Category Archives: censorship

Well, You Could Call It ‘Incompetence’, But…

Yesterday’s revelation that some key documents have either been ‘mislaid’ or have ‘gone missing’ from the National Archives would appear, at first glance, to have some plausibility. But the files, which pertain to important events in British political history, such as the notorious Zinoviev Letter, the Falklands War and the plot to undermine the Wilson governments, seem to have vanished at a most opportune moment for the Conservative government.

Ian Cobain writing in The Guardian says:

The disappearances highlight the ease with which government departments can commandeer official papers long after they have been declassified and made available to historians and the public at the archives at Kew, south-west London.

A Freedom of Information Act request in 2014 showed that 9,308 files were returned to government departments in this way in 2011. The following year 7,122 files were loaned out, and 7,468 in 2013. The National Archives says Whitehall departments are strongly encouraged to promptly return them, but they are not under any obligation to do so.

Worrying. Further down, he writes:

Some historians have been particularly distrustful of the Foreign Office since 2013, when the Guardian disclosed that the department had been unlawfully hoarding 1.2m historical files at a high-security compound near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.

The hoard came to light during high court proceedings brought by a group of elderly Kenyans who were detained and abused during the Mau Mau insurgency in 1950s Kenya, when the Foreign Office admitted it had withheld thousands of colonial-era files.

A few years earlier, the Ministry of Defence refused to consider a number of files for release under the Freedom of Information Act on the grounds that they may have been exposed to asbestos.

The files concerned such matters as arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UK special forces operations against Indonesia and interrogation techniques. The MoD denied it was using the presence of asbestos in an old archive building as an excuse to suppress the documents.

When all else fails, blame it on asbestos… or foreigners, or gays or something.

Given the secrecy with which the British state operates, and the Conservative Party’s past record in undermining political parties and the democratic process, the Cat is inclined to suspect foul play. If government departments are allowed to take documents from the National Archives without being compelled to return them, then this leads one to conclude that items weren’t “misplaced”, they were taken for a reason and it’s fairly easy to work out what that reason was: to destroy them or keep them hidden from public view.

Remember that documents that are held in the National Archives are available to historians, academics and other members of the public on request. It is likely that the Tories, who have attempted to revise history for the seven years they’ve been in power, want to create a narrative that is, not only favourable to them, but one in which other legitimate political parties are cast in a negative light.

There must be a fully independent public inquiry into the disappearance of these documents. A failure to do so will only increase public suspicion of the Conservative Party and the state.

Ian Cobain’s book The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation is worth a read.



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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 were 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.


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.






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

Excellent blog from Pride’s Purge that pretty much follows on from my blog about the establishment backlash. The Tories are well versed in the art of disinformation, spin and smears. The Conservative Research Department’s job, among other things, is to find dirt on their opponents and to cover up inconvenient truths. I’m not sure if Rose is close to anyone in the CRD but he could have been briefed by them or it’s a nom de plume that is used by several people who are closely connected to the CRD.

This county is run by a clique of bullies, who will use any means they can to cling onto power and to circumvent the law.

Pride's Purge

(not satire)

Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive“- Sir Walter Scott

Today the Mail on Sunday did a hatchet job on the child abuse victim Steven Messham in an attempt to discredit him as a witness after he mistakenly identified Lord McAlpine as his attacker – a mistake which it now seems was a direct result of misleading information given to him by North Wales Police.

See this previous article for more information about that:

It was the police – not the BBC – who wrongly named Lord McAlpine in abuse allegations

I make no apology for telling you my heart went out to Mr Messham when I read the Mail on Sunday piece attacking him. It seemed to me he was being abused all over again.

The article in the Mail on Sunday is clearly an attempt on the part of sections of…

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Filed under censorship, Media, propaganda, Tory press, Yellow journalism

The plot thickens as the backlash begins

The backlash began in earnest yesterday against Tom Watson and the entire investigation into the cover up of a high level paedophile ring operating in Britain after revelations that the wrong man had been identified as a pederast. It was bound to happen. The same thing happened with Leveson and as Watson pointed out, it was the same people from the same media outlets wagging their fingers and whispering “conspiracy theories” who have returned.

