of nation builders and statesmen. This is an excellent article about the 1978 World Cup. I am not always an ESPN fan, but they do pieces like this right:

      http://espn.go.com/espn/feature/story/_/id/11036214/while-world-watched-world-cup-brings-back-memories-argentina-dirty-war

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        Totally agree. Most Argentinians were happy to have lost the war and get rid of the dictatorship. They voted in the current incompetent president, so that was their choice.

        The have over-reacted to a small licence plate. Just as some Alabamans over reacted to much larger and more offensive words in the Top Gear US special a few years ago.

        All the Argentinians who did this have shown the world is that they are an over-sensitive little country.

        • 0 avatar
          ...m...

          “The have over-reacted to a small licence plate. Just as some Alabamans over reacted to much larger and more offensive words in the Top Gear US special a few years ago.”

          …man love rules, okay?..

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Totally agree. Most Argentinians were happy that they lost the war so the dictatorship fell. They elected the current incompetent president so that is their own fault.

      It is only one licence plate, they are certainly over-reacting. Licence plates are not that easy to read unless you are really looking. So this is different to the Tog Gear US special when they wrote some stuff on the side of their cars in much bigger letters (still an over reaction by the people in Alabama).

      All Argentina has shown by this is that they are a country full of over sensitive types. Who blow up at any imagined or real slight.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Totally agree. Most Argentinians were happy to have lost the war and get rid of the dictatorship. They voted in the current incompetent president, so that was their choice.

      The have over-reacted to a small licence plate. Just as some Alabamans over reacted to much larger and more offensive words in the Top Gear US special a few years ago.

      All the Argentinians who did this have shown the world is that they are an over-sensitive little country.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      The Alabama attack was fake, you never actually see the rocks and for the next USA Special the cops kept bugging the TG Crew due to the last visit having a fake attack.

    • 0 avatar
      Magnusmaster

      Galtieri was already in trouble due to economic troubles, the whole war was to save the regime, it ended up being the nail in the coffin.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I watched the first episode of this show last night, but feel asleep during the second hour before the crap hit the fan. I’ll just have to watch the episode on demand tonight.
    I thought the first episode was entertaining , but the dirt roads chosen were not the primary highways one would normally take. They were there solely for drama.
    I plan to drive from CA to the tip of South America someday, but I will stick to the main roads. I also plan to have an armed guide with me especially in Mexico.

    • 0 avatar
      ...m...

      …good luck with the darién gap…

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Given the deteriorating situation in Mexico, I would ship the car somewhere south of the Darien gap and start from there. But, I need to assemble a group for this expedition. It’s too much for a one car caravan.
      Which reminds me of the famous poetry contest where each contestant had five minutes to write a poem with the word Timbuktu. The result went something like this.

      First the Harvard graduate recites

      “Across the shifting desert sands
      Marched a lonely caravan
      Camels walking two by two
      Destination Timbuktu”

      To which the redneck replies

      “Me and Tim a huntin’ went
      Met thee ‘hoes in a pop up tent
      They was three
      And we was two
      So I bucked one
      And Tim buck two”

      Now back to our regular program.

  • avatar
    JohnnyFirebird

    Many years ago, when I was but a little 17 year old Firebird, in a far off time of the 1990s I spent a few summers in the UK and found Top Gear magazine. It was amazing, with a thick list of every vehicle sold in the UK. As a Canadian it was fascinating to learn about all these brands like Lancia and Skoda and SEAT that I’d never been exposed to.

    I started watching the show when it began to show up in Canada and the US, and I loved it. Then I started paying attention to Clarkson’s anti-US rants. One special – which I think might not have been official Top Gear but just a Clarkson one-off DVD – had him pitch a Mustang against a race horse. He described the Mustang as 300 horsepower, which the GT was at the time, except… the car in the video was very obviously a V6. Single tailpipe, no fog lights in front. That’s when I realized the man was full of crap.

  • avatar
    Jethrow

    Gee – what a crock of ####.

