Category Archives: media

06 Jun

Show me what you value and I’ll tell you what you’re worth

By six o’clock in the evenings, I have finished the day’s work and so I put down my pen and turn on the wireless to hear what’s going on

Last evening I first tried the news on Radio Four. So now, let me ask you a question: to how many questions are you able to give the complete answer in a single word? Well, at least I managed one such answer last evening. The BBC correspondent, invited by the newsreader to contribute asked, “Are government cuts the cause of a great rise in the number of cases of syphilis?”

That was an easy one: NO

The next item was the news that the Maida Vale recording studios, used for the last eighty years, are to close in spite of the fact, as the newsreader told us, “They have been home to some of our greatest musicians such as David Bowie and The Beatles.”

Now surely no one of a charitable disposition would wish to say anything too severe about Bowie and the Beatles – as one might easily be tempted to say something very severe about Elton John or Arianna Grande, the singer of near-pornographic songs to great crowds, including many preteens. But Bowie and the Beatles are/were not among “our greatest musicians.” They are popular entertainers with a goodly amount of the sort of talent required in order to pursue that vocation. The fact that Bowie and The Beatles were described as among our greatest musicians tells us all we need to know about the musical and aesthetic competence of the BBC

After all, if that newsreader had wanted to mention some of the truly great musicians who have preformed at the Maida Vale studios, he might have mentioned Vaughan Williams or Myra Hess, one of the finest pianists ever: for Maida Vale was the home of the BBC Symphony Orchestra

I switched from the news to Radio Three , the alleged classical music channel. This was a mess described as “In Tune mixtape” which interspersed snippets of the sort of music I wouldn’t want to listen to anywhere or ever with acres of mindless promotional chat

There was nothing for it then but try Classic FM. At that time in the evening the station offers “uninterrupted, the big piece after 6pm” – presumably in the hope of winning back listeners who tired of hearing music chopped up into minute excerpts and punctuated by advertising jingles.

Here surely there were grounds for hope. We were promised Dvorak’s lovely New World Symphony. I pricked up my ears, as they say. But “the big piece after 6pm” turned out to be only the little piece after six, the truncated piece after six: for they played only the last movement.

What insane cultural vandalism! Like reading an Agatha Christie thriller – but only the last fifty pages. Whodunnit? It would be rather a case of Whodunnwot? Do we need to spell out to the people in charge of classical music provision on national radio that the symphony is one of the most sublime musical forms ever developed? The first movement sets the scene, as it were, and the succeeding movements develop this and bring it finally to resolution. Thus it is impossible to make sense of the final movement without our having heard what went before.

But then we should hardly expect even such elementary discernment from the sorts of folk who regard David Bowie and The Beatles as “some of our greatest musicians.”

I think in future when it gets to 6pm I’ll download old episodes of Strictly Come Dancing or Britain’s Got Talent.

Why do that? Because at least I know that those programmes are utter rubbish. So I won’t be disappointed because I was hoping for something better.

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19 May

Let’s hear it for the populists!

It looks as if the character of our Brexit is going to be softer than a soft-boiled egg. It was always going to be so – not just because of the strenuous efforts of Remainers in all parts from the House of Lords, the left wing press and even including the Church of England, but because Theresa May has repeatedly declared herself to be a Remainer. There was never a chance that she would deliver what the people clearly wished for – and voted for in the Referendum. I have said so before, but I make no apology for repeating myself for the issue is by far the most momentous political decision made by the British people in a century. So I said it before and I’ll say it again, as I did in this blog last year: “May will wreck Brexit.”  And now she has done.Jacob Rees-Mogg’s terminology is exactly right and we are going to have Brino, Brexit-in-name-only

The word – well, at least the polite word – most commonly used by the Remoniac establishment for Brexiteers is “populist.” And suddenly I discover there are populists everywhere.

This morning The Independent reports: “Two  populist, Eurosceptic parties have reached an agreement to form a government in Italy, the Eurozone’s third largest economy, setting up the single currency bloc for a possible new crisis. March’s national elections in Italy delivered a hung parliament, but also left the virulently anti-immigrant Lega Nord and the radical anti-establishment Five Star Movement as the two parties with the most seats. After a week of intense wrangling, the leaders of the two parties – which have sharply divergent outlooks in a host of areas – announced on Friday that they had agreed upon a common programme.”

