Some of you may have been watching “The World Cup’s most shocking moments” on BBC3. I know I was. It was, as the title implied, a countdown of what the producers reckoned were the 50 most shocking things to ever happen in the tournament. “Great”, I thought “We’ll get to relive England 0 USA 1; Spain 0 Northern Ireland 1; West Germany 0 East Germany 1, the Battle of Berne and the Battle of Santiago.
It seemed that as far as the producers were concerned the World Cup started in 1986. There was not a mention of anything before that - well, apart that is, from Scotland’s 1978 World Cup song ("We’ll really shake ‘em up when we win the World Cup.") which in my ideal world would be mentioned at all times and everywhere, World Cup or not.
So, what was going on? It could be that the producers felt that anything before 1986 would be boring and “irrelevant” to a modern audience. But I doubt it. If there’s one thing that generates an interest in history in young men it’s football.
I think the real reason is that they couldn’t get permission to use the footage. Which in itself is odd. I understand that if you want to show anything in Formula One since 1980 you have to get Bernie Ecclestone’s permission. And I wonder if a similar process was going on here but in reverse.
The other oddity was that they could show every second of the last World Cup final except the one in which Zidane headbutted Matarazzi. Now, to give them their due they did say they couldn’t show it. At which I thought “Fantastic. I’ve kept a tape of the game. I’ll have to arrange a screening. It’ll be like Clockwork Orange all over again.” So, you can imagine my disappointment when I saw the headbutt in all its glory ITV4. Which rather made me wonder why the BBC chose to lie about it.
A few weeks (days?) ago, Chris Mounsey, aka The Devil’s Kitchen and leader of the UK Libertarian Party (or is it Libertarian Party UK?) appeared on Andrew Neil’s TV programme and got torn apart. As a direct consequence he announced that he was going to give up swearing and that the Devil’s Kitchen was no more.
Brian said: “I told you so.” Or words to that effect. Meaning that you can’t mix swearing and party leadership. But I do find myself wondering if Mounsey could have done better even with the hand he held.
He was asked two main questions. The first was about the size of his party. Mounsey immediately went into defensive mode: “Oh we’re growing all the time etc.” and ended up sounding like a dodgy saleman. Why not say: “Yup we’re tiny at the moment I would like us to be much bigger but we’ve all got to start from somewhere.”?
Or to put it another way: be honest. Or to put it another other way: you’re not so far in with the Establishment that they’re prepared to ignore your lies yet.
But then came the knock-out blow. Neil started asking about the swear blogging. He dug up a particularly choice example most of which he couldn’t repeat but included some line in which Mounsey hoped a trade unionist would bleed to death.
You know what I can’t even remember what Mounsey said in reply but it didn’t come across well. Yes, I know I could go back and look at the tape but to be honest, I can’t be bothered. It’s too painful and anyway, I think my impression is far more important than what was actually said. Anyway, I think Mounsey backed down. But he may have been just evasive. But he looked terrible and the knock-on effects are there for all to see.
But what should he have said?
Again I think he should have been honest. Which is easier said than done. The thing they never tell you about honesty is that it is hard work. Our real motivations can be far from clear.
For instance, I don’t think Mounsey thinks that statists should all be killed. Not even a substantial minority. Not even that particular trade unionist. I think he was simply using colourful language to express his disagreement. It was not to be taken seriously. And he should have said so. This is how the conversation should have gone:
Neil: You’ve said these terrible things.
Mounsey: I was joking.
That is after all, (I hope) the truth.
Neil: Well, I didn’t laugh.
Mounsey: You’re wrong.
Neil: About not laughing?
What Neil is wrong about is the idea that jokes are supposed to lead to laughter. Some jokes are unserious but not funny. This is an example. But there’s no need to tell Neil that. He’s being the belligerent. There’s no need to co-operate.
Or perhaps the conversation could have gone this way:
Neil: You’ve said these terrible things.
Mounsey: Had it ever occurred to you that I wasn’t being entirely serious?
Mounsey: Then you’re a moron.
In the end I suspect Neil did Mounsey a huge favour. Better to have your disasters early on rather than later.
I may follow this up with Crozier’s compleat guide to dealing with the media. But I might not.
The audience howled at him.
I mean real rage. I mean real, right-wing rage aimed at a leftie.
Not exactly the sort of thing you'd ever get on Question Time.
Few readers will need reminding who said those immortal words and when. Words ever since held up as proof positive of professional arrogance and incompetence.
He was talking about Florida. And doing so in the afternoon not the evening. And when he did talk about England he did say: “batten down the hatches.”
So, what was he doing talking about Florida? There had been a news item on it just before he went on air and he wanted to set the record straight. Worse still the news item was wiped. Something the BBC seems to do a lot of.
I’ll come to Guido’s pre-record later. It was the panel discussion, with Jeremy Paxman in the chair and Michael White of the Guardian as guest, that did the damage. Guido’s attempts to conceal his identity have always been amusing. I think I managed to work out who he was in about five minutes. But to persist with it on the show when everyone knows who he is was ludicrous.
