Friday 9 August 2013

Silly season

Pandering to attention-seekers is a very annoying trait of the BBC. Putting people like Owen Jones, Mehdi Hasan and Tim Stanley on our screens at every opportunity is a ratings-grasping ploy, the equivalent of an internet phenomenon I keep coming across, called ‘click-bait.’

Then there’s the Bongo Bongo Land thing, which Ed West has nailed, and the ‘is a 13-year-old too young to be called a sexual predator’ question, which is another multi-faceted issue rather than a suitable topic for knee-jerk politically correct outrage. 

We all know that the BBC’s charter obliges them to appear impartial, but I think that’s an unachievable goal. The BBC’s current interpretation of impartiality has had a bizarre outcome; a policy of banning value judgements wherever they see them, be they hiding behind stones or trees. (Then the stones or trees will call: 'Oh journalist, servant of the BBC, there is a value judgement behind me, come and kill it.'” )  

If properly adhered to it would oblige the BBC to give equally balanced non judgmental coverage to the utterances of, say, the devil incarnate and the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the case of the West versus Islam, the BBC would need to give equal credence to the president of Iran and the prime minister of Great Britain. Oh, wait! as they say on the internet.

Deciding which topics to highlight is of course a fundamental value judgement that all news editors have to make; therefore those they choose, and even more tellingly, those they ignore, are bound to reveal partiality while serving as a constant reminder of the impossibility of  achieving the charter’s aspirations. 

After much consideration, the inevitable conclusion is that this policy could only be truly realised if the BBC were to provide wall-to-wall blanket coverage of everythingeverywhere, or none at all. 
Blank screens would genuinely offer rolling 24 hour impartiality, but that’s quite silly, bearing in mind that we are forced to pay to watch the BBC on pain of imprisonment. If there were no BBC programmes at all, due to an ultimate, terminal avoidance of taking sides, who would pay for the upkeep of Broadcasting house, and all the gagging orders and stuff? 

When a subject upon which they patently do make value judgements raises its head, (say, the assumption that Israel and its inhabitants and politicians are inherently evil)  the powers that be simply pooh-pooh the matter with the one-size-fits-all Devil’s Advocate Defence. Peter Allen’s bosses assure us that’s what he was doing when a value judgement slipped through, and he accidentally said Israel always wreaks its revenge’’ and ‘it does it all the time!’  - the devil!

They say August is the silly season, and things are indeed looking silly but this is not confined to any particular month.

Tim Stanley came to my attention on a recent edition of Sunday Morning Live. He’s writing in the Telegraph about Tommy Robinson who, it seems, while trying to illustrate why the EDL objects to unlimited Muslim immigration on Twitter, linked - he claims inadvertently - to an antisemitic website. Stanley concludes, therefore, that the EDL and its leader must themselves be antisemitic.  
Tim Stanley is a proud Catholic, a convert no less, so condemning a whole group by association, or as people like to put it, “tarring with the same brush” the bad apples that discredit but don’t necessarily typify said group, might probably be something he’d best steer clear of. That’s disallowing Tommy Robinson the benefit of the doubt, for the sake of the devil’s argument. 

That is not to make a  “he of all people,” accusation, by the way; not the “he should have learnt the lesson,” philosophy, as in Lib Dem MP David Ward’s illogical advice to “the Jews” who he (Ward) believes are inflicting a holocaust upon the Palestinian people. His flawed logic seems to be that because the Jews endured a holocaust at the hands of the Nazis, they should have somehow learnt to sit there and take another beating from the Islamists, when anyone with a modicum of common sense would conclude that ‘once bitten twice shy’ is a far more logical response. Of course David Ward refuses to acknowledge the genocidal aspirations of Hamas, Hezbollah, the Iranian Ayatollahs and the goals of assorted participants of Arab uprisings.  (Which is the elimination of Jews/Israel by the way.)
Accordingly, the unfortunate principle of Ward’s ‘lesson’ appears to be that Jews, as ‘experienced victims’ should sacrifice themselves on a morally superior altar - ‘empathy with the new victims’ instead of restraining an enemy from carrying out its murderous aspirations, to the extent that the well-taught, once-bitten Jews must let history repeat and allow themselves to be annihilated once again.