I won’t list any of those involved the backlash here, because you know who they are and you can go to Telegraph blogs and The Spectator and see them for yourself. The comments that accompany these blogs are also pretty vile: some abuse Watson, while others talk about “smears against the Conservative party”, which is rather ironic given the fact the party has regularly engaged in smear campaigns against its opponents since the 1920s, the most infamous of which was the Zinoviev Letter in 1924.

Last night, the BBC’s Newsnight was forced into making an apology for not naming the high-ranking Tory peer but for,  seemingly, sparking off a Twit-storm.  Watching the programme, I was immediately struck by how weird it all seemed.  The atmosphere was sombre, almost gloomy. Host, Eddie Mair, also said that Newsnight would be suspending its investigative reporting with immediate effect. In an eerily Kafkaesque moment, Mair then told us that “no one from the BBC was available for comment”. Bizarre.

Sure, Newsnight’s recent reportage has been woefully deferential to the government. It dropped the ball after Savile died and then tried to make up lost ground after ITV’s Exposure did the job that they failed to do. But this is the effect of over-management at the Beeb, who have made cuts to staff numbers – including journalists. Hence the partnership with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

But these are all diversions; distractions from the real issue: namely the widespread and systematic abuse of children by powerful people and the cover-ups by the authorities that have allowed this disgusting situation to continue. The lives of those abused have been utterly destroyed. Many have taken their lives or submerged themselves in drink and drugs. Yet, when one brings up the subject, they are in danger of being dismissed as “conspiracy theorists”.

Let me clear about something: I don’t indulge in conspiracy theories. I don’t have time for tales of lizards-disguised-as-humans or crap about the Illuminati and the eye above the pyramid on US dollar bills. You will find no links to David Icke or Jeff Rense on The Cat’s blog. But there is something about this case and the subsequent (not to mention hasty) circling of the wagons by the mainstream media’s usual suspects. In their own way, they are as guilty as those who seek to cover up these horrific stories of abuse because they focus on the messenger, which, by extension, transforms the victims into unreliable witnesses.

Leah McGrath Goodman, the American journalist who investigated the Haut de la Garenne child abuse scandal, found herself being denied entry to Britain in 2011. Why? It seems she asked too many questions. On her blog she says,

The islanders, who are quiet people, were quietly devastated. The notion that, for decades, their children’ homes might have been used as a sexual cafeteria for the rich and privileged – as hundreds of the victims contended – was distasteful in the extreme. During the probe government officials repeatedly stated that they fully intended to run a thorough investigation. Yet, within months, Harper and his boss, the island’s head constable, Graham Power, had been smeared by the local newspaper, The Jersey Evening Post, as unfit for their jobs and driven from the island. Their main advocate, Senator Stuart Syvret – then-health minister and one of the island’s most popular politicians – also found himself under siege, eventually sacked and jailed twice. The cases made against each man were as flimsy as the headlines were flashy.

It seemed that anyone who attempted to stand up for Jersey’s underprivileged or conduct a proper investigation into their treatment soon found themselves in the fight of their lives.

Evidence found at Haut de la Garenne – including bones that were “fresh and fleshed” before being burned and dozens of children’s teeth with the roots still on them in the furnace area – was turned over to a new police chief who downplayed its significance but also admitted to throwing some of it out. As an investigative journalist, I found it hard to understand how this could possibly inspire confidence. It seemed the situation needed to be looked at by someone without an axe to grind or an ass to save.

This is where my own troubles began…A couple years into my research, my trips to the UK were becoming frequent enough to justify my renting a flat for overnight stays and an office for my paperwork. Jersey has strict rules about outsiders renting property, so I arranged to meet with Jersey’s Customs and Immigration officials in July 2011 to make sure my accommodations passed muster. I was told they did. The first officer I met with, Jim Griffiths, told me not to worry and that as long as I did not intend to live in Jersey or take a job there – and my trips did not exceed the six-month time limit for visitors – I could proceed with my work. When he asked what I was researching, I was completely honest. He quickly excused himself and then returned with his superior. The two men proceeded to shout at me. I was told that I needed to get a long-term entry visa to conduct my work on the island. I asked if they had changed their minds due to the nature of my research. The two men would not answer the question and immediately escorted me out.

She then talks of a Kafkaesque (that’s the second time I’ve used that word) situation at Heathrow Airport where she was detained but not given any reason for her detention.

