Wednesday 13 August 2014

Nanu nanu

Like any other self-respecting blogger, I only (quite rightly) give credence to reports and opinion polls that back up my own beliefs, so I'm pleased to say that YouGov has it right over Robin Williams:
Nine in ten British people say Robin Williams made them laugh...
He certainly made me laugh in Mork and Mindy. (Not so much in The Fisher King though). 

I was a mere boy when he first called Orson and said 'Nanu nanu' to Mindy's motorcycling granny, but I remember enjoying his performance at the time, and then enjoying re-watching him in my teens (though, as a teenage boy, I think part of the appeal of watching Mork and Mindy might possibly have been 'Mindy'.)

Reinforcing my own Morkish tendencies, I was driven by reading comments 'at another place' about there being too much Robin Williams coverage yesterday to do a classic 'Is' study into exactly how much time Radio 4's main news programmes gave to the death of this much-loved star. (There were complaints that the BBC was going OTT about him at the expense of what the complainants considered much more important stories like the genocidal goings-on in Iraq).

So for geeks and Orkans everywhere, here's a run down of yesterday's Radio 4 coverage. What did they cover? (Beam me up, Mindy!)

6.00 News & weather
6.07 Morning papers
6.10 Death of Robin Williams: Clips
6.13 Iraq: Interview with the BBC's Aleem Maqbool
6.16 Business News
6.30 News summary
6.32 Death of Robin Williams: Interview with the BBC's Alastair Leithead
6.36 Iraq: Interview with the BBC's "Ramir Ruhyim" in Erbil
6.40 New rules to promote British values in the wake of the Trojan Horse affair: Interview with the BBC's Alex Forsyth
6.42 Morning papers
6.45 Guns on campuses in the U.S.: Report from the BBC's Rajini Vaidyanathan
6.50 Why women seem less supportive of Scottish independence: Interview with Rachel Ormston, ScotCen Social Research
6.54 A copyright case involving street artist Stik: Interview with Stik & Gilane Tawadros, Design and Artists Copyright Society
6.58 Weather

7.00 News
7.09 Death of Robin Williams: Interview with David Hasselhoff (The Hoff)
7.13 Iraq: Interview with Kieran Dwyer, OCHA
7.19 Business News
7.22 Grouse shooting & hen-harriers: Interview with hen-harrier enthusiast Chris Packham & Amanda Anderson, Moorland Association
7.27 Sports News
7.31 News summary
7.33 New rules to promote British values in the wake of the Trojan Horse affair: Interview with Colin Hart, Christian Institute & Ghaffar Hussain, Quilliam Foundation
7.40 Death of Robin Williams: Clip from Jonathan Ross interview with Robin Williams
7.41 Morning papers
7.43 Henry Thoreau and the idea of solitude: Interview with Michael Sims, author of 'The Adventures of Henry Thoreau'
7.47 Thought for the Day: Rev Lucy Winkett 
7.50 Prisoners' right to vote in the UK: Interview with the BBC's Danny Shaw
7.53 Prisoners' right to vote in the UK: Interview with Tony Kelly, acting on behalf of the prisoners
7.58 Weather

8.00 News
8.10 Iraq: Interview with an relief crew member in Iraq
8.16 Iraq: Interview with Marie Harf, U.S. State Department
8.22 Death of Robin Williams: Interview with Alexei Sayle
8.29 Sports News
8.33 News summary
8.35 Why women seem less supportive of Scottish independence: Natalie McGarry, blogger Tessa Hartmann of Hartmann Media
8.41 200th anniversary of the birth of Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone. Interview with Astrid Herman, Brussels' Musical Instruments Museum & Soweto Kinch, saxophonist
8.46 World Humanitarian Day (aid workers who die in the line of duty): Report from Mike Wooldridge, BBC
8.51 Iraq: Interview with Dr Saeed Shihabi, friend of Haider al-Abadi (named as Iraq's new prime minister)
8.55 Death of Robin Williams: Interview with Peter Bradshaw, 'Guardian' & Jamie Graham, 'Total Film'

1.00 News
1.07 Iraq: Interview with the BBC's Caroline Wyatt, BBC World Affairs Correspondent
1.10 Iraq: Interview with Matthew Barber, University of Chicago
1.14 Iraq: Short interview with former Air Commodore Dai Whittingham
1.15 Iraq: Short interview with Dylan Winder,  ‎head of Humanitarian Response at the Department for International Development
1.17 Iraq: Interview with the BBC's Jonathan Beale, Defence Correspondent
1.19 Iraq: Interview with Sir Ming Campbell, Lib Dem
1.23 Death of Robin Williams
1.25 Death of Robin Williams: Interview with Giles Matthey, actor
1.29 Death of Robin Williams: Clip from an interview with Robin Williams
1.30 Death of Robin Williams - comedians and depression: Gordon Claridge, Emeritus Professor of Abnormal Psychology, Oxford.
1.32 Police chief constable served with a criminal/gross misconduct notice: Interview with the BBC's Danny Shaw
1.35 Use of untested drugs on Ebola virus sufferers - Interview with the BBC's Jane Draper
1.37 Politicians and soundbite pledges (universal free school lunches): Report from/interview with the BBC's Jon Manel