You have to imagine the scene. Guido is in shadow with the exception of his trademark flash of Dickie Davies-like grey hair.
“Why do you conceal your identity?”, asked Paxo.
“So that people can’t recognise me.” Or something like that. Yeah, that flash of grey is so common that I have to dredge out a TV personality from the 70s to illustrate who I am talking about.
Two minutes later White had spilled the beans anyway. Guido is Paul Staines. Golly, who would have thought it?
All along the Paxo/White tag team managed to make Guido look petty and inconsistent.
Now the pre-record was sort of OK but its central argument - that journalists are far too cozy with ministers - while true enough, was insipid. Here was his opportunity to go on national television and give the world the hardcore libertarian line - that politicians are a bunch of good-for-nothing parasites and the sooner that they find alternative employment sweeping streets the better - and he didn’t even attempt it.
But the real problem was always with the panel discussion. The golden rule with panel discussions - a rule that until yesterday Guido understood and does once again today - is don’t do them. They give the producers much too much power and allow them to claim balance while giving the debate a slant rarely seen since the final moments of the Titanic.
Ah, Guido agrees. Sort of.
Uh oh, this looks bad:
Individual freedom is the dream of our age. But if one steps back and looks at what freedom actually means for us today, it’s a strange and limited kind of freedom.
It will show how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today’s idea of freedom. This model was derived from ideas and techniques developed by nuclear strategists during the Cold War. It was then taken up by genetic biologists, anthropologists, radical psychiatrists and free market economists, until it became a new system of invisible control.
They’re taking our word. The bastards. I suppose it is a compliment to the 19th century liberals that the Marxists had to take their word and make it mean something quite different. Confucius may or may not have said: “When words lose their meaning, people lose their freedom.” But what happens when freedom loses its meaning?
The Trap: What Happened to Our Dreams of Freedom, Sunday, 2100-2200, BBC2
I was watching BBC Breakfast, I know, big mistake. There was an item on healthy school dinners or, at least, what the government thinks represents healthy school dinners. Now, I switched on too late to see the start but the gist was that here was a school that had contracted out its catering (golly would you believe that I proposed the very own thing to my own school some 2x years ago - precocious or what?) The outcome (according to the pupils interviewed) was much better choice and quality, the implication being that here was a scheme that could be rolled out to the rest of the country.
Hmm. The assumptions were that:
- safety/being healthy is the only thing - they aren’t
- the government knows what is healthy
- the pupils were being entirely straight and honest.
- the government could roll this out to other schools around the country
I think I disagree with them all.
So, lying, dissembling 16-year olds?
You’ve kind of answered your own question. Plus the desire to get on the telly (best to say what the nice TV people want to hear). Plus the desire not to piss off the head teacher in exam year. Plus, the sort of feeling that most us labour under: “I know I ought to eat lettuce but I want to eat Mars Bars.” - the difference between what we say and what we do.
And rolling it out?
The more I watched the more I was reminded of those Potemkin villages where everything was wonderful which Eastern Bloc countries kept going to show off to anyone who questioned the wonders of communism. What are the chances that this school had been given all sorts of carrots and sticks unavailable to others to make the switch? High, I should think.
Do the BBC know when I am about to watch them and as quick as a flash whip out the good tape and switch it for the bad one or are they crap all the time? I am forced to ask because on the three occasions this week I have been tempted to watch the BBC each time they have managed to wind me up within seconds.
Yesterday morning on BBC Breakfast, it was no different. The item was on parking. My beef this time was not what was said nor indeed how it was said but how they filmed it. The item started off on an urban street with the reporter interviewing two interviewees. She finished interviewing them and then, along with the cameraman, walked ten yards up the road where the next interviewee was standing waiting and proceeded to interview him.
I have seen this done before and it winds me up every single time. The thing is I can’t work out why. Is it because they are attempting to turn current affairs into a branch of the entertainment industry? Is it because they are humiliating their interviewees in some way (oh, look at us we can keep people waiting around on our beck and call)? I just don’t know. But it is bad.
Well, once again it didn’t take long for the BBC to wind me up today. This evening’s BBC News at 6 o’clock’s leading item was the Live 8 announcement. Now, I can’t say I watched the whole thing - the Simpsons was on the other side but I did a fair amount of flicking back and forth and at no point did I get any indication of scepticism let alone that Bob Geldof might be wrong.
Which is odd, because it’s not as if it’s that hard to find people who think just that. Here’s Robert Whelan of Civitas:
Of course, we would all like to have less poverty in the world, and you don’t have to be a genius to see how that could be achieved. We need to have more capitalism. Capitalism is the system which, for the first time in the history of humanity, took human societies way above subsistence level and made them rich – rich beyond the dreams of avarice, as Dr Johnson used to say. The world is now divided into those countries which have capitalist economies and trade in the global market, which are rich, and those which don’t, which aren’t.
Hmm, I think I might keep a score.
Left 2 - 0 Right