Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Society is intensely conformist and the media are the thought police

Nigel Farage was interviewed by Andrew Marr on the BBC on Sunday and was asked questions about his views on Vladimir Putin, giving very expensive AIDS treatments to foreigners at the taxpayer's expense, privatising the NHS and other things where he has taken positions disapproved of by the people who work for the BBC. 

Mr Farage complained that this had nothing to do with the subject at hand, which was Brexit and showed BBC bias against him. 

People who like him think he did very well to say so. People who dislike him think Andrew Marr did well.

The truth is that, as William Hague said today in the Daily Telegraph, interviews with major politicians should last longer, up to an hour, as they did in the days when Brian Walden (whose death yesterday I mourn) or Sir Robin Day interviewed Margaret Thatcher. In long interviews there would be plenty of time to cover everything. T
hings were better in the old days, even though the BBC was equally biassed against conservatism then.

Admittedly, the thought of an hour of Theresa May is more than flesh and blood could stand. I would guess that HM the Queen finds her weekly audience with the Prime Minister even harder going than with Gordon Brown.

Andrew Marr certainly did treat Nigel Farage very unfairly in at least one respect. This one.

Marr: So you accept you weren’t advocating no deal back then because you know . . .

Farage: (interrupting) Oh, no, no, no! In the referendum itself I was the one who coined the phrase ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’, which of course is pretty obvious . . .
Marr: (interrupting) I’ve gone back, and you said it . . . if you said it, you said it away from the cameras and the microphones.
Farage: (interrupting) No, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry . . .
Marr: Because I can’t find examples of you saying this . . .
Farage: ‘No deal is better than a bad deal’ I was using every day for the last two weeks of that campaign.
Marr: Right. We can’t find it.
Farage: Well, you’d better look closer!
Conservative Woman, an unfailingly good site, googled and found examples in a minute or two of Mr Farage saying
No deal is better than the deal we currently have.
He told the Mirror in June 2016:
No deal but continuing under WTO rules would be better and cheaper for this country than where we currently are.
He was comparing no deal to EU membership rather than to a deal but it does mean he thought no deal was acceptable

Will Andrew Marr apologise or even explain?

How much better researched Andrew Neil always is.

A day before Andrew Neil interviewed somebody called Ben Shapiro, who is the kind of right-wing American that even British conservatives find very irritating. Andrew Neil asked very tough but perfectly fair questions about his opposition to abortion. Mr Shapiro walked off accusing the Chariman of the Spectator of being a typical BBC leftist. He had fingered one of the BBC's very few conservatives and later apologised.

I knew a little but not much about Ben Shapiro. He is not a real conservative but a Neo Con and Never Trumper, an Orthodox Jew who is opposed to single sex marriage and abortion. He sees Israel as fighting for Western civilisation, which in a sense is true, and therefore fighting for American interests, which does not make sense to me. He said recently,
As a US Jew, I can’t be more grateful to the people of Israel for protecting and defending not only eternal values but the survival of Western civilization more broadly.
I don't care for him or about him much but I was dismayed to see a panel of five commentators assembled by the BBC on Politics Live attacking him without a contrary voice being raised. One said he was 
Not a fascist but an enabler of fascism. 
No-one contradicted this. I presume this is what you get from British intellectuals if you oppose abortion and support Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Discussions these days about important issues generally end when accusations of racism, anti-semitism, sexism and other things fly around till conservatives shut up. Everyone then leaves the stage bad-tempered and without having had a useful exchange of ideas.

Lord Sumption was right when he said on BBC Radio Four this morning that society is intensely conformist and social media exacerbates this. So does the mainstream media, a lot of whose job these days is to stigmatise certain ideas as far right, racist, anti-semitic, sexist etc etc. 

By the way, the choice of Lord Sumption, historian and former Supreme Court judge, to give this year's Reith Lectures has been attacked because he is white, male and elderly.

How puerile and bigoted (in the real sense of the word, narrow-minded and prejudiced) debate in England has become. Expressing unwelcome ideas is considered wicked and often borderline illegal.  It's like the worst 1960s student politics, which is where all this stuff began. 

It is going to get even worse before it gets better, if it does get better.


  1. @paul
    Brian Walden ….
    I first saw him on Weekend World which was broadcast before lunchtime on Sundays during the 1970s:


    Peter Jay, Mary Holland, Brian Walden, what pygmies Marr and the rest are in comparison.
    I couldn't find any of Waldens interviews on YouTube.
    But here is an analysis of Churchill - WS, the died-in-the-wool imperialist who lost Britain its empire and much more beside:

    1. I watched him too and thought him brilliant - and so much better than his successors.
      He told a man I knew who canvassed him for the Tories in 1979 that he was voting Tory. He was apparently ardently in favour of Brexit. His widow said she was sorry that he didn't live to see it.

    2. Wrong link above replaced by this:


  2. The media has always been toxic. It's the nature of the beast. Privately owned newspapers and TV stations have always been overtly political. They have always pushed political agendas. Publicly owned media has always been toxic as well.

    Freedom of the press has always meant the freedom of the press to push a political agenda.

    1. Lord Sumption was complaining about the toxicity of social media. Perhaps human beings are toxic. Some certainly are. I don't think I am but some, who dislike my opinions, disagree.

  3. "Paul
    "I knew a little but not much about Ben Shapiro. He is not a real conservative but a Neo Con and Never Trumper, an Orthodox Jew who is opposed to single sex marriage and abortion."

    Yes, it is apparent you know little about Ben Shapiro. An orthodox Jew, who doesn't practise sex before or outside marriage, he has no admiration for the character of Donald Trump.
    However he is not a never-Trumper. He is a sometimes and sometimes-not Trumper, depending on the policies promoted by the Donald.

    There are many videos on YouTube of Ben, most recording his attempts to debate moral, social and political, issues with American under-graduates. But here is one of the earliest:


  4. 'The Andrew Neil interview with Ben Shapiro highlighted the uniform social liberalism of our media world. Some operators are a little bit more to the Right (think Iain Dale or Nick Robinson) and some to the Left ( think James O’Brien and Jon Snow) but they are all social liberals. So much for diversity.

    'As for the interview with Farage, it demonstrated something we pretty much knew already, which is that Andrew Marr is a wholehearted Europhile. One got a sense of how much Marr really dislikes Farage, a feeling Farage reciprocates in full measure, so the encounter was unusually heated.'