Category Archives: BBC

BBC Complaint

The BBC must think we’re all as stupid as their journalists. I recently complained about a puff piece that Newsnight ran on Theresa May a couple of weeks ago, and Laura Kuenssberg’s appallingly biased Tweet. Naturally, the BBC saw nothing wrong with either of them. Here’s their reply to me:

Dear Mr Hell

Reference CAS-4338575-LYC8NX

Thank you for contacting us about BBC News output.

I understand you feel a recent interview with Theresa May in ‘Newsnight’ amounted to a ‘puff piece’ and Laura Kuenssberg’s post on social media regarding Jeremy Corbyn’s campaigning in Scotland and the Prime Minister’s absence in comparison displayed bias against Mr Corbyn.

We were naturally concerned to learn of your unhappiness but we’d explain that all BBC correspondents, reporters, presenters and editors are very well aware of our key commitment to impartial reporting at all times.

All staff are expected to put any political views to one side when carrying out their work for the BBC, and they simply try to provide the information and context on the story or issue using their professional insight to allow our viewers, listeners and web users to make up their own minds.

BBC News aims to show the political reality and provide a forum for discussion on issues, giving full opportunity for all sides of the debate to be heard and explored. Senior editorial staff within BBC News and the BBC Board keep a close watch on programmes to ensure that standards of impartiality are maintained.

The key point is that the BBC as an organisation has no view or position itself on anything we may report upon – our aim is to identify all significant views, and to test them rigorously and fairly on behalf of our audiences.

We always strive to be robust and consistent in our dealings with politicians and figures of public interest. The interviewer’s role is to put the questions that audience members want to know the answers to.

Our journalists seek to hold politicians and public figures to account by asking them pressing questions on a variety of topics, however the nature and tone of these questions may well be different depending on the programme or juncture the interview is broadcast on.

As the BBC’s Political Editor, Laura can’t publish ‘personal’ views on politics. Her role instead brings a professional and informed insight to events, based on her specialist knowledge and experience in the field.

This tweet conveyed the contrast in the two leaders, reflecting the tactics and mindsets in each party’s campaign. Laura was making the point that because of the conflicting positions on Trident within the Labour party, the Conservatives had made a conscious decision not to engage on the issue at that time. Senior staff are engaged in making sure that all BBC News output, including social media, is in line with our editorial guidelines.

Please be assured we do value your feedback about the points raised. All complaints are sent to senior management and in this case the BBC News team every morning, and I included your points in our overnight report of audience feedback.

These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your concerns have been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future programmes.

Thank you again for contacting us.

Kind regards

Nicholas Bannon

BBC Complaints Team

First, I put it to the BBC that if they were going to run a puff piece on May, were they going to do that same for the other party leaders. The silence, as this reply illustrates, is deafening.

As for Her Ladyship’s tweet, you will notice how Mr Bannon swats away my complaint by telling me she (Kuenssberg) “can’t publish ‘personal’ views on politics”. Oh? So why did she take to Twitter to air them? She certainly wasn’t doing that in a personal capacity.

The BBC’s claims to “impartiality” don’t stand up to scrutiny. Indeed, Mr Bannon’s reply to me amounts to little more than gaslighting.

I will be escalating my complaint to Ofcom.

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Filed under BBC, Media, propaganda

Some Thoughts About The Copeland And Stoke Central By-Elections

It’s axiomatic that the Blairites, the media and the Tories hate Jeremy Corbyn and all that he stands for, so when the by-election results came on early Friday morning, it was accompanied by the predictable chorus of “I told you so”.  Yet there are those who are so obviously blind to what’s happening that they refuse to see it for themselves and will believe every lie that comes from the mouths of media commentators and the stuffed Blairite shirts that dominate the television studios.

The Blairites knew that mounting another leadership challenge would end in failure, so they resorted to their other tactic: encourage two of Corbyn’s most prominent critics to resign and force by-elections.  Their latest phase began when Jamie Reed resigned on Christmas Eve (how symbolic) and a couple of weeks later, he was followed by Tristram Hunt. Both MPs were in marginal seats. The timing of their resignations was, just like everything else the Blairites do, blatant. If these were generals on the battlefield, they would be defeated and captured by their enemies. Why do I say that? Because unlike good generals, they telegraph every move in advance.  Let’s face it, these people aren’t chess players. These are poor leaders and equally poor strategists, who have no other interest than to self-aggrandize and grab power for themselves and their class.  Be in no doubt, for all their complaints about Corbyn’s alleged incompetence, they’re not much better and their previous attempts to unseat him are a testament to that. Bereft of real ideas, they can only resort to insults and temper tantrums in the television and radio studios, where they know they won’t be challenged  by supine interviewers, who are in on the game.  It’s a proper little stitch-up, folks.

