Sunday, 12 February 2017


In his Mail on Sunday column Peter Hitchens returns to a subject we looked at on Thursday: that blog post by "one-time Blairite commissar James Purnell" where the "now senior BBC mandarin" declares exultantly that the BBC will "question the very concept of civilisation" in its new three-presenter version of Lord Clark's Civilisation (to be entitled Civilisations)

Mr Purnell's declaration that the BBC will not be focusing on Western civilisation runs counter, Peter Hitchens writes, to the Latin inscription on the original Broadcasting House:
This temple of the arts and muses is dedicated to Almighty God by the first Governors in the year of our Lord 1931… And they pray that good seed sown may bring forth good harvest, and that all things foul or hostile to peace may be banished thence, and that the people inclining their ear to whatsoever things are lovely and honest, whatsoever things are of good report, may tread the path of virtue and wisdom.
 Mr Hitchens continues:
It leaves no doubt that the stated purpose of the building and the organisation were explicitly Christian. Much of it is actually taken from the Bible. And it pretty fiercely warns that those things which are 'foul' or 'hostile to peace' are to be banished. But anyone who has many dealings with the BBC, and I have had lots, will know that its idea of what is virtuous, and its idea of what is foul (which sometimes includes me personally), have changed beyond recognition since that inscription was carved 86 years ago. 
That is why it now rejects the original idea of civilisation, fundamentally European and eventually Christian, which it still just about tolerated in the 1960s when Kenneth Clark's famous series on the subject was made.

P.S. Peter Hitchens isn't keen on the 'three presenters' model for Civilisations. "By offering us three differing ideas, and inviting us to choose which we prefer", he writes, "it is not, in my view, being open-minded. It is saying above all that it no longer endorses Lord Clark's idea, or its own founding charter."

The three presenters - Mary Beard, David Olusoga, Simon Schama - are, of course, well-known (and often brilliant) historians, but they are also all openly left-leaning politically and all of them opposed Brexit. So the range of views isn't perhaps going to be as wide as it ought to be. (Surely at least one right-leaning historian should have been included?)

1 comment:

  1. Civilisation, which I would define as the realisation of human potential in conditions of peace (made possible by law and defence) is something that potentially belongs to everyone, whatever their race or creed. A millennium and a half ago, Anglo Saxons lived in mud huts, had a crude and irrational legal system, valued tribe over humanity, were largely illiterate and loved warfare. A thousand years later they had reached the very pinnacle of art, in Shakespeare's dramatic output. Quite a transformation.

    Sounds like the new series will be valuing diversity over civilisation, bigging up small achievements as the equals of European art, science and so on...and no doubt describing Jewish and Christian philosophers who found themselves under Sharia rule as "Islamic".

    Clark's focus was very narrow of course and it would be good to have a series that reflected civilisation across the whole planet. But I wouldn't trust someone like Sharma, who from the safety of New York, argues Europe should abandon all border control, to produce a balanced programme. It is likely to simply be visual fodder for the virtue signallers to pretend the undocumented migrant wave are bringing us cultural enlightenment.