Monday 2 February 2015

Drivel of the Day Watch

Iain Martin, editor of a fine new website called CAPX (better known, so far, as a Telegraph writer), has launched a campaign to get rid of 'Thought for the Day', describing it as "the home [for] bad ideas".

His campaign began last week with a piece called Scrap the BBC’s Thought For The Day now, which begins:
Apologies if you are reading this abroad or if Thought For The Day on BBC Radio 4 means nothing to you. You’re lucky and I’m jealous because I wish I had never heard of Thought For The Day either. But as I live in the UK, and because I’m a fan of Radio 4, which is Britain’s premier radio station targeted at the middle classes, I’m usually tuned in by the time it comes on at 7.50am each morning.
The idea is supposed to be simple. At one point in the middle of the popular Today programme someone religious is given a few minutes to burble on, in theory providing us with a thought-provoking spiritual break from the BBC’s economics editor explaining the latest on what has gone wrong with the economy or political editor Nick Robinson telling us what has gone wrong with one or other of the main political parties. Thought For The Day is supposed to give the listeners a few moments to think about the big questions: Who are We? Why Are We Here? Do I need another slice of toast?
However, the worry is that too many of those chosen to present the religious slot now smuggle in standard issue lazy left-leaning anti-market nonsense under the banner of religion.
This morning represented a new low point even by the low standards of Thought For The Day. A trendy vicar called Giles Fraser (a Thought For The Day regular who preaches every week at The Guardian) turned his attention to Syriza and Greece’s debts.
His message was that debt is slavery. Greece should be forgiven the debts its useless governments ran up. Free Greece. It says so in the Bible, well almost.
Today he's returned to the same theme and highlighted the contribution of the one TFTD regular who makes even Giles Fraser seem sensible - John Bell. This is how his a piece, entitled BBC Thought for the Day backs talks with IS and Boko Haram, begins:  
Last week I took BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day slot on the Today programme to task for its reliance on anti-market and West-hating preachers. As a fan for decades of Today, I’ve grown used to spitting out my cornflakes several times a week at the kitchen table when complete drivel is parroted by one of the religious figures invited to address the British nation at 7.50am each morning.
Today I launch Thought for the Day Watch, a campaign designed to restore some political balance to the religious slot on Radio 4. (I am not religious; I simply don’t want my breakfast ruined.)

He continues:
Bell turned his attention to the question of forgiveness and managed to sound like that Billy Connolly spoof Church of Scotland minister who attempts to draw parallels between the scriptures and his attendance, with his son Nigel, at a football match. (“Daddy, did Jesus play for Tottenham Hotspur? And you know… in a funny way he did.”)
This morning, once Bell had burbled his way through an account of the end of apartheid in South Africa, he moved onto contemporary affairs and Islamist terrorism. Uh-oh…
Here is what he said about Islamic State, the Taliban and their compatriots Boko Haram in West Africa:
“I sometimes wonder…” (Oh, do you?)
“I sometimes wonder when, as this weekend, we hear of the appalling atrocities of Boko Haram, or the Taliban, or Islamic State, are all these people terminally committed to perpetuating bloodshed and evil? For right now though we can’t imagine listening to their opinions, should their violence cease, might it be that in some distant future we discover that some of them have stories and perspectives to share which we might wish we had listened to earlier?”
Iain Martin is, understandably, somewhat gobsmacked by that. His piece ends: 
The Boko Haram “story” recently involved the slaughter of as many as 2,000 men, women and children in a number of villages. The Taliban’s “perspective” involves the slaughter of children in schools because it cannot accept the idea of education, science or girls in schools. Islamic State behaves like the Nazi Einsatzgruppen, the death squads that rampaged across Poland and Russia.
Yet John Bell says that their members have stories and perspectives worth listening to and he keeps getting invited onto Thought for the Day. Thus Bell finds himself featured, regularly, on the UK’s leading current affairs radio show wittering on to an audience of millions about momentous events as though he is a great sage. Why?
Why indeed?

