Archive for July 2007
As I’ve been busy doing things like decorating, I haven’t had much time for posting; but have managed to put some ideas together including some on the same subject as David’s writing on the BBC. I’ve swung a little wider than the Beeb alone, as I sense that something akin to a sea-change has occurred within many of the institutions, both public and private, that have been given our trust over the years.
In a civilized society, we need some things which we can trust implicitly. We need to know that our Government, of whichever country we live in, is doing their best, according to their lights, to both protect us, to nurture our children, to ensure that our various nations are not attacked by either conventional armies or terrorist cells. When a Government Minister makes a statement, and within this statement are certain facts or promises, we should be able to believe that those facts are correct, and that the promises will be kept! We need to be able to trust the various organs of State, because it is through those organs that we survive. We need to trust that commercial organisations keep strictly to safety precautions, especially when food is involved.
When a functionary of a State broadcaster announces or promotes the contents of a forthcoming programme, we expect that the programme is itself worthy of our trust, because it has been produced and commissioned under the auspices of the Broadcasting Authority. So when a senior man of the BBC presents a programme of highlights of forthcoming programmes to an assembly of the press, the gathering would confidently expect to be told, albeit with a certain amount of hype, the truth about how the programmes were made, and developed, and that all the material contained within the compilation was not edited, or set out of context in order to generate a fanciful story constructed from a deep dislike of the Monarch of the United Kingdom.
The senior functionary was one Peter Fincham, the controller of BBC1, the flagship t.v. channel in Britain, and he was pushing the new programmes which were scheduled for release in the autumn and winter months of 2007. A sector of the film showed Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second as she was seated, dressed in ceremonial robes, while being photographed by one Annie Leibowitz, a well-known American photographer. The first sector of the clip shows Miss Leibowitz asking if Her Majesty’s tiara be removed as the photographer thought that, artistically-speaking, Her Majesty’s robes themselves were extraordinary, and the inclusion of the tiara was one item too much. Queen Elizabeth’s reply was filmed in full, pointing to her Order of the Garter robes as she replied “Less dressy; what do you think this is?” The scene then changed to show Her Majesty walking down a Palace corridor, plainly irritated, exclaiming to her lady-in-waiting: “I’m not changing anything. I’ve had enough dressing like this, thank you very much,” implying she had stormed off from the portrait session.
However, after the clip had been given huge publicity within all British newspapers, much to the delight of the BBC and Peter Fincham; the company which actually produced the documentary of a year in the life of Britain’s Monarch urgently contacted the BBC, stating that the clips had been shown out of context, as the filming of Her Majesty walking had been done prior to the filming of the Queen dressed and seated. The BBC was forced to issue a grovelling apology, but only after a full day had gone by, as the publicity-hungry clown who jumped before looking thought that no harm was done!
We now hear that the phone-in sectors of up to six programmes have been fiddled with, and BBC One’s Sports Relief in July 2006, Comic Relief in March 2007, Children In Need on BBC Scotland in November 2005, The Liz Kershaw Show on BBC 6 Music and CBBC programme TMi were all found to have breached editorial standards. However, although certain senior staff have been suspended, we also are told that many will require “re-training”, which means that they will be told not to do it again, and if they do, there will be swift repercussions; such as being told that they will be interviewing Terry Waite without benefit of anaesthesia!
The next issue of trust lies with the commercial manufacturer Cadbury’s, and their chocolate confectionary products. The factory which produced literally millions of bars of chocolate had suffered intermittent Salmonella contamination for years, and for those years acted perfectly normally by closing down the various production lines, scrapping any contaminated products, and repairing the faulty systems. However, Cadbury’s altered their quality control procedures some two years ago, and the new attitude taken by the company was that “a certain level of contamination was acceptable, as the costs of production delays, waste product etc. was deemed not to be cost effective! This attitude led to a mass contamination of confectionary which left over 42 people ill, with three people hospitalised, one so seriously ill that doctors thought he might die. The company was fined one million pounds, and faces twelve more law suits brought on behalf of the people who has been hit by the salmonella outbreak. The ‘mindset’ which produced this outbreak of an extremely debilitating illness should be further explored, because when the Managing Director was interviewed last year, he flatly denied that the salmonella outbreak was sourced at his factory, and further denied that his company’s standards had slipped well below optimum. It emerged during the trial that the management had known all about the earlier disease-ridden pipes, and although cleaning up the mess helped, did absolutely nothing about the primary source of this deadly infection!
The latest news emanating from the Crown Prosecution Service is that it will not be pressing any charges in the “Cash for Peerages/ Let’s all cover-up for Tony” saga, as that famously chicken-livered Service doesn’t believe it can win a case in court. I for one was convinced that the trio of Levy, Turner & Evans did indeed have at least some case to answer, even if it was under the umbrella charge of ‘perversion of justice’, but simultaneously was equally convinced that they would never leave enough of a trail to allow a realistic prosecution. Coming as they all do under the common title of ‘politico’s’, and knowing the really low levels of belief generally given any brand or group of politicians, the real wonder is that the police were allowed to go a-hunting for so long, without being hauled back on the grounds of ‘National Security’, as was the case with BAe and the slippery traces of the Saudi prince with really sticky fingers.