For many people, the recent attempt to destroy Jeremy Corbyn looked, on the face of it, like a couple of very ordinary resignations by disgruntled MPs,  which had little or no connection with the ongoing Blairite plot to seize control of the leadership. Yet even a cursory examination of recent events reveals that there are coordinated efforts on behalf of the state, the media, the Blairites and the Tories to ensure that a left-wing Labour party is eliminated from mainstream politics. Hence the frequent use of phrases like ‘hard left’ to describe the mild democratic socialism of Corbyn.  Moreover, smear stories don’t appear in the media all by themselves; someone has to plant them there. From the stream of “Labour is anti-Semitic” stories to the fabricated “brick through the Wallasey constituency office window” story, each and every one of these has been fed to the media, which for its part, has failed to verify the claims.  Thus the press has abdicated its first duty to its readers: check and double check the story.

In Copeland, Labour’s share of the vote had been in steady decline from the heady days of the Nu labour landslide of 1997. The figures below put this into perspective.

2017 37.3%
2015 42.3%
2010 46.0%
2005 50.5%
2001 51.8%
1997 58.2%

As you can see, since Reed’s election in 2005, Labour’s share of the vote went into freefall. The reason for this is obvious: Reed wasn’t popular; Blairism even less so. Yet neither of these things featured in the supposedly expert analysis of the media commentators who painted the loss of Copeland as the fault of Jeremy Corbyn.

For the last couple of years, the Blairites have been openly collaborating with the government and the media in undermining their party leader. Indeed, for all their talk of wanting to “save” the party they apparently care so deeply about, their actions say the opposite. Take Peter Mandelson’s words on last week’s Andrew Marr Show.

“I work every single day to bring forward the end of [Corbyn’s] tenure in office. Every day I try to do something to rescue the Labour Party from his leadership.”

People like Mandelson aren’t interested in governing the country for the benefit of those they claim to represent, because if they did, they wouldn’t spend so much time undermining the party’s leader. They are, for all intents and purposes, little different to those they ostensibly oppose. For the likes of Mandelson, it’s all about power for its own sake. They can talk as much as they like about “needing to be in power to change things” but while they were in power, they did very little beyond producing headline-grabbing gimmicks.

These days, they are little better.  Blairites offer no alternatives to the Tory government and they said as much during the 2015 Labour leadership election, nor do they have any vision. For them, it’s business as usual: more cuts to public services and more foreign wars waged on a false prospectuses. The economic orthodoxy must never be challenged.  In the entire 13 years that Nu Labour was in power, it did nothing to tackle the structural problems facing the country and concerned itself only with superficialities.

During the 2005 General Election, rather than challenge the Tories’ dog-whistle racism campaign head-on, they chimed in with with words of their own. Today, the discourse surrounding issues of immigration and national identity have been colonized by the far-right. The Blairites see nothing wrong with this and have instead engaged in the same kind of anti-immigration rhetoric as UKIP and the Tories.

Worse still, are the legions of fair weather Corbyn supporters who flake off as soon as a negative story appears in the media – planted by the Blairites. This is how the Gramscian (2003) concept of cultural hegemony works:  by getting the public to turn against themselves and join in the condemnations.  Bourdieu and Wacquant (2003), on the other hand, called this “symbolic violence” and it works in much the same way as cultural hegemony. This is “the violence which is exercised upon a social agent with his or her complicity”. Often people don’t realize the existence of this violence or they may collude in it themselves. We can see this at work everyday we turn on our televisions and watch the news, which has become increasingly about creating news rather than reporting it. To this end, the news media actively facilitates the narcissists that want to do us harm.

We can see this in action whenever a Blairite or other Nu Labour drone appears on television or radio. They will talk about how they want to be “a credible opposition”, which is used interchangeably with how “[they] must be in power”. The problem with this line of argument is that the Blairites would oppose precisely nothing. The Tories also claim that they want a “strong opposition”,  but they sound insincere whenever those words tumble from their lips. The last thing the Tories want is a strong opposition, and the Blairites say it because they think it’s good for their public image.  Oh, the Tories may claim that having a weak opposition is “bad for democracy” but their words are as empty as their claim to be the “party that governs for all of Britain”. Why the Blairites and the Tories don’t form a new party between them is down to the size and fragility of their egos rather than anything pragmatic. Token opposition is all the Blairites can offer and even Francoist Spain had token opposition parties to lend a veneer of democracy to the dictatorship.

