Lots of people listen to the radio while they work. They can take their minds off the here-and-now and lose themselves in whatever the BBC streams into their brain. They’re aiming for a kind of mindlessness. (the opposite of mindfulness.)
Anyway, I wasn’t exactly working while I listened to radio 4 for an hour or so yesterday morning, but I felt I was being bullied. Jane Garvey and some other voices were speaking to me, confiding in me almost conspiratorially, as if I were their friend. They were telling me what I should think, and to demur would be objectionable.
Before Woman’s Hour we heard episode 2 of ‘book of the week’. “Journalist Lynsey Hanley's personal exploration of the experience of class in Britain over the past four decades.”
“Through the lens of her upbringing in Chelmsley Wood”
said the announcer.
I heard a nostalgic account of a 70s childhood peppered with brand names and sentimental references to pop songs, read out in a Brum accent by the author.
What unfolded was an essay based on inverted snobbery - a paean to retro, working class family values, Caitlin Moran style - or was it a party political broadcast on behalf of Arthur Scargill and the National Union of mineworkers.
“Oh! for the days of the moiners‘ stroike, when poor misunderstood Arthur Scargill was unfairly vilified by the Tory press” said Lynsey Hanley (or words to that effect.)
She casually tags “Thatcher” with ‘destructive’ in that divisive fashion where everything is seen in terms of ‘them and us‘.
The passage where the author and her friend look back with amused incredulity at his middle class family’s values clearly illustrates this:
A different 80s, the one that made sense to the people in power. “The 80s were like Shangri-la to my family” he said. “They were checking their share prices on teletext on their new tellies. They all thought Scargill was a loooonatic, and Thatcher was a saviour and miners were eeevil because they punched policemen. It just didn’t make any sense because my family were made up of really kind generous people and so when they had these incredibly harsh opinions I just didn’t understand it. It seemed out of character.”
She's emoting odious middle-class materialists basking in the fruits of their tawdry capitalist endeavours and not even realising that there was anything incredibly harsh about their selfish values!
Of course the book may pan out in all manner of directions, but I only heard that one episode and that’s the only episode to which I allude. For now, I’ll just assume Jeremy Corbyn’s 70s revival has caught on and is permeating the BBC’s zeitgeist.
(I must say that the sentimental concept of ‘good’ austerity sits oddly next to Jeremy Corbyn’s zealous anti-austerity manifesto.)
Next up, as they say, was Woman’s Hour, and a discussion about Beyoncé who has become involved in the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement.
It transpired that Piers Morgan has committed the sin of writing that he preferred Beyoncé before the transformation. Her journey into black politics, at a time when she allegedly said she wanted to be known as a performer, not a ‘black’ performer.
Jane Garvey took great pains to assure us that she was no fan of Piers Morgan. Piers Morgan is beyond the pale, and it’s understood that this is so.
Then Jane Garvey and two black-identifying experts on Beyoncé laughed scornfully at Piers Morgan for having had the temerity to critique Beyoncé. Then they said they thought it was okay that Beyoncé had blonde hair extensions - though they didn’t seem entirely convinced. (The implication being that this might be interpreted as cultural appropriation, i.e., hypocrisy.)
Jane Garvey was equally deferential to her next guest, an Alaskan woman novelist whose book has the intriguing title ‘The smell of other people’s houses”. Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock she was called. (I toyed with the idea of calling myself Bonnie-Sue, but decided against)
They discussed Alaska, and the strange and inexplicable fact that the rate of teenage suicides in Alaska are nine times higher than in the rest of the states. Then they mentioned Alaska’s proximity to Russia, and the influence of Russian culture that existed there in the past. Then Jane Garvey said “You can’t talk about Alaska without mentioning Sarah Palin” and they laughed disparagingly at the thought of Sarah Palin. “She once said she could see Russia from her bedroom, I think.” ventured Jane Garvey. They hooted with derision.
Even though I am a not a huge fan of Piers Morgan, Sarah Palin, or for that matter Mrs T., I was triggered and my safe space was violated.