Thursday 6 February 2014

Thinking Aloud

It's a curious thing, but right-leaning blogs about BBC bias tend to pass over Laurie Taylor's longstanding Thinking Allowed on Radio 4

From time to time, on blogs like Biased BBC, you might see the occasional comment about it (usually from ChrisH), but these are rare events, and I myself have never written about the programme before. (I've thought about it but never done it.)

Given that on any objective analysis Thinking Allowed has just about the strongest left-wing bias of any Radio 4 programme you might expect it to be a much more regular target for criticism - a low-hanging fruit, particularly ripe for plucking by the BBC's right-leaning critics. 

Perhaps the absence of criticism on forums like this can be accounted for by the likely 'fact' that right-leaning people just don't listen to Thinking Allowed.

They've probably heard it once or twice before, perhaps many years ago, and decided (almost unconsciously) to give it a miss thereafter, having come to the quick conclusion that it's not for them.

Well, that's my experience anyhow.

But why wouldn't it be for them? The subjects are certainly interesting and wide-ranging. 

Well, all I can say is that the treatment of those subjects tends to come from a particular, staunchly left-inclined standpoint which seems so remote and wrong-headed to many right-wingers that they can hardly help but feel alienated from it. 

The reason for that, surely, is that Thinking Allowed's subject area is Sociology - and Sociology itself has a strong left-wing bias - often a strong very-left-wing bias.

Academics in the field are overwhelmingly left-wing too and some of them even have highly left-loaded (and spoof-sounding) job titles like "Lecturer in Race and Resistance Studies". (Peter Simple fans will appreciate that).

That's a problem for Sociology - as some sociologists themselves admit - and it's also a problem for Thinking Allowed perhaps.

But also perhaps not. 

After all, everyone knows that's just the way it is with Sociology.

Similarly, everyone knows that that's just the way it's also going to be with a Radio 4 series which projects Sociology to the world. 

Thus, if there's an edition of the programme which discusses the sociology of music, you would hardly be surprised if the academic being interviewed suddenly attacked the austerity programme of the present UK government (out of nowhere), or if the presenter (a Sociology professor himself) grilled that self-same academic over his failure to focus on what really matters - left-wing protest songs. Nor would anyone bat much of an eyelid if a "US lecturer in Race and Resistance Studies" (yes, really) used her opportunity to talk about British Asian pop music to denounce British racism towards "Asians".

That's just the way thing are, isn't it, in the world of Sociology? And Thinking Allowed?

That music edition was broadcast a couple of weeks ago. A week later, that genuine job title - "lecturer in Race and Resistance Studies" - was echoed by a UK scholar. She's written a book about prostitution called Prostitution in the Community: Attitudes, Action and Resistances

The use of 'resistances' there was meant in a different way to the use of 'Resistance' cited above but, still, that that's the way Sociology is: Full of tenured academics talking about 'Resistance' or 'resistances'.

And that's the way Thinking Allowed is too. 

If Laurie Taylor uses his Radio 4 platform to criticise private education, then we just accept it. If he enthuses over sociology students putting their subject into practice by opposing 'the cuts', then we accept that too. It's just the way things are. BBC Editorial Guidelines? They don't apply here, it seems.

Plus Laurie is so genial, so confiding, so personal. He could be blogging for us - which is disarming.

Plus his guests often tell us about research which is genuinely interesting: The music-studying, cuts-attacking, protest-song-downplaying academic said some interesting things about how we relate to pop music: the 'resistances'-obsessed prostitution academic said some interesting things about how we relate to prostitution; and even the "US lecturer in Race and Resistance Studies" introduced us to an interesting pop music phenomenon about which we might know nothing. 

They may all have misunderstood what they were describing and projected a wrong-headed interpretation onto it, but they weren't entirely not worth listening to.

Plus it really is refreshing to have a programme which is so openly intellectual, so un-dumbed down. 

Still, it's not really the programme for me.

All the jargon, all the old mutton tropes dressed up as academic lamb, the perverse-seeming angles, the lack of resonance with what seems to be how most people actually think - all the sociology - puts up a largely impenetrable partition between their reality and my reality.

To my way of thinking, anyhow.

And they are not necessarily right. Nor me necessarily wrong.


  1. You are very clever Craig, because you’ve hit the nail on the head. Laurie is genial, confiding and personal, and I (used to) enjoy listening to the programme.

    The trouble is, this friendly intimate style is very listenable. This applies to lots of lefty radio 4 - for example even the dreaded Women’s Hour. There are some interesting items on there from time to time, but the underlying feminist left-wing thrust pollutes the whole. Unless you’re alert to the way you’re being guided towards certain ways of thinking, you get sucked in.

    Your antennae have to be honed by reading articles on blogs.

  2. Sociology was famously defined (though by whom, I do not know) as, "The study of people who don't need to be studied, by those who do".

  3. Laurie is just a Poly dolly with leather arm patches.
    A complete fake, with sons doing rather well at the BBC too-a family affair( but class stratification and elitist nepotism is for the birds, not for his like).
    No other place with a brain would have let Lorralaffs get the lifetime sinecure to spout Marxist dialectic in an ongoing dyadic and hyerphagic situation...he`s never on holiday either...always prancing about with his "Children of the Revolution" mirrorball top hat striking poses form the early irredeemable quack cod superannuated MA failure with the taxpayer keeping him on a perpetual gap year and away from having to do a real job.
    Currie, Robinson, Laurie Taylor-just what is it about these faux-Scousers who get fine livings under Degsys banners but choose to mooch about on Primrose Hill. tepid chocolate fountain of neo-Marxist hooey!...happy to paddle in the marina, if leaving the pier meant he`d have to get an idea to defend for himself...and the BBC just pay him. And his boys too!


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