Friday 10 April 2020

Explaining away

Rembrandt, The Storm on the Sea of Galilee

The Guardian featured a touching interview yesterday with 61 year old Hylton Murray-Philipson. He's been through five days of intensive care and been on a ventilator, 'thanks to' coronavirus. Unlike either a similar aged man on the same ward or an ENT consultant at the same hospital, Mr Murray-Philipson pulled through. He is profoundly grateful to the NHS:
While in recovery, the nurses found out it was my 61st birthday coming up and asked me what I wanted. I felt pretty rough and beaten up so I said I’d love a shave. The nurse gave me one. On the day, the nurses gathered around my bed with a slice of cake and sang Happy Birthday. It was so unbelievably moving. 
NHS staff even gave him a 'guard of honour' and applauded and cheered him when he finally left hospital. 

This morning's Today programme picked up on this good news story and interviewed Mr Murray-Philipson. Something curious happened during that interview though:
Nick Robinson: Those memories that you had in intensive care are very, very intense, aren't they, good as well as bad?
Hylton Murray-Philipson: Well, absolutely. And following those words from Bishop James Jones just now I think it's appropriate to say that one of the many very powerful images I had in that moment of great distress and struggle was the image of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. And that just came to me, and I would like to think that that was Jesus Christ coming to me and helping me in my hour of need.
Nick Robinson: Well, it's so powerful that you have that...partly I have to say, partly because of the drugs that you have to be on in order to be on a ventilator machine which plays tricks with your mind, doesn't it really? But you also had some happy moments, didn't you? There must have been some horror there but also some happy moments?
Hylton Murray-Philipson: Well, to be honest, the happy moments came when I was out of intensive care. Intensive care is a pretty horrendous experience I can't really put the word 'happy' alongside it.
Nick Robinson: (interrupting) I was thinking of your birthday that you spent in hospital.
This was blog favourite Alex Deane's immediate reaction to Nick Robinson's kneejerk 'explaining away' of Mr Murray Philipson's recent deeply-felt religious experience:
  • It is Good Friday. The Today Programme interviews a man who was discharged from hospital having had COVID-19. He said that in his hour of need, he saw Christ. Nick Robinson: "Ah, you were of course on very powerful drugs at the time."
  • The sense of desperate panic amongst the BBC production team that someone was going to mention his Christianity was palpable.
  • There’s no other faith that would have been dumped on in this way on air on the BBC. I honestly think that if the recovered patient had outed himself as a Satanist who’d seen the Devil he’d have got a more respectful time.
  • I understand that Robinson felt awkward in the moment & that this was an instinctive remark rather than a scripted one. But it’s telling that that’s his instinct, isn’t it? You sweet, silly old drug addled God botherer, chuckled the host... imagine it towards another faith. Try.
  • I honestly don’t think for a scintilla of a moment that there is a chance that any other faith would have been disparaged in this way. 
Nor do I, and I do hope Nick Robinson reflects on this.

UpdateNick Robinson has asked for forgiveness:
Forgive me. I didn’t mean to dismiss his or anyone else’s faith. I’d been told that he’d had a series of vivid dreams & as it happens I have been on a ventilator & heavily sedated myself & still remember my dreams almost 40 years on. My words got a bit jumbled (like the dreams).
Further update - Ah, but BBC defensiveness is already creeping back in again:
Thanks for re-tweeting my apology & explanation. I can understand why it upset you & others but on the day we heard from Rowan Williams, Vincent Nichols, an excerpt of the St Matthew’s Passion [sic] & Thought for the Day you can’t really argue that we dismiss Christianity.
That wasn't really what Alex Deane was arguing, was it? He was arguing that no other faith would have been treated in this way, however 'accidentally'?


  1. I've read a defence of Nick Robinson this morning:

    "Well done to a journalist for actually questioning a religious experience to see if there might be an alternative explanation. Need to end the free pass that’s given to religion whereby it’s not questioned whereas any other type of belief needs to be justified".

