Saturday, 30 June 2012

the BBC's Richard II: uncovering Shakespeare?

click to go to Richard II on the BBC website
Shakespeare’s Richard II is most famous for the playwright’s beautiful hymn to his native land which ends "This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England". I highly recommend the BBC’s latest production of it.

Prof Marjorie Garber: click to learn more
The play was followed by a documentary presented by Derek Jacobi (Richard in 1978). Harvard University’s Professor Marjorie Garber proposed an insight I found fascinating: during the deposition scene Richard’s cry "Ay; no; no; ay" sounds like "I know no I", and elaborates "he cannot distinguish between his role and his persona"; similar confusion would earn Jean-Paul Sartre many free lunches.

On the vexed issue of authorship Jacobi’s interviewee, Jason Lindsay – descendant of candidate Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford – opined disappointingly that "a mere middle-class boy from the provinces" could not have produced such work. Personally, coming from a country whose Bard was a farm-labourer, I have no problem believing in Shakespeare’s literary abilities.

Richard II deals with monarchs’ divine right to rule, and there were the inevitable comparisons with tyrants such as Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Ceaucescu. Perhaps, given her own deposition, comparisons with Margaret Thatcher were also inevitable. What bothered me was that after the section about Thatcher’s downfall, expertly tied into the play by journalist John Simpson, Jacobi repeated that Richard II should make "tyrants" tremble. He also stated that her betrayal occurred because of the unpopularity of the “poll tax” – it wasn’t. Mrs Thatcher’s opponents wanted to take Britain into the heart of Europe, an ambition which would have resulted in existential threat in the present crisis.

As this threat hangs over parts of Europe it’s disappointing to see the BBC use Shakespeare to make ideological points about its bugbear, Margaret Thatcher. I support its right to free speech, but why do I have to fund it to say things I find distasteful?

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Click to go to Richard II on the BBC website

Click to watch Derek Jacobi's Shakeapeare Uncovered documentary

Click for an online script of Richard II

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Shipbuilding - was it worth it?

"Every conflict, every war that’s been waged in our time, has had its soundtrack: calls to arms, calls to lay down arms, but nothing like Shipbuilding."

click to go to Annie Nightingale's Radio 1 homepage

Thus Annie Nightingale (right) introduced Is it worth it? showcasing Robert Wyatt’s Falklands War-era song, written by Elvis Costello. It was named after the first line, and by halfway through the hour-long documentary I'd heard those words sung so often I was asking myself the same thing.

My heart sank from the moment Nightingale mentioned "the controversy over who the Falklands Islands – or Las Malvinas – should belong to". Then followed paeans to music’s ability to express anti-capitalist sentiments as well as Pat Kane of Hue and Cry declaring that to have people building ships for the navy to prosecute war from – the theme of Shipbuilding – was both "dignified and shameful" and an offshoot of "the poisonous need to create contracts" for industries that supply the military.

read about the Falklands War at the Margaret Thatcher Foundation

The second half-hour was balanced by contributions from shipbuilders, veteran Andy Eakins and war-widow Barbara Macauley. But it failed to present the Falklands War as more than a product of Margaret Thatcher doing things that annoy the BBC.

For instance, scriptwriters might have mentioned that while Britain and Spain had often disputed ownership, the Islands never belonged to Argentina. That the Islanders are predominantly of British and American descent. Or, indeed, that Pope Alexander VI prepared the ground for conflict in 1494 by arbitrarily delcaring where the line dividing the future Atlantic territories of Spain and Portugal would lie.

To argue that proximity renders the Falklands Argentinian exemplifies outdated colonialist thinking. This was by no means the most biased documentary the BBC has come up with but, with the prospect of British Armed Forces members going in harm’s way not receding, it needs to reappraise its student-union internationalism and remember why it’s called the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Click to go to the BBC Radio 2 webpage for Is it Worth It

Click to view a Falklands Islands timeline

Click here to see Robert Wyatt's video for Shipbuilding on YouTube or watch it below:

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Halal slaughter: lessons to be learnt?

click and scroll down for Mary Caldwell's Pause for Thought

We Brits are famous animal lovers. It’s unsurprising, then, that writer Mary Caldwell, in her Radio 2 Pause for Thought introducing the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, used a distressing story about Victorian chaffinch-keepers blinding their birds so they’d sing louder in competitions. Her lesson was from Francis of Assisi: "If we have men who will exclude any of God’s creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who deal likewise with their fellow men".