I asked the guards what was happening and I was handed a piece of paper that said, “You have been detained under paragraph 16 of Schedule 2 to the 1971 Act or arrested under paragraph 17 of Schedule 2 of that Act.” What did this mean? Was I being arrested? No one would say. I was fingerprinted and photographed. I asked the personnel watching me if I could call my solicitor or my consulate. “That’s what people always say,” one of the staffers said. I asked: What are my rights? A second staffer answered: “This is the border. You have no rights.”

More importantly,

Until two weeks ago, the investigation into my case was active and since my detainment (I eventually learned it was not an arrest) I have written several times to get a copy of my CCTV footage – to which all also are entitled – as proof that I was denied my rights at the border. For months, my requests went ignored, but another appeal made on my behalf by MP Hemming finally received a response from Immigration Minister Damian Green.

He said my CCTV footage had been destroyed.

Several days ago, another letter arrived at the MP’s office from a high-ranking official. It said my CCTV footage had not been destroyed. Who knows which is true?

My emphasis. Again, we find that crucial evidence has been destroyed. We can only speculate as to the reason for this.

While the establishment media was tying itself in knots over Lord McAlpine, the same paper that had informed the world that the wrong man had been fingered, reported that another 36 people had come forward with stories of sexual and physical abuse as well as torture.

He said: “These people are approaching me because they don’t yet want to go to the police or the authorities.” Most simply wanted to be listened to, he said. “They want to have their voices heard, they want people to understand what happened to them.” He said what happened in the 1970s and 1980s in north Wales was a consequence of children and young people not being listened to.

The children’s commissioner said the victims’ memories were “as clear as if it happened yesterday”. “We say it’s historical [abuse] but actually it’s alive. This is not an archaeological dig, we’re talking to people for whom this is terribly alive. People are incredibly emotional – we’ve had tears, anger, relief.

Today, the BBC is beating itself up, wondering what to do next.  This morning, the BBC Director General, George Entwistle, was interviewed on BBC4’s Today programme. Let’s put it this way, he didn’t do a great job. You can listen to the interview here.

The Tories have wanted to kill the BBC for decades and, it seems, they have a great opportunity to finish it off for good. The BBC has come in for a great deal of criticism over the years and much of it has been warranted but I would hate to see a media landscape populated by Murdoch clones.

We must keep our focus here.

I’ll leave you with this Sky News report. Warning: it’s harrowing stuff.


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Hegemony, censorship and satire

Before 1979, much of British comedy (sit-coms and stand-up comedy) was disconnected from reality and isolated from history; it treated every person who wasn’t white, straight, male or English as objects of ridicule. The Oxbridge comedy was little better; produced in ivory towers, all it could do was gaze longingly at its own navel. In the years preceding the Sixties, political satire was often limited to the print media and, in the mainstream, there was little of that. There was Punch and later Private Eye but the less we say about Punch, the better.

Punch’s “Rhodes Colossus”: satire or triumphalism?

In terms of television, That Was The Week That Was is often cited as the starting point of the British satire ‘boom’.  But it wasn’t a boom at all, merely a controlled explosion that was carried out in a car park at BBC Television Centre. It may have thumbed its nose at the political establishment but it was pretty tame stuff compared to the alternative comedy-cabaret of the 1980’s. To get around censorship laws, TW3 was ostensibly a “news and current affairs” programme. Entertainment was seen as a diversion and as such it was supposed to be free of political content.

TW3 did not address social concerns, its primary objective was to lampoon the political establishment. Ironically, the people who did the lampooning were members of the same social class they lampooned. In other words, they fed off each other. David Frost, the son of a Methodist clergyman,  used his suave image to launch a highly successful career as an interviewer and anchor. He didn’t do too badly either. TW3 attacked racism in the US cornpone states and South African apartheid but failed to tackle the endemic racism that existed in Britain. It was as if to say “We’re not racist because we’re British”. The class system was also lampooned, as this classic clip shows (up to 1.02),

Britain is a class-riven society and in spite of feeble attempts on the part of some political leaders to reconcile the classes; the upper classes – the dominant social and cultural classes – continue to have the whip hand. But if class is a massive fault line, then racism and sexism are the deep cracks that run from it. We are still a very long way away from a truly classless society and we certainly haven’t seen the end of racism and sexism as I pointed out in this blog.