    You are convinced TopGear concocted the plate or it’s effects? Based I presume on your opinion? Cursory research will show that the old Porsche had those plates since new. So are you now suggesting TopGear, in its hunt for and manual 928 selected one on the basis of its number plate? Try again sir.

    And the reference to Charlie is outrageous.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Agreed, I had read that these were the original plates on that Porsche. But even if it was chosen specifically for the plate “H982 FKL” is hardly inflammatory in its small type.

      • 0 avatar
        juicy sushi

        The plate itself would have gone without notice, if Clarkson hadn’t been prominently posting the plate on twitter claiming that there was no link to the Falklands issue, thereby making it an issue.

        He primed the well on that one…

        • 0 avatar
          mike978

          Do you really think many people in Patagonia are on Clarkson’s twitter feed, or anybodies twitter feed for that matter?

          Even if they were aware because of self publicity they choose to over react.

          • 0 avatar
            juicy sushi

            Yes, yes I do, given the 4.62 million followers he has around the world. And yes, they over-reacted, but there would have been no reaction at all if Clarkson hadn’t deliberated drawn attention to the plate, and told everyone to think of it as a reference to the Falklands.

            It was a deliberate strategy to goad a response. Most people won’t react that way, but enough people will that it will make good tv. And if some rocks hit a cameraman in the process, even better.

        • 0 avatar
          slance66

          Nonsense. The plate was issued locally by the Argentines. It was a coincidence, and a bunch of morons who have nothing to be angry about, got angry. Pride? Give me a break. They deserved to get their asses kicked then for the stupidity of invading the Islands. The people of Argentina should look forward, not back and try to put a decent government in place…it might just be the first one for them.

    • 0 avatar
      MBella

      The plate is too much of a coincidence. I agree with the author.
      “No matter its provenance, Top Gear knew it would piss off the locals. Shit stirring was its intent. It just underestimated the extent to which the shit was going to be stirred.”
      They underestimated the reaction they were going to receive. It was probably thought to be more like the “American” scooter in the Vietnam special where the locals didn’t even pay attention. I don’t support the over reaction of the locals, but the way the edited the episode to make themselves off as victims was a bit annoying.

  • avatar
    michal1980

    I think it makes the people throwing stones look like idiot’s. You are seriously pissed of because of a license plate? Grow up.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    To Bear “jumped the shark” a while back, and the last several seasons have been remarkable for their level of boring.

    They have simply run out of original ideas, writing, and even, to some degree, truly interesting vehicles to review (now resorting to Franken-patch monsters).

    And you can tell that the hosts are much older & uninspired (or fat & happy?) in everything from the way they deliver their scripted lines to the way by which they review new vehicles.

    Top Gear UK WAS a seminal entertainment show related to the world of the automobile, but as the writers reach for more implausible, over the top, and less automotive-centric scenarios in a desperate attempt to provide long time viewers the same buzz, it’s become a mostly stale, uncreative parody of its former self.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Many still think it is a funny and entertaining programme. It has been going for 22 or 23 seasons, so to some it will be getting old.

    • 0 avatar
      juicy sushi

      I think they peaked, and then fell with the Reliant Robin space shuttle and the Vietnam special. After that, it seemed like they couldn’t really break new ground, so they just rehashed the same ideas with extra hype.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I liked the Boliva Special that was the year after they went to Vietnam. It probably wasn’t as good as the Vietnam special though.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I watched the Bolivia special the first time and liked it, but my follow-up watching made me disappointed. There are several flaws in the editing which reveal lies.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            I’m trying to remember what the inconsistencies were. Did it have something to do with getting the trucks off the barge? It’s been awhile since I’ve watched it (maybe three years).

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The barge part and the way they ended up doing it didn’t make sense, yes. But there are fake sound effects used more than once to describe “issues” with the cars.

            As well, they show clips of them on the mountain road in the wrong order, making it look like problems happened when they did not – you can tell because of the condition of the cars changes accordingly.