5.00 News
5.05 Ebola virus: Interview with the BBC's Tom Burridge
5.10 Use of untested drugs on Ebola virus sufferers: Interview with Charlie Chan, breast cancer specialist
5.14 Iraq: Interview with the BBC's Jonathan Beale
5.17 Iraq: Interview with Afzal Ashraf, RUSI
5.21 Advert
5.22 Scottish independence and the arts: Report from Vincent Dowd, BBC arts correspondent
5.26 Panda news - the panda is pregnant: Interview with someone from Edinburgh Zoo
5.30 News summary
5.32 Death of Robin Williams
5.37 Death of Robin Williams - Creativity and mental illness: Nancy Andreasson, neuropsychiatrist, University of Iowa
5.43 Protests in New York - Report from Matt Wells, BBC, on protests against curbs on pushy performers in Times Square
5.48 Advert
5.49 - heroes or villains? Interview with Milo Yiannopoulos, author, 'The Sociopaths of Silicon Valley' & Andrew Warren-Payne, Senior Research Analyst at Econsultancy
5.57 Weather
5.59 Sounds for a listener - sounds from rural Warwickshire (rain and thunder)

10.00 News
10.08 Iraq: Report from the BBC's Paul Wood
10.11 Iraq: Interview with Col. Cedric Leighton, former member of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff
10.16 Iraq: Interview with Vali Nasr, former U.S. State Department official
10.20 The Neapolitan Mafia: Report from the BBC's Alan Johnson
10.26 The economics of pregnant pandas: Geoff Wallace, Professor of Applied Economics, University of Memphis
10.29 Tension in eastern Ukraine: Interview with Ewan Watson, Red Cross
10.33 Tension in eastern Ukraine: Interview with Mark Almond, Oxford University
10.37 Japanese population decline & "womenomics": Report from the BBC's Mark Whittaker
10.43 Death of Robin Williams: Short interview with Terry Gilliam

Well, Robin Williams' suicide certainly got a good deal of coverage, but then so did Iraq. The balance doesn't seem a problem to me. 

Interestingly, besides the tributes, Radio 4 went for the mental health angle on the Robin Williams story - as befits a channel that sees itself as an adult channel. Eddie Mair's  PM interview with Prof Andreasson was genuinely thought-provoking. I kept thinking about it throughout last night - one of my lesser thoughts being about how difficult it must be to talk neuroscience and celebrity suicide in the course of one interview.

Other thoughts struck me too - such as how eager I am these days to flee into escapism (probably escaping all the cognitive dissonance). Panda stories? Yes please. The story about the anniversary of the birth of the inventor of the saxophone, Adolphe Sax? Yes please (despite the fact that his actual anniversary doesn't fall until November). Henry Thoreau? An escape into solitude and nature? Yes please. (Oh my goodness, yes, yes, yes!)

BBC Bias? Ah yes, almost forgot about that! (Easily done on blogs like this.)

Getting fancy-footed commie comic Alexei Sayle and some Graun journalist to talk about Robin Williams may reveal something about the Today mindset. (Possibly.)

And what about dismissing the deeply worrying Trojan Horse affair (a proven Islamic plot) by bringing on some 'hardline Christians' opposed to the government's promotion of British values?

Well, yes - though giving 'hardline Christians' like the likable Colin Hart a place on 'Today' raises all sort of other dissonances, cognitively-speaking, and then putting him up against a 'pro-government, pro-British values' figure like the likable Ghaffar Hussain from the Quilliam Foundation sends those very dissonances into regions full of cognitive whirlpools, the waves of dissonance apparently which cancel each other out and leave me grabbing onto any available flotsam in their wake.

What then about promoting the anti-grouse hunting campaign of environmentalists like Chris Packham at the expense of the Moorland Association (supporters of grouse-hunting)? 

Well, yes, on 'The Glorious Twelth', giving prime airtime publicity to a 'greenie' campaign against 'landed' types certainly does smack of lefty bias, but the actual debate (on Today) between the passionate Chris Packham (who I've both met and like) and Amanda Anderson of the Moorland Association was (again) genuinely thought-provoking with both Chris and Amanda making good points and Mishal Husain giving Chris Packham the harder time. 

