I’m in a desperate moral dilemma.
I’m actually quite glad Russell Brand has left the BBC. He’s an irritating idiot who rarely makes use of the decent brain he was born with and isn’t funny. BUT, I’m deeply concerned that his departure means giving in to the wishes of the easily offended, ignorant mob.
I’m getting fed up of the whole circus surrounding this whole saga. Listening to Richard Allinson in the mornings (a welcome break from Sarah Kennedy) I have to agree with his weariness.
Do I need to summarise the situation? Well OK I’ll be quick. The week before last, Andrew Sachs was due to be interviewed by Russell Brand and his guest Jonathan Ross for the Russel Brand show on Radio 2. Only, he was unexpectedly and inexplicably unavailable. So they decided to leave a message on Sachs’ answer phone, in the manner of teenage youths leaving a jokey message for a mate who’d forgotten to turn up at the party. Only Andrew Sachs is not a mate of Russell and Jonathan, and he didn’t find it all that funny. So far, so childish.
Fast forward to this Sunday just gone, and the Mail On Sunday gets hold of the story, over a week later, and in their inimitable style twist and misrepresent it in the worst possible light to elicit outrage from their readership. Which they get, in spades.
Unlike the 30,000 who complained, I actually heard the show “live”. OK, so not
live but on the original broadcast. It took me a while to work out that Jonathan Ross. It was not the best radio programme I’d ever heard, and I only kept it on because I was loathe to get the laptop out and listen to something else. It wasn’t, I have to say in the best of taste. They were irresponsible and did something wrong. It was as some say “out of order”. But it didn’t warrant all this.
To me, the people who are malicious are the hordes of people who didn’t listen to the broadcast and complained, based on the press hype. Particularly the ones who don’t care what was said, but just want to stick the boot in. People who complained because they hate Brand and Ross for being overpaid and overhyped, or because they can’t stand that sort of broadcasting were given an excuse to behave in a despicable manner. People who would describe it, not in terms like “a bit offensive” or “childish” or “stupid” but as “disgusting filth”. Most of the 30000 complaints could be more accurately described as malicious than that stupid childish broadcast.
These people and the ones in this case who deserve the lion’s share of the opprobrium. It is a massive injustice that they have been listened to. I can’t be pleased that a radio show I vaguely dislike is off the air, because of the terrible, terrible way in which it came about.
I am not sorry to see Brand go, and can take or leave Ross. But I am deeply concerned as to the sort of people who are getting their voices listened to over this.
Interesting reading from the BBC’s Mark Easton.
The Now Show also did a good piece on the current hysteria and how it isn’t being bourne out in facts.
Media panics are always a bad thing, as is basing policy around media panic. It never ceases to annoy me to see politicians pandering to public hysteria.
Hot on the heels of my comments about leaders on a big camp, comes analysis from the Childrens Society showing that we are becoming more risk phobic as a nation.
The report suggests that children who aren’t allowed out of their parent’s sight before they are teenaged end up suffering and lacking in judgement.
The BBC comments page is a familiar picture. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, people are still asserting that today’s world is a much more dangerous place than the one they grew up in. It’s only more dangerous because people are getting ever more unable to judge risk.
It’s often asserted that even though a risk is not proved, it’s better to be on the safe side and guard against it. Risk assessment is seen by some as the act of eliminating, rather than sensibly controlling risk.
Worrying disproportionately about specific, unproven risks, far from keeping people safe, puts us in danger, by diverting attention away from a general awareness of the world around us.
Letting children get muddy and bruised helps them develop an awareness that will stop them getting seriously hurt in their teenage and adult life.
One way I am keeping my health and sanity is by not watching this weeks Panorama.
Last week we had a fascinating expose on the “Church” of Scientology. During the filming of which a spokesman of the Church caused the reporter to snap by a verbal form of Chinese water torture. This week the worthwhile/stupid balance is restored with an expose on the dangers of WiFi.
Even before the programme was broadcast, it was being slated for its dodgy use of science. Now respected scientific commentator Ben Goldacre (bookmark his column, it’s great) has blown apart its impartiality.
Friends who’ve met me socially recently may have been party to a conversation about a half remembered news story about a plan to make giving alcohol to children illegal. Well I’ve found the story. A charity called “Alcohol concern” styling itself as a “National Agency” called for it to be illegal to give under 15 year olds alcohol because of the rise in alcohol consumption.
The consensus among the random sample of the public in on these conversations was against Alcohol Concern’s proposals. We felt that kids need to be introduced to alcohol in a safe environment, under the supervision of their parents. If drink isn’t some forbidden fruit, it won’t get abused on the streets. And guess what, research shows we were right. Although James Graham’s reaction suggests this is nothing to be smug about.