            They made it look like Clarkson abandoned them to go off on his own without radio or etc, when he didn’t. The scripted moment where he almost falls off the disintegrating road when a car is coming the other way was false too. The other car was the camera crew vehicle, and it shows up in other shots.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      I like Top Gear but agree that they have peaked and are running out of ideas. I loved the Vietnam Special and agree that somewhere along the road they “Jumped the Shark”.
      The Australia special was pathetic. I didn’t like the Burma Special. You can only be annoying and target Political Correctness for so long before you yourself become the anachronism.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        Agreed.

        Both the Australia & Burma specials were incredibly boring (and the other Australia motor sports special with the Top Gear Australia crew was HORRIFIC).

        Their best foreign nation specials were Bolivia, Vietnam (surprisingly, since they commuted by “bike”), and the San Francisco to Salt Lake Flats USA special.

        Top Gear UK really is terrible this season and for at least the last two.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    What does Charlie Hebdo have to do with this?

  • avatar
    mike978

    Totally agree with Arthur Daley. Most Argentinians were happy to have lost the war and get rid of the dictatorship. They voted in the current incompetent president, so that was their choice.

    The have over-reacted to a small licence plate. Just as some Alabamans over reacted to much larger and more offensive words in the Top Gear US special a few years ago.

    All the Argentinians who did this have shown the world is that they are an over-sensitive little country.

  • avatar
    MK

    Would someone please point me to TTAC’s impassioned response to the Top Gear “Alabama rednecks” episode?

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    One question:

    If almost everything was scripted, what makes you sure that the part where locals “chased them out of the country” wasn’t scripted?

    Haven’t seen this episode yet, but it isn’t the first time that they end a show with the trio being chased out of a country.

    It seems that most Top Gear “controversies” are based around the fact that some viewers are unaware that it’s a comedy show that happens to feature cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Arthur Dailey

      Exactly. The autos in the show are used only as a prop to link stories about travel, history, sociology, technology and primarily comedy. Hence its worldwide audience.

      Do you really believe that a show that was just about automobiles would get a worldwide audience in the tens (if not hundreds) of millions? Even my teenage daughters (one who does not even have her driver’s license) watch and enjoy Top Gear.

      That is why Clarkson et al make so much more money than the standard auto ‘journalist’ and why so many strive to emulate or capture the zeitgeist of Top Gear. Is TTAC (particularly Baruth) really just about automobiles?

  • avatar
    jdash1972

    Freedom of speech is one thing, abusing that freedom and stretching it to its limits is another. I’ve traveled in Europe extensively and I’ve always been very polite and respectful, as any guest is obliged to be. I’ve also hosted people from Europe who constantly criticized differences between the U.S. and their home country that they’re not used to, and put up with it. I believe in freedom of speech, and also in the possibility of getting your a$$ kicked when you go out of your way to abuse it. If you court danger, don’t be surprised when it comes your way.

    • 0 avatar
      OldandSlow

      It is fair to say that certain folks are powder kegs waiting to go off, where ever you may be.

      It certainly is true that if you wish to draw, write, say or drive a vehicle with a number plate, in a provocative way, you need to be ready to deal with the consequences. Clarkson thrives on controversy and in this case came close to getting his a$$ kicked.

    • 0 avatar

      I sympathize. The constant critic some Europeans have against the U.S. is so annoying. Let’s face it, if it weren’t for the Americans and Canadians (and of course the British) many Europeans would have conducted “business as usual” under the Zjermans. I happened to discuss this with my neighbor (I live in Holland), that we ought to be grateful and never forget. “Oh, that is such a long time ago” is what he said.

    • 0 avatar
      Lou_BC

      @jdash1972 – Freedom of speech is a right but it cannot be used to trample other people’s rights. Ridiculing those who lost dearly in war especially on their own soil takes that right and turns it into a wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        Ridicule is protected under freedom of expression in most Western places, just like burning the flag in the U.S. is protected. Rights are subjective things, though. We can’t realistically expect them to be universally recognized across the globe.