Great! – who said there’s never any good news!

Certainly The Independent doesn’t like it. Look at some of the other words the newspaper uses alongside “populist”: “virulent” and “anti-establishment” for example.

(You’d never get a reference in The Independent – or any of her sister red sheets – describing a “virulently pro-immigration” party)

Suddenly the word “populist” is, so to speak, popping up all over the place. In Hungary, Mr Orban’s sensible, patriotism is dismissed as “populist” – and that’s when Orban is not being excoriated as as  a “fascist” or damned as a “Nazi”

Elsewhere there is the “populist” Geert Wilders, founder of the Dutch Party for Freedom which has long warned of the threat posed to The Netherlands in particular and Europe generally by massive Muslim immigration.

And in Britain UKIP and unreconstructed Tories of the old school – but are there any left? – are always dismissed as “populist.”

So I pondered long: what and who is a “populist”?

There’s a simple and straightforward answer: a populist is someone who is very popular – but who is thoroughly disapproved of by the left wing papers and the BBC 

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31 Mar

Lefties’ Review of Books

When a tawdry commercial website tells me, “You’ve been selected” to be the privileged recipient of its shabby merchandise, I just click on “skip ad” and go back to what I was doing before I was interrupted. When something that purports to be a literary magazine adopts the same technique, I know that the end of the civilised world is at hand. And so it is…

The London Review of Books (LRB) has invited me to take out a “special” discounted subscription.

Why me, I ask? Because, declares the omniscient LRB, “You know good writing when you see it.” And not just good writing, but the best: “by the world’s best authors.” (I’ll tell you who the LRB thinks some of these authors are in a minute). The LRB  boasts particularly its admiration for these writers because they write about all manner of stuff including – if I may use the LRB’s fashionable oxymoron – “popular culture.”

According to the LRB, I am some sort of paragon. Not only do I know good writing, but I “appreciate an alternative point of view.” This must mean, I suppose, an alternative to the literary establishment.

Why doesn’t the LRB understand that it is the establishment?

Here are some of its members – the authors I promised to tell you about…

Top of the list is the very unpleasant Hilary Mantel, the talkative apologist for Henry VIII’s iconoclastic toady Thomas Cromwell. You will be asking me to give my reasons for saying that Mantel is a member of the literary establishment. Very well, here are three to be going on with:

She referred to the Duchess of Cambridge as “a shop window mannequin.”

She boasted that she fantasised about murdering Margaret Thatcher and even wrote a short story about it called The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher.

She wrote: “The Catholic Church is not an institution for respectable people.”

Next on the list is James Wood whose qualifications for membership of the leftie establishment don’t come any better than being described as “wonderful” by Martin Amis and “marvellous” by Christopher Hitchens.

Then the mythopoeic Marina Warner. As we have seen, Mantel  has nothing but contempt for the Catholic Church while Marina has it in for the nonconformists: 

“The sombre-suited masculine world of the Protestant religion is altogether too much like a gentlemen’s club to which the ladies are only admitted on special days.”

Really? Who then were all those Methodist creatures in frocks I came across every day when I was growing up in the back streets of Leeds, who officiated as deacons, sang in the choir – one even played the organ – read the lesson and preached many a sermon?

The LRB suggests Colm Toibin as one of “the world’s best authors.” His novels obsess about homosexuality – and you can’t have better establishment credentials than that. Colm begins many sentences with “I think” – only for the rest of his paragraph to demonstrate that he doesn’t.

And of course here comes the all-time favourite, the North London guru and national treasure himself: Alan Bennett. He is the grammar school boy who believes passionately in state education – a lefty establishment foible that condemns generations of poor children to ignorance.

This then is the LRB’s pantheon of “the alternative point of view.” These “world’s best authors” are all in one another’s pockets and review each other’s books – favourably, inevitably. This does not represent an “alternative.” It is just the opposite: a politico-cultural hegemony incarnate full of Guardianistas and other tribunes of the – if I may coin another oxymoron – left wing conscience.

