Tag Archives: BBC

The Daily Politics

Many of us already know the BBC’s attitude to the reporting of political stories is less than objective. The Daily Politics, the corporation’s flagship politics programme on BBC2 has long been the subject of a great deal of ire. Since Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party, the overall tone of the programme has been increasingly anti-Labour but more specifically, anti-Corbyn. Any story that can be spun to cast Labour and Corbyn in a bad light is often seized upon with both hands.

Today was no different. The show’s host, Jo Coburn, pursued the Jared O’Mara sexism story not once but twice. First, she asked Nu Labourite, Chris Leslie for his view, then she asked Dawn Butler. Why is that? Because it’s pretty obvious that The Daily Politics, far from being impartial, is at the forefront of a pro-Tory propaganda exercise in which any anti-Labour story, no matter how trivial, is promoted above any other. In this case, to make matters worse, Coburn even cited her source: Guido Fawkes. Really?

One important story The Daily Politics decided to ignore is this one in which Tory MP and whip, Chris Heaton-Harris, had written to university vice chancellors requesting they provide him with details of “the names of professors […] who are involved in the teaching of European affairs, with particular reference to Brexit”.

 

DM5RLvLXcAAhiMd

And yet, a story this important was completely ignored by The Daily Poltics? If a Labour or SNP MP had made a similar request, you can almost guarantee the story would have been covered on the programme.

This isn’t the first time that Heaton-Harris has been involved in controversy. Heaton-Harris, a self-styled ‘Eurosceptic’ was secretly filmed advocating support for James Delingpole’s anti-wind farm candidacy. The story appeared in The Guardian in 2012.

Chris Heaton-Harris, who is campaign manager for the Tories in Corby, was recorded saying he encouraged an anti-wind farm candidate to join the election race against the Tories, adding: “Please don’t tell anybody ever.”

The footage, covertly recorded by the environmental group Greenpeace, captures the MP saying the independent anti-wind farm candidate, James Delingpole, had announced his candidacy as part of a “plan” to “cause some hassle” and drive the wind issue up the political agenda.

He is also filmed claiming he helped Delingpole by providing him with “a handful of people who will sort him out”, including the deputy chairman of his own constituency party, who had stood down and then became the anti-wind candidate’s campaign agent.

Surely offering campaign advice and support for a candidate that isn’t in your party is a cause for having the whip withdrawn? For the Tories, not a bit of it. Delingpole’s views are shared by many Tories.

The Daily Politics, rather than report political news, takes an active role in making the news. Remember Stephen Doughty’s on air resignation?

Then there’s John Mann’s infamous ambushing of Ken Livingstone as he arrived at the BBC’s Westminster studio where The Daily Politics is produced.

The confrontation was repeated on the programme itself.

In August of this year, Open Democracy reported that Tory MP for Moray, Douglas Ross, made racist comments about travelling folk. The story wasn’t covered on the corporation’s television or radio news bulletins and appeared on the website only. Now, maybe that’s because The Daily Politics was off the air for the summer. However, if a Labour or SNP MP had made similar remarks, it would have been covered.

Scottish Tory councillors who made racist and sectarian comments were suspended and then quickly reinstated by the party. Still, not a peep about this from the Tories or the BBC.

The BBC’s website reported that Robert Davies, a Tory councillor on Stirling City Council, had left the party over his racist comments. Again, this wasn’t covered by The Daily Politics.

Robert Davies was one of two Tories who were suspended shortly after being elected to Stirling Council in May.

He had tweeted racist posts from a Twitter account in 2013 which was subsequently deleted.

However,

His colleague Alastair Majury, who was also suspended and then reinstated by the party, remains a Conservative councillor after making an apology to the council.

When Mr Davies and Mr Majury were reinstated by the Scottish Conservatives in August, the party insisted they had both offered “unreserved apologies for any offence caused”.

Contrast this with the calls to have Ken Livingstone expelled from the Labour Party. See the difference? Tories are given a slap on the wrist and then welcomed back with open arms, and their reputations are magically rehabilitated.