Chris, unlike some environmentalists (who are 'red' inside and 'green' outside, like watermelons), is genuinely interested in the plight of hen harriers. Unquestionably so. He loves sparrowhawks too. I, on the other hand, love sparrows, so I'm somewhat less keen on his favorites - though I too have gaped in admiration at them whilst they perch on the fence on the house next door, attempting (simultaneously) to stare them out and to steer them away from my chirpy little protegees. 

Sticking with yesterday's Today, Alan at BBC was sharply critical of John Humphrys for pursuing the angle that the 2003 US/UK-led invatsion of Iraq is responsible for the rise of 'IS' (not us, me and Sue, but the genocidal Muslim maniacs formerly known as Isis), and I can see Alan's point. Admirer though I am of him in many ways, John Humphrys has never really tried very hard to hide his disapproval of the Iraq War. (He could, of course, be right though. With hindsight). It's his especial bias, and these kinds of interview tend to bring that bias out.

What though of Mishal Husain's encounter with the lawyer defending the prisoners' demanding voting rights? Well, only one side of the argument was interviewed but Mishal was full of interruptive fire whilst interviewing him and countered him (to my mind) pretty well. (I'm not on his side).

Lucy Winkett's Thought for the Day told us that being nice to people who change gender is nice and that Jesus would think we're nice too if we had nice thoughts about other people, including people who change gender. Amen sister.

Women, women, women. Woman's Hour. Women. Today tackled 'gender' in relation to the Scottish independence debate (women ain't so keen on Big Eck's arguments in favour of Scotland's unique brawness as men, it seems ) and The World Tonight tackled 'womenonomics' in Japan. Women, women, women. 

Was The World at One showing anti-government bias in spending a fair while on Jon Manel's investigation into how the Lib Dems' 'universal free school meals' pledge, now being put into law, is causing chaos in some schools? Hmm, it's anti-government, boo!, but it's more anti-Lib Dem so, as a rightie, let's say "hurray!" Actually, let's say it was (I believe) simple reporting of a problem and that Jon Manel is one of the more unpredictable BBC reporters (i.e he's annoyed me on many an occasion and pleasantly surprised me on others). 

The ethics of testing un-trial-tested drugs on people (if they so choose) is one that always needs debating. The Ebola virus is bringing the issue back to the fore again. The Radio 4 discussions about it were involving and I'm still rather conflicted about the answer. Non-compulsion remains my touchstone.

PM 'went after' wicked capitalist success story Amazon but it gave that fine free-marketeer Milo Yiannopoulos a good go against an 'econsultant'.

Did you listen to these four programmes yesterday? What did you make of them? Were you seething about their bias? Or not?

For myself, I tried this as another 'Is the BBC biased?' experiment. What did I really find?

Well, some story choices that seems to reflect a left-wing way of thinking, but evidence of attempts to balance it with alternative views as well.

You, of course, have a few days of 'listen again' time to assess these four programmes for yourselves and to give an honest appraisal of them (as I've tried to do). What gets your goat? What delights your sheep? Please feel free to share (in more than 140 characters).


  1. Removing Sadaam Hussein did not lead directly to this. If left in power, the region would have been just as unstable. Most likely he would have been dead from cancer for a few years by now. His lunatic sons would have inherited the country, which would have been utter chaos. The place would have fallen apart with no US troops within shouting distance. Without the rearranging of our forces over there for the 2003 invasion, all we would have had ready would be the airborne forces probably still enforcing the No-Fly Zone. The Baathist-led Iraqi Army would still be extant, and I think we all know how that would have turned out.

    If we take the Left's word for it, the Bush Doctrine did not lead to the so-called Arab Spring, which certainly had some influence on the thinking of those in Syria who thought they, too, could rebel against their dictator. So it would still have happened, and there would still have been a vacuum in Iraq waiting to be filled.

    Basically things might have been even worse, and we'd have been less poised to do anything about it.

  2. Also, prisoner voting again? The BBC always has time for finding ways to increase the Labour vote.

  3. Only got a bit of the awful (and unfunny) Alexei Sayle talking to Jim about Robin Williams.
    "As if he`d know" so I thought-usual stiff surfing by someone trying to blow life back into his career or book with a kiddies plastic straw.
    Then I saw his article in the Telegraph today about Williams.
    And realised that I was wrong-I hate the BBC and its suckups that much, that I`d tuned out on the fact that Sayle did know Williams, and was well able to explain aspects of his work that I didn`t know.
    I stand corrected then...but I just know that the BBC will use Williams cortege to pin a "More money for the NHS and its Psychiatric/End Of Life/Boozers or druggies rehabilitation staff, suppliers, dealers or charity quango queens" ,flag on the wreath.
    The BBC never let a good crisis go to waste if they can bleed money from our grandkids in the interim.
    But I was wrong about Sayle.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.