Tommy Robinson, or to give him his actual real name, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, is what the media call a ‘controversial figure’ as is there’s an actual controversy as to whether or not he’s a far-right bigot being used by other far right-bigots to attract more people to their cause which is an aggressive ethnic nationalism of the type we see in Russia and sweeping across parts of Eastern Europe.In saner times he’d be someone long forgotten about, but we’re not in normal times; we’re in the age where actual real fascists are given the sort of voice they could only dream of.
Now I’m not talking about censoring people;I’m talking of ensuring we don’t give platforms to people with criminal background who has a violent past and would happily see blood on the streets. We don’t do that to Islamists so why does Yaxley-Lennon get a pass, especially at the BBC?
The other night Lennon was on the BBC’s Newsnight, giving him the sort of exposure he could only dream of. People complained and the BBC said this:
Seems reasonable? Except it isn’t. The BBC have had issues with their producers pushing a right wing agenda, and on Question Time they’ve excluded pro-EU SNP/Plaid/Green/Labour MEP’s completely over the last five years. Centre-left to left wing views have been excluded deliberately, while fascists and demagogues are given free range to spread lies and hatred often unchallenged.
Fact is the BBC has become an unreliable source of information, even part of the problem in that it’s helped nurture an especially British/English form of ethnic nationalism wrapped in the Union Jack and with an unhealthy fetishisation of the armed forces, not to mention a longing of mythic days that never happened. And the BBC are giving these people a platform in the name of fairness while ignoring the larger picture, or just what these people actually do.
So remember this next time you see a Stephen Yaxley-Lennon of one of his ilk being presented on the BBC as something more than the fascist thug he actually is.
In three decades plus of festival going there’s only one festival that really beat me and that is Glastonbury 1998. I’ve written in detail about it previously, but upon looking at the BBC’s coverage from 1998 which is on YouTube, the main thing that strikes me is how fucking wet and miserable everything looks because, well, it was.
Like 1997 it rained turning Worthy Farm into a mudbath. Unlike 97 it didn’t stop on the Friday but carried on and on and on with even hippies who’d been to every Glastonbury and free festival you can and can’t think of, admitting this was the worst year for the weather they’d had. Excuse the pun but it was a perfect storm of the largest attendance ever, with a great lineup (including Pulp, Blur, Tony Bennett, Catatonia, Portishead, Bob Dylan, Foo Fighters, Robbie Williams and err, Rolf Harris who makes an appearance in the first of the videos below) but at that point Michael Eavis hadn’t installed the drainage systems the farm has today. It was in fact this year that prompted the installation of the drainage.
But it was the rain that killed it for me. It started raining on the Friday morning and didn’t stop til the early hours of Saturday morning. It was already muddy when we arrived on the Thursday but this rain didn’t stop dropping then historic volumes of water on the farm and with nowhere to go, vast swathes of the farm was just muddy puddles.
So these recordings of the BBC coverage captures some of the misery of that year as 100k tried hard to have fun in knee-high wet mud as centimetres of rain drop from the sky. The second part onwards captures it the best as all the presenters, barring a stoic John Peel, grow increasingly fed up, then angry, then depressed about the weather ruining what should have been a classic year. Sadly I don’t think too many people count 98 as one of their best years, especially those who used the dance tent after it was cleaned of shit after a farmyard worker mistook blow for suck while trying to drain the water out the tent.
There were wet years after 98 but thanks to the lessons learned then they’ve not been as intolerable so here’s the complete BBC weekend coverage of 1998’s Glastonbury Festival. This time I can enjoy Catatonia without having every part of me battered by the wind and the rain…
Apart from a pretty dismal game between France and Denmark this has been a fantastic World Cup so far, but those of us in the UK have to put up with some terrible commentary, especially from the likes of Mark Lawrenson who sounds as if he doesn’t give a fuck about the game, or the position he’s in.