Perhaps I’m being a little unfair to TW3. After all, it was a groundbreaking programme and it broke through the stuffy, oppressive paternalism of British political system – but only briefly. It also attracted audiences numbers of around 14 million at its peak. But, ultimately,  it failed to ignite a satire movement and the heavy hand of the dominant class was once again applied to the writing and performance of satire on television. Those who remember TW3 with a certain dewy-eyed fondness will forget that the programme was produced by members of the same class as the politicians that were mocked.

When it came to live satire, there was only the Establishment Club, its light burned brightly but briefly but, most tellingly, nothing followed it. We also need to remember that theatre scripts and even comedian’s jokes had to be sent to the Lord Chamberlain’s Office for inspection. The Establishment Club could circumvent this diktat by virtue of the fact that it was,  for all intents and purposes, a private members’ club.  It was the exception rather than the norm. This crushing weight of cultural hegemony had been around since the 18th century, when the paranoid political leaders of England responded to what they saw as the threat of  a Jacobite cultural insurgency in the theatres and inns of the country and replied by drafting legislation to outlaw the singing of Jacobite songs and the staging of pro-Jacobite plays.  Furthermore, the Prime Minister of the day, Robert Walpole was mercilessly lampooned by satirists like John Gay, who compared him to a leader of the criminal underclass in Beggar’s Opera.  Walpole, unable to take a joke, responded with the Theatre Licensing Act of 1737. The steps that Walpole’s government took to curb dissent in the theatre had a lasting effect on British culture. No talk of religion or politics was permitted in the inns. Indeed, some pubs still proudly display signs at the bar which read “No politics or religion”. But this isn’t to say that there was no satire at all: it continued to exist in print but it was never far from danger as the Oz Trial and countless other cases brought to trial under the absurd Obscene Publications Act (1957) tell us.

The Obscene Publications Act and the Theatre Licensing Act were only two of the weapons used by the state and it agents in the fight against ‘smut’ (a rather wide-ranging term that is/was often loosely applied). Libel laws have also been used to great effect.  Private Eye has felt the wrath of many a litigant and its coffers are deep – they have to be. Certain organizations and groups like The Freedom Association and individual Tories believe that any criticism of them or their ideas or their idols – whether they are expressed satirically or not – should be met with the threat of taking the offender to court. This makes a mockery the overused phrase of “free speech”, which is routinely trotted out by the likes of TFA and the cult-like Institute of Ideas like some kind of mantra. But it’s a myth and deep down all of us know it is.

After the theatres were freed from the dominance of the state in 1968, few attempts were made to put satire on the television or in any live context for that matter. It was only fringe theatre groups like CAST that made any real effort to tackle social issues, which they did through a blend of popular culture, slogans and biting satire. CAST had been around since 1965 and were improvisers by trade and while the rest of the political fringe theatre movement were obsessed with Piscator and Meyerhold and notions of ideological purity, CAST stood alone by making their work accessible to the masses.

Throughout the Seventies, few attempts, if any, were made to produce real hard biting satire for television. Instead, on the one hand, we were treated to a near endless parade of sexist and racist jokes told by fat Northern comedians who tried to cover up their bigotry by using the “It’s a joke” defence. On the other hand, we had the absurd whimsy of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the memories of which appear to be entirely formed around a handful of decent sketches. Then there was Mike Yarwood, whose impressions of political figures and union leaders was tame, even toothless.

Here’s Yarwood doing an impression of Harold Wilson for the 1974 Election Special

But there was no satire of any note contained within Yarwood’s work. This was not real life and it was a couple of parsecs away from my own lived experience. At least we had Dave Allen and he was the only satirist on prime time television.

The appearance of what would later be coined “alternative comedy” was greeted with brickbats and insults from the comedy establishment. The bow-tied, besuited fatsos of The Comedians claimed that it “wasn’t funny” and  all that the young comedians could do to get laughs was to “use bad language”. Bernard Manning, the leader of this pack of old farts, was never averse to using salty language. In fact, in his own Embassy Club he frequently swore. In what the Daily Mail presented as  a self-penned obituary from beyond the grave, Manning said,

In their obsession with turning comedy into a branch of Left-wing politics, they forgot that the only point of jokes is to make people laugh.

Manning ignored one thing: alternative comedians made their audiences laugh and those audiences didn’t find Manning in the least bit amusing.