When a national broadcaster fails to report the really important stories and concentrates its efforts on smearing an opposition party, it is selling voters short. The Daily Politics is transparently biased in favour of the Tories. The programme’s editors may deny it, but the evidence is there for all to see.

Tim Fenton at Zelo Street has unearthed some interesting information on the Jared O’Mara story. You can read it here.

 

Advertisements

5 Comments

Filed under BBC, Media, Racism, Television

Legitimizing Terrorists, BBC Style

This morning, I sat dumbfounded as a I listened to Nick Robinson interview Otto Reich.  For those who are unfamiliar with his name, Reich is an anti-Castro Cuban and former US ambassador to Venezuela, but more about that later.  At no point during the interview did Robinson mention his role in destabilizing governments or harbouring and funding  state-sponsored terrorists like Orlando Bosch or Luis Posada Carilles.  Instead, listeners were left with the impression that Reich was just another anti-Castro Cuban railing against the ‘tyrannical rule’ of Fidel Castro.

“I’m very proud of what the United States has done in Latin America”, Reich told Robinson without a shred of shame.  From the funding of the Nicaraguan Contras to the 1976 shooting down  of Cubana de Aviación Flight 455, Reich was behind the scenes pulling the strings in his role in the Orwellian-sounding Office of Public Diplomacy. When George W Bush became US President in 2000, he rewarded Reich by appointing him as Under Secretary of State. He had previously worked for Bush’s father during his presidency.

This article written by Duncan Campbell, appeared in The Guardian in 2002 and is worth reading. For not only did Reich pull strings, his dirty fingerprints are all over some of the most violent acts in Latin America, including the 2009 Honduran coup d’etat that overthrew the democratically elected government.

According to Counterpunch, he “dedicated himself to the release of Orlando Bosch”, the man who is thought to be responsible for shooting down Flight 455.  Reich’s role in the Venezuelan coup in 2002 was to generate and disseminate anti-Chavez propaganda and disinformation.

Jean-Guy Allard of Counterpunch reported:

On February 7, Colonel Pedro Soto, former aide to Carlos Andres Perez (president at the time of the 1992 coup led by Chavez), affirming that he represented “75% of the armed forces,” publicly attacked the Chavez government. (Invited by an international institute, a CIA client, Soto then visited Washington and Miami, where he was to be found on April 11, loudly celebrating the “return to democracy,” along with Cuban-American terrorist leaders).

Thus a rapidly and steadily more brazen deception campaign was mounted, rapidly joined by the Venezuelan private press, which ended up running a grossly hostile campaign against the government. El Universal daily and Radio Caracas Television, Globovision and Venevision TV networks were already actively preparing the media-military coup, channeling information and systematically harassing the constitutional government and the head of state.

During the coup, the same disinformation gang cut off the broadcast the president’s speech to the people and repeated lie after lie, unleashing violent incidents that would subsequently serve to justify the subversive operation. Meanwhile, the representatives of the new “order” were destroying state television program material.

Then the communications junta shamelessly spread the false information that Chavez had resigned, silenced all public pronouncements by members of the government, and the played up declarations in favor of the criminal coup. One of these was made by Ambassador Shapiro, who affirmed that April 11 was an extraordinary day in the history of Venezuela.

In the morning of Saturday, April 13, speaking before more than 30,000 people at rally in the municipality of Guira de Melena, Habana province, in the presence of President Fidel Castro, Bruno Rodriguez, Cuban ambassador to the United Nations, clearly denounced the media disinformation campaign in Venezuela. “The truth is that a coup d’etat has taken place in Venezuela and that a sellout and . junta is usurping, by means of force, the power invested in President Chavez by the Venezuelan people, with hopes of erasing decades of injustice and corruption by applying Bolivar’s ideals.”

Other lies followed the one alleging Chavez’s resignation, including the assertion that Chavez had sought asylum in Cuba, which was rapidly refuted by Havana.