If you’re looking for a genuine alternative, try The Literary Review

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29 Mar

The View from the Gutter

Why has the Daily Telegraph replaced its cultivated and discerning radio critic Gillian Reynolds with the arrogant oik Jemima Lewis?

This week she writes: “My ignorance of Paradise Lost is more of a chasm.”

Question: So why are you going to write about it then? Jemima is an expert in the art of the sweeping – and groundless – judgement: “Hardly anyone reads Milton’s epic any more.”

How do you know that?

Never mind, the unread elitist John Milton eventually manages to gain some street cred with Jemima on account, so she informs us, of the fact that he “inspired Pink Floyd.”

(I’m tempted to say hardly anyone has heard of Pink Floyd).

After her excursus on 17th century English verse, Jemima next shines her expertise on the subject of music in a review of the programme Is Music a Civilising Force?

Not if it’s Pink Floyd, it isn’t.

The programme was a talk by Sir Roger Scruton in which the philosopher, musicologist and church organist agrees with Plato that ”the barbarous rhythms of dance music could produce in young people traits of character which no civilised republic should allow.”

Sir Roger continued: “Beware of those rabble-rousing disc-jockeys and music in which there is nothing but a beat. It really matters what the young are listening to.”

Yes, Plato and Sir Roger are in agreement about this. But, according to Jemima, the views of the greatest of ancient philosophers together with those of one of our most distinguished modern thinkers count for nothing. These views are, Jemima instructs us from her perspective in the gutter, “absurdly dyspeptic.”

Jemima Lewis? We’d be better off reading Jemima Puddleduck

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25 Jan

Mene Mene Tekel Upharsin

The writing has been on the wall for Theresa May for a long time. And the words form the same judgement that was delivered to Belshazzar, as recorded in Daniel 5:25: Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting. 

Mrs May, the most useless home secretary and the most incompetent prime minister we’ve had since Methuselah was a boy, is clearly at the end of her tether. She is fragile and histrionic. She cried on election night when it was borne in on her that she is so pathetic she couldn’t even see off Jeremy Corbyn. In the Brexit negotiations she appeared schizoid and frantic. She talked tough for ten minutes, then wept and pleaded. Naturally, her tormentors the apparatchiks Juncker and Barnier – and of course Monsieur le-vanity-case Macron and Frau Fuhrer – played on May’s mood swivels to perfection. They kissed, cuddled, flattered and cajoled her, then they shouted and threatened  Their enjoyment of her tortured hopelessness was excruciating to watch. She conceded their every demand and called it her triumph.

And the conclusion of it all? It is clear that, under the Remainer May, we are on the way to a Brexit so soft you could dip your toast soldiers in it. The EU will give no ground on the movement of populations. We shall most likely end up still in the single market and the customs union. In other words we shall be out in name but very definitely still in in reality.

Like Mr Eliot in Ash Wednesday, I hardly dare to hope for fear of hoping for the wrong thing. But…I detect a glimmer, a faint stirring, the thinnest ray of light in the encircling gloom: at last something seems to be afoot.

Last Monday Juliet Samuels wrote a flagellating article in the Daily Telegraph which, being summarised, said it was time for May to go. The Telegraph followed up on Tuesday with a shoal of readers’ letters in enthusiastic agreement with Ms Samuel. On Wednesday, writing in the same space, Philip Johnson  said: “The prime minister’s detractors fail to see that it is they who lack boldness and weaken the Tories. Her critics should be prepared to do more than wound her.”

Well, what more can you do to a person than wound? There’s only kill, isn’t there?

There is no let-up in the barrage of criticism, nor in its caustic fury. In Thursday’s Telegraph, Nick Timothy – remember him, the orchestrator of her pathetic election campaign? – has popped up saying: “As Conservative MPs are beginning to realise, they need to govern with more urgency and greater purpose. The key to finding that purpose lies not in a further excess of liberalism, but in a modern application of real philosophical conservatism.”

