That's enough now, surely

A whole week of outrage about a stupid prank that nobody had heard about for a whole week until tabloids began splashing the story over their front pages, as if said prank were a matter of such international importance and magnitude that it deserves prominence over everything else happening in the world. For an entire week. If you were unconvinced that all sense of perspective had been lost, yesterday the Mail reproduced a transcript of what had been taken down from the BBC for being offensive, broadcasting to as wide an audience it can what the paper thinks was so horrible and hurtful to Andrew Sachs and his granddaughter that it should never have been broadcast. The headline? 'Lest we forget: Or what the BBC won't let you hear'. Yeah - a prank phone call by a couple of eejits is exactly equivalent to millions dying two world wars and totally deserves to be referred to using the language normally reserved for remembrance day.

And if that's not a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't scenario, I don't know what is. Broadcast it and you're bastards for doing so. Stop broadcasting it and you're bastards for not letting us hear what you're bastards for broadcasting.

A week after the tabloid outrage that kicked the whole thing off, two people have resigned, one has been suspended without pay for three months and it isn't enough. We need more coverage, even if it is just gloating. 'The BBC wakes up to decency' is the Mail's headline today. Continuing the gloating theme and perfectly exemplifying it is Richard Littlejohn, who manages to produce a column reveals exactly what the Mail's agenda is in the whole farce, while at the same time being so spectacularly wrong, so directly at odds with reality that it really does beggar belief.

'We're mad as hell and we DON'T have to take it any more!' is the headline, which could serve as the Daily Mail's mission statement if only it included the words 'we hate anything remotely different to us' at the beginning of the sentence. The premise of the whole article is summed up a couple of passages:
"If the Tories could but see it, there's a once-in-a-blue-moon opportunity here. The BBC is an ideal example of a nationalised industry which has grown bloated and lost sight of its remit.

Here is the scope for Call Me Dave and Boy George to demonstrate exactly how they can cut taxes without cutting public services."
That's the agenda nailed down. Use the incident to attack the BBC - okay, he neglects to mention that the BBC's commercial rivals have paid him quite a lot of money over the years - and he might do better himself financially if the BBC is scaled back - but there's what the Mail has been doing all along in a simple couple of sentences. (It's also worth pointing out that while employed by one of those rivals to present a talk show, which itself can only be described as cack, he managed to treat some guests so offensively that even right-winger Michael Winner was moved to call him an arsehole).

And now for the ridiculously wrong bit:
"We don't have to take it lying down. This has been a stunning victory for common decency over the self-appointed, self-obsessed, metropolitan narcissists who control so much of our public life."
BBC radio's controller has resigned. One performer has resigned and another has been suspended - all over an incident that nobody had heard about until the tabloids started a moral panic over the whole affair. It's not those people who 'control so much of our public life'. Want to hazard a guess at who this whole sorry nonsense exposes as controlling so much of our public life?

Minister for Being a Massive Poisonous Halfwit, Phil Woolas provides a clue
"If you ignore the Sun reader in this debate [immigration] you are not going to move it forward,"
This is in defence of referring to the new immigration points system as 'Australian style', despite, er, not being very much like the Australian style. Sophie Barrett-Brown, chairman of the Immigration Law Practioners' Association explained:
'In fact, Australia's migration policy was "quite lenient" compared to the new UK regime, she added.'
And, of course, let's not forget that Rebekah Wade and the Digger himself were present at the meetings that have got Osborne and Mandelson in so much trouble, although they were largely ignored in newspaper coverage of the affair. Which is not being talked about anymore now that some people made a prank call to an old man. Strange coincidence that.

Littlejohn's column gets extra points for contradicting what he's said earlier, in 'All we have to fear... is the fear of giving offence'. Of course, it was brown people we had to fear the fear of giving offence to in that column. Expecting the BBC to censor itself so as not to offend tabloid readers is totally different. For some reason.

If you want more evidence that the Mail's agenda here is to attack the BBC rather than display a genuine outpouring of heartfelt hurt over the broadcast, here it is. 'Even as Russell Brand row raged, BBC 'comedians' were insulting the Queen'.

Except they weren't. The comedian (singular) was doing that years ago - in an episode of Mock the Week that was repeated on Wednesday. I remember the gag because it cracked me up. A number of times, when the show was first broadcast and when it was repeated again and again without much fanfare until it could be used to twist the knife the papers have stuck into the BBC's belly.