        • 0 avatar
          Lou_BC

          @danio3834 – that is where ethics come into play. How does one find balance between equal and/or conflicting rights – that would be the right to free speech and the right to be free from personal ridicule.

          I agree that we cannot expect rights to be universally recognized but in this case as you have pointed out, rights are subjective and the balance between 2 conflicting rights are highly variable among cultures and belief systems.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            A right to be free from personal ridicule hasn’t really been established. A third world dictator might be able to claim that right, though.

    • 0 avatar
      superchan7

      Freedom of speech does not imply freedom from consequences. There are consequences outside legal ones. A concept the internet keyboard warriors have trouble grasping.

    • 0 avatar
      superchan7

      Freedom of speech does not imply freedom from consequences. There are consequences outs!de legal ones. A concept the internet keyboard warriors have trouble grasping.

  • avatar
    ajla

    H781 YKT

  • avatar
    Pan

    Given the response, in Argentina and here, I think Top Gear has achieved what it is after — full exposure. It will probably become one of its top-rated shows, even in the Argentine.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    The BBC had advance knowledge of the plate, but it is clear that they did not choose the plate number. H982 FKL came with the car.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/motoring/top-gear/11152019/Top-Gear-did-have-details-of-Falklands-Porsche-number-plate-before-buying-it.html

  • avatar
    Nico

    Argentinian (expat) here. My 2 cents:

    – I don’t think the license plate was fake. But it wasn’t a coincidence either. Maybe they found it first, and then figured out what to do with it. (“982FKL? LOL, let’s take it to Argentina!”)

    – I wasn’t offended or humiliated. Then again, I happen to think that the Falklands are British, and that the 82 war was far more humiliating and offensive. We caused that ourselves. It’s very Argentinian to be easily offended but what other people do to us but not take responsibility for what we do.

    – The being chased out part isn’t fake. Anti Brit sentiment can be really strong.

    – Thank you for calling the Fernandez (Kirchner is more accurate though) a regime. It certainly feels like one.

  • avatar

    I watch Top Gear to see Jeremy hammer some cars I’ll never drive and only seen blocking traffic with a trophy wife/old guy at the helm. (yes, I do know legit fast guys with these cars but we all know they ain’t the majority). I enjoy watching him drift six figure cars and toasting $500 Michelins (each)

    For daring to say a Golf is 99% as good as a BMW in most conditions, and better in some. Bonus points for being willing to wreck or blow up cars, the Ferrari James May drove in a park with a paranoid owner notwithstanding. I was quite happy to see them out the X3, a car which I consider the Maxwell Smart of cars “Missed it by this much”…you had the money, went to the right dealer, and next to wagon and sedan, picked wrong….but the ability to say car X applies negative pressure is fun. I’ll accept they love the home team (Range Rover is reliable ? I don’t think weed is legal in GB…but you are close to Amsterdam, sorta)

    I want to hear some interesting British wordplay-I blame early exposure to monty pyton.

    I want to see some exotic corner of the world I’d not see (James May attempting to sail-and I’m convinced they put him in the worst part of the catamaran)…Enver Hoxha’s road to nowhere…or even Alabama where a Mercedes odd size tire has to be flown in after Jeremy abuses it to death. Hammond having Dubai racetrack to himself…with some car with a production run of 100.

    Driving on a road with a massive drop off and six inches of dirt track is fun to watch…not actually do.

    I didn’t know the Chinese were building an interstate type system in some African nations…but learned this on Top Gear.

    Oh, and there are unscripted moments where the Brits provide great entertainment, unintentionally, to the local people.

    It is a TV show, and no more….really.

  • avatar
    bullnuke

    During my 21 years in the Navy, vis*ting various third world countries, I always remained aware that I was a vis*tor in someone’s home. Many of these countries only tolerated outs*ders (Japan comes to mind as do most Southwest As*an countries) and being respectful of other cultures is, in my mind, the polite and correct thing to do. It was not correct to wear the “Made in America, Tested in Japan” t-shirts in Yokosuka; likewise not a good thing to poke a stick in the eyes of Argentinians (who, by the way, performed pretty damn well and came close to kicking the Brits out of the Southern Atlantic).