Real philosophical conservatism, as even Nick Timothy must understand, is about as far away as you can get from Theresa May’s fancy of socialism-lite. If Mrs May is reading Timothy’s article in Davos, she must me tempted to repeat the dying words of Julius Caesar: “Et tu Brute?”

Perhaps all this can be shrugged off as merely a bit of kite-flying by one newspaper. Hardly – because the Telegraph is, or at least purports to be, the Tories’ loudest cheerleader. But wait, the Telegraph isn’t the only paper to be saying these things. Also on Thursday morning Iain Martin in The Times came out saying that May has failed, her time is up and she should go and make way for someone else.

So I repeat my tentative question: So late in the day, so far and so deeply into May’s calamitous premiership, is there something afoot at last?

If it were done when ‘tis done, t’were well it were done quickly. The Tory grandees should despatch the men in suits and tell her her time’s up. They could quote those words of Daniel the prophet if they liked

End the long-running farce. Return to traditional conservatism. Send for Jacob-Rees-Mogg!

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24 Jan

The privileged elite and the freedom of the press

I’m not starry-eyed about the British newspapers. How could I be when I’ve read them and written for them all my working life? If ever I harboured any illusions, these were quickly dispelled back in the late 1980s when I was lucky enough to land myself a proper job in Fleet Street. Sir David English gave me a freelance contract on the Daily Mail to write op-ed pieces, travel articles and book reviews. And it really was Fleet Street in those days: the Daily Mail building was two minutes’ walk from St Bride’s, the wedding cake church so named after its unusual tower. I had a grand old time. I joined Scribes’ journalists’ drinking club and spent hours in The Cheshire Cheese,once a favourite watering-hole of Dr Johnson,  where I talked Old Leeds with Keith Waterhouse and cricket with Ian Wooldridge. I interviewed Daniel Barenboim in Munich and John Arlott in Alderney and I had dinner with Anthony Burgess and his wife in the West End. The first feature I was asked to write was about the Lockerbie disaster.

I learned all – well, at least some – of the tricks of the trade. I saw the glamour and the dark side. There was that scintillated feeling when you got the centre pages spread – though I managed that only once in three years. I saw corners cut and I saw dirty tricks, brilliant inventiveness and quite astonishing stupidity and ignorance. For example, I had to work with a particular editor who was so conscious of her status that, on the occasions she took me out to lunch, she would book a limo to take us a hundred yards round the corner. And here’s what I mean by ignorance. It was my job to suggest topics for stories and one day in 1990, the fiftieth anniversary of Dunkirk, I phoned another editor and said, “I’d like to go to the beaches at Dunkirk and interview British and German veterans of the battle.” The editor replied: “Great idea Pete…” (I hate being called Pete) “…Just refresh my memory – what was Dunkirk?”

Old hacks like me have no illusions when it comes to the world of newspapers. The papers are capable of all manner of skulduggery from phone-tapping to making up stories. But for all its faults – and they are myriad – we need the press. If it hadn’t been for the newspapers’ nagging perseverance, we would have never got the truth about the first Iraq war. And the MPs’ massive expenses fraud would have gone uncovered. And this morning there is news of another initiative that makes me proud to have been involved at close quarters with the national press.  

The UK’s two biggest selling newspapers have threatened legal action unless the reasons for the decision to free sex attacker John Worboys are revealed.

The Sun and the Daily Mail have jointly written to the Parole Board and the Justice Secretary to say that unless the reasons behind the decision to recommend the rapist’s release from prison are published within seven days, the papers’ lawyers will apply for a full judicial review to have that decision overturned.

Their letter says the report is a “matter of profound public interest” and keeping it secret is a breach of open justice.

Black cab driver Worboys was jailed indefinitely in 2009 for drugging and sexually assaulting women passengers. Although convicted of “only” nineteen offences relating to twelve victims, he is suspected to have committed more than a hundred sexual assaults. And now a new allegation of historical sexual assault has been made against the 60-year-old Worboys.

The incident, which was reported to the police earlier this month, is reported to have taken place in 1997. The controversial Parole Board decision to approve his release later this month, following his minimum eight-year term, has led to a moral outcry – with lawyers for his victims describing the move as “extremely distressing.”