Media Studies students should study this for years to come as an example of a Moral Panic - but quite a unique one. Rather than being a story that has been picked up relatively innocently and rolled along as the result of confirmation bias and so on, it is one that has been entirely and deliberately confected by newspapers in order to pillory a commercial rival, and influence the politicians responsible for the rival's funding.

But it's not the tabloids that hold power over our public life.


septicisle said...

That's the first time I've actually bothered to read the whole transcript, and you know what, it really is very funny. The most hilarious thing about this is that the most puritanical newspaper in the country is by proxy defending a young woman who has been in at least one hardcore porn feature. Still, I suppose as Mad Mel wrote on Monday, this is still all about the family, and what a lovely family it is.

Mephitis said...

I'd say rather than defending her by proxy, it was merely objecting to the apparent insult to a man that his female family member might have had sex with someone and might even have the audacity to be a sexual being in her own right. Ooh the offence!

James said...

I'm pretty sure this story was more than just about 10 minutes of self-obsessed idiotic banter. However, I don't agree on your Daily Mail theory.

I'd suggest that many people of all ages and political leanings are just sick of the way we seem to celebrate vulgarity and crudeness - most especially when it's on the BBC.

Personally, I think we grandstand people like Russell Brand too often. Rather worryingly it seems as if edginess, drunkenness or limited use for either brains or manners are all good attributes nowadays - ones considered cool and modern - and ones guaranteed to make you a well paid star. We coo and swoon over infantile behaviour, and I think this was a nation waking up and smelling the coffee and saying....these guys get paid all that money for THAT.


Andrew Bartlett said...

Given you don't need to have seen the programme when it was broadcast, given that you can complain about a programme after the fact, and given that you can manufacture a controversy and the complaints still count...

Sack Andrew Sachs! His disgusting and persistantly racist portrayal of Spanish people is no better than an actor in black-face. Write your complaint today.

If the BBC and Ofcom don't take these seriously, then why were they taking the complaints of people who had not seen the show, who when they read/heard 'Andrew Sachs' granddaughter' imagined a nine-year old girl in pigtails, who complained well over a week after the broadcast, whose complaints insulting assume the Andrew Sachs is a frail old man who knows nothing of the world, and, if they're anything else, they're all about destroying the accountable BBC and replacing it with unaccountable, truly vile and vulgar private media.

Arggh! I'm almost hulking out over this, I'm that angry.

Sack the racist Andrew Sachs!

James said...

Andrew, encouraging people to counter-claim just because things haven't gone the way Andrew thinks they should go is just plain childish. But you're typical of a generation of people who seem to think they can do what they like and say what they like without restriction, and I guess that explains in a nutshell, the terrible state of the human condition right now.

The problem when people in your age group preach this kind of nonsense is that younger people learn from you. No wonder we live in a broken society. It's not right wing media infiltration that's caused it - it's people in your generation who fight against boundaries and regulations. You're old enough to know better Andrew.

Andrew Bartlett said...

"encouraging people to [complain] just because things haven't gone the way [X] thinks they should go is just plain childish"

I agree, which is why my call for Andrew Sachs to be driven from public life is a joke. The Daily Mail orchestrated campaign - and yes, it was an arranged controversy by unaccountable right-wing tabloids, full of vulgarity, racism, sexism, xenophobia and lies, in an attempt to use the public to help them weaken a broadcasting rival of true quality - is no joke. It is serious, and will have impacts far beyond the careers of Brand and Ross, insignificant in their own right, but vastly important considered as battlegorunds in the attempts of the intertwined interests of the tabloid press and commerical TV 'puritans', happy to print and broadcast the very nastiest kind of shit, so long as it turns a profit, to remove a rival, one which carries with it a set of values and ethics that are far superior the hollowed-out morals of trick-turners such as News International and the DMGT.

And if you think what we diagnose as 'broken society' is the result of people speaking about sex and using rude words, and not a tremendous economic damage experienced by whole communities across Britain, which is accompanied by the neutering of the unions, and thus the diminuation of the sense of engagement in the collective life of Britain, then you are a fucking idiot.

I might be old enough to know better - you evidently have an sense of causality in history that would shame a ten year old.