Remember that in the 13 years Nu Labour was in power, they refused to repeal the anti-trade union legislation enacted by Thatcher in the 1980s. The state and the Tories have never wanted a parliamentary party that represents the working class, let alone a left-wing party that promises to redistribute wealth fairly. This is anathema to the state and the corporatists in the Conservative Party. It also sticks in the craw of the Blairites, who want to crush trade unions for having the temerity to fight for better working conditions.

The Blairites were hoping that Labour would lose both by-elections. In the end, the party only lost Copeland. That doesn’t say much for the Blairites’ organizing skills. Copeland remains a marginal seat. The new Tory MP has a similarly small majority to the last MP. This can easily be overturned in a General Election.

If Corbyn is removed as leader and the party is returned to the hands of the Blairites, it will lose hundreds of thousands of members overnight and its electoral chances will be ruined forever. So what is the solution? Clearly, there is no chance of Labour disciplining the saboteurs because the mechanisms that control internal party discipline are in the hands of the Blairites. So what is left? I wish I had an answer. If I were Labour leader, I’d be exploring ways to rid the party of its fifth columnists or bringing them to heel.

Today, David Miliband, the failed candidate in the 2010 Labour leadership election chipped in with his tuppence worth.  The extreme centrism espoused by the likes of the senior Miliband the the media is essentially right-wing and all the talk about the voters not being concerned with what’s right or left is wishful thinking. These Blairites are as predictable as clockwork. Tomorrow on the Andrew Marr Show and The Sunday Politics, we can expect more sound and fury from the Blairites and their Tory handlers.

Finally, if May and her Tories thought the Labour Party was really so weak, why are they so reluctant to call a General Election? Instead they make excuse after excuse and all the while the media refuses to interrogate them on their apparent disinclination to put their money where their mouths are. Perhaps they’re waiting for the gerrymandered constituency boundaries to take effect?

Actions always speak louder than words.

References

Bourdieu, P., & Wacquant, L.J.D. (2003). Symbolic violence. na. Available at: http://cges.umn.edu/docs/Bourdieu_and_Wacquant.Symbolic_Violence.pdf  Accessed 29/2/16

Gramsci, A. (ed.) (2003). Selections From The Prison Notebooks, London: Lawrence & Wishart.

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Filed under BBC, Conservative Party, Government & politics, Labour, Media, propaganda, Society & culture

The Mainstream Media’s Relationship With The Far-Right

The Right often accuses the BBC of having a “left-wing bias”. Yet when pressed to provide salient examples of this bias, they produce some truly absurd examples. One person on Telegraph blogs claimed that CBBC and CBeebies was biased to the Left because one programme mentioned climate change. Others will splutter “the comedy is left-wing”. Really? All of it? How about My Family? The real discourse being expressed here is this: for all their talk about ‘freedom’, the Right wants to control all discourse and set the terms of debate. Their economic experts pop up all the time on BBC News spouting the same line about the necessity for cuts and are never challenged by an opposing economic point of view. Instead, the economist in question is presented as ‘neutral’ expert.  It’s no wonder that when some BBC reporter conducts vox-pop interviews about the economy, the people on the street tend to repeat the official discourse with lines like “the country is broke”, “we have to make cuts somewhere” and “people on benefits are lazy”.

As many of you are already aware, UKIP and Nigel Farage are frequent guests to the BBC’s studios. Their message is carried on the broadcaster’s airwaves without much opposition. Timid and lazy journalists refuse to put Farage to the question and are sucked in by his oily charm. If you think this is a new phenomenon, think again. In the 1970s and early 1980s, the BBC interviewed John Tyndall and other prominent members of the National Front.

This clip shows the timidity of the BBC’s handling of the far-right.

Tyndall dismisses the allegation that the NF was extremist and the interviewer fails to drill into his façade. Tyndall also claims that he was involved in an extremist group but it was nothing more than youthful hi-jinks. Again, the interviewer fails to ask follow up questions and instead treats Tyndall with the greatest degree of respect.

Here’s an interesting clip of the late Prof Stuart Hall talking about racism in the media in the 1970s and 1980s. It’s almost surprising to learn how little has changed.