And distressing it is. Many would say that to release Worboys ever would be a scandalous breach of natural justice. How could the Parole Board come to the decision that a man proven to be guilty of all those violent crimes should be set free, with the possibility of his re-offending?

I’ll tell you why: because the sorts of people who operate the Parole Board – like the sorts of people who get appointed to the Supreme Court or those members of the House of Lords who, only a fortnight ago, voted further to restrict press freedom – are not as other men. They don’t think and act as we think and act. They are a privileged elite and they consider themselves to be in possession of finer moral sentiments than we ordinary mortals.

Shockingly, you and I can do nothing to oblige these tribunes of the people who are really the enemies of the people to come to their senses and change their minds and their policies.

But the newspapers can. And that’s why newspapers – warts and all – should be celebrated. Let’s hear it then for that secular sacrament, the freedom of the press.  

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15 Dec

“Youthquake” word of the year

At least we can still enjoy a laugh on our way from the madhouse to destitution.

The publishers Oxford Dictionaries have just declared “youthquake” the word of the year. Oxford Dictionaries’ executive is Mr Casper Grathwohl. (Oh for heaven’s sake stop giggling at the back there and pay attention!)  Mr Grathwohl said the word was “not an obvious choice.” But, he explained, The use of “youthquake” in everyday speech had increased five-fold during 2017.

He added – in a sentence which reveals that the boss of a firm which publishes dictionaries has only a passing acquaintance with the English language – “In the UK, where it rose to prominence as a descriptor of the impact of the country’s young people on its general election, calls it out as a word on the move”

Come again? Clearly Grathwohl served a long apprenticeship in the Academy of Gobbledegook and Gibberish

Apparently, the use of “youthquake” in Britain peaked during the June general election, after polls delivered a better-than-expected result for the Labour party.

Oxford Dictionaries said the word “sounded a note of hope after a difficult and divisive year.”

Really? be careful what you hope for, Mr Grathwohl, or you just might get it. First he tells us that the popularity of “youthquake” was owing to Mr Corbyn’s having done much better than expected in the General Election. And then he informs us that this was “a note of hope.”

I told you we are on our way from the madhouse to destitution. Where else but the madhouse is the place for anyone who votes for Jeremy Corbyn and his Trotskyist gang which now fills the space once occupied by the Labour party?

The destitution will be along in a little while. once Jeremy is in Number Ten with Chancellor John McDonnell running – ie ruining – the economy according to Marxist principles and that high priestess of multiculturalism Diane Abbott as Home Secretary and Chaplain to All Minorities. McDonnell told us last week that, in the first months of Corbyn’s government, he will set up a national investment bank, funded by exorbitant levels of taxation and borrowing at ten times what we have now. Then – using our  money – McDonnell will instigate a nationalisation programme beside which the wasteful socialist spree of 1945-1951 will look like the very model of prudence.

The trade unions will run the country and they will pay their supporters – and themselves, of course – fantastical wages. There is to be a five year plan – just like the ones invented by Uncle Joe Stalin to impoverish the USSR. Hyperinflation will quickly follow and the days will not be far off when we shall be looking in dustbins for our lunch, just as they do in the Venezuela which Jeremy Corbyn so much admires.

Well now, the Corbyn Destitution Programme has been given this wonderful kick-start by good old Casper Grathwohl.

Clearly, Casper would be the obvious choice as Corbyn’s Minister of Propaganda.

PS I noted earlier that Head of Dictionaries Mr Grathwohl has merely a passing acquaintance with the English language. This acquaintance is even more passing than I first thought. For he says he chose “youthquake” because it conveys “a sense of optimism.”

Nope. “Youthquake” indicates about as much good news for the youth as “earthquake” does for the earth.   

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14 Dec

A new Puritan Commonwealth?

We have complete freedom of speech in this country. It’s just that we’re not allowed to say anything. Our politicians are forever boasting of our freedoms and telling us what a wonderful country we are privileged to live in – unlike Johnny Foreigner in any number of dictatorial regimes abroad.