But even if we take your pitifully poor understanding of social change, railing against "a generation of people who seem to think they can do what they like and say what they like without restriction [...] [which] explains in a nutshell[...] the terrible state of the human condition right now" would have put Andrew Sachs - whose role of note came through the power of John Cleese, a member of group damned for their speech at the time - and his granddaughter - a hardcore porn star - out of work.

Andrew Bartlett said...

"a generation of people who seem to think they can do what they like and say what they like without restriction"

Anyway, this is balls. Total balls. The right - and the columnists in the tabloid press - are always bemoaning self-imposed restrictions we place of speech. So we do not utter racial insults, we avoid sexism, we moderate our language not because it causes offence, but because we realise in shaping our throught it shapes how we treat people.

So this is not a generation that believes it can say whatever it wants. Neither was any previous. It is just that the boundaries are different. This one isn't much fussed about rude words or talking about sex, but is vigilant (not enough, but the anti-PC fantasists seem to think it has stifled speech, so something about your diagnosis doesn't add up) to shut racism and sexism from popular discourse. Earlier ones were happy to have women and non-whites dehumanised with regularity, but God forbid (sometimes invoking His power indeed) any mention of sex or rude words. I'm glad that I'm a member of this generation, complete with the boundaries that we place on speech, rather than the earlier ones. I'd rather a public discourse full of profanities and graphic descriptions of sex, than be a member of a society in which racism and sexism was the norm.

Now, I know that you are not calling for more racism and sexism. That isn't my point. But you make the claim that we have had a qualitative change, that the contemporary generation feels it can speak with fewer restrictions, and damn the consequences, than previous generations. By point is that this is total, ahistorical balls. The restrictions are different, and, assessed from any humane position, considering the ways the words have power, the boundaries of acceptable speech are far more conducive to a decent society than the boundaries that were in place in earlier times.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Woah! Last time I checked these, the last three or four comments weren't there.

Thanks to Andrew for saying a lot of what I probably would have said to James.

James: People may be just sick of this or that about personalities and their pay - but only two people complained before the Mail splashed the whole thing on their front page. So the whole thing was quite clearly driven by the tabloids. And whatever those people's reasons for complaining were - the Mail's (and the Sun's) were at least partly commercial. This story didn't just happen in a vacuum, and part of the contex is the Mail's sustained campaign against the BBC.

As for 'my generation' (or Andrew's) preaching something or other - I'm probably a bit older than you think. I'm old enough to remember the last major debate about what should and shouldn't be acceptable in comedy, and like Andrew, I'm completely happy that the Black & White Minstrels, Jim bloody Davidson and Bernard Manning were on the losing side. I'd rather not live in a society where racism and sexism were part of jolly, pre-watershed light entertainment.

That said, I don't think what Ross and Brand did should be lauded or accepted. The two should have been in a bit of trouble, but not forced to resign or even be suspended, since Sachs himself said he was happy with the apologies.

Oh - and I don't accept that broken society rubbish. We don't live in a broken society. 'Terrible state of the human condition?' What terrible state?

James said...

Falls of chair....

If you can't even acknowledge we live in a broken society I'd have people come round and impound your computer and take away your vote. I appreciate your reply, but I'm just not going to waste time debating with people like you or Andrew because you seem too affected. I meet people like you guys all the time - normally still in University in their middle ages having never done a decent days work - normally 'writers' and normally so politically twisted I weep at having to share a planet.

I came here from a friends blog because he normally has cool links..but I'm like WTF - I'm seriously dumbfounded. It's not like I want everyone to think how I think, but you are so far from reality it's untrue.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Thank you for your considered response, showing carefully sourced evidence to explain how society is broken. Or not.

Extended appeals to incredulity won't fly here.

Nor will veiled insults about still being in University and not understanding the real world. I worked in a number of jobs for about a decade before I went to University as a mature student, and have been in gainful employment for years since I graduated. And not as a writer, unfortunately.

But silly arguments about who lives in the real world don't answer the question at hand. If you have evidence to show that society is broken, show it. If it's any different from the moans that have stretched back throughout history about young people having no respect, I'll accept it.

Of course, that would mean defining what you mean by broken society first - but I think you've already shown you're not up for a rational discussion about it.

Five Chinese Crackers said...

Wow. That was weird.

Anonymous said...

weird but a very interesting read. Just goes to show what happens when you ask people to put up the evidence.