Indeed, the media complicity with the coup organizers was so strong that when the latter attempted to take the imprisoned president out of the country to the United States, it was planned to transport him aboard a private plane registered in the United States in the name of Gustavo Cisneros, the owner of the Venevision TV network.

Meanwhile, CNN en Espanol linked up with Globovision to finally announce the taking of Miraflores Palace by the people and the presidential guard of honor… five hours after it happened.

Lies, deception, violence, terror: everything smacks of Otto Reich in this failed coup. Even that hysterical rabble of Cuban-Venezuelan emigres that surrounded the Cuban embassy in Caracas for a number of hours, destroying cars and threatening to enter by force – before fleeing when the Bolivarian leader’s return was announced.

Since the death of Fidel Castro, the British mass media has been circling around Cuba like vultures and offering highly-slanted reportage on the 9 days of mourning. The not so hidden discourse of the media expresses the hope that the US will  force the Cuban people to accept American-style freedom. Let’s hope that never happens.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caribbean, Cuba, World

The CSA Inquiry, The BBC And The Strange Case of Patrick Rock

In the last couple of weeks, the BBC and the Tory press have worked tirelessly to scupper the VIP child abuse story. In a recent edition of Panorama, the BBC poured cold water on the claims that the now deceased Leon Brittan was involved in child abuse or had raped a woman in 1967. Yesterday, Tory MP Nicholas Soames demanded that Tom Watson “apologise” for “traducing” Brittan’s good name. Watson rose to his feet in response and refused to issue an apology. Good for him. First, you can’t traduce or smear a dead person and second, Watson doesn’t need to apologise for anything.

The front page of today’s Daily Mail has this banner headline with the words “Labour’s child abuse witch hunt” in the opening paragraph. No agenda there. Right?

However, what is clear from these efforts is that the inquiry must be getting uncomfortably close to the Tories, so close that they’re now pulling out all the stops and getting their media chums to produce propaganda to counter any further accusations and smear the victims. The timing is also interesting for the fact that Harvey Proctor, a former Tory MP who’s so right-wing that he’d make a fascist blush with envy, recently appeared at a news conference to deny any allegations that he sexually abused children or witnessed any murders.

Now, before anyone reading this gets any ideas in their head that I’ve libelled Proctor, think on. I’ve done no such thing. Proctor was, however, a member of the notorious Monday Club. He apparently moved to purge the group of National Front members. So what?

Here’s the edition of Panorama in question.  The programme’s rationale is evident from the start: “It ain’t true”.

As Tom Pride observed yesterday, if Panorama’s team are so damned good at investigations, why did they fail to say anything about Jimmy Savile, who was working in the same building?

Let’s now turn to the case of Patrick Rock or to give him his full name, Patrick Robert John Rock de Besombes. Rock is the scion of an old Norman aristocratic family, a thwarted parliamentary candidate and was, until 18 months ago, a Downing Street aide. I say “was” because he was caught in possession of indecent images of children and appeared in court on those charges in July, 2014 and was bailed.  In December, 2014, Rock appeared at Southwark Crown Court and pleaded not guilty to the charges. Then it all went quiet.

I found this letter from someone called “P. Curran” to the Cabinet Office on the What Do They Know website that makes a Freedom of Information request. P. Curran writes:

Dear Cabinet Office,

I am seeking information on Patrick Rock, a former senior aide to
David Cameron, who appeared in court over child abuse images.

According to this Guardian report of Friday 19 December 2014 12.40
GMT, he was ‘ bailed to return to Southwark crown court for a
pre-trial hearing on 27 February 2015’:
http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/…

Since then there has been no news whatsoever. What has happened to
Mr. Rock please? Has he had his pre-trial hearing yet? And if so
where and when?

Yours faithfully,

Thankyou.

P. Curran

The letter was written on 2 June, 2015. If the pre-trial hearing took place, then there is no record of it. This begs the question: “why”?

A follow up letter appears on the same website, dated 17 June, 2015.