Alcohol concern seems to be to the control of alcohol, what Mediawatch UK is to taste and decency on TV, and Brake is to sensible motoring.
Stephen Fry is a genius.
He was on “This Week” last night. This is what he had to say.
You may find some of the words distasteful, or a slight hint that he is an apologist for the government, but I doubt many sensible people would fail to be chastened by his words. (OK not many sensible intelligent people).
It’s a put down to those who view political types as a separate alien species. Why do politicians do so many bigoted, knee jerk things, well because so many of us, the people, are stupid and ignorant and rant on about things without thinking. And we see things that are our own responsibility as SEPs. Of course Stephen included himself as one of the ignorant masses. We don’t as a whole, try and do something about the state of the world, we just sit in our armchairs and complain.
Actually this is slightly unfair to my readership, 99.9% of whom do do a lot to make the world a better place, whether it be preaching peace and tolerance and sensible policies through the Lib Dems, providing a much needed provision to society through Scouting and Guiding, giving over half their garage to food for the homeless, or helping refugees lost in a country only slightly less hostile than the rest of the world. I am as it were preaching to the choir here.
However while actors and comedians like Stephen and Jeremy Hardy can tell it like it is, politicians can’t, witness the upset when Chris Davies MEP used some unwise remarks to describe a somewhat unpleasant constituent. And we are back to Stephen’s polemic. As the late Linda Smith might put it, there are some unpleasant people, who “shouldn’t be given the oxygen of oxygen”. But the system, ie you and me, won’t allow the policymakers to come out and say it, because scarily enough there’s a lot of them and they all have the vote. And while some of us recognise the limitations of polite society, nay even demand they be enforced, to others this makes our representatives look shallow mealy mouthed and wishy-washy.
This passage particularly impressed me:
Take this week, for example. Suppose you’re prime minister, you’ve got all these illegal immigrants. What are you supposed to do? Are you supposed to hide the true facts?
That’s hardly something the public would accept, so you campaign and you say “we don’t know how many there are – let’s do something about it”, and then you’re accused of incompetence.
Well, of course you don’t know how many there are: they’re illegal immigrants. Do we expect magic from our politicians? We’re not going to get it. They’re just human beings like you and me.
The whole illegal immigrant furore is based on two things, ignorance and hysteria, and it doesn’t help that the papers Stephens polemic cuts like a knife through the lie that illegal immigration is a situation that is dangerously out of control. How are you supposed to know how many illegal immigrants there are? By nature we don’t know they’re here as otherwise they wouldn’t be here. That’s one piece of ignorance. The other is that immigrants, and by association aslyum seekers are a dangerous problem. That is our hysteria, growing on a feedback loop via the press, and broadcast loud to our representatives in westminster. Who mistakenly think the good people in Britain are worried about it and want something draconian and stupid done. So they try and do the least stupid thing and still get it wrong.
While I give a lot of my time to politicians, (I have written letters to nearly the MPs who have represented me and given time and money to the Lib Dems) I am glad I am not one. It would take a sick mind not to be chastened by Stephen ‘s words. Thank you for reading, I feel better now, and thank you Stephen for your well considered and cathartic piece.
Actually that’s relatives not readers.
I wasn’t going to be moved to write about the Soham murder case. I mean what Huntley did was obviously so vile- it’s obvious to anyone and does not require any comment.
But what has prompted me to write has been the question of data protection. As a non-paid data handler “Child protection” was as far as I was aware an exempt area as far as keeping sensitive personal data. Perhaps this just refers to the results of CRB checks can be kept without registering under the DPA. Whatever it does mean, the police obviously aren’t exempt from any data protection duties for child protection purposes.
As it appears the problem is not laws or procedures, but in the competence of following procedures through. Lets not let blind fear take us back to Orwell’s 1984 when there’s a more practical solution. If earlier prosecutions had been effectively done, there would have been records to look for.
The Scout Association, for all the criticism it gets from some quarters, would certainly not have allowed Huntley to be a leader, his failed convictions would have turned up on their own security search, if not the on the CRB return.
Aside from CRB concerns there is one other over the hysteria of this case. If Holly and Jessica had been 30 instead of 10, would there have been the same reaction? If they had been male, or a couple would there have been the same reaction. To me the crimes would have been just as vile; but to some the crimes are not the problem, but the age and popularity of the victims. In my book, after birth, a life is a life.
My concern is that the case will produce an official witch hunt leading to unweildley procedures that don’t make anyone safer, but make voluntary bodies more difficult and expensive to operate.