“a disgracefully misleading, cowardly, manipulative and politically irresponsible programme”

by Chris Bertram on March 10, 2008

Some commenters thought that I should have waited before attacking the BBC’s “White” season. After, all, they argued … legitimate topic of inquiry …. watch first, judge later, … blah blah. Martin O’Neill has been watching, and he doesn’t like what he’s seen. Specifically, he has an article in the New Statesman deploring Denys Blakeway’s film about Enoch Powell, which attempts both a partial rehabilitation of the man and manages to suggest (without saying directly) that Powell’s “rivers of blood” claim was vindicated on 7/7 (a product of multiculturalism). Anyway, I’m summarizing Martin, so surf over to his excellent piece.

{ 15 comments }

1

Kevin Donoghue 03.10.08 at 7:59 pm

My impressions of the programme were much the same as Martin O’Neill’s. But I think he loses the run of himself when he refers to “the tolerant and liberal mainstream” in which he includes “the radical student protestors who dogged [Powell] wherever he tried to speak after 1968”. There’s a rather obvious contradiction there. And trying to stop Powell from speaking was not only illiberal, it was a tactical blunder. The more freely he expressed himself the crazier he looked.

2

harry b 03.10.08 at 8:28 pm

I disagree with kevin about including the protestors in the mainstream (while agreeing that it was illiberal, and tactically stupid, though for many of the leading forces there were other, not so honorable, considerations at work). Protestors came from all over the left, including from the right wing and trade unionist wing, of the Labour party. It was not a nutty fringe cause (though it contained some nutty fringe people).

3

Jasper Milvain 03.10.08 at 9:08 pm

Well, you have the rest of this evening to listen to Radio 4’s Enoch Powell documentary, which makes a case that the roots of the speech are in Powell’s disgust at the violence after the partition of India, and gives a vivid sense of how deliberately provocative he was being, and how far outside the pale he put himself (the editor of the extremely Tory Wolverhampton Express and Star, previously a friend, wouldn’t have him in the house).

4

Kevin Donoghue 03.10.08 at 9:41 pm

Harry,

I’m not sure where you are disagreeing with me. I’m not denying that the opposition to Powell came from a broad chunk of the political spectrum. Of course it did. It stretched all the way from Tariq Ali to Ted Heath and maybe a bit farther in both directions. That’s precisely why I think it’s a bit daft of Martin O’Neill to characterise it all as “tolerant and liberal” – some of those guys would not have taken kindly to being described as liberals.

But that’s a minor quibble. I think his verdict on the programme is spot on.

5

Borwnie 03.10.08 at 10:42 pm

Chris,

I didn’t see the Powell program so I wouldn’t dream of commenting on it…

I did see the first “White” installment on Friday night, however, and I thought it a worthy piece of program making. I also caught tonight’s drama about the ‘girl in a hijab’, which was okay but not much more.

I think the point is that however bad the Powell program may have been, it’s only one of many programs in the “White” season.

I maintain that it still makes more sense to actually watch these bloody things before passing comment, although I get the impression that certain elements in liberal-left hackdom had their op-eds written weeks ago.

6

Martin Wisse 03.11.08 at 10:44 am

When the trailer for it looks like a BNP commercial, no, you don’t have to watch the programmes before you can judge.

7

ajay 03.11.08 at 12:39 pm

I enjoyed the comment after the NS article that Powell was right, you know, immigration is ruining Britain, decent British people are leaving the country to live in France or America every week, and you know why? Because there are too many foreigners over here.

8

Tom 03.11.08 at 12:59 pm

The programme about the Bradford working mens club was woeful, really, realy bad. A load of drunk old racists wondering why no one wanted to visit their run down old club.

The reason why Whibsey club was going to the dogs was because is was a shit hole, inhabited by BNP voting tossers. For the BBC to dress it up as anything else was a disgrace.

9

chris armstrong 03.11.08 at 2:32 pm

I didn’t enjoy the programme much either. But… I don’t know why I’ve decided to appoint myself as an apologist for the BBC, but, in response to the last post, and given that philosophers get paid for making distinctions amongst other things, surely we can see that a programme about a load of drunk old racists is not the same thing as a defence of a load of drunk old racists, and that making a programme about a shit hole is not the same thing as ‘the BBC’ endorsing a shit hole? I don’t only want to see documentaries about things I like, any more than I want everyone who works for the BBC to have to toe a ‘party line’, even if it were one that I agreed with. So, yes, ‘legitimate topic of inquiry…blah blah’, as Chris B put it.

10

Tom 03.11.08 at 2:47 pm

But it’s how you frame these things, no? This was the kick off programme to a series about how Britain’s white working class were being forgotten about. The only reason Whibsey working mens club is being forgotten about is because it’s a toilet inhabited by racist little Englanders – not really a legitimate topic of inquiry.

Also, the sombre voice over for the whole thing lent the programme an air of solemnity it just didn’t warrant.

11

chris armstrong 03.11.08 at 3:09 pm

I agree that framing is important, and that ill-placed solemnity may have been lent. These are individual editorial decisions that sometimes go wrong, I guess. I’d still differ on the legitimacy of doing it…at the risk of boring even myself.

12

Brownie 03.11.08 at 5:38 pm

When the trailer for it looks like a BNP commercial, no, you don’t have to watch the programmes before you can judge.

Well no, you don’t have to, but if you do it will at least mean you are able to offer informed opinions rather than Mystic Meg-like guff.

Last night’s program was “White Girl”. For those who didn’t see it, the write up is here.

I’ve already seen one letter this morning from a reactionary fruitloop who wants their licence fee refunded. Also, take a look at the comments on the BBC link. Most are railing against the BBC for their unsympathetic (and inaccurate) portrayal of the white working-class protagonists.

“BNP commercial”? I mean, it would be difficult to be more wrong. Luckily for you, ‘tom’ shows up:

The programme about the Bradford working mens club was woeful, really, realy bad. A load of drunk old racists wondering why no one wanted to visit their run down old club.

If you think this is an accurate précis, then the only person who was drunk was you. And it’s “Wibsey”. Not the most important thing you got wrong, but symptomatic of your lack of accuracy.

13

Beaman 03.11.08 at 8:12 pm

Also, take a look at the comments on the BBC link. Most are railing against the BBC for their unsympathetic (and inaccurate) portrayal of the white working-class protagonists.

I’m not surprised. In what was supposed to be a season studying the British white working class we have instead been subjected to stereotypical posturing and insults against the very people they were going to promote a little. ‘White Girl’ was absolutely terrible in its bias towards Islamic morality and ridicule of supposed white working class vices.

It’s like a kick in the teeth.

14

gobineau 03.11.08 at 9:38 pm

Dn’t wst yr tm, brwn. Dn’t y knw, ths ppl r n th sd f th ngls. Bt crtnly nt n th sd f th ngls.

15

Tom 03.12.08 at 8:49 am

Brownie,

What’s your point? I’ve seen you comment on a few blogs and you seem to take great delight in trying to pick holes in people’s arguments while saying nothing substantive yourself.

Tom

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