In the recent French municipal elections, the BBC told viewers and listeners that Marine Le Pen’s Front National had performed well. They gave the impression that the FN was now in a position to win the next Presidential election. Unfortunately, the BBC didn’t bother to conduct proper checks and failed to report on the successes of the Front de Gauche and as this graphic illustrates, the FdG out-performed the FN and is poised to win around 600 seats on local councils in the second round of votes.

FdG v FN graphic

 

Instead of reporting the facts, the BBC gives the impression that the FN is poised for some kind of landslide victory. Last night’s edition of Newsnight, carried a weird little item about the FN and their mayoral  candidate for Avignon, which was  sandwiched between a story about Malaysian Airways flight MH370 and an item about gaming. Significantly, Kirsty Wark didn’t mention the story in her introduction. The reporter, Hugh Schofield, claimed that the FN had changed its image and was now more “acceptable”, adding she’s (Le Pen) “cleaned up the brand”. Schofield dismissed student demonstrations against the FN and didn’t mention the Front de Gauche at all. According to him, the FN is the only game in town.  He also went further and claimed that many “immigrants” were going to vote for the FN and interviewed Phillipe Lottiaux, the FN candidate, and accepted every word he said without a challenge. Here’s a link to Newsnight, the story starts at 10.42. You have another 6 days to watch it.

The BBC also fails to question Farage and his cronies about their party’s links to far-right parties in the European Parliament. As I mentioned in this blog, UKIP is a member of the far-right European Party for Freedom (EAP). It has cordial relations with parties like Jobbik and Geert Wilders’ PVV. Indeed, this is not guilt by association, UKIP actually shares many of these parties’  ideologies. When members of Jobbik arrived here a couple of months ago to spread their poison, the BBC failed to report the story.

Next Monday, Channel 4 will move their main news programme from 1900 to 1800 to accommodate Martin Durkin’s affectionate portrait of Farage. Yes, you read that correctly. Channel 4 are moving Channel 4 News from its usual slot to 6pm. Durkin is already known to this blog as are his colleagues in the LM Network. Durkin’s film will contribute nothing to any debate and will serve to reinforce UKIP’s feeble claim that Farage is a ‘man of the people’.

Here’s Farage being ‘interviewed’ by Andrew Marr. Compare this interview to the one with John Tyndall.

Not so much an interview as a chat between two old friends. Wouldn’t you agree? At no point does Marr challenge Farage or talk down to him. Instead, Marr allows Farage to produce loads of evidence-free assertions and even joins in with a laugh or two.

The media’s response to the far-right is, quite frankly, too deferential. The Left, on the other hand, are rarely invited into the studio. If they are, they are shouted down or patronized by the interviewer and other guests. By contrast, right-wing politicians are accommodated and their views are given credence. The media’s attitude towards men like Farage effectively legitimizes the far-right and their repugnant views on ethnicity and national identity. Objectivity is like a fabulous creature: it exists only in the imagination.

If the far-right make any gains in this country, it will be with the connivance of the mainstream media channels, which seem to prefer fascism to democracy. Of course, they would claim otherwise and tell you that they want to examine all political views and place party leaders like Farage under greater scrutiny. Nothing seems further from the truth.

CORRECTION

I said that C4 News had been moved back an hour. It remains in its usual time slot but has been shortened by 30 minutes.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under allegations of bias, BBC, censorship, Ideologies, Media

Charles Moore: the EDL is misunderstood

Most, if not all Tories, are out of touch; on another planet and only capable of listening to the voices in their heads. This is something they have in common with Blairites, who are really nothing less than Tory entryists who infiltrated the Labour Party. Charles Moore, former editor of The Sunday Telegraph, The Daily Telegraph and is, more recently, Thatcher’s official biographer sums this up more than most.

At Nowhere Towers we know how some of the Telegraph’s bloggers routinely play to an audience of fascists, racists and sexists.  Kennite is one, Tobes is another. So it comes as no surprise that Charles Moore, who is not the sharpest tool in the box nor the most original hack in the Barclay Brothers stable, rides in on Gilligan’s coat-tails with this article.  The title is hysterical and screams:

Woolwich outrage: we are too weak to face up to the extremism in our midst

A sense of victimhood oozes from every letter and punctuation mark. It also suggests emasculation; the poisoning of our precious fluids. Have a look at the opening paragraph:

It is less than a month since Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered in Woolwich, yet already the incident feels half-forgotten. In terms of the legal process, all is well. Two men have been charged. There will be a trial. No doubt justice will be done. But I have a sense that the horror felt at the crime is slipping away.

