Saturday 17 September 2016

An everyday story of Leave and Remain folk

Amber Rudd and Boris Johnson

Though I've listened to Radio 4 every since I was in my teens I've never paid any attention to The Archers

For me The Archers has never been anything more than a happy opportunity to go and brew a nice cup of tea until the next programme comes on. 

I know, however, that plenty of people are hooked on The Archers - including (as has become apparent in recent weeks) lots of surprising people who I'd never have expected to be Archers fans.

And I'd have to have been away on holiday to Proxima Centauri not to be aware that a remarkable number of people were glued to their radios last Sunday for the much-hyped one-hour trial special broadcast and that many of them apparently sobbed with joy when Helen was cleared of attempting to murder nasty, abusive Rob by the jury of famous actors.

I would have continued ignoring it but I saw the following tweet from the Salisbury Review/Spectator's Jane Kelly

That got my interest. Was Jane right? Could it really be that the BBC would use the 'biggest' Archers episode ever to promote an anti-Brexit worldview? Would Radio 4 be that shameless?

Well, I've now listened to the famous episode - my first ever episode of The Archers (the longest episode of The Archers in the history of the programme). 

I can't say I've been converted though. All those star-name jurors still couldn't convince me that the script was anything other than wooden and the emotional ending made me laugh. The word 'melodrama' popped into my head near the very end.

And, yes, Jane was right.

Another Twitter user quipped: Bloody hell it's like Brecht wrote the worst episode of Columbo  during a drunken Brexit dinner party.

That Brecht reference struck me as a telling one - especially as it occurred to me too. Brecht had strong propagandist designs on his audience. The committee who wrote this Archers script seemed to have propagandist designs too.

(The comparison isn't spot-on though. Unlike Brecht - who liked his audiences to stay emotionally detached - the Archers' scriptwriters were clearly trying to pull on their audience's emotional levers at every stage).

There were certainly quite a lot of 'agitprop' bits. 

I will simply post my notes on what I heard below, unedited - except from an embarrassingly misplaced apostrophe. (The quotes are exact). See if you can spot any agendas being pushed:
18.04 An unpleasant pro-Rob juror rants in Brexitspeak.
22.29 "I've been meaning to say, Parveen, that's a beautiful headscarf you're wearing. Very elegant", says the nice, wise character played by Eileen Atkins. (You couldn't make it up!!!)
23.25 Nice, dopey-sounding girl with no strong opinions: "It was all the stuff around Brexit.....What if we get the verdict wrong? It's going to effect so many lives.... It feels like way too important a decision to be left up to us". (!!!!!!)
25.04 "She's just a sort of bigoted woman". (A good juror about guilty-supporting Lisa).
26.14 Nice chap (Tristan) says to nice girl (Holly): "I'm more than upset. I'm ashamed. This is meant to be a cross-section of British society but (guilty-supporting) Dennis and Lisa haven't got a clue".
28.44 (Jackie, Eileen Atkins's character): "Yes, an old post-grad student of mine has been up at Bradford for years in the Faculty of Social Sciences. Anyway, we were chatting over the summer. He's terribly worried where his funding is going to come from now. So much of his research is in partnership with other universities across Europe. For once I'm glad I'm retired!"
Obviously Muslim Parveen is leaning towards not guilty, therefore good. Love how the nice ones want Helen freed and the not nice ones want her convicted. It's so Brechtian!
33.37 (Jackie) "The whole reason we have a jury system is because some decisions are too important to be passed by a simple majority."
38.48 (Nasty juror, Dennis, Nigel Havers, delivers a Brexiter-style 'rant'): "You are kidding me! So-called experts without the slightest clue what it's like to live in the real world thinking they know best about how the rest of us should be governed! Well, at least in this room ordinary folks get to make the decisions".
(Nice  juror, Tristan) "Give me a break! It drives me insane. People going on about the real world. Who doesn't live in the real world? Just because you don't like the fact some people might be more educated than you and actually know what they're talking about!"
40.17 (Nasty 'bigoted' juror Lisa to Parveen): "What do you know? Aren't you supposed to obey your husband?"
Squabble at around 43.30, with Brexit slogans being yelled by the baddies. Holly calls a halt and Jackie takes over. Nigel Havers puts the bad side. Eileen Atkins puts the good side.
Eileen Atkins, Tony Hancock and Nigel Havers

Our sub-Brechtian Archers writers made the 'good jurors' into Remain/Helen supporters and the 'bad jurors' into Leave/Rob supporters, with the in-betweeners going on a journey towards the (Remain/Helen) light. It was very schematic. 

Plus, the specific messages the Archers scriptwriters sent out about the Brexit vote were pretty clear, weren't they? That is, that the result was a result of ill-informed people having a say and that it should have been left in the hands of people who know what they're actually talking about (parliament?) Plus that our EU membership was too important a decision to be passed by a simple majority in a referendum. (Parliament to overrule the result?) Plus that racism and bigotry played a part in the campaign. 

Add the Archers scriptwriters obvious intent to also make a point about Muslims and 'Islamophobia' and the agenda-pushing all becomes a bit heavy-handed. 