 Tim Stanley, as a Catholic, would no doubt object to the assumption that he and all Catholics are associated with and jointly guilty of deeds done by other Catholics, so can he really make a similarly unfair and sweeping assumption about the EDL on the strength of an ill-judged Tweet from Tommy R? 

I wasn’t impressed with Tim Stanley on Sunday Morning Live. The way he lolled in his chair in a disrespectfully supercilious slouch that says I’m so arrogant I can’t even be arsed to sit up straight didn’t help. And his bouffant hair. When he started eulogising about Muslim immigration I’m sure many people wondered in what English region of Bangladesh he resides. “I divide my time between London, Oxford and Los Angeles, with the occasional weekend in Washington DC.” So not Luton then.
Stanley has caught the attention of several other  bloggers. I now realise that although some say he’s written a decent biography,  he’s taken to full-time attention-seeking, the gratification of which I am duly furthering. 
Here’s a clever summary of Stanley from commenter ‘Sarka’ on SarahAB’s thread on Harry’s Place.

“Oh dear, I shall get lowdown here. Tim Stanley is terribly comic. He is a religious hobbyist - raised a Baptist, converted to Anglcanism, then to RCism. He claims he will die a Catholic, but he's still young and I'm not sure...He already finds cradle Catholics and many priests wimpy and liberal - and professes to shock at how many American Catholics disagree with church doctrine on contraception...
But Sarah, is there really any point in picking him up on his using secular as a dirty word? It's just part of the act (which is sort of cobbled together from bits of Evelyn Waugh, late Muggeridge, Longford, Piers Paul Reade etc etc...). He only does it to annoy because he knows it teases. It would be more to the point to suggest that his "orientalist" excitement about Europeans going off and going all romantically Islamic is quite revealing about his own religious tourism. As does the calculated grovel to Muslims now (which might be paraphrased as "Splendid fellow, Johnny Muslim...stands up for what he stands for, lesson to us all!" Though of course, if Stanley was going just for a young fogey image that would be more straightforward - in fact he seems to be trying for the impossible - i.e. a trendy cultural relativist Americanophile Islamophile culturally conservative going-to-the-dogsism...Very odd, but I guess this is the post-modern age so we can expect all kinds of weirdo fusions."

 As I started with click-bait: “Pandering to attention-seeking is a very annoying trait of the BBC. Putting people like Owen Jones, Mehdi Hasan and Tim Stanley on our screens at every opportunity is a ratings-grasping ploy,” which was an attention-grabbing beginning intended to captivate the reader before confronting him with material he might skip, I’ll end with the Bongo Bongo Land thing. 

People (ordinary folk like retired taxi-drivers) are saying that this country has turned into a place where "telling the truth turns you into a racist." Why, just such a fellow made that unsolicited observation this very afternoon, on hearing that the local day centre for the aged has had its funds cut.

Talking to someone who’s doing a stint in Cambodia I was told that everyone there is paid in cash because they haven’t got a tax system or anything. “How does the staggeringly rich leader come by his vast wealth?” I enquired. “Oh, he purloins the foreign aid.” came the cavalier reply. I don’t know if Cambodia qualifies as bongo bongo, but I’m sure Nigeria does.

The BBC doesn’t like people criticising the concept of this country doling out foreign aid when we’re feeling the pinch - and which organisation has been obsessing about Tory cuts and the hardships they’ve caused to all and sundry the minute the Labour party lost the election? Worse still, the crime of using the term  bongo bongo land, which has provided a convenient diversion from exposing the double standards alluded to above. Yes the offender might not be a credit to UKIP, but who is?

It’s silly, but it isn’t just in August though, is it.

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