Is horror something that we all want to feel every minute, every hour of the day? No. It is evident that Moore’s completely lost touch with the real world. He grudgingly admits that ” justice will be done” but then begins to paint a nightmarish picture of his own mind that even Heironymus Bosch would have envied. For in the next paragraph, he says:

The media, notably the BBC, quickly changed the subject. After a day or two focusing on the crime itself, the reports switched to anxiety about the “Islamophobic backlash”. According to Tell Mamma, an organisation paid large sums by the Government to monitor anti-Muslim acts, “the horrendous events in Woolwich brought it [Islamophobia] to the fore”. Tell Mamma spoke of a “cycle of violence” against Muslims.

Well, it’s true. In the aftermath of Lee Rigby’s murder, the number of attacks against Muslims and anyone who was ‘of Muslim appearance’ actually increased. If Moore doesn’t want to believe that, then perhaps he’d like to have word with the Met? He claims that monitoring groups like Tell Mama are using the tragedy to pursue a political agenda…unlike the EDL or the BNP? Get real, Charlie.

Yet the only serious violence was against a British soldier, who was dead.

Oh really? What about the elderly Pakistani man who was stabbed to death in a racist attack on the streets of Birmingham weeks before?  But it’s the next part of the paragraph that’s really Dagenham (two stops past Barking).

In The Sunday Telegraph, Andrew Gilligan brilliantly exposed the Tell Mamma statistics – most of them referred merely to nasty remarks on the web rather than actual attacks, many were not verified, no reported attack had required medical attention, and so on.

Ah, but Charlie, if I were to threaten to carry out violent acts against your wretched and pitiful body on the Internet, you would be perfectly entitled to refer the matter to the cops as I know you would.

A trap is set here, inviting those of us who reject such statements, to defend the EDL. I do not. While not, in its stated ideology, a racist organisation like the BNP, the EDL has an air of menace. It must feel particularly unpleasant for Muslims when its supporters hit the streets. But the EDL is merely reactive. It does not – officially at least – support violence.

The EDL is what? Yes, here Moore claims that the EDL “doesn’t support violence”. Laughable isn’t it?

It is the instinctive reaction of elements of an indigenous working class which rightly perceives itself marginalised by authority, whereas Muslim groups are subsidised and excused by it. Four days ago, six Muslim men were sentenced at the Old Bailey for a plot to blow up an EDL rally. The news was received quietly, though it was a horrifying enterprise. No one spoke of “white-phobia”. Imagine the hugely greater coverage if the story had been the other way round.

Here Moore panders to the bigots he knows will be attracted to his ill-informed rubbish. It would appear that Moore, like Kennite, has also taken issue with the word “Islamophobia”.  Similarly, Torygraph hacks also have a problem with the word “homophobia”. Tell you what, Charlie, if the word offends you that much, The Cat will use the phrases “anti-Muslim attacks” and “anti-gay attacks” instead. That way you and your chums won’t get your knickers in a twist over semantics. Is it a deal? But there’s still an element of fear to both kinds of bigotry. Deny it all you like.

All journalists experience this disparity. If we attack the EDL for being racist, fascist and pro-violence, we can do so with impunity, although we are not being strictly accurate. If we make similar remarks about Islamist organisations, we will be accused of being racist ourselves. “Human rights” will be thrown at us.

“Human rights”? Yeah, God damn those human rights. That reminds me of a passage from Gil Scott-Heron’s excellent rap poem B-Movie.

Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights…it’s all wrong. Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild. God damn it…first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom.

We can’t have that. Human rights get in the way of making massive profits… just like it did in the 19th century, which is where Moore, Kennite and Hon. Tobes long to be.

Moore lays it on rather thickly here:

Much more important – from the point of view of the general public – you frequently find that Muslim groups like Tell Mamma get taxpayers’ money (though, in its case, this is now coming to an end). You discover that leading figures of respectable officialdom share conference platforms with dubious groups. You learn that Muslim charities with blatantly political aims and Islamist links have been let off lightly by the Charity Commission. And you notice that many bigwigs in Muslim groups are decorated with public honours. Fiyaz Mughal, for example, who runs Tell Mamma, has an OBE. Obviously it would be half-laughable, half-disgusting, if activists of the EDL were indulged in this way; yet they are, in fact, less extreme than some of those Muslims who are.