Dear Cabinet Office / FOI Team Mailbox,

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of
Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Cabinet Office’s
handling of my FOI request ‘Trial of Patrick Rock’.

Many thanks for this reply, but if you read my original question,
this is not what I asked.

I asked: “What has happened to Mr. Rock please? Has he had his
pre-trial hearing yet? And if so where and when?

I did NOT ask whether the information was held on your paper or
electronic records.

I would also draw your attention to the following:

Guardian: Possible Cabinet Office cover up re: Cyril Smith child
abuse allegations:
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015…

Same story from the Mail:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-….
Indeed, from the article: “Downing Street cynically tried to
prevent the release of damaging files exposing the scale of the
cover-up over paedophile MP Cyril Smith.
The Cabinet Office repeatedly blocked The Mail on Sunday’s attempts
to see the bombshell documents – and caved in only after being
threatened with High Court action.”

Same story from Sky:
https://www.newstalk.com/Thatcher-knew-o….
From the story:
“He [Simon Danczuk] added: “(The Cabinet Office) have resisted
publishing these documents for over 12 months – that’s not
acceptable. They refused to tell the public who
nominated Cyril Smith for a knighthood. A journalist managed to get
that out of them after going to the Information Commissioner. It
was indeed David Steel.
And we now know they are resisting publishing at least four other
files relating to historic child sexual abuse. We have to ask the
question is the Cabinet Office fit for purpose?”

Private Eye story on Cabinet Office cover-up:
https://twitter.com/privateeyenews/statu…

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/w…

So, given Mr Patrick Robert John Rock was deputy head of David
Cameron’s policy unit at the time of his arrest and has known him
since the late 1990s (http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-28054433 /
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics…),
I would be extremely grateful if you cold please tell me about the
trial / pre-trial hearings of Patrick Rock, supposedly held at
Southwark Crown Court , case number T20140498 (not whether the
information is stored on your paper or electronic records) .

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is
available on the Internet at this address:
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/t…

Yours faithfully,

P. Curran

The exchange between P. Curran and the FOI team continues for the next few weeks until, finally, there’s a reply from the Information Commissioner’s Office.

REVIEW OF REQUEST UNDER THE FREEDOM OF INFORMATION ACT 2000
Cabinet Office Internal Review Reference: IR 321173
(Original Case Reference: Fol 321173)
Thank you for your email of 17 June 2015. You asked for an internal review of our response to
your request for information of 8 June 2015. In your request you asked for information about the
trial of Patrick Rock.
It may be helpful if I start by explaining that the Freedom of Information Act provides a right of
access, subject to exemptions, to information held in a recorded format by a public authority.
Public authorities are specifically scheduled under the Act and the Cabinet Office (including No1 O
Downing Street) is one of those scheduled authorities. Each government department and agency
is separately listed under the Act.
As such, the Cabinet Office can only respond in terms of information we hold in a recorded format.
I have reviewed your request and have concluded that the Cabinet Office does not hold any
recorded information, which would answer your question. I recognise your interest in this case but
I regret that we do not hold the information to be able to answer your question.
The substance of your request is a matter for the criminal justice system, which is outside the remit
of the Cabinet Office. The only advice and assistance I am able to offer is to suggest that you write
to the Crown Prosecution Service or Her Majesty’s Court Service. I should also explain that even if
they hold any information in a recorded format in scope of your request, one or more exemptions
under the Act might apply.
If you are unhappy with the handling of your request for information you, have the right to apply
directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. The Information Commissioner can be
contacted at:
Information Commissioner’s Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane
Wilmslow
Cheshire
SK9 5AF

It turns out that that Rock is due to appear in court in the next three days. However, there is nothing in papers about it, nor have the television news providers mentioned it.

Don’t you find that a little odd? I know I do.