The 1970’s were characterized by social strife and yet none of the comedians of the period made any real references to it, unless it was to ridicule the leaders of the trade unions and striking workers. No effort was made to puncture the façade of harmony and unity, under which lay the ugly realities of urban decay, ethnic tensions and industrial collapse. This was an age when the police could do what they wanted.

This sketch from Not the Nine O’Clock News was the first attempt to satirize the police, who had used Sus laws to detain black people on the basis that the colour of their skin made them criminals-in-waiting.

The popular image of the police in the 1970’s was derived from the mythology of Dixon of Dock Green. Television’s treatment of the boys in blue was deferential to say the least.

Here’s Dixon of Dock Green, your friendly neighbourhood bobby who never put a foot wrong.

This image of the police was worlds away from the day-to-day reality for many people. The police routinely fitted people up, fabricated evidence and assaulted, even killed people who were in their custody. They still do it. Ask the families of Blair Peach, Ian Tomlinson and Smiley Culture what they think of the police and they’ll tell you that they get away with murder.

Not the Nine O’Clock News wasn’t alternative comedy but it was a sign that things were, at last, beginning to change. But, on television, this change moved at glacial speed. On the emerging alternative cabaret circuit, there was no aversion to talking about society and politics on stage. In fact, performers were expected to engage with the here and now.

Meanwhile certain Tory MPs had CAST and others in their sights. The MP for Glasgow Cathcart and Monday Clubber, the god-bothering Teddy Taylor, demanded to know why left-wing theatre companies, particularly CAST, were being given public money for ‘political causes‘. This point of view was supported by Norman Tebbitt, who had railed against the Arts Council since taking his seat in the Commons in 1970, calling it “biased” and “elitist”. The Conservative intention then as now was to impose a sort of monoculture on the country; a form of leitkultur as Shreiking Douglas Murray would say. The hegemony must be total.

While alternative acts were ridiculing the political classes on stage, Spitting Image took satire to new levels on the small screen. Its satirical writing was reinforced by its use of grotesque puppet likenesses of the famous people it sent up. Thatcher always appeared as a tyrannical cross-dresser, who bullied her cabinet. Norman Tebbit was depicted as a leather jacket-wearing bovver boy who would rough up anyone who stepped out of line. While Douglas Hurd’s hair resembled, rather memorably, a Mr Whippy ice cream cornet.

While I’m at it, this parody of Tomorrow Belongs to Me from the film Cabaret is particularly savage. This was the closing scene from the 1987 Spitting Image Election Special.

TW3 was denied an election special on the grounds that it would adversely influence voters. It is likely that the McMillan government put pressure on the BBC. Spitting Image got its election specials but they weren’t shown on the same night as the General Election, which meant that the government was still very much afraid of satire and how it might affect their poll numbers.

By 1990, Spitting Image had been effectively defanged and declawed. The reasons given for this change varied from Thatcher’s resignation to the oft-used ‘change in tastes’ mantra.  The image of a grey John Major, with a satellite dish on his head, eating peas seemed to sum up the satirical mood.  Spitting Image’s fire became focussed on the emerging culture of celebrity, it dragged on for a few more years but it was hopeless. In 1996, it was axed. The expense of producing such a show was highlighted as a causal factor in its demise. Latex puppets are rather costly to make so it seems.

There was a gap between 1996 and 1999, when Bremner, Bird and Fortune began its run of 85 shows on Channel Four. But this programme seemed to hark back to TW3 for its rather highbrow approach to the material (Bird and Fortune were involved in the Sixties satire ‘boom’). The satire also relied rather heavily on the viewers’ a priori of the intricacies of the British political system, and for those without a working knowledge of Hansard or a familiarity with politicians (who seem to have deliberately made themselves bland to thwart the satirist-impressionists), it was often little more than a collection of obscure political in-jokes. Bremner, Bird and Fortune left our screens in May 2010, which was, by coincidence, the month of the last General Election. Rory Bremner cited the blandness of the current crop of politicians that influenced their decision to pull the plug on the show but there were other reasons.

Here’s a clip from the programme,

Please try to ignore the foreign subtitles.

