Thursday, 5 February 2009

Golly! The BBC shows its moral fibre

Hearing Jay Hunt on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning defending the BBC’s treatment of Carol Thatcher left me fuming with anger, but also with a nasty feeling that I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of Ms Hunt’s own righteous indignation.

Clearly she felt that the BBC had acted from the highest moral principles in dismissing Carol Thatcher from the One Show because, during the relaxation time after the show, the latter had described a black tennis player as looking like a golliwog.

This is how Ms Hunt justified that response:

What Carol decides to say in the privacy of her own home or in a private conversation with friends is one thing. What she says in a greenroom space, when there are 12 people [there], in her capacity as a roving reporter for the One Show is a rather different thing.

On this occasion, her using this phrase and it being overheard and having caused offence to a number of people was totally inappropriate. It was deemed inappropriate in the circumstances for her to continue to work on a show that prides itself not just on the diversity of its production team but on the range of its coverage across the country. I think everybody will be able to see that that is not an appropriate place for her to work.

Now, as I recall, this is the same BBC — is it not? — that a couple of years ago broadcast Jerry Springer: The Opera. Before the broadcast they were asked not to go ahead, on the grounds that the show would be offensive to a large number of people. After the broadcast, OFCOM received an unprecedented number of complaints. Yet the BBC remained not merely unapologetic, but adamant that it had done the right thing.

This is also the same BBC which allows Jonathan Ross a public forum for a constant stream of innuendo and suggestive comments. Ross is someone with a proven track-record of unpleasantness, but the BBC pays him literally millions to retain his services.

The BBC’s response, of course, is that viewers can always turn off. But then people who overhear a private conversation can always move away.

Clearly it is not the number of people you offend that counts at the BBC, but how you offend them. If the offense is caused by something the BBC management consider offensive, then it is actionable, if the offense is caused by something the management deem inoffensive, then it is acceptable.

The real issue here is not whether it is OK to liken a black man to a golliwog, or to broadcast a song which says that the Virgin Mary was raped by an angel, but how the guardians of morality at the BBC perceive themselves.

And a clue to that can be seen in Ms Hunt’s use of the word ‘diversity’. This is, of course, code for the social application of a particular view of morality — a view which is, if necessary, to be inculcated by force and by social re-education, as in the case of Christian nurse Caroline Petrie who, because she had shown insensitivity to her patients was recommended to attend an ‘equality and diversity’ course.

In the old days of the Maoist Cultural Revolution, the same approach was used with the bourgeoisie, who needed not only to be made aware of their crimes, but made to accuse themselves of being criminals in the first place. Though this was deliberately punitive, it was similarly designed to achieve moral reform according the lights of its administrators.

Meanwhile, from the tone in Ms Hunt’s voice she clearly views herself in the role of one striking down “with great vengeance and furious anger” on the unrighteous. But it is the narrowness of her moral viewpoint, not the vehemence of her desire to purify the BBC, which is most the serious cause for concern — that, and the blindness to the fault. Mote and beam surely springs to mind.

Revd John Richardson
5 February 2009

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  1. John,
    I do think that what Ms Thatcher said was offensive, but you do have a point about inconsistency. Racism trumps religion or sex every time it seems

  2. In the case of Caroline Petrie, then it seema that the Health Authority involved is to take no action. One silver lining about this incident is that the national outcry may make
    "diversity" managers think twice before doing anything that could be perceived to be anti-Christian. I get the impression that the Health Authority were taken aback at the strength of protest. The more Christians assert their faith then the more they will be respected although d by those who have the secular religion at heart. No word of support from the ABC about this so it seems...

    In the case of the BBC then the sooner the license fee is scrapped then hopefully the less we will see of the liberal ts who broadcast on it.



  3. Im offended that Hunt was offended by what Thatcher said!

    Cant wait for this Government to be thrown out on its arse. Lets just hope the next lot of clowns does something to smash PC'ism once and for all!


  4. Great post and, whilst I'm at it, great series of talks on 1 Corinthians I listened to en route to work all last week!
    Compliments aside, as a teacher I am always astonished by the moral stranglehold race exerts in current society. It is quite right and praiseworthy that no-one be abused on account of the colour of their skin. All the same, I find it remarkable the way boys (and quite possibly girls too, I just happen to teach the former) will throw the vilest of taunts each others' way with perceived impunity - utilising every cuss known to humanity and often extending their repertoire with allusions to sexual orientation, religious belief, parental behaviour or national characteristic. If, however, even the vaguest reference is made to the colour of one's skin, all hell breaks loose and the firmest response is expected from peers and the powers that be.
    It has, quite frankly, become the blasphemy of our age - offence on racial grounds regarded with the seriousness we might suppose be reserved for the defence of our creator and saviour's good name. Anti-racist measures are good but, as Driscoll says, 'don't let your good things become your god things'!

  5. Remember that everything the Brazenly Biased Corporation does is paid for by ... us, the wretched licence fee demanded from everyone who wishes to watch any TV. And do we have a say in how it is spent, or who is in control? No. It is, in effect, taxation without any representation ... now ... wait a minute ... that makes me think of history, America ... This is what I recommend: that we all dress up as Red Indians and dump our TV sets in the neaest harbour (river or lake, for the landlocked, will do). Oh! Horrors! I should have said "Native American"! If supergrass Adrian Chiles is around, I'll be sent to the Diversity Re-training gulag.

