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5 January 2014
Who would have thunk it?
Hard to have forecast that today the front-line against the barbarism, brutality and galloping authoritarianism of the British government would be manned not by placeman members of the British parliament, whose mouths are permanently taped shut in subservience to the party political bosses who nominated them, but by rank outsiders to the political game from tin pan alley.
A few weeks ago it was comedian Russell Brand who came out fighting to champion the cause of the losers – the poor, the jobless, the sick and the elderly – in Britain’s hideously inegalitarian society where the 1% of callous rich-boy fat-cats lord it disdainfully over the oppressed 99%. [See our post Joker trumps the pack published on 8 November 2013]
A few days ago it was the turn of English rock musician PJ Harvey, who used her guest editorship of the seminal news programme “Today” on BBC Radio to give a rare hearing to voices off message that are seldom admitted to that hertzian sanctum of the British establishment.
Her guests on air on 2 January included scourges of the status quo, such as official secrets whistleblower Julian Assange, now holed up as a political refugee in Ecuador’s London Embassy, who condemned the aspiration of today’s governments to “god-like knowledge” of the activities of every citizen.
According to a report in the London Guardian newspaper the following day, Assange told listeners: “Knowledge is power. To keep a person ignorant is to place them in a cage. So it follows that the powerful, if they want to keep their power, will try to know as much about us as they can, and will try to make sure that we know as little about them as possible.”
According to the newspaper, the programme edited by PJ Harvey also included verse by Shaker Aamer, a Saudia Arabian citizen and British resident, who has now been held for nearly 12 years, without charge or trial, by the United States at its Guantánamo Bay gulag in a US-occupied enclave of Cuba.
Also on air was the Guardian’s own Ian Cobain, an investigative reporter specialising in the dirty underbelly of the British state, who gave the low-down on Britain’s complicity in torture.
Leftwing campaigning journalist John Pilger also featured.
To no one’s surprise, the programme provoked howls of protest from card-carrying advocates of untrammelled state power.
According to the Guardian, the BBC “was accused of allowing left-leaning contributors…to air their views uninterrupted on the flagship radio show yesterday”.
Ye gods! A public broadcasting corporation in the free world was allowing “left-leaning” contributors to “air their views uninterrupted”!
Whatever next? What is the world coming to? Why was this allowed?
As one wingnut screamed, who invited these people?
Other champions of the establishment called the programme “incomprehensible liberal drivel” and “silly, frivolous and unpatriotic”.
Unpatriotic? Must one limit free speech then to the singing of the national anthem?
This is the sort of criticism of free thought one might hear perhaps in a totalitarian state. In China, for instance, or Russia.
Antigone1984 is not a great fan of the BBC. Its many faults include idolatry of the monarchy.
However, in the case in point, we should point out that the programme edited by PJ Harvey also included verse by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, not someone, we think, who is widely renowned for his Marxist-Leninist views.
Moreover, previous guest editors on the “Today” programme during the current festive season have included a brace of establishment figures that by no stretch of the imagination could be considered reds under the bed: Barclays Bank head honcho Antony Jenkins and Eliza Manningham-Buller, one-time boss of Britain’s counter-espionage agency MI5.
No protests from the usual suspects when the latter edited the programme. Now why would that be?
The real danger is that, when the occasional media broadcast pays lip-service to the existence of alternative views, the uninformed observer might be misled into imagining that we were living in a pluralist democracy instead of in an increasingly authoritarian state in which dissent is being systematically snuffed out.
You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts. For instance:
1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)
2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)
3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)
4. Capitalism in practice (4 July 2012)
5.Ladder (21 June 2012)
6. A tale of two cities (1) (6 June 2012)
7. A tale of two cities (2) (7 June 2012)
8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)
Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.