4 Comments

Filed under Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry

The Rank Hypocrisy Of The DUP Must Be Challenged

The stench of hypocrisy coming from the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) has been overpowering. In the last few weeks, we’ve been treated to Peter Robinson flouncing out of Stormont on the grounds that “the IRA continues to be active”, while Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s leader at Westminster rose to his feet during Prime Minister’s Question Time on Wednesday to accuse John McDonnell of being in league with the IRA. Yesterday, Dodds appeared on The Daily Politics to repeat his smear. Andrew Neil, who had earlier interrupted economist, Richard J Murphy, sat there passively while Dodds came out with smear after smear. Not once did Neil mention Dodds’s appearance at the funeral of John Bingham, a Loyalist thug. Not once did Neil mention Dodds’s leader’s involvement with Ulster Resistance, a Loyalist outfit with links to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the Red Hand Commando (RHC). Not once did Neil challenge the DUP’s credibility. It was as if none of this mattered. This told The Cat that the BBC and the rest of the mainstream media continues to have a blind spot when it comes to links between the DUP and Loyalist paramilitaries. Some of those paramilitary groups, the UVF especially, acted as death squads for the British state.

Since Jeremy Corbyn entered the Labour leadership election, the mainstream media has constantly sought to discredit him. Once he became leader, those efforts have intensified.  Now it’s guilt by association. The recent accusation that Corbyn and McDonnell have accommodated ‘terrorists’ is predicated on two things: first, that talking to the IRA is in itself an indication of support for terrorism and second, the Thatcher government never made any contact with the IRA. Both of these things are untrue. The Thatcher government maintained contacts with the IRA throughout the 1980s. This has been continually overlooked by the likes of Andrew Neil and others.

In 1986, Nigel Dodds attended the funeral of UVF commander, John Bingham. Dodds was quite happy to do this, yet no one at the BBC seems to have spotted it nor brought up the matter in any interviews with him. You can read more about Bingham here (Hat tip to Michael Rosen for the link).

Nigel Dodds was recently pictured with Winston ‘Winkie’ Irvine, a UVF commander and member of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP). Irvine also claims to be a “community leader”. Here’s an expose of him produced by BBC Northern Ireland.

Here’s Dodds with Irvine (left) pictured outside the PSNI Headquarters in Belfast in 2013. Hypocrisy much, Nige?

The DUP’s Peter Robinson on parade with Ulster Resistance. Cat got your tongue, Nige?

Here’s Robinson denying the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) are terrorists. Instead he describes them as “counter terrorists”.

Last year, the DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson, a former member of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) appeared to speak on behalf of Loyalist paramilitaries. This BBC article says that Donaldson claimed that Loyalists “will take a peaceful approach” when protesting about planned parade restrictions.

Then there are the links between Loyalist paramilitaries and far-right parties like the British National Party and National Front. Britain First was not only inspired by Ulster Loyalism, it is an outgrowth of it.  Founded by Jim Dowson, a Christian fundamentalist and Loyalist who ran the BNP’s call centre in Dundonald, Britain First has adopted the motifs of Ulster Loyalism right down to its use of military style uniforms and its logo.

If the IRA is still operational as the DUP claims, then so too are the various Loyalist outfits. There’s an old saying where I come from. “People in glasshouses shouldn’t throw stones”. Nigel Dodds, Peter Robinson and Jeffrey Donaldson would do well to learn and remember that.

40 Comments

Filed under Northern Ireland

Clarkson, Cameron, The BBC And The Great British Art Of Bullying

I’ve written about bullying before on this blog and once again, I find myself writing another blog on the subject.  Bullying in Britain is a national institution. The nation’s leaders and the captains of industry, many of whom were educated at Britain’s top public (independent) schools, learnt to bully others at an early age through the institutionalized regime of fagging. Yet the rest of us, in other words, those of us who didn’t go to an independent boarding school either become victims of their relentless bullying or internalize it. This internalization often finds its outward expression in the ridicule of people for the colour of their skin, their sex, their gender, their occupation, their disability or their social status. Whether we want to admit it or not, Britain is a nation of bullies.