Here he uses the ad reductio absurdum argument that it’s “your money” that pays for Tell Mama. Remember, these people want to abolish the Equality and Human Rights Commission for the same spurious reasons. You often hear these people get defensive and scream “I’m not a racist”, then in the next sentence they’ll try to rationalize their bigotry by using plausible-sounding economic language taken from the lexicon of Murray Rothbard or Ron Paul to justify segregation and continued racism.

To show us what a weasel he is, Moore closes with this cloying paragraph in which he invokes the name of Nelson Mandela for effect.

This weekend, Nelson Mandela is gravely ill. When he was a boy, his teacher – whose name was Wellington – replaced his African first name with that of a British hero: he called him Nelson. It stuck. Anti-imperialist though he is, Mandela was educated with a profound respect for the British culture of parliamentary democracy. It became, in many respects, his model for a multiracial South Africa. It arose from good beliefs inculcated early in life. In our own country today, almost the opposite happens. In our state schools, in mosques, on the internet, in university gatherings, many young people are taught to detest the freedom in which they live. Just as surely as good teaching, bad teaching has its power. We refuse even to face it, let alone to stop it.

Yet, when Moore was editor of The Spectator The Dictator, he did not call for sanctions against South Africa. Indeed, like all right-wing journals of the period, The Dictator supported the perpetuation of apartheid. But let’s not forget the embarrassing episode in 2003 when Moore’s Telegraph had alleged that George Galloway had received a substantial sum of money from Saddam Hussein that had been creamed off the Oil for Food programme. Even Tony Blair believed the lies… well, what did you expect? Galloway, a serial litigant, sued the paper successfully for libel and the Telegraph was ordered to pay £150,000 in damages.

As I said  earlier, Moore’s article rides on the coat-tails of Kennite’s article but he also manages to kick one of his favourite hobby horses in the process: the BBC. This is from The Guardian (2 October 2003):

Moore has, in recent weeks, adopted an extreme anti-BBC stance, launching Beebwatch to note down incidents of leftwing bias noted by his readers (and himself) in the corporation’s broadcasts. It began with the Kelly affair and coincides with Black’s loathing of the organisation. Why did the line change, I ask. At the beginning the paper took a very neutral line, then suddenly it became rabidly anti-BBC. “We got it slightly wrong at the beginning. We were right, and we maintain the view, that the Kelly affair reflects very badly on the government. But I think for about a week we missed how all this was going to be used, which is to discredit the whole war, and once we’d twigged that, we hardened the line.”

Kennite, who was sacked from the BBC was soon hired by the Telegraph to write hatchet-jobs. I’m telling you, these people stick together like shit to a blanket.

UPDATE 15/6/13 @ 1546

Title changed.

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Filed under BBC, Ideologies, Islamophobia, Journalism, Media, racism, Racism, Sexism, Society & culture, Tory press, Yellow journalism

Class: the issue that some people wish would go away

The Cat was immediately suspicious when the BBC announced the findings of a new report into social class in Britain. The new social hierarchy being proposed, which is based on research conducted by the London School of Economics’ Mike Savage and Fiona Devine of the University of Manchester and was commissioned by the BBC, has been concocted to deflect attention from the reality of everyday life. Since the Blair years, there has been much eagerness on the part of the dominant culture to redefine class broadly along lines of consumption, but some of this eagerness also comes from a desire to claim that we’re “all”, as John Prescott once put it,”middle class now”.

This idea that everyone, or most everyone, is middle class has worked well in the United States, where the promotion of the image of a classless country serves to obscure the day-to-day economic reality of the lives of many Americans and their true relationship to capital. Indeed, the fantastic idea of the much-promised American Dream is a nightmare for the vast majority of ordinary people.

The BBC commissioned research into social class has determined that social hierarchy be reconstructed thus,

  • Elite: This is the most privileged class in Great Britain who have high levels of all three capitals. Their high amount of economic capital sets them apart from everyone else.
  • Established Middle Class: Members of this class have high levels of all three capitals although not as high as the Elite. They are a gregarious and culturally engaged class.
  • Technical Middle Class: This is a new, small class with high economic capital but seem less culturally engaged. They have relatively few social contacts and so are less socially engaged.
  • New Affluent Workers: This class has medium levels of economic capital and higher levels of cultural and social capital. They are a young and active group.
  • Emergent Service Workers: This new class has low economic capital but has high levels of ’emerging’ cultural capital and high social capital. This group are young and often found in urban areas.
  • Traditional Working Class: This class scores low on all forms of the three capitals although they are not the poorest group. The average age of this class is older than the others.
  • Precariat: This is the most deprived class of all with low levels of economic, cultural and social capital. The everyday lives of members of this class are precarious.