Of course, serious Archers fans may have been so wrapped up in the outcome of the trial that they missed these political messages but, from what I've seen on Twitter, I very much doubt it.

To end, here's a representative sample of Twitter reaction to all the Brexit references:

Wow! One of #thearchers jurors slates 'the experts'. #Brexit allegory goes into overdrive. Will 48% of them find Helen not guilty?

Just so we are all on the same page - does everyone have the words brexit, referendum & political metaphor in their #TheArchers notepad? 

Correct decision pulled from morass of biased idiocy: it's not-Brexit #thearchers #freehelen

it's all going a bit #brexit   #thearchers

'Experts' - it's Brexit bingo! #TheArchers

Thank you #TheArchers for mentioning the problem of university funding and EU links post-Brexit in their biggest ever episode.

Given they have turned #TheArchers into a Brexit allegory, Helen is surely screwed.


'Bigoted woman' Brexit' is this a kind of political bingo game? #thearchers

Helen's trial as a metaphor for Brexit. Discuss. #thearchers

Remember: not all Brexit supporters are pro-Rob #thearchers

#thearchers hating this jury, getting flashbacks to #Brexit. Do I know my own country? Aaargh democracy...

"Well thank you Dennis. I'm sure a lot of us #BrExit fans feel it's got very unfair for rapists" #TheArchers


This is worse than I ever imagined. Helen = Brexit. Come on! Nigel #thearchers

#thearchers this jury is a great example of how we got the Brexit vote we got 
*winces at this jury* cf Brexit #thearchers

Cheeky #Brexit reference in #TheArchers. Let's hope Helen #Remains at Blossom Hill and Rob #Leaves Ambridge for good.

On no! The jury's made up of people who couldn't decide on the #EURef ... & probably voted #Brexit #thearchers

#thearchers Are we having the #Brexit debate NOW!?

Brexit reference! #thearchers


  1. Sounds appalling! I do listen to the Archers occasionally so keep up more or less with the storyline. I think the one hour special sounds dire. The daily soap is more credible - and although like all mainstream media they are PC, it's not too much in your face. Unlike modern TV soaps, they have real slow build story lines (much more like real life) and even the non PC boo characters often have a degree of sympathy in their lines.

  2. 33.37 (Jackie) "The whole reason we have a jury system is because some decisions are too important to be passed by a simple majority."
    Amusing subliminal argument for a second referendum there, particularly with her next line that if the jury cannot decide by major majority (the right result?) the jury is replaced and the process repeated.

    And curses on you for making me listen to the Omnibus for the first time for 25 years or more!

  3. The BBC does seem to have a problem with reality. Not only does it appear to believe the Archers storyline actually happened It has also created a whole fiction around Brexit complete with nasty leave characters and virtuous remainers. I’m sure with a bit of polishing it will be perfect for pantomime season.

    I loved the Hancock picture.


    Did anyone hear Mardell on The World this Weekend...a piece about the "AltRight"?

    Amazingly biased piece I thought. The piece began with a background soundtrack with a low voice saying "Do what I tell you or I'll kill you"...which I think we were supposed to believe was the AltRight speaking to America, whereas I imagine it was some AltRight commentator describing how they see the left-liberal movement.

    Then Mardell was straight at it with the R word, choosing a far right spokesperson who was clearly a racist. I visit quite a few sites that would be described as "right wing conspiracist" by the BBC just to get some real news on the American election campaign. It's where you learn about Hillary's health problems, the Clinton Foundation, Bill's attacks on women, Obama's communist family, the Saul Alinsky connections etc etc. I've never heard any overtly or even mildly racist comments there. They are mostly libertarians, Christians, traditionalist conservatives, American constitutionalists, and the like. I haven't heard anything suggest that race determines character, which is what a racist believes. But you wouldn't have got that from Mardell who ploughed on regardless, the finish line in sight now: connecting all that racist stuff to Donald Trump.

    At no point did Mardell concede that the right wing alternative media had broken the Clinton health story and a number of other key stories or that it represented the sentiment of opposition to Soros-style globalism: borderless elite-governed PC capitalism.

    1. Excellent characterization of Mardell's racialist beliefs. It was one of the hallmarks of his tenure as North America editor. For him, everything in the US is about race either on its face or on some level. Don't believe in national Socialized medicine? You're a racist because you don't want wealth redistributed to people who don't look like you. That was his take on the Tea Party movement, and he never let it go.

  5. I wonder if in a few years' time we'll learn that there was a pro-EU seminar similar to that Warmist Synod the BBC held where they discussed how to infuse Warmist propaganda into not only their news coverage but into BBC drama, light entertainment, and children's programming.

    1. Propaganda for the BBC agenda is already alive and well in their home-produced dramas, particularly Holby and Casualty. There are often anti-government anti-austerity messages carried in the storyline trotted out by the over-worked and put-upon characters in the hospital drama. There is never a mention of PFI Hospital-Building costs which might in reality be the underlying burden of costs contributing to the latest NHS funding crisis.

  6. 'She's just a bigoted woman' is obviously a verbatim reference to the Gordon Brown/Gillian Duffy contretemps.

    Interestingly, that marked the moment that mainstream political parties moved away from challenging xenophobia to 'understanding' it.


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