As a commentary on how we live, and the way this country has survived so well, I can but quote from Santayana, the Spanish and latterly American academic, who wrote:-
“Instinctively the Englishman is no missionary, no conqueror. He prefers the country to the town, and home to foreign parts. He is rather glad and relieved if only natives will remain natives and strangers strangers, and at a comfortable distance from himself. Yet outwardly he is most hospitable and accepts almost anybody for the time being; he travels and conquers without a settled design, because he has the instinct of exploration. His adventures are all external; they change him so little that he is not afraid of them. He carries his English weather in his heart wherever he goes, and it becomes a cool spot in the desert, and a steady and sane oracle amongst all the deliriums of mankind. Never since the heroic days of Greece has the world had such a sweet, just, boyish master. It will be a black day for the human race when scientific blackguards, conspirators, churls, and fanatics manage to supplant him.”
Note, if you will, the prophetic choice of words of this Spaniard; as he singles out two distinct species in the threat to the way an Englishman, who is naturally also a Briton, lives and survives! One is the ‘Fanatic’, and the other the ‘Conspirator’. The fanatic we can easily identify, even behind the politically-correct terms used by the BBC such as “a citizen of Jordan”, or “Afghanistan in origin”, while conveniently leaving unsaid the truth, which is of course “Muslim Terrorists” The conspirator is, perhaps, a little less easily identified, but can be categorised as one which searches for the easy political answer, the clutch at a ‘fast quid’, the mumbler whose words, when listened to very carefully, extol the virtues of disobeying all the rules in search of a ‘headline’, or a ‘story’, or the thoughts which allow a deadly infection to be dismissed as unimportant because it might affect the ‘bottom line’. In other words, “they’re only consumers, or voters, or bystanders; and they don’t count!’
Some years back, I visited my mother-in-law at her home in northern London, as I was nearby on a contract visit. In conversation, she said that her long-time friend and companion, an eighteen year-old basset hound, was not only half-blind, almost deaf but was now suffering from the canine form of arthritis in his hind-quarters.
As I have always believed in plain speech, I said that as she had been the beneficiary of many years of companionship with her dog, she should act purely in the spirit of friendship and do the only thing which she was able for her dog’s welfare. I said “Don’t put him to sleep, don’t allow him to go to a nicer place, or any other of the euphemisms which humans use; Kill him! Take him to the vet’s practice and let the animal be humanely killed! Don’t wrap the action with fuzzy sentiment, don’t attribute human qualities to an animal; the damn dog is suffering, kill him!”
Two weeks later, she did just that, and her long-time canine companion went to a silent death by injection.
I thought that that type of sloppy, sentimental anthropomorphic thinking had mostly disappeared, but just when I thought things were looking up; I found this on a web-site!
We’re all doomed, I tell you!
The troops above are pictured as they “RE-ENLISTED” in Iraq’s multi-national force; the number of 588 included 161 granted full naturalization as Americans. Two more were singled out for special mention as they had died on operations against the terrorist insurgency which has blighted their country for over three years.
Got to admit, there’s a certain strength in guys who have done one tour of duty in what must be the most dangerous army operational area in the world, and then re-upping for another go round the tread-mill!
The release of the BBC’s Alan Johnston has of course been a headline on both the news programmes as well as the Today programme, but it seems to me that we are going to hear and see a lot more of this particular name in the days, weeks, months and years ahead. We hear of his captors’ fear as they realise that the Hamas terror organisation has taken over in Gaza, and the simultaneous knowledge that the kidnappers will now be dealing with a shadowy organisation just as ruthless as they are.
As to the rights and wrongs of this broadcast journalist’s detention, I have my own opinion, and that is he should never have been based in that place in the first instance. A confirmed Palestinian sympathiser, his slanted and biassed broadcasts were well known for their praise of all things ‘Pally’, as well as his detestation of Israel’s policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians, especially when he was commenting on his extremely good friend Yasser (It’ll only hurt for a while, and it is only your bum, and no, of course I haven’t got AID’s) Arafat. One comment from the interminable discussion between James Naughtie and Johnson stands out; he said, “As I crossed over to freedom in Israel..” says it all for this Palestinian sympathiser and apologist, as he at least can recognise who, in that very strange land, actually stands for Freedom!
We can now look forward (or not, as the case may be) to reading and hearing:
The trend towards a better type of decoration in confined spaces, by Alan Johnston
Recipes from a Gaza cell, by Alan Johnston
How to field strip a Kalashnikov while blindfolded, by Alan Johnston
How to bore everyone rigid within a thirty yard radius of my voice, by Alan Johnston
It really wasn’t their fault, they were driven to kidnap me by the Israeli occupation/America and Britain’s invasion of Iraq/ N.A.T.O.’s invasion and occupation of a peaceful and democratic Afghanistan/McDonalds’ policies on low rates of pay for it’s employees/ the terrible colour of the alleged Double Gloucester cheese on sale in Waitrose, by Allan Johnston
Musings, while seated and straining on a tin bucket, by Allan Johnston
Acceptance by Terry Waite that his long-lasting title as the owner of the World’s most boring voice is now over, as Allan Johnston was elected by unanimous acclaim to that revered position!
Cross-posted from A Tangled Web