The idea behind this kind of social realignment is nothing new. Pierre Bourdieu (1989) proposed that taste, or the judgement of distinction, should be reconstructed according to a person’s levels of non-material capital. These were: social, cultural, economic and symbolic forms of capital; there are also subsets of these forms: for  example, subcultural capital (Thornton, 1997) is a subset of cultural capital. These forms of capital are employed on fields and some can used as a medium of exchange: consider the example of the old school tie, which is a form of social capital that can unlock many doors (think of John Lloyd and how he sold Spitting Image to Central Television and you’re there).

Naturally, the BBC nor the researchers, don’t tell us how capital is used on the field nor do they mention habitus or doxa. Instead, we are given new social designations – the ugliest of which is “precariat”. But “Emerging service workers”?  What does that mean, exactly?

The BBC has the summarized findings here. The page also invites you to assess your social class but using its handy class calculator.  I’ve used it twice now and each time, it’s told me something different. Oh, but it’s a bit of coffee-time fun, surely?

Well, I’m not so sure.

What this report has done is to add new strata to an already stratified British society. It makes no attempt to discuss or even apologise for the way in which the same stale ideas circulate on the field of cultural production and how cultural production is controlled by a small group of people who project their ideas of taste on the public. Furthermore, the report fails to take into account how political power remains in the hands of the dominant ideological group, nor does it offer any explanations about how the power of the dominant culture is reproduced in its educational institutions: Oxbridge and the public (independent) schools.

The authors of this report and the BBC should hang their heads in shame for gutting and filleting Bourdieu’s concepts and presenting them as a silly parlour game. Catherine Hakim, who was also at the LSE, did a similar thing with Bourdieu’s ideas of capital by proposing the slippery concept of “erotic capital”. This idea falls apart when one interrogates the claim that anyone can use their erotic capital to advance in life. It is clear that working class women will only be able to use their erotic capital to make it as a stripper or sex worker. There is no social mobility involved in a working class deployment of erotic capital.

Try as they might, the ruling class cannot reorder the class structure of this country. By isolating the issue of class from the production and reproduction of power, any attempt on their part is mere navel-gazing. Furthermore, the fact that this research was commissioned by the BBC tells us that, for all its pretensions to inclusivity, the corporation remains stubbornly bourgeois and works to reproduce the power of the dominant culture.

I was listening to Radio 4’s Today programme a month or two ago when I heard the very bourgeois Harry Mount (I think it was him) declare that class was dead and we should be identified by what coffee we drank. Oh, how I laughed.

References

Bourdieu, P. (1986) Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, London: Routledge.

Chester, L. (1986) Tooth and Claw: The Inside Story of Spitting Image. London: Faber and Faber

Thornton, S (1997) Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Cambridge: Polity Press

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Filed under BBC, Media, social class, Society & culture

Anyone for right-wing comedy? Not for me, thanks.

Jim Davidson: the archetypal right-wing comedian.

Anyone who was listening to Radio 4’s Feedback on Sunday will have heard some listeners complaining about Jeremy Hardy Speaks To The Nation. One listener complained that the show was a “party political broadcast for the Labour Party”. Another listener bemoaned the fact that there aren’t any right-wing comedians on Radio 4. Right wing comedians? Really? Do I really want to hear right-wing comedy on Radio 4 or anywhere else? Needless to say, the complaints weren’t so much about the show rather than an apparent left-wing bias in the station’s comedy content.

Readers, I have read complaints like these before on Telegraph blogs and on The Freedom Association’s (TFA) website. The issue isn’t so much comedy itself, but with what the Right perceives to be the BBC’s “cultural bias” and, in the absence of any salient examples,  they will often cite the employment of what it sees as “left-wing” comedians at the “licence payers expense”.

We have seen complaints such as these from the Right since the 1970s. The political fringe theatre companies that were funded by the Arts Council of Great Britain, for example, came under attack from Tories like Teddy Taylor, who singled out CAST for special treatment. CAST, it seems, upset him more than most. He said,

“It is an outrageous waste of money. I’d like all grants withdrawn from this theatre company and intend to make representations to the authorities”.

