Sunday, 19 July 2020

The BBC’s over-narrow perspective

Guest Post by Arthur T

It’s worth examining the BBC’s take on the events surrounding the vandalism of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol. During the ‘largely peaceful’ BLM protests on June 7th, the Colston statue was unceremoniously dragged from its plinth and dumped into the waters of Bristol. 

This criminal damage was generally applauded by BBC news - as striking a telling blow for the BLM cause. However, it was something of a copycat protest, imported as a job lot from the American BLM brand, where Civil War statues have become a prime target, and where white on black racism is the only form. Again, when criminal damage resulted in a police caution for one of the protesters, the BBC were broadly on-side - understandably, saying this was a worthwhile form of vandalism with which we should all be comfortable. ...

Edward Colston: 'Why the statue had to fall’ ... 

It is at this point that the BBC become hemmed in by their established narrative - of support for BLM, the need to ‘take the knee’ etc. What happened thereafter saw the story spinning out of control despite their attempts to direct it towards their mindset. From a photograph of one Jen Reid ( whose real name is ... it doesn’t matter, we’re on first-name terms already), one of the BBC’s most favoured artists Marc Quinn contacted Jen and between the pair of them, a new all-black statue was created showing Jen giving the ‘black power’ salute - an uncanny likeness to the photo Jen standing on the now-vacated plinth. 

Marc Quinn gained notoriety when his marble sculpture of Alison Lapper stood on the Fourth Plinth from 2005-2007. Both he and Alison Lapper have been featured by the BBC over the years. 

 ‘Jen Reid: Bristol Black Lives Matter statue removed  

This is a sombre offering, suggesting the BBC were disappointed: 

‘A sculpture of a Black Lives Matter protester has been removed from the plinth where a statue of slave trader Edward Colston once stood...
The sculpture of Jen Reid was erected on Wednesday but removed by Bristol City Council just over 24 hours later’

The story turns even sourer for the BBC as details of the Jen Reid angle become clear. The source here is stylist.co.uk 

 ‘Who is Jen Reid? The Black Lives Matter activist whose statue replaced Edward Colston’s in Bristol’ .... 

Extracts tell the story: 

‘Last month, protestors toppled Edward Colston’s statue from its plinth in Bristol city centre. The bronze statue had stood on Colston Avenue since 1895, ostensibly as a memorial to its subject’s philanthropic works. However, Colston famously made his fortune through the Royal African Company (RAC) – which is believed to have sold about 100,000 west African people into slavery in the Caribbean and the Americas between 1672 and 1689... 

‘And, shortly after Colston had fallen, activist Jen Reid climbed onto the plinth and raised her fist in a Black Power salute. “On my way home from the protests on 7 June, I felt an overwhelming impulse to climb onto the plinth, just completely driven to do it by the events which had taken place right before,” Reid said in a statement. 

Reid continued: “Seeing the statue of Edward Colston being thrown into the river felt like a truly historical moment; huge. “When I was stood there on the plinth, and raised my arm in a Black Power salute, it was totally spontaneous, I didn’t even think about it. It was like an electrical charge of power was running through me. My immediate thoughts were for the enslaved people who died at the hands of Colston and to give them power. I wanted to give George Floyd power, I wanted to give power to Black people like me who have suffered injustices and inequality. A surge of power out to them all.” ... 

It was a striking moment, which Reid’s husband captured in a photograph. And, unsurprisingly, the ensuing Instagram post went viral. When the image came up in the feed of artist Marc Quinn, though, he felt prompted to approach the couple over social media with an idea for a new sculpture. “I was in his studio by the Friday after the protest with 201 cameras surrounding me, taking pictures of me from every conceivable angle,” Reid told BBC News. “That went into a 3D print and a mould was made.” Together, Reid and Quinn created a life-size, black resin statue – named A Surge of Power (Jen Reid) 2020 – and erected it early on Wednesday 15 July in Bristol city centre... 

The statue has received a mixed response. Speaking via his Instagram Stories, multimedia artist Larry Achiampong said: “The situation with the Marc Quinn statue is a sad joke – one that is not funny. The point of all of this [protest] is the redistribution of equity, of power... but who’s being given the opportunity? Who’s being given the chance? “Even if it was all from Marc Quinn’s own money that still doesn’t matter. Why not support some young Black artists, [encourage them] to make something, to put something up there. Give them time, give them space?”.... 

                                           

It’s easier to list the groups that are not offended by the BBC’s narrow perspective rather than those that are. They are playing to a narrow band indeed - white, pro-BLM Metro Lib Left. Offended are the black BLM supporters and the overwhelming majority of the UK population who value their history warts and all, and don’t see why it should be trashed in this way. 

To my mind, the most dispiriting part of the story is the way in which the statue was created. ...’ with 201 cameras surrounding me, taking pictures of me from every conceivable angle,” [Reid told BBC News]. “That went into a 3D print and a mould was made.” ‘ ... This is an object created mechanically by Quinn the technician and political activist - not by Quinn the talented artist. It was an opportunist creation with any underlying meaning borrowed not inspired - the product of the Instagram generation. The only surprise is that Will Gompertz wasn’t all over the story. 

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