But this week the government has threatened – not for the first time – to invoke Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

What’s that when it’s out?

Just about the most unjust and iniquitous piece of legislation you could imagine in the worst of your Orwellian nightmares. Section 40 will force newspapers to pay the legal costs of those who sue them – even when a newspaper wins the court case against its accuser.

This is beyond outrageous.

Consider this comparison: my neighbour is building a low wall between our properties and I don’t like it. He assures me that the wall will do nothing to obscure my view or reduce the amount of sunshine I enjoy in my garden. His proposed wall, he says, is less than a foot tall and merely ornamental. But I am renowned for being obstreperous and uncooperative and I tell my neighbour I still don’t like his wall and I’m going to sue him.

The case comes before the court which rules that there is nothing offensive or intrusive about my neighbour’s wall and that I am just being unreasonable. My action is thrown out.

If Section 40 were to be applied in this case, my neighbour – who has been adjudged to be in the right – could be forced to pay my legal costs.

In other words, Section 40 is a charter for mischievous litigants. It will permit any crank out to make a fast buck to sue any newspaper about anything, secure in the knowledge that, win or lose, his costs will be paid by the paper.

It’s easy to see where this will lead in pretty quick time: newspapers will be bankrupted and titles will close down.

Who could possibly have dreamed up a process so manifestly unethical? Answer: the commissars in Lord Leveson’s Press Recognition Panel.

The government – any government – will rejoice to see newspapers shut down – because it will mean they are no longer held to account. If Leveson’s recommendations had been in operation at the time of the MPs’ expenses scandal, there would have been no expenses scandal because there would have been no free press to investigate and report it.

A free press is the first requirement of a free society and every totalitarian dictatorship from Maduro’s Venezuela to Putin’s klepto-fascist regime in Russia seeks to curtail and even abolish press freedom.

Even the Puritan John Milton, who was employed by Oliver Cromwell as his censor, fervently defended press freedom in his Areopagitica  saying: “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”

Section 40 would impose upon us a restrictiveness and repression worse than that of the Puritan Commonwealth of 1649-1660

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13 Dec

Our world of lying truths

Matt Hancock, a government minister, has just felt obliged to declare formally, ”Objective reality exists.” To his credit, he confessed to a certain shamefacedness about this but he added that he believes he had a duty to reassure us.

I find it hard to understand what Mr Hancock’s statement means. By “objective reality” does he mean truth? If so, then the proposition “There is such a thing as truth” is self-evident – a necessary proposition – because if someone attempts to refute it and says, “There is no such thing as truth,” then either that proposition is true or the one who states it is wrong. In either case, there is something that is true.

Actually, Mr Hancock’s laudable and public-spirited aim is to reassure us that in our new world of virtual reality, filled as it is with fake news, Bitcoins,  the dissembling worlds of Facebook and Twitter and computer games of such startling verisimilitude that so called “real life” pales by comparison, there yet remains something real, something we can trust.

I think our problem is not epistemological or metaphysical, but psychological and above all moral and spiritual. In our new electronic phantasmagoria, people have become indifferent to the notions of truth and reality. And this disposition has not been forced upon them: they have chosen it quite willingly. The interest of many is not truth and objective reality but images and sensations, and the rapid advance of technology enables us to create images and sensations of astonishing power.

Any “reality” is as good as any other. You choose! Seems? Nay, ‘tis.

Unfortunately, this world of willed illusion becomes also, by the operation of political correctness, a world of willed delusion. People don’t merely choose what to look at; they choose what to believe. Postmodern philosophers and theologians deny Mr Hancock’s (or God’s) truth and objective reality: they speak approvingly of things being” true for you” or “true for me.” And of course this just means we can’t talk about truth at all. The philosophers and theologians have been guided by the politicians who tell them not to insist that there is such a thing as the objective truth – because to do so might “offend” someone who holds to “a different truth.”

Welcome to the world of “equality” and “diversity.”

We have replaced the gospel of St John with the gospel of Pontius Pilate.