[At least Stephen Sizer isn't a regular. Thank the Controller of Radio 4 for small mercies!]


  1. John Bell is overtly antisemitic by the way. I found this on my computer. I must have written it ages ago.

    "I understand the Iona community is joining the BDS campaign. If so, John Bell of Thought for The Day has a lot to answer for.
    From Wikipedia:
    He is a frequent broadcaster, and often presents programmes on the BBC, majoring on contemporary religious songs from various parts of the world.

    In 2005, the BBC apologised for a broadcast by Bell in which he suggested that a Muslim corporal conscripted into the Israeli army had been jailed for refusing to shoot Palestinian children. The broadcast itself was a fairly innocuous plea for understanding between the two sides with conflicting claims in the Middle East, yet was interpreted by those of one allegiance as an attack. Neither the BBC nor the Israeli military were able to find any evidence supporting the story or the existence of a soldier fitting the description. It was further pointed out that Israeli Arabs are not subject to conscription. Bell acknowledged that parts of his story were incorrect and that the broadcast could have been interpreted by some parties as "furtive racism", though he countered that "such a conjecture would be completely untrue.".[1] It was also reported that a spokesman at the Israeli embassy said, "We appreciate that the BBC has apologised; however, it is a pity as the damage is irreparable.[...]"

    “those of one allegiance?” Who could that be, I wonder? Surely not the ones with the lobby that controls the world?
    “a fairly innocuous plea for understanding?” My arse. Thought for the Day.
    They may as well hire John Galliano. I hear his furtive racism is pure conjecture and completely untrue, but he was very, very drunk at the time."

  2. But you know Craig - and think about this - maybe our parents and grandparents were wrong after all about Dr Goebbels, Eichmann and Rudolf Höss. Maybe the BBC knows better than us.
    As I recall, this past week has been filled with the Holocaust. As you know the BBC is committed to "impartiality" and "balance". Maybe Giles, rather than being brought on, as you and I might consider, as just another contributor to the continuous left-wing anti-Israeli (Oh dear - I almost wrote "antisemitic") drone which constitutes the BBC product, has been asked to provide a bit of that statutory balance demanded of the BBC.
    Accordingly, an approving nod in the direction of murder in the furtherance of Islam (although unfortunately in the eyes of the bien pensants of Broadcasting House not of Jews although the French Moslems do their best) may constitute a welcome change to the usual BBC meme that "it's nothing to do with Islam".
    Maybe the BBC is simply trying to give voice to the "some who say" that ISIL and BH are not "extreme" or "radicalised" versions of the true faith. Perhaps they are simply obvious and predictable (although possibly regrettable in the eyes of the unsophisticated) manifestations of that faith and, consequently, must be accepted as part of life's rich pattern to be reported on non-judgementally by an unbiased BBC.

  3. The problem with 'Thought for the Day'is that none of its speakers stray beyond the BBC's comfort zone. Ever.

    As for conservative religious believers, yes, they tolerate 'Awful Anne Atkins' (as a laughing stock) - and as she said today something along the lines of "God bless the NHS", she's hardly that far from the BBC's way of thinking.

    Rabbi Sacks is about as much as they can stomach. And that's about it.

    In the other direction - Giles and John Bell - they can go as far as they like. As Ben Elton used to say, in his 'Thatch'-bashing leftist days, "Oooh, little bit of politics! Little bit of politics!"

    The rest are mostly nice, platitudinous types - a pair of liberal Catholics, a few nice Muslims (Mona Siddiqui being particularly sensible), a bland British Buddhist convert [no offence, Vish!], a very pleasant great-uncle-like Sikh, a Blairite, and lots and lots and lots and lots of very, very nice Anglicans, saying lots of very, very nice things (except about Israel).

    You're not wrong, Umbongo, that it's the BBC's choice to gather such a guest-list together. And it needs changing, or scrapping.


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