When Jeremy Clarkson told the viewers of The One Show a couple of years ago that public sector workers “should be taken out and shot in front of their families”, he apologised but brushed it off as a “joke”. He is not the first person to do this: Bernard Manning and the other club comics of yesteryear, used a similar excuse: “I can laugh at myself, why can’t Pakis, nig-nogs and poofters do the same”? The issue here isn’t humour itself, but the racist and sexist discourses that are couched in humour, which has the effect of legitimizing such discourses. These jokes chime with the joke-teller’s inner world. For jokes and humour, unless I am very much mistaken, are not created in an ideological vacuum; they are affected by discourse, and the joke-teller is very much aware of this. Brushing off something as a “joke” convinces no one but the joke-teller.

Yesterday, David Cameron’s feeble, almost jokey, defence of Clarkson saw the latter being recast as a children’s entertainer (sic). Cameron claimed that he “was a great fan” of Clarkson and that his children would be “heartbroken” if he was taken off the air. “He’s one of my constituents”, Cameron added. Yes, and the rest of it. Others lined up behind Cameron to repeat the same spiel: Clarkson is a national treasure; a favourite with children. Laughable.

But what about free speech? What about it? The Clarkson incident wasn’t about free speech. Clarkson punched a producer because he couldn’t get what he wanted. In the vast majority of workplaces, it’s a sackable offence to use violence towards your work colleagues. When Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand made prank calls to actor, Andrew Sachs, they were dismissed. No questions asked.  Yet, Clarkson is seemingly in a different league to other workers. He punches a producer and 300,000 people sign a petition (that was started by Guido Fawkes) to have him reinstated. If you or I punched a workmate, we’d be told to leave the premises immediately and we’d be threatened with prosecution. Not Clarkson. In the end, the BBC merely suspended him,  which effectively amounts to little more than a slap on the wrists.

The Cat thinks Clarkson should be sacked with immediate effect and Top Gear should be cancelled and replaced with a new show. Preferably one that isn’t hosted by bullies and their mates. By allowing Clarkson to return after a period of suspension, the BBC sends out a message that bullying and violence are the legitimate means to get people to do what you want. Indeed, the BBC’s record when it comes to dealing with pederasts in its own ranks is woefully inadequate. It is, after all, run by members of his class who attended the same kinds of educational institutions. I’m not holding my breath for change.

UPDATE 24/3/15 @ 1940

Well, Clarkson’s been given the boot and already Brendan O’Neill has penned a paean to the man. In characteristic style, O’Neill has claimed that Clarkson’s sacking was because of “the dogmatic liberal elite”… now prepare to suspend your disbelief because I’ll repeat that, Clarkson’s sacking was because of “the dogmatic liberal elite”. A question: is O’Neill for real? What’s this really about? Look, Clarkson punched his producer after verbally abusing him for 20 minutes.The producer, Oisin Tymon, was taken to a local A&E for treatment for a cut and swollen lip. There’s no “liberal elite” involved here… unless you’re talking about the BBC’s management and even then, you’re barking up the wrong tree. The only people who believe the BBC is [coughs] “left-wing” are Tories, Kippers and assorted far-right knuckledraggers. But then, they’re fantasists and drama queens, so they make up stuff all the time.

This is O’Neill’s [ahem] argument in a nutshell.

Their main interest is not in protecting a BBC producer’s face from Clarkson’s fists — it’s in protecting the public’s ears, and our allegedly putty-like brains, from Clarkson’s words, from his consensus-pricking, fast-car loving, two-fingered salute to modern liberal orthodoxies.

Say what?

So, Clarkson’s on his way out. His former co-presenter, Quentin Willson, is less than flattering about the Repton Reptile, saying he was “difficult to work with”.

“If you’ve got a global audience of 350 million people hanging on your every word, then that makes you detached from your sources. It’s so sad that this is his requiem, if you like.”

Yeah, I’m all choked up.

However, that’s not the end of the story. Apparently North Yorkshire Police may want a word with Clarkson. Stick that in your pipe, O’Neill.

