Did you know that there is a secret connection between the car show “Top Gear” and Leonardo Da Vinci, by way of the British media, the Nazis and Mussolini?
You didn’t? Then listen close, my friend. This one may surprise you.
Yesterday, readers of the British “newspaper” the Daily Mail spluttered into their morning tea that Chris Evans only works a four hour shift on the show.
The article goes on to say:
Chris Evans has revealed he spends just four hours a day working on Top Gear and finishes work at 2pm ‘on the dot’.
The motoring show’s new host is being paid an estimated £3million three-year deal to try to keep the show alive after the departure of Jeremy Clarkson.
Evans has become one of the BBC’s highest paid stars since taking on Top Gear as well as his radio show.
Campaigners have said presenters like Evans being given huge amounts of licence fee-payers’ money should remember how lucky they are.
In other words, he is paid too much and doesn’t work hard enough. Boo hiss!
And the reaction from the Daily Mail readership is as predictable as it is depressing:
“there (sic) all at it ..ripping the british public off .”
“That long ?”
“dont bother wasting your time Chris , we are all waiting for the real thing to come back”
“Maybe if the BBC paid these so called “stars” a more reasonable amount then they could scrap the licence for all pensioners instead of just for those over 75.”
The implication is clear. Chris Evans is highly paid and yet doesn’t work a full day. We’re all supposed to feel righteously angry at this point. We work lot longer hours for far less money.
Except, no, sorry. It’s not quite so simple.
For once, we have the source of a story. This piece in the Daily Mail is pinched from an article in this month’s Top Gear magazine. According to that article, Chris Evans’ day looks something like this:
4.45 Wake up
5.20 Start the journey to work
6.00 Arrive at Radio 2.
6.30 Start his radio show
9.30 Radio show finishes. Travel to the Top Gear offices
10.00 Start working on Top Gear
14.00 Leave Top Gear to pick up the kids
15.30 Collect the kids
17:00 Dinner with the kids
And no, we are not going to argue that the school run isn’t work. We’re just not going to go there, are we?
All told, I make that a working day of between 10 and 12 hours, depending on how we view his travelling time.
To be perfectly honest, that’s not much of a story. I know people who work longer hours than that, but he’s not exactly swinging the lead either. And, yes, he is getting paid a lot of money. But then again Jeremy Clarkson was also paid a lot of money for the BBC Top Gear. And he is going to be paid even more for the Amazon Prime version.
Then we have that “only works a four hour shift” thing. The implication is that Clarkson, Hammond and May worked harder. Except, that probably isn’t true. The filming for the old Top Gear didn’t take all year. It was not a full time job for the presenters, leaving them free to do other projects. Just like Chris Evans and his breakfast show.
All in all, it’s a non-story. A celebrity gets paid a lot of money. Well, strike me down with a feather. I didn’t know that. Television programmes like Top Gear aren’t a nine to five job for their presenters. Surely, no-one really thought that they were?
What is happening here is that the Daily Mail have latched onto a number of stories that play well with their readers. This story is called “The Chris Evans Top Gear is going to be a flop”. And the DM hacks will come up with any and every scrap of news that seems to confirm that story.
And the Great British Public laps it up. That on its own wouldn’t be so bad. The Chris Evans Top Gear may well be a flop. It doesn’t really matter one way or the other.
What is more concerning is that the press pulls this same stunt with many other stories too. Stories that matter. That’s why we are seeing a rash of extreme politicians being taken seriously by the public. The press loves extreme stories – fat cat celebrities on the take, corruption in high places, evil immigrants taking our jobs. And on and on it goes.
The media tells us the stories that it has decided we want to hear. It’s not about the truth any more.
I promised you a link to Leonardo Da Vinci and Mussolini.
I expect you’ve got the same mental image about Da Vinci that I have got. A renaissance genius. Master of many skills. Artist. Inventor. Scientist. He invented the tank, the helicopter, the machine gun and the I-pad. Okay, probably not the last one.
Except, did you realise that you were being duped?
No, no, don’t get me wrong. Leo was a deeply clever bloke. He really did come up with those sketches of machines that looked suspiciously like modern weapons of war. The Mona Lisa and Last Supper are damned good pics.
And yet Da Vinci didn’t found an artistic or scientific movement. His drawings lay undiscovered in his notebooks for centuries. His discoveries about anatomy and physics didn’t advance the knowledge of contemporary scientists. His “inventions” were not built in his lifetime.
Enter Mussolini, the Italian fascist dictator. Just before the Second World War, he was looking for ways to show how advanced and wonderful Italy was. You might say that he was trying to keep up with the Nazi party who were trying to claim a rich cultural heritage for the German nation.
Yup, the Indiana Jones stories of the Nazis searching for religious artefacts was a real thing. They wanted to prove how rich their history was.
And that was when Mussolini’s advisers chanced upon Leonardo Da Vinci’s lost sketches. Here was the hero they were looking for – a genuine Italian genius. Mussolini ordered a publicity campaign to tell the world all about him, complete with exhibitions of ‘reconstructions’ of his machines. Although it’s hard to reconstruct something that had never been built before.
If Mussolini hadn’t done this, we might all have had a different impression of Da Vinci. If we had heard of him at all.The modern myth of Leonardo Da Vinci started with Mussolini.
I find all of this deeply uncomfortable. I have been told about Da Vinci’s genius so many times that it feels hard to believe that his reputation partly depends on fascist publicity.
And that leads me to a difficult question. If we can be so easily conned by the media about Chris Evans or Da Vinci, then what can we believe?