Taylor had an ally in fellow Tory, Norman Tebbit, who complained bitterly of left-wing radicals practising their subversive arts on the taxpayers’ farthing. Thanks to their efforts, the Thatcher government appointed William Rees-Mogg (father of Jacob) as Chairman of the Arts Council in 1983. Under his command, funding was withdrawn from CAST and many other left-wing theatre companies. Consequently, the majority of fringe theatre companies were forced to either fold or change. Ever resourceful, CAST revived the variety form first on their New Variety circuit and then a couple of years later at the Hackney Empire. But funding cuts to local government and the abolition of the Greater London Council would continue to threaten CAST’s and the Hackney Empire’s existence until the mid-1990s.

So what is right-wing comedy? If you have a knowledge of right-wing political ideologies, then you will more or less understand the themes and the butts of its humour. In the 1970s, we had  Granada Television’s The Comedians. Jim Davidson, unless I am very much mistaken, is a right-wing comedian and a supporter of the Conservative Party. Davidson used to work for the BBC fronting such programmes as Big Break and The Generation Game. To the best of my knowledge, he has never graced the Radio 4 studios. Just as well, really.

Commissioning editor, Caroline Raphael defended Jeremy Hardy and reminded the complainants that satire can only work if it attacks those in power. This is axiomatic of political satire, but in the mind of the Right such self-evidence is met with derision. Why would anyone want to challenge the powerful? Aren’t they superior because of their social position and circumstances of birth? Although, they may not speak these words aloud, the underlying social Darwinian sentiment is there.

If left-wing comedy (well, political satire) attacks those in power, then right-wing comedy attacks those without power. It regards ethnic minorities, women, gays, lesbians, trans people, the homeless, the working class, drug addicts and others as objects of ridicule. It does not speak to power because it is power. In the master-slave relationship, it is the master. It presents life as a series of banal and insulting representations. It denies history because it seeks to create mythologies in its place. It is a sad day, indeed, when comedians like Jimmy Carr are described as “left-wing” by right-wing commentators.

The truth of the matter is that there are right-wing comedians, but their politics may not be evident in their comedy. Those who sit on the political Right are more likely to come across as ‘apolitical’ and play for the troops in the Falklands or Afghanistan. Judge them not by their words, but by their actions.

One of the complainants opined that “the BBC is a non-political organisation and yet it is paying for broadcasting what appeared to be a party political broadcast for the Communist Party”.  First of all, the BBC is not a “non-political organisation” and this is evident in it news coverage, which displays a right-wing bias. Secondly, those who complain that Hardy’s show was a “political broadcast for the Communist Party” ignore two things: 1) the Communist Party does not and has never made political broadcasts for the BBC and 2) Hardy is not a member of the Communist Party. But then, this is how the Right regards anything that doesn’t conform to their views. Even the Labour Party is “Communist” in their eyes.

But if right-wing comedy is like anything else that they’ve produced (think of nationalist poetry), then it’s bound to be pretty poor. I think it was Hemingway, who when asked if he preferred right-wing poetry to left-wing poetry, replied by saying right-wing poetry was “boring”. Right-wing comedy is bound to be, not only boring, but abusive as well.

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Prinz Harry versus the beastly Taliban

This morning the BBC News Channel gave us 28 minutes of its airtime to show us a film of Royal brat, Prinz Harry (yes, I insist on spelling the word “prince” in German) posing beside his Apache helicopter and sharing meals with his pals. Such a brave young man. He killed beastly Taliban insurgents. He’s like a one man army. But others are not so fortunate. They have their limbs blown off or are traumatized for life. Prinz Harry got off lightly and the Army was always going to make sure he came back in one piece. He won’t be neglected by the Army either, like so many other soldiers, who get a kick in the teeth or who have to endure substandard housing.  Some are caught up in the criminal justice system or end up sleeping rough on the streets. That won’t happen to Prinz Harry, who will have a nice warm palace to live in.

In the eyes of the mainstream media, the Prinz is a hero because anyone can be a hero these days – especially if you’re a Prinz. The word “hero” has become so devalued by the British media. All you have to do to qualify is be a soldier in Afghanistan. That’s all.  You don’t even have to rescue a comrade while under fire either. You just have to be there.

I suspect the Prinz will sign himself up as patron of Help for Heroes. Then he’ll do a strip for the cameras or don his Nazi uniform for a larf. Go on, Harry, give us a twirl!

Today the government announced 5,300 Army cuts… the day after Cameron talked about fighting “terrorists” in North Africa.

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