8 Comments

Filed under BBC, Bullying, Child sex abuse, Media, racism, Sexism, Society & culture

The BBC’s Nick Robinson and, er, Britain First’s Jayda Fransen?

I saw this photo of the BBC’s political editor, Nick Robinson getting cosy with Britain First’s Jayda Fransen (is that an English name?) on Twitter and had to post it here. Somehow, you just can’t see Old Nick getting that close to the Green Party or TUSC candidate.

B289Xk2CMAArPRm

Ah, don’t they make a lovely couple?

The next time a Kipper tells you that there’s a left-wing bias at the BBC, you show them this image.

5 Comments

Filed under BBC, Ideologies, Media, propaganda

Culture for the Future (Note #1)

The cultural critic, Raymond Williams (1976), once said that “culture is one or two of the most complicated words in the English language”. Many people use the word “culture” to refer to specific artefacts or use it to refer to a set of rituals and customs that are practised by primitive tribal societies in the rain forests of South America or Central Africa. Some people use words like “cultured” to describe someone who has “good taste” in music and the arts. Such people will invariably come from upper middle class and upper class backgrounds and are acculturated at an early age to appreciate only those forms of culture, like classical music, opera and Shakespeare’s plays,  which have been consecrated by a legitimating authority (Bourdieu, 1989). Any cultural form that is produced outside this narrow band of cultural production will be regarded as vulgar by those people who regard their culture as something sacred. Hence the term ‘subculture’, which describes any cultural form that is produced by ordinary people and regards them as inferior. While it is tempting to think that such views are limited to the bourgeoisie, this narrow view of culture can also be seen among groups at the opposite end of the socio-economic scale, who have been educated to think that the culture they create isn’t culture at all or it is inferior. Other people, often those whose cultural interests never stray beyond bourgeois art, insist there should be nationally approved forms of culture. But the people who call for state-sanctioned culture pretend to know more about culture than they do in reality.

In the last four or five years, there has been a succession of politicians and political commentators who have remarked on the need for some kind of British national culture. Douglas Murray, for example, demanded that the government create what he called leitkultur to snuff out other cultures as a means to prevent young British Muslims from joining jihadist groups (sic). Such an idea is naive as it is dangerous. If the word leitkultur looks German, that’s because it is. It was coined by German-Arab sociologist, Bassam Tibi in 1998 to refer to a “core culture”. Unfortunately, whenever this word is used it tends to be cited in the same breath as monoculturalism and national identity. Like nationalism, monoculture regards all forms of culture that do not have the state’s seal of approval as a possible social contaminant. In Murray’s world, anything that sounds or looks Middle Eastern would be banned, as too would hip-hop, Bollywood and even West African high-life music.

A national monoculture has to be constructed by hand-picked cultural experts (presumably chosen by the government of the day or some other state body) who then project this construction onto the people. Here’s an example: when the state of Israel was created in 1947, its cultural nationalists rejected Yiddish as the national language and chose Hebrew (modernized)  instead. This is despite the fact that the majority of Israelis spoke either Yiddish (Askenazim) or Arabic (Mizrahim). Ladino, the language of Sephardic Jews, wasn’t even considered. Hebrew was the language of religion and of the law, it was not the language of everyday life. Yet it was imposed as the Israel’s official language.

Monoculturalists, the vast majority of whom are ethno-nationalists (some of whom are in denial), rail against the idea that immigrant groups should continue their cultural practices once they’ve moved to Britain. They constantly complain about multiculturalism, citing it as the principle reason for Britain’s economic and social decline, and for incubating ‘terror’. Yet, much of what we consider to be British culture was brought to this country by immigrants. Fish and chips, pizza and tandoori masala are a few examples of cuisine that had origins elsewhere in the world. Words like ‘bungalow’ and ‘pyjamas’ are examples of Hindi words that are now part of the English language. We have listened to jazz, R&B, soul, rock ‘n’ roll and other forms of American music for decades, often to the dismay of the Britain’s self-appointed cultural cognoscenti. When rock ‘n’ roll first became popular in the 1950s, the BBC’s initial response was to ignore it.  The BBC Light Programme grudgingly commissioned The Saturday Club to cater for this new youth market but sometimes, the songs played on this programme were performed by the BBC’s house band rather than by the original artists. The BBC eventually yielded to pressure but only when it was too late. By then, Radio Luxembourg and the pirate stations had stolen a march on the fusty old Beeb, who had to petition the government to outlaw the pirates. Radio One happened ten years too late and even then, it wasn’t much good.