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      Rubbish – the Argentinians lost heavily and never came close to defeating the British. They underestimated the British resolve. Lady Thatcher had balls and the mission was well executed by the armed forces. It is even more impressive when considering the long supply chain and weather.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        What were the names of the british aluminum hulled cruisers sunk and/or made inoperative by exocets again? I forget details from time to time. Al hull, missile with a near full fuel tank, inadequate fire fighting ability… Yeah, it was all one sided unless you were on the wrong ship.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        Crap. I must have typed S I D again. This is stupid.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        The British acted precisely as the insecure, wanna-live-glory-days-again wankers that they so often resort to in post-World Power England’s history.

        I’m not getting into international law here, but given the location, size & lack of resource or strategic value that defines the Atlantic Ocean rocks full of sheep that are the Falklands, Britain demonstrated a really overestimated, over-the-top, over-the-surreal, flaccid upper lip over the whole issue.

        • 0 avatar

          Yep. And if for Argentina it was a way to try to prop up the regime, for thatcher it was a way to show her balls of steel, which seem to make some gentlemen, like the one above, giddy for whatever reason. Lots of sickness on both parts resulting in the needless death of young men.

          And politically gave and gives ammunition to those who hate the US and W Europe. The US specially never regained the trust they had before.

  • avatar
    319583076

    The strong do as they please while the weak accept what they must.

  • avatar
    ezs

    As a Brazilian, I think “Hermanos” deserve all jokes people around the world can make them, specially British talking about Falklands.

    []´s

    Evandro

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I thought the special itself was okay if dull, I just stuck around to see them play “Car Soccer” with a Lotus and a Porsche.

    It isn’t hard to tell what was fake and what wasn’t, like the intentional Mustang crash, intentional slipping in the snow with the Porsche (while the Mustang was straight).

    I really wish Top Gear would do more challenges that aren’t just “Take this car and drive off-road at 5 mph while a MASSIVE crew follow you”, anyone remember the Alfa race?

    I say that the license plate thing was intentional, as has been noted by others, Top Gear strives off controversy. This time they got a little more than they bargained for.

    If anything I’m looking more forward to TG USA than UK, it may still be heavily scripted (Theres NO WAY a Toyota can out last a Volvo 240), it may be hated by fans since it isn’t TG UK (they hate it for borrowing UKs challenges too), but the hosts are younger and the shows getting a bit better. I just hope they do something about Tanner winning everything.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      In the UK, number plates run with the car. You can look them up and see that the plates are original issue.

      I seriously doubt that they bought the car for the plates. It was a stretch to interpret the letter-number combination like that in the first place.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I believe Jeremy chose the car for the reason he stated in the show, whether if the plates are coincidental or not I dunno.

        What I found interesting about the whole thing was originally they said they were being attack by Veterans of the war, but on Jeremys twitter he mentioned he saw more 20 year olds or something like that.

        May’ve just been some kids trying to get fame, but thats just a wild guess.

  • avatar
    DougD

    I worked in Chubut province for a few months in the early 90’s, at that time the guys at the plant were still plenty miffed about the whole Falklands episode, and yes indeed the country was suffering.

    My kids and I watch Top Gear, they used to constantly ask “Did that really happen by accident?” so we now have a family saying “Nothing happens accidentally on Top Gear”

  • avatar
    piro

    Points well made, but the fact is, the number plate is real, and instead of speculating in future, you can trivially check this yourself.

    https://www.vehicleenquiry.service.gov.uk/

    Date of first registration: 30 May 1991

    If they didn’t realise the stupidity of taking such a plate there, I would be extremely surprised, though. It was one step too far. A shame, because the rest of it didn’t seem disrespectful at all.

  • avatar
    EAF

    There is very little programming with automobile themes. I try to tune in for all of them no matter how good/bad. I watched this Top Gear episode last night and didn’t think it was terrible.