  6. Re: Caroline Petrie, remember that the NHS is promoting religion everywhere, every day - I refer to the many New Age "therapies" it offers (paid for by ... you guessed). Clearly religion is OK as long as it's not Christianity.

  7. As far as the BBC is concerned, the level of offence depends on the response to the offence. Offend the Church or Christians in general, and no (or a very limited) response will result - offend racial minorities, and an entire industry will react with moral indignation. They listen, as all politicians do, to whoever shouts the loudest.

  8. And another thing... If Jo Brand is involved in this sorry saga, then perhaps the BBC should reflect on the fact that her stand-up act is based on being as offensive as possible to soft targets (as described above, those who are unlikely to fight back). She can offend millions in public without a hint of an apology, whereas Carol Thatcher is apparently required to grovel for having offended, was it 12 people?

  9. You allowed Mailman to be anonymous, perhaps you'll allow this. You have an unerring instinct for finding the wrong end of every stick. Caroline Petrie was propagating a particularly nasty and dogmatic form of sub-Christian faith by leaving, repeatedly and after warning, tracts and prayer cards with patients which warned them of the dangers of hell. She was not simply offering to say a prayer for them.

  10. Anonymous, I was not defending Caroline Petrie, but objecting to the way in which her actions were handled and what this says about the general trends within society. You will note that I said she had "shown insensitivity towards a patients". Actually I think this comment of mine may go too far in suggesting that she was in the wrong. But I was certainly not suggesting she was entirely in the right.

    You need to read what I've said more carefully.

    I don't like anonymous blogs or anonymous comments. I think anonymous posting qualifies for the same treatment generally as anonymous letters to vicars or newspaper editors, and for much the same reason. but sometimes I just can't be bothered with the deleting.

    I also don't like reinforcing the sense of moral outrage anonymous bloggers feel when their anonymous comments aren't published. I know they feel this because they send their follow-up comments as well!

  11. "Caroline Petrie was propagating a particularly and dogmatic form of sub-Christian faith by leaving, repeatedly and after warning, tracts and prayer cards with patients which warned them of the dangers of hell."

    Strange. I thought Jesus warned us of the dangers of hell. So He was wrong then?

    Chris Bishop

  12. "Chris, yes."

    Ah- I get it - so Jesus was sub-Christian then. Are there any other aspects of Jesus you think you know better about, Anonymous?

    Chris Bishop

  13. As far as I am aware, Jesus was not a Christian, Chris. Christianty is a faith, based on faith in Christ, and which takes account of the stories of the historical Jesus, as presented to us, in their various ways, by the evangelists, the writings of Saint Paul and others, which make up the New Testament, and then the tradition of the Church, which s a living, developing reality.

  14. Anonymous, whoever you are, please justify this rather cynical comment which doesn't seem to bear any relation to the known facts of the case...
    'Caroline Petrie was propagating a particularly nasty and dogmatic form of sub-Christian faith by leaving, repeatedly and after warning, tracts and prayer cards with patients which warned them of the dangers of hell'

  15. Richard,you will find the words of her prayer card here:, in a very sympatetic article. The cards read:

    'I am sorry for what I have done wrong in my life and I ask for forgiveness. Thank you for Dying on the Cross for me to set me free from my sins. Please come into my life and fill me with your Holy Spirit and be with me forever. Thank you Lord Jesus. Amen.'

    You'll notice that the emphasis is on sin, and that there is no mention of Christian healing.

    It is also reported, and widely accepted on other blogs, that she was also distributintg the 'Two Ways to Live' tract, which includes the words:

    The sentence God passes against us is entirely just, because he gives us exactly what we ask for. In rebelling against God, we are saying to him, “Go away. I don’t want you telling me what to do. Leave me alone.” And this is precisely what God does. His judgement on rebels is to withdraw from them, to cut them off from himself—permanently. But since God is the source of life and all good things, being cut off from him means death and hell. God’s judgement against rebels is an everlasting, God-less death.

    This is a terrible thing, to fall under the sentence of God’s judgement. It is a prospect we all face, since we are all guilty of rebelling against God.

    This woman was not just offering a simple, comforting prayer, she was involved in hard-line, dogmatic, partisan evangelism. She's lucky she wasn't sacked.

  16. OK, I'm going to butt in and call for a bit of moral fibre here. The discussion is potentially interesting, but anonymous must cease to be 'anon' if he or she is going to post more comments. Points have been made, but we must have principles.

    Others, please note.

  17. Interesting link between saying someone looks like a "Gollywog" and the Jerry Springer Opera.... Those I know most upset by the JS Opera were black.

    A disproportionate number of black people are Christians (or vice versa). Most of whom (I know many) think pc-ism is absurd, but are very offended by things like the JS Opera.

    It's worth noting that people who drive the pc agenda are white middle class (and sense of humour challenged). I think saying someone "Looks like a gollywog" is pretty low, but when someone said John McCain looked like a bag of flour - it's fine (we can see what they mean). Why is that so? Because the white middle class pc protectors of the oppressed are arrogant enough to think everyone except themselves needs protecting and only they can cope with it.

    Darren Moore