Television

Reheated (6)

For newcomers, three more items from the archives.

Uprising.

Mandatory lesbianism and the politics of shoes. A video history of radical feminism.

“It was a fantastic bit of graffiti and everybody had it up on their walls. And then we found out that a man had done the graffiti. We were just like, ‘Right, that’s it.’ We were basically going to go round and brick his house ‘til we found out he lived with women and children [laughs] … then of course we couldn’t do it, yeah.”

I Sense A Malign Presence.

Meet Jane Elliott: “diversity” pioneer and Witchfinder General for the modern age.

Note Elliott’s disregard for context, motive or objective criteria. “Perception is everything,” says she. By which she means the perception, or misperception, of one party only. This is the premise of Elliott’s crusade – to provide moral correction for all pale-skinned people. The particulars of an exchange and who did what to whom are all but immaterial; what matters is which party belongs to the Designated Victim Group, as defined by Jane Elliott and others in the trade.

The Wrong Kind of Rich.

Wealthy Guardianistas deserve hefty salaries. Unlike you.

Toynbee’s Guardian salary, for years a subject of speculation, was eventually revealed as £106,000 - excluding royalties, advances, media fees, etc. Presumably Polly feels her own financial rewards are not at all “extravagant” or “unjust,” or a likely cause of public outrage. It seems, then, that Ms Toynbee only dislikes the wrong kind of rich people, which is to say rich people whose politics and backgrounds may differ from her own.

And the updated greatest hits may reward some rummaging.


I Sense a Malign Presence

A while ago, on the subject of identity politics and competitive victimhood, I wrote: 

Any claim to moral agency is surrendered to those members of a favoured group who happen to be shouting loudest. Thus, injustice is defined, unilaterally, by feelings, or claims of feelings - and by the leverage they provide. Phobias, prejudice and oppression become whatever the Designated Victim Group or its representative says they are. And the basis for apology, compensation and flattery becomes whatever the Designated Victim Group says it is. The practical result of this is egomaniacal license and the politics of role-play.

As if to illustrate this point, the Observer’s Andrew Anthony profiles Jane Elliott, a “diversity training” pioneer and Witchfinder General for the modern age

Elliott is keen on verbal watchfulness. She believes that racism is in the eye of the beholder and therefore one needs to be ever-sensitive to the possibility of giving offence. “Perception is everything,” she says. “If someone perceives something as racist then I am responsible for not saying that thing.”

Note Elliott’s disregard for context, motive or objective criteria. “Perception is everything,” says she. By which she means the perception, or misperception, of one party only. This is the premise of Elliott’s crusade – to provide moral correction for all pale-skinned people. The particulars of an exchange and who did what to whom are all but immaterial; what matters is which party belongs to the Designated Victim Group, as defined by Jane Elliott and others in the trade. Clearly, moral logic isn’t Elliott’s strong suit; hers is the realm of pantomime and emotional bullying. As Elliott’s own publicity material makes clear, she “does not intellectualise… she uses participants’ own emotions to make them feel discomfort, guilt, shame, embarrassment and humiliation.” And there’s the rub. Once rendered suitably emotional and distressed, her subjects can be re-educated so much more easily. Want to see how? Elliott’s 1996 workshop documentary Blue Eyed can be viewed here. The fun starts around the 2:00 mark with the guy and his name tag. And pay close attention to the exchange around 5:40, before the “exercise” begins. 

We’ve seen this unhinged and pernicious nonsense before of course, not least from Peggy McIntosh and her “invisible knapsacks of privilege,” and Shakti Butler, who tells unsuspecting students that, “the term [racist] applies to all white people living in the United States.” Like McIntosh and Butler, Elliott’s formulation of guilt is presumptive, unilateral and based on a conviction that “white ignorance is the problem.” (A problem that “we white folks have now managed to export… all over the world.”) Thus, guilt is framed as a collective phenomenon and effectively a function of a person’s pigmentation. So no racism there, clearly. Bearing in mind how “perception is everything” and what that entails, it seems unlikely that realistic argument will be encouraged or looked on kindly. And those who happen to have pale skin and are unfortunate enough to fall within Elliott’s influence may not wish to be held hostage by every passing opportunist or liar with a grudge.

Sceptical readers may wonder if Elliott reveals more than she intends when telling her captive audiences that “a new reality is going to be created,” that they have “no power, absolutely no power,” and that her title, “bitch,” stands for “Being In Total Control, Honey.” And some readers may question the credibility and motives of an “educator” who tells students that, “white people invented racism.” Transcending such vices is of course impossible, except through Ms Elliott and her tender ministrations. Being as she is the self-appointed gatekeeper of redemption through guilt.

Continue reading "I Sense a Malign Presence " »


Don’t Bother Me with Details

I see the Guardian has wheeled out Linda Bellos, another high priestess of identity politics, to air her umbrage at Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson. Clarkson, we’re told, “makes a living by being gratuitously offensive.” Unlike the elevated Ms Bellos, who makes a living by, among other things, being gratuitously offended. And saying things like this: 

Where, for instance, is the disabled community on our screens – either as drivers or presenters? When have we had the feature on Top Gear about cars and motoring for disabled drivers? You’ll have noticed from the supermarket car park that there are a few around. But, apparently, Jeremy Clarkson hasn’t.

As Tim Worstall notes, Ms Bellos might have fared better if she’d done a little research and actually watched the programme she presumes to criticise. In fact, Top Gear has addressed issues of disability on at least three occasions, including, in season 2, a search for the fastest disabled driver in Britain. Fans of the series may also recall a race involving hastily customised double decker cars, during which a driver’s artificial arm became detached from his person while still gripping the wheel.

