Thursday 13 March 2014

Come back, Jonathan Swift, we need you!

Tom Lehrer famously said, "Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel peace prize."

If you were writing a satire of one of those BBC Question Time-style debate progammes, where would you begin? 

Well, giving it the title 'Free Speech' and making its venue Birmingham Central Mosque would be a fantastic start. (The BBC's actual record on free speech is patchy and, of course, they pander like crazy to Muslims.) 

Yesterday's 'Question Time'-style debate on BBC Three was indeed called 'Free Speechand did indeed come from Birmingham Central Mosque. 

Next, if you were to dream up the perfect 'biased' panel to represent the BBC's left-liberal inclinations, what sort of people would you choose?

How about having (1) a left-wing Muslim magazine editor, (2) a left-wing activist, (3) a transgender rights activist, (4) a Muslim disillusioned ex-Tory and (5) a Lib Dem baroness? 

Yesterday's 'Free Speech' featured precisely such a cast of characters on its panel - namely Mehdi Hasan, Heydon Prowse, Paris Lees, Shazia Awan and Susan Kramer.

We're already firmly into 'you couldn't make it up territory' here, aren't we? 

But it gets even better/worse, and I suspect it might even have been beyond the genius of the greatest satirists to dream up what actually happened next... 

The programme broadcast a clip of a Muslim drag queen discussing what it's like to be a gay British Muslim. 

Then the question was aired, "When will it be acceptable to be Muslim and gay?"

At which point, the show's host Rick Edwards told the audience:
We were going to debate that question today, but after speaking to the Mosque, they have expressed deep concerns with having that discussion we'll move on to our next question.
Breibart's Raheem Kassam described what happened next:
No one batted an eye-lid. Even amongst the predominantly 'liberal left' panel, no one said a word. Not the Liberal Democrat peer, not the Huffington Post editor, not the left-wing comedian, and not even the transgender rights activist.
At which point, satire about the BBC becomes obsolete, doesn't it? 

By censoring a discussion on a BBC programme because of Muslim anti-gay bigotry sensibilities on a programme called, of all things, 'Free Speech', the BBC surely took itself so far into the world of the surreal as to put all satirists out of business.

The non-reaction of panel, of course, shows that such beyond-parody absurdity goes far beyond the BBC, for they too just accepted the censorship and moved on without comment.

Of course, such satire isn't really obsolete. It just hasn't really got going yet. 

We urgently need a new Jonathan Swift to put all these Lilliputians, Brobdingnagian and yahoos to shame.

Update: The BBC subsequently issued a statement:
"BBC Three’s Free Speech is a news and current affairs discussion format based on topical issues some of which are a result of interest from our online community.
"The Birmingham Mosque had offered the venue as a location for an episode. When asked if there were any issues for discussion that would be off limits, no concerns were raised. Neither the production company nor the BBC would have chosen a venue that unduly limits topics for discussion.
“As with all Free Speech programmes, parts of the programme are promoted on radio, online and on social media platforms ahead of transmission to raise awareness of a topics potentially in the programme.
“Content from a pre-recorded segment, which covered the topic of homosexuality and Islam, was played ahead of transmission on Radio 1 and on local radio. The Mosque received threats which gave us cause for concern to the security of their community.
“Discussions took place within two hours of the programme being broadcast live as to the best way to proceed bearing in mind the security of the mosque and respect for their concerns over offending their community. As a result the production company, together with the BBC and the Mosque, made a considered decision to postpone the debate of the topic until March 25th but agreed to show the pre-recorded segment. 
“This was a decision taken responsibly, with a great deal of thought, consideration and respect and not in any way about censorship of an issue. We were transparent with the audience about the decision.”
So, serious threats of violence from some 'offended' sections of the Muslim community made the BBC postpone discussion of that question.

That's newsworthy in itself.

Obviously, they should have been more transparent with the audience at home about their reasons too. On the night of the broadcast.


  1. During a programme called “Free Speech” the BBC implemented censorship! - The opposite of free Speech! The epitome of UNfree speech! In front of the nation!
    A spectacular, unparalleled example of irony - beyond parody; hypocrisy gawn mad.

    I watched an episode of Free Speech once. Tommy Robinson being harangued by a politically correct baying mob-ette that drove each other into a psychological crowd-frenzy of righteous anti-EDL indignation.

    I know the BBC thinks of BBC Three as ‘channel for the youth’, but technically I’m not youth, and I watch BBC Three.

    For instance Family Guy. Stewie with a melon for a head and Keith Vaz for a voice; Brian the man-dog, and Lois - what did she ever see in Peeder? It is a bit stale these days, but I would be sorry not to ever see it again.
    Those documentaries about ‘Young’ this and that are good. Young Teachers, Young Doctors, Young Paramedics, and well, that’s all I can think of. Oh, and what about EDL girls? I thought it was rather good. Non judgmental in a good way. In other words not ramming PC down the audience’s throat. People hated it apparently - not only that, but some thought it shouldn’t have been given air time. They don’t even want free speech, obviously.

    “Decriminalising licence fee evasion could lead to the closure of BBC children’s channels and a higher fee for every household, the corporation has warned.”
    Oh dearie me. “If you don’t hand over our licence fee we’ll have to drown some kittens and kill some CBeebies” they sob, peeping with one eye to see if we’re showing remorse. Well, are we?

    1. With you on Family Guy sue!
      The BBC is now the Church of the Fonz! let` show some respect here.
      The Fonz be praised...and his religion is more credible that what the BBC offers us these days, by way of "faith programming"
      Unless its Paloma!....

  2. And as the National Secular Society bloke said on the Today programme-the whole circus wasn`t even COMING from the Mosque-but a Marquee tent put outside in the carpark.
    Can`t have white trashy kuffar and intersex freaks on holy ground now can we?
    Priceless-beyond satire...but funnily enough, not one joke about any of this from those fearless edgy pioneers like Toksvig, Hardy or the like on the News Quiz/Now Show/Mock the Week types....
    No sirree!...bloody posh boys though eh?
    Yet poor Mishal Hussein on the Today show was content that the question had been asked on video-and therefore consciousness and awareness raised..and,maybe , that was ALL that was required after all...oh, thank you Beeb!
    Pitiful pond life at the BBC eh?...


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