    Yes, but there's a time and a place, surely? And Nick Robinson didn't really "question" it, did he? He dismissed it and moved straight on.

  2. I missed this. Unbelievable. I have noticed on a number of occasions Mr Robinson jumping in to 'clarify' someone else's statement.

  3. There's another interesting aspect to this revealing mini-event.
    Would Robinson have reacted the same way if the interviewee had been a black or asian Christian ?
    I honestly don't think his journalistic bravery would have extended beyond noting the melanin content of his victim.

  4. This was a significant shift in Robinson's approach to try to move himto the bbc required interviewee script

  5. The glorious image of Rembrandt's The Storm on the Sea of Galilee is one of countless others that you will never see on the BBC website or TV channels - because of Islamic aniconism - a stumbling block to viewing huge parts of the UK's cultural heritage mentioned previously on ITBBCB?

  6. Well the poor man had just come out of a temple of the new religion of the NHS so he was clearly being a heretic.

    I find it concerning that the NHS as a brand has been created in recent years. Yes it has always been there post-war, like 'the welfare state', a policy, but now it is a 'thing', every part plastered with its logo, like those damn gold stars.

    As a brand it is beyond criticism and it demands to be fed ever more money. A bit like the BBC really. Isn't that what real facism was about - the state is all?

    1. In the 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony, Great Britain became 'defined' by the NHS - with weird looking bouncy beds - courtesy of Danny Boyle.

    2. And the enamel NHS logo lapel badges the virtuous are all wearing now.

      The liberal-left equivalent of the Iron Cross with oakleaves.

      Both are medals of honour in recognition of devotion, valour and personal sacrifice to the cause.

  7. ... ' He was arguing that no other faith would have been treated in this way' ...

    Coincidentally, 'BBC broadcasts Muslim prayers on radio for the first time'

    ... 'LONDON: Muslims in the UK can now listen to Friday prayers broadcast on BBC radio for the first time.

    Different imams lead the 5:50 a.m. broadcasts every week on 14 BBC local radio stations, reciting verses from the Qur’an or quotes from Prophet Muhammad, before delivering sermons and leading listeners in prayer.

    The stations’ audiences are in parts of Britain with large Muslim communities — Leeds, Sheffield, Lancashire, Manchester, the West Midlands, Leicester, Stoke, Derby, Nottingham, Coventry and Warwickshire, the Three Counties, Merseyside, Berkshire and London....
    ...The Friday prayer broadcasts, which began last Friday, will continue for as long as Muslims are unable to attend their local mosques. There are also plans for regular broadcasts for other religious minorities, such as the Hindu and Jewish communities, the BBC said. ' .... (source

    It will be interesting to see whether these broadcasts 'prove so popular' that they become a fixture of Friday's local radio output once the lockdown has finished.

  8. By thy words thou shalt be condemned, Robinson

  9. Yes, the guy's real offence in Robinson's eyes was his failure to genuflect in the direction of the Free Public Health Care Totem of the NHS Cult. Robinson expected to be followed as he went whooping and bobbing around the pole.

  10. A Today Programme presenter must be fleet of foot and mellifluous of voice. Nick Robinson has a good face for a radio presenter, but he can’t think on his feet and his voice has the clarity of a badly-tuned-in radio.

    I thought he was so eager to steer the narrative towards the good-news story he was after that he made a complete mess of it. Mind, he’d never have made such a mistake if any other religion had been involved. I think he means well, but is clumsy. Bring back Sue McGregor.

    1. The point is that he was being told the good news story directly, that of Jesus Christ, but couldn't recognise it! For the NHS preachers at the BBC there is only one true religion.
      Nick knows he messed up and I've zero sympathy when I see how quickly he play his "victim" card to try to wriggle out of accepting his guilt.

  11. this survivor has been interviewed live on the bbc at least twice and there was also a feature on the website about him. i find that odd personally that one person would get three separate bouts of coverage.


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