Given Top Gear’s popularity outside of Guardian circles, it’s no great surprise the series has disabled fans. And it’s perhaps worth noting that Clarkson is a founder of the Help for Heroes charity which raises funds for those injured and disabled during military service. The Guardian actually mentioned the charity and its advertising earlier this year, prompting a reader to complain,

There are only two people who are not white in that commercial... possibly three, there’s someone totally covered in a wet suit.

Ms Bellos will doubtless be pleased to find others airing a worldview very similar to her own. And it’s always good to see moral one-upmanship and complaints of “the same sad old stereotypes” coming from a woman who abandoned her own children to live in a separatist lesbian commune. 

Related: Clarkson versus Monbiot


Corrupting the Proles

Germaine Greer shares her thoughts on the impending demise of Big Brother:

Let’s hope the final series has the Man himself dragged out of his hiding place, arraigned by the housemates who are the worse for the experience, and sentenced to condign punishment for perverting the nation’s taste. That I would watch.

Yes, of course, viewers must be the victims of unseen forces they cannot possibly comprehend. At least viewers of popular, commercial television. Viewers of, say, David Starkey programmes, not so much. But viewers of Big Brother? Their tastes have been perverted. Endemol and Channel 4 evidently took something of a risk by spending vast amounts of time and money on a programme for which no popular appetite could conceivably exist - not until the public had been suitably duped and perverted. And presumably Germaine knows this because she knows what popular taste ought to be. I’m sure there’s an irony in there somewhere.

Big Brother was one of those shows, as Friends was in its day, that young people watched in order to find out how to be themselves.

Did they, really? Is that what young people do? How does Germaine know this? Alas, she doesn’t say. She does, however, tell us:

Unfortunately what they learnt from Big Brother was that a girl who is plain or assertive is to be avoided. Any female who fails to hide the fact that she is more intelligent than the people around her is to be reviled. The feistiest girls are tossed out of the house, one by one, until only the meek are left. Of nine Big Brother winners, only three have been female, and that includes Nadia Almada (who had undergone gender reassignment only eight months before). Women get a far rougher ride from both housemates and viewers than do gay men, however waspish and over the top. Big Brother leaves us with a lasting impression that British misogyny is crueller and more pervasive than British homophobia.

This being the Guardian, nothing must divert Germaine from the obligatory victimhood hierarchy – it’s practically contractual - even if this requires some wild extrapolation. (Had the majority of winners been female, this could no doubt be construed as the result of some lascivious patriarchal gaze… and thus more damning evidence of pervasive oppression.) But wait a minute. Isn’t the Big Brother audience – and particularly the voting audience – disproportionately gay and disproportionately female? What then of the alleged homophobia and misogyny? And doesn’t the win by the plain, feisty and assertive Nadia Almada - in one of the series’ most rapturous and popular final nights – suggest something other than bigotry and hatred?

Despite Ms Greer’s own truncated appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, which she described as a “fascist prison,” and despite her grumblings about the series’ morally corrupting effects on those she considers “weaker than [herself],” the Guardian columnist saw fit to make subsequent paid appearances on Big Brother’s Little Brother and Big Brother’s Big Mouth.

Here’s Ms Greer in happier times.


Racism Detected

While I was at the coast yesterday, the Guardian’s Peter Jones addressed a matter of pressing import:

My girlfriend and I were watching TV at home when the advert for comparethemarket.com appeared on our screen. I had seen the ad before and not thought anything of it. However on this occasion, my girlfriend, who is Ukrainian, turned to me and said: “I don’t like this advert; it is very offensive to me.” I mentioned it to a friend who said his Latvian lodger also found it offensive.

The gravity of a claim to be offended should of course be measured by the rush to air it in the face of widespread bewilderment. It’s the modern way. In fairness, Mr Jones does go on to explain why the agency in question, VCCP, is propagating “racism”: 

The advertisement centres on the word “market” – a word that eastern Europeans/Russians pronounce “meerkat” – using talking CGI-animated meerkats. The sole point of this… is to highlight the idea that east Europeans cannot pronounce the word market properly when they speak English.

Wait a minute. Do Latvians, Poles and Slovaks really pronounce “market” as “meerkat”? Romanians too, and Ukrainians, and Russians? This is news, at least to me. Still, it’s good to see a Guardian contributor making such bold assumptions in the name of anti-racism. And aren’t meerkats – actual meerkats, not imaginary talking ones in smoking jackets - found primarily in Africa? The plot thickens.

It struck me how racist it was to parody what is now a significant part of the British population in this way… It is also the case that as so many people from eastern Europe were so new to the country that they would not want to be seen to be causing trouble. It then dawned on me that this ad was targeting a sector of the population who would be unlikely to fight back.

Ah. It’s targeted oppression, see? A watertight case. The fiends.

I once attempted an affectionate parody of a friend’s Brummie accent. No doubt that confirms my barely-latent hatred of all people from or around Birmingham. And viewers in Iceland, Russia and Scandinavia are doubtless still fuming at the explicitly racist horrors of “Beware the Judderman.”


The Whale That Exploded

No, seriously. See for yourselves. 

I quote:

In January 2004, the carcass of a 50-ton sperm whale explodes in a Taiwanese city centre. [National Geographic Channel] examines the physics and the biology of this 100,000-pound animal whose body was destroyed by its own internal forces. On the way to Tainan University for research, the whale exploded due to volatile gas build up in the abdomen.

At this point, further comment seems unwise. It would only lead to jokes involving the ending of Watchmen and “volatile gas build-ups.”