Schedule 12 of The Welfare of Animals (Killing and Slaughter) Regulations 1995 exempts Muslims and Jews from Schedule 5, allowing them to slaughter animals that aren’t pre-stunned "without the infliction of unnecessary suffering". However, while Schedule 12 lays down detailed standards for the The Rabbinical Commission for The licensing of Shochetim (Kosher slaughter), there’s no mention of any body overseeing Halal slaughter. Marc Lebuis of Tipping Point: click for info on Halal and Hamas

I agree with Marc Lebuis (left), Québécois editor of Point de Bascule [tipping point] Canada when he says that if Muslims feel they need Halal-slaughtered meat then that should be their religious right. But Lebuis identifies the consequences of unregulated business, in that two organisations who took over Halal certification in Canada were stripped of their charitable status for passing funds to Hamas and Al Qaeda.

The potential to inadvertently fund terrorists is huge worldwide, given institutions’ predispositions to buying Halal food not to offend Muslims, probably ignorant of the Koran verse excusing Muslims from eating Halal when not available. (So the RSPCA’s Religious Slaughter Information Sheet disappoints by mentioning only Kosher-slaughtered food entering general circulation.)

The lesson pertaining to human suffering of unregulated Halal slaughter is that when organisations are exempted from controls for ideological reasons, suffering multiplies. Perhaps when the UN understands this, it will then announce International Days in Support of Victims of Forced marriage, Child Grooming, Female Genital Circumcision…the list goes on.

Tony Urquhart
300 words


Click to go to the webpage for the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture

Click to go to the Boycott Halalwebsite (warning: links to disturbing images)

click to see Marc Lebuis interviewed by Giles Coren on Youtube or watch below:

Friday, 22 June 2012

shakespeare: guardian of English multiculturalism

Two recent programmes showed how Shakespeare’s plays bind people of all traditions who live in England together, with his insights into the human heart.

Promoting Simon Schama’s Shakespeare, the historian wrote about being a judge on Off by Heart Shakespeare:

[Children] who learned long speeches by Shakespeare…weren’t all white…they were exactly the face of young Britain that you’d expect and had absolutely no problem with the language or the meaning of the plays.
falstaffIn the documentary, Schama presented Shakespeare as writing for both “gents and groundlings”; both cold power-mongers and the “warm, earthy, beer-drinking England” represented by Elizabeth I’s favourite character, Falstaff. After Henry VIII’s reformation divorced him from Catherine of Aragon and England from Rome, Falstaff, says Schama, became “the living embodiment of a small country that suddenly has an outsize sense of itself”.

Shakespearian teacher: David HarewoodIn Macbeth, the Movie Star…and Me, Homeland actor David Harewood had five days to prepare pupils from Birmingham’s Washwood Heath Technology College to perform a scene from the Unlucky Play in Stratford-Upon-Avon. It was wonderful to see the kids become Shakespearians not only through Harewood’s tutelage but by the Bard’s living, visceral acquaintance with all of our insecurities. I cried when the actors finally transcended themselves and shone.

Schama, perhaps thinking of today, related that in the 1590s "skyrocketing" living costs sparked riots. Another connection is religious: Shakespeare wrote when "talking about religion could land you in prison, or worse".

Ours times are similar; the uneasy truce between Judaeo-Christian tradition and humanism, whose contradictions birthed modern Western culture, is threatened by sinister forces prepared to silence democracy’s atonal clamour. As the UN tells countries to "undermine national homogeneity" in the name of multiculturalism, programmes like these show that English culture gives everybody a voice. This is the only soil in which true multiculturalism can grow.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Click to go to Simon Schama's Shakespeare part 1: This England

Click to go to Macbeth, the Movie Star...and Me with David Harewood

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

G20 protest trial: let the jury walk a mile in police shoes

the sort of pressure facing the police

The trial of a police officer accused of causing Ian Tomlinson’s death during 2009’s demonstration against the G20 summit continues. Will the jury have a chance to examine the pressures the police were under that day?