    My absolute favorite thing to watch is Rally.

    • 0 avatar
      jim brewer

      I disagree on every point. An inflammatory license plate is certainly tg’s style, but that’s way too subtle for tg. I give them the benefit of the doubt.

      Powerful military? Compared to who? Uruguay? Certainly not Brazil, nor the notoriously militaristic Chileans, either.

      Any humiliation of the Argentinians is purely self-inflicted. They only live in the most geographically favored place on earth, you know. Self-sufficient in petroleum,temperate climate, the richest farm land anywhere, a country the size of France with only 20% of the population. Nearly 100% literacy.

      They are the most politically incompetent people I have ever seen in my life. Take what happened in the last session of congress, multiply by 100 years and you might approximate Argentina. The fact that Juan Peron is still a big deal says it all; that would be like Americans still acting like Huey Long was important.

      So General Galtieri was so discredited he had to quit in favor of democracy? Cry me a river. The Argentinians owe their political freedom to Britain.

      • 0 avatar
        Magnusmaster

        Galtieri was already in trouble due to economic troubles, the whole war was to save the regime, it ended up being the nail in the coffin.

      • 0 avatar
        Arthur Dailey

        Prior to WWI Argentina was economically a richer and more developed country than Canada and its per capita income/standard of living was better than many European countries.

        Due to incompetent and corrupt politics (and possibly and immature electorate who focus on ‘pride’ rather than what is best for them) they have managed to make a mess of things.

        Based on climate, natural resources, etc Argentina and South Africa should be two of the richest nations on earth.

  • avatar
    stuntmonkey

    Post – “But as I watched the BBC crew getting pelted with rocks, I guiltily thought– those people had it coming. Was I wrong? Is it a matter of gradation? Is it a matter of absolutes?”

    A natural reaction, but one where anybody should/would-hopefully feel guilty. If it was an intended insult, the appropriate response wouldn’t merit physical violence. We was individuals teach our children to mature and shrug off verbal insults and slights, but to respond carefully to real danger. Human nature being what it is, when you bring it to the group mentality level, like national pride, that goes out the window. It’s easy for the human brain to abstract “the other” as somebody less human than those familiar to us.

    All a shame really. The Patagonia special was extremely respectful in one way… the cinematography was gorgeous and would have made anybody want to visit the country.

  • avatar
    Greg Locock

    My acronym-ready brain just doesn’t see FKL as Falklands.

  • avatar

    As to Argentina having a legitimate, historical claim on the islands seems legit.

    That they used it as a way to prop up the dying dictatorship is undeniable.

    That Argentinians are the best educated and still wealthiest Latin Americans is undeniable.

    That the roads travelled and hamlets visited are false is true.

    That nationalistic feeling runds deep in Hispanic Latin American countries is true.

    That I have little sympathy for people going to another country and poking fingers in sores is also true.

    That Brazil allowing the Brits to re fuel in our ports and the US breaking the age old pledge of the Américas for Americans were also partly to blame for the Argentine miscalculation.

    That the Charlie mess is something of a watershed worldwide and you Americans don’t get it is true and the link to this thing is quite understandable is a very good insight from the author undeniable.

    That freedom of expression as na absolute is a purely American thing is true (just ask the Germans and how it is verbotten to use Nazi symbols).

    Who the hell is Fernández?

  • avatar
    Magnusmaster

    Clarkson may have been asking for it, but still the reaction of the government in Tierra del Fuego and its notoriously oversensitive mob is inexcusable.

  • avatar
    namesakeone

    I have a hard time believing that the episode was completely staged. As another poster noted, the “H982 FKL” plate was issued to that Porsche 928 from new; Clarkson (or the Top Gear staff) researched, discovered and purchased that particular car just to tick off the people of Argentina? Sure, maybe they figured it could lead to some problems after the car was purchased, but anything more stretches the limits of credibility.

  • avatar
    PCP

    To the author: If I were to say ‘what an idiot you are’, would you think ‘Oh, I had it coming’?

    Just asking, not saying…

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