This is not going to end well. If we are no longer concerned to inhabit reality but instead we evaluate any image, any sensation, only insofar as it appeals to us, then we have no escape from a world of ubiquitous delusion. Jesus Christ referred to this activity as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – which he declared to be the only unforgiveable sin. Unforgiveable because it is impossible to repent of it. If you say, “Lies be my truth” and “Delusion be my reality,” then you have chosen paranoid psychosis, madness – hell.

Allow me a personal recollection, please. In 1988 I began to write a novel about Tom and Lucy. These two young creatures of flesh and blood were increasingly drawn into a world which was all images and appearances. I found it intolerable and had to stop writing the damn thing: first, because some of the things that began to happen to Tom and Lucy were so horrific that they turned my stomach; and secondly, because it all sounded too far-fetched.

Well now, thirty years on, is it still so far-fetched?

If you are seeking a definition of the world we now inhabit, look no further than Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus where Mephistopheles, the Father of Lies, exclaims in terror and despair, “Why, this is hell; nor am I out of it!”

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02 Dec

Let’s hear it for the Barnsley Dame!

Woman’s Hour is the show that just keeps on delivering. Regular readers of this space will know that I have written before about this superb programme. Really, it is so good that I wonder I bother to write about anything else. Truth be told, as a satirist I envy the makers and presenters of Woman’s Hour because its daily straight-faced parody of reality is unsurpassable. They are supreme satirists without knowing it. Their feminist obsessions are more hilarious than anything we find in Viz or Private Eye. Great wits such as Rod Liddle and Craig Brown pale by comparison.

The gels on Woman’s Hour are so feministically monomaniac that they couldn’t bake a tray of jam tarts without a reference to HRT

But yesterday the ladies excelled even their own high standards in the business of making unintended jokes.

They were scheduled to interview two guests  – wimmin, naturally. One was a Japanese doctor acclaimed for promoting the safety of the HPV vaccine. The other was a Vietnamese film-maker, in Britain for the opening of her retrospective at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.

Unfortunately the producer mixed up the two guest gels Dr Riko Muranaka and Trinh T. Minh-ha.

The illustrious Dame Jenni Murray began by explaining that Dr Muranaka is the recipient of this year’s John Maddox Prize for promoting science on a matter of public interest, The Great Barnsley Interlocutor asked her guest:

“Riko, why did you pursue this subject?”

The pause that followed was of such heavenly length that I was reminded of that verse in The Book of Revelation which speaks of a silence in the celestial realms “of about half an hour.” 

Give the Great Dame credit for knowing that when you’re in a hole the thing to do is to continue digging. Diligently, she enquired a second time:

“Why did you pursue this subject?”

“Which subject are you pointing to?” asked a perplexed Trinh T. Minh-ha

An unaccustomed hint of tension crept into Jenni’s usual velvety intonation:

“The subject of the HPV vaccine and the twenty articles you wrote about it,”

“It’s not me,” said Trin T. Minh-ha quietly.

Jenni did not, as I believe they say in Barnsley, immediately twig. 

“I’m sorry?” she repeated, and this time with more tension than in a whole spasm of PMT – a subject by no means alien to the gels on WH.

“It’s not me,” Trinh T Minh-ha repeated, emitting a spectacularly nervous giggle: 

“I guess you got the wrong speaker.”

Now there was chastisement in Jenni’s voice. Didn’t the guest gel know her own name!

“You are Dr Riko Muranaka?”  

Of a sudden it dawned that her usual omniscience had failed her:

“You’re not Dr Riko Muranaka,” almost meekly.

“I’m Trinh T Minh-ha, the film-maker,” said Trinh T Minh-ha the film-maker.

Unfortunately, – apart from a now irascible Dame Jenni’s blaming “someone” else for the mix-up – that was the end of the morning’s entertainment.

It would have been priceless if Trin T. Minh-ha had gathered her own satirical wits and joined in the fun. What if she had said, “Yes, I wrote those twenty articles and I’m here to tell you that millions will die from taking that drug”?

Dame Jenny would be sure to fall for it, gleefully imagining she had a scoop, an exposure and a scandal.

Never mind gels: I’ll see you on today’s WH Saturday Edition for more jam tarts and HRT.  

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