These days, political satire is in the shadows. I can count the numbers of satirists on the comedy circuit on one hand (well, maybe one and a bit). There is also an eerie absence of satire on television. It seems as though we have entered a new period of deference and this is what right-wing governments want. In Mussolini’s Italy, satirists were attacked on the streets, even killed (Mascha, 1998). We clearly haven’t reached that point yet.

Satire is counter-hegemonic; it works passively to draw people’s attention to social injustice and political hypocrisy and makes them laugh out loud at the same time. The fact that certain political parties are afraid of it shows a weakness of character on their part.

Britain is crying out for satire and now is the time for satirists to sharpen their wits and plunge their comedic knives into the hearts of the enemies!


Gramsci, A., (ed.) (1971) Selections From The Prison Notebooks, London: Lawrence & Wishart.

Itzin, C. (1986). Stages in the Revolution: Political Theatre in Britain Since 1968. London: Methuen

Mascha, E. (1998) “Political Satire and Hegemony: A Case for Passive Revolution During Mussolini’s Ascendance To Power, 1919 to 1925” in Humor, The Journal of The International Society For Humor Studies.


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Filed under censorship, Comedy, humour, Media, satire, Society & culture, Television

Fulham Chronicle censors Andy Slaughter

Hammersmith MP, Andy Slaughter’s regular column in the Fulham Chronicle has been censored by Hammersmith & Fulham Council.  In an unprecedented move, the Chronicle was effectively bought (for £75,000) by the council so that it may continue to produce its propaganda  after the government forced the abolition of so-called council pravdas earlier this year. The paper, a title in the Trinity Mirror Group of newspapers, has effectively lost its independence and is now dancing to the tune of Greenhalgh and his town hall chums.

This latest move to censor what it doesn’t like follows on from an advert placed in the paper by the Parents Alliance for Community Schools, whichwas also censored by the council, simply because the advert didn’t sit comfortably with its embrace of Toby Young’s free school – which has the full support and approval of the council.

The Shepherds Bush blog has the full story here.


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Touchy Gardiner tries to remove all references to his connection with the Moonies

Gardiner - is he ashamed of his Moonie connections?

Nile Gardiner seems a little sensitive about his past. So much so, that he’s removed any reference of his connection to the Unification Church from his Wikipedia entry. He’s even managed to get the owners of this website to close the page of a book on which he is quoted as having cleaned up anti-Moon graffiti from the campus before Moon’s visit to Yale. No matter.  People like Gardiner leave trails on the Internet and he can’t close down all the sites that mention his connection to the Moonies.

I found this interesting article, from the ‘horse’s mouth’ so-to-speak, which I am going to quote for posterity.

One of the Unificationist graduate students in history at Yale, Nile Gardiner, and a Christian friend, took mops and buckets and proceeded to clean it all off. This of course started allegations concerning free speech, and many articles in the Yale newspapers covered this. They became quiet famous in the Yale conservative circles as “The Moppers.” Literally cleaning up Yale!

In spite of Gardiner’s attempts to expunge all Moonie references from the Internet, the above quote actually comes from the Unification Church. I’d like to see how long that stays on the Web before he orders it to be removed. At any rate, there is no way I’ll be taking it down – even if he tries to put pressure on me.

Without a sympathetic president in the White House, the Moonies – through Gardiner – have been fighting a rearguard action to smear Obama. There isn’t a week that goes by where Gardiner isn’t attacking Obama on his blog or in his columns. Sometimes the attacks on Obama look rather personal. This is from a conservative blog in the States called “The Last Tradition”. Here’s one of the more hackneyed distortions,

Barack Obama has made it clear that he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, and has made apologising for his country into an art form. In a speech to the United Nations last September he stated that “no one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold.” It is difficult to see how a US president who holds these views and does not even accept America’s greatness in history can actually lead the world’s only superpower with force and conviction.

Sometimes, when I look at stuff like this, it’s as if I’m reading something that was written in the 19th century. To be honest, I don’t even know if Gardiner is a US citizen. As far as I know, he’s still British. So why does he get so aeriated about the US and its standing as a world superpower? Is it because he’s nostalgic for empire and is vicariously living the experience of empire (and by extension, classical liberalism) by banging the drum for US imperialism and Pax Americana?

Gardiner’s silence on his connection with the Moonies is strange. In purely psychoanalytical terms, it is this silence that says everything.



Filed under censorship, Media, Tory press