Now the BBC do offer a commentary free track on their digital services, but some people don’t have access to this so they’re stuck with the wrist-slitting joy of Lawrenson. So would you rather the BBC employ a jaded old pro who treats viewers with contempt or a drunk who’s pissed himself and is desperately slurring words in the hope it makes sense so he can get paid?
Now, nobody say they’re both the same thing…
Well, the men’s Wimbledon final is over and the new Doctor to replace Peter Capaldi is not Roger Federer, the new men’s champion, but is instead Jodie Whittaker, the first female Doctor and right now across the planet there are people’s heads doing this…
So well done to her and at this point I predict two things. There will be right wing leaning people who will cry and whine that this is ‘political correctness’. That basically, the Doctor having a vagina is unrealistic and is a sign of the decline of civilisation.
The second is that someone, somewhere on the left will have a blog/Tweet by the end of today saying ‘why wasn’t the new Doctor black?’ and decrying white privilege. If I gambled I’d bet big money on that by midnight, or in fact, the next ten minutes…
It’s that time of the year where many of us look to a field in Somerset as it is the time of year for the Glastonbury Festival. This year I’m returning after a brief intermission for nearly dying twice in 2016 and I couldn’t be happier.
I’ve written in detail about all the previous festivals I’ve attended (just search Glastonbury in the bar above) since 1992 but as we get ready for this year’s festival lets look back to the year 2000 where modem’s burred and chirruped as we went online, 911 was just a number, Scottish independence was an unrealistic dream, UKIP were a pathetic joke, and Tony Blair was still a cunt.
The 2000 festival is something of a landmark. It is the last pre ‘superfence’ festival and therefore the last festival that felt like the one I first attended in 1992 some eight years earlier. it was a festival that marked 30 years since the first one and in many ways closed the book on that era when the festival could still claim to be counter-cultural. It was also the third year of the BBC televising it and before the festival they produced an excellent wee documentary about Michael Eavis which is simply glorious.
Enjoy and I’ll see you all in a field in Somerset…
Today is cup final day in Scotland and England. These days it’s just a moderately sized game at the end of the season, but in times past when live football was as scarce as a Conservative politicians morals, cup final day was a day when as a boy you’d be glued to the television from early Saturday morning watching the build up. In the 80’s that meant David Coleman on the BBC…
Viewers in Scotland had their own programming which meant the parochial cheapness of BBC Scotland and STV, but live television gave us great moments like this fantastic Jock Wallace interview on STV.
Or Alex Ferguson having a pop at his Aberdeen team after winning the cup final in 1983.
How about Dickie Davies on ITV and his smooth lounge bar ethic?
Now, sadly, the game is another notch in TV companies schedules. Kick-off times are all over the place, fans are secondary to corporate fans and finals are dominated by the massive clubs like Chelsea or Celtic. Basically clubs used to finals and winning things. Shocks are a thing of rarity, but there’s the hope still at every single season that your team may well be standing there on the pitch at Hampden or Wembley holding the trophy.
So good luck to whatever team you support but I do miss the days when today was a day to savour rather than an afterthought.
No, I’m not cheering on the actual historical atrocity, I’m talking about the excellent 1964 film, Culloden, made by Peter Watkins who made one of my top ten ever films, Punishment Park.
Made 53 years ago for the BBC, looking at it now it looks as if it could have been made today as in style, as well as tone, it seems fresh and at the time was hugely adventurous in presenting the battle of Culloden in a docudrama style which at the time wasn’t even a genre of film-making. As a film, Culloden is a flawless gem. As a piece of history it follows the account of the battle by the historian John Prebble making it as accurate (though Prebble is accused of himself missing out facts to support his point of view) as possible which when talking about a battle which even today is shrouded in myth and lies, is some achievement.
So, here’s 70 minutes of groundbreaking television.
G. A. Posonby’s book London Calling: How the BBC stole the Referendum is a fine account of media bias during the Scottish independence referendum. The focus of the book, and now, documentary, though was the BBC which when put under any sort of objective scrutiny, clearly lost any sort of objectivity during the referendum campaign to the point where outright propaganda was the norm, rather than standing out like a sore thumb.