So when I say that there needs to be a cultural intervention, some people will be confused and others will ignore me, believing culture should come a distant second to marching, demonstrating and signing petitions. Some people don’t think twice about culture and others will see it as irrelevant. According to Gramsci (2003) the dominant ideology maintains its grip on power through cultural hegemony rather than outright coercion. The dominant class controls mass cultural production and is thus in a position to influence the way people think of themselves and others. Simon Cowell is a member of the dominant group (he votes for and supports the Tory-led coalition) and is an exemplar of cultural hegemony. His cultural production line creates boy and girl bands who sound and look the same. This kind of standardization can also be found in fast food outlets like McDonald’s and Pizza Hut. Cowell produces music that is bland, but catchy, yet says nothing about real life. You will never find Cowell’s acts commenting on poverty, inequality or anything that the audiences who watch X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. It is the worst of the ‘bread and circuses’ notion of culture, which reduces arts to commodities.

According to Theodor Adorno (1991), each cultural product is produced industrially (like tins of baked beans) and bears the stamp of the dominant ideology. This is a rather crude way of looking at mass culture, which is produced by the same class that runs the country. The claim made by the artists who labour under this system is that all art should be free of politics. This suits governments and those who support them. The last thing they want is people asking questions and making demands. However all art is political, even if it denies it, because the artist has made a political decision to take an apolitical position. The old style stand-up comedians of the pre-alternative era would often claim that they weren’t political. This is absurd. The racist and sexist jokes they told expressed dominant social positions, whether they admitted it or not.

Whenever an authoritarian regime takes power, the first thing it does is arrest artists and musicians. Then they arrest academics and intellectuals who disagree with them. The authoritarian-libertarian Thatcher government effectively starved Britain’s political fringe theatre companies out of existence, not only because they were being subsidized but because they opposed the cultural status quo. Cutting off their funding wasn’t as violent as the brutality meted out to musicians, say in Pinochet’s Chile, but it was a form of what Bourdieu refers to as “symbolic violence”.

Finally, I spotted this article by Guardian columnist, Suzanne Moore, who asks if right-wing people are “more uncultured” and then adds that they (the right) “don’t “get” culture”. It’s not that the right doesn’t get culture, they have their own view of culture, and they tend to view it as something created by people who have “taste” and who possess the right kinds of qualifications.  In other words, culture should only be created by people who have been sanctioned to do so: the offspring of the rich, for example . As I said in this blog, the right’s idea of culture is heritage, which isn’t a living being but a corpse. The event discussed in the Moore piece mentions celebrities, who may be cultural, others are not.

So they had Michael McIntyre and Kirstie Allsopp providing youth and edginess with some interchangeable TV presenters, and those stalwarts of light entertainment Cilla Black and Bruce Forsyth. What a rum do. The Tory brand still appears toxic.

I’m not surprised to see the anodyne comedian, McIntyre, listed here. In some respects McIntyre’s ideologically neutral style is exactly what the right-wing view of culture is all about: it’s politically disinterested and socially disengaged.

Culture for the future. Culture for the 99%.

References

Adorno, T. (1991). The Culture Industry, London: Routledge.

Adorno, T. and Horkheimer, M. (1996) The Culture Industry: Enlightenment As Mass Deception in Durham, M.G. & Kellner, D. M. (Ed.) Media and Cultural Studies Keyworks. Oxford: Blackwell

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

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

Williams, R. (1976) Keywords: A vocabulary of culture and society. London: Fontana

4 Comments

Filed under Arts, Ideologies, Society & culture