The problems with the documentary though are more than niggling. Building a case against the BBC means using examples is fine and as it should be, but then to use Russia Today clips (and indeed, RT mouthpieces like Max Keiser) without mentioning the fact that RT is a massive propaganda exercise is creating an open goal for critics. Same goes for when the documentary slips into the realm of conspiracy theory, which to be fair, is easily done, but the often menacing music and direction distracts from telling the facts here and there’s a large reliance on talking heads rather than outline the actual examples, or include those examples for added impact.
However, the film does work. There’s a clear narrative of how the BBC, with the aid of the then Tory/Lib Dem coalition government with the aid of their proxies in Scotland, the Labour Party as well as ”grassroots’ groups supporting the Union helped manipulate opinion. After all there’s still a number of people who don’t get their news from the internet, or the root sources, and will rely upon the BBC for all their information and when the BBC decides to work on behalf of the establishment, or even push an agenda to help shape opinion, they’ll do so. The example of Nick Robinson skewing reality to make it look like Alex Salmond didn’t answer a question during the campaign is by far the most famous example of BBC bias, and when the documentary deals with things like this it tends to be superb.
On the whole, London Calling is a fine documentary that deals with not just establishment propaganda, but post-truth politics which with Brexit and Donald Trump’s election is something we should be aware of as the simple act of telling the truth and letting the public decide is gone.What we have now are narratives, and it’s whether we trust those narratives or not which for democracy is dangerous as it means those with the ability to control those narratives controls how democracy is shaped. In 2014, the people who shaped the narrative were the UK establishment and this film is a brutal reminder of how we need to fight to ensure democracy isn’t crushed.
I’ve made it clear I’m a huge fan of Ghostwatch on my blog here, and recently over at That’s Not Current where most of my reviews now live. What is clear is that over two decades later Ghostwatch is still a massive thing, and in fact seems to be generational as I’ve spoken to people who were barely a crusty stain on their dad’s underwear at the time but are huge fans of the film.
Looking back at the BBC continuity now it really is looking at a different era. Everything feels, well, less jaded, less dumbed down but the film still fooled people.
Yet as writer Stephen Volk has said, Ghostwatch managed to ‘fool’ people by manipulating their expectations in this TedTalk.
In the above talk Volk talks about Nigel Kneale’s The Stone Tape as an influence, and indeed, what Ghostwatch influenced with the Found Footage genre of horror especially. I don’t think we’ll ever see something like Ghostwatch on the BBC again, they’re far too conservative now and the reaction to the film in 1992 saw them having to make assurances the programme wasn’t real later in the night.
Indeed, it’s taken on a life of it’s own and thanks to the internet, has entered horror lore as this YouTube video shows.
Yet the BBC do seem to be softening on the stance of ignoring it by finally offering it for download on their online store.
Next year is the 25th anniversary of the programme. It’d be an obvious time to not just have the BBC repeat it, but perhaps see if someone can work out how to do something that follows it up in the age where we’re all perhaps too cynical and jaded to not notice when something is a hoax or to be scared by such programmes? I’m not sure it can be done but it’d be interesting to see if someone could try it.
I adore the work of documentary film-maker Adam Curtis which is why I’m excited about his new film,HyperNormalisation, due to be launched on the BBC’s iPlayer tonight. This one is about Donald Trump, Brexit and the system we live in today which is entirely false which we all know is false, but none of us want to admit it.
At 2 hours 46 minutes it promises to be an epic but we need people like Curtis making films that question everything, and well done to the BBC for giving him the time, money and space to essentially do whatever he wants. I can’t imagine ITV or Sky doing that.
So here’s the trailer.
I never find Curtis’s work a chore; far from it, so once I’ve worked through it I’ll give my opinion after watching what promises to be an exceptional work.