Some will cry that the police are paid to be under pressure. I cannot join in, because I have never stood for hours in front of a baying, hostile mob inside hot protective clothing, armed with intelligence that persons unknown might attempt a murder. Dr Chris Knight: click to read more

A few days beforehand a video had been posted on the community called Government of the dead: hang a banker. The calls to "hang the bankers" came from anthropologist Dr Chris Knight, who was suspended from his post at the University of East London for suggesting in couched language that he would not condemn lethal force:

Fred Goodwin: click to learn moreWe are going to be hanging a lot of people like Fred the Shred [Sir Fred Goodwin] from lampposts on April Fool’s Day and I can only say let’s hope they are just effigies. To be honest, if he winds us up any more I’m afraid there will be real bankers hanging from lampposts and let’s hope that that doesn’t actually have to happen.

The police, therefore, were facing the possibility that some of Knight’s disciples intended to kill. No wonder tensions were high.

All of which is not to condone the killing of Ian Tomlinson, who was trying to recover from problematic and damaging alcohol use in order to get off the streets and be accepted back into his family. PC Simon Harwood may have provided the immediate cause of Mr Tomlinson’s cardiac arrest. Ultimately, however, he was sentenced to death by Chris Knight and his associates – left-wing chocolate soldiers whose MO is to start battles then melt away to leave others to die in them, even (or should that be especially?) if they are innocent bystanders.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

the hidden agenda behind statement that all communities abuse children?

Sue Berelovitz: click for more info on the Culdren's Commissioner team

The Telegraph’s Martin Beckford reports a statement by Deputy Children’s Commissioner Sue Berelowitz that child abuse is happening "in every town, village and hamlet in England".

No argument: more victims of child sexual abuse will encounter crisis intervention services as adults than will ever be seen by social services as children. I admire her willingness to break taboos by adding that sexual exploitation of children happens in "white, Pakistani, Afghan, Gypsy and Romany traveller" communities.

The context of her remarks, however, provides food for thought. The first session of the Home Affairs Committee’s enquiry into child exploitation met today, focussing on the recent Rochdale trial of 11 Pakistani men for grooming and abusing five girls (although one Committee member suggested that all 47 witnesses to this may actually be victims, and will be included in the post-trial enquiry).

Members said repeatedly that there is no racial element to child abuse, and they’re absolutely right. If you name any large organisation, for example, it’s probable that it will contain at least somebody who has been a victim or even a perpetrator of some degree of child abuse. Tommy Robinson: click for Hotseat episode on Vox Africa

I hope, however, that the enquiry will dedicate a sub-committee to non-internet-based grooming of girls by organised gangs of men. This will require courage, because perpetrators in this sub-group are largely Muslim and victims non-Muslim. In his recent Vox Africa appearance Tommy Robinson (right) quoted grimly familiar figures: 100 victims in Blackpool, 60 in Telford, 30 in Derby, and the list goes on.

I agree with Ms Berelowitz that all communities must be investigated, but to widen the net merely to dilute the attention on one ethnicity would be a dereliction of duty. Should she be invited to turn a blind eye to Muslim grooming of non-Muslim children, however, the EDL is here to help her refocus.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Click here for a video-recording of the Home Affairs Committee's enquiry into Rochdale - 2 hrs 10 min long, but worth a watch if you have the time

Casuals United blog: Message from an ex police officer regarding grooming gangs

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

English Defence League on Vox Africa

click to go to the debate on The Hot Seat, Vox Africa

Vox Africa’s recent debate on Islam and terrorism appeared on its flagship programme The Hot Seat, with Akintayo Adetokunbo-edmund chairing in an urbane but assertive manner.

Akintayo: click for The Hot SeatFour participants – Tommy Robinson of the English Defence League, Paul Armstrong of the Association of British Muslims, Abdullah Al Andalusi of the Muslim Debate Initiative and the BNP’s Carlos Cortiglia – initially resembled a lively Question Time or Newsnight panel (except that neither could have hosted this debate because Akintayo (right) is something the BBC doesn’t possess: a genuinely impartial chair).

Then the Muslim Public Affairs Committee’s Raza Nadim joined by phone with a prolonged ad hominem attack on Robinson which Akintayo had to curtail by calling “Raza!” in a raised voice. It was something he had to repeat throughout, and to his credit he never lost his composure in the face of the cleric’s rants.

Armstrong and Al Andalusi are sophisticated European converts to Islam and beneficiaries of 3,000 years of Western culture. So I’m glad Nadim was there to show the pan-African channel’s viewers the uncompromising vehemence with which beard-and-burqa imperialists replace debate, victimising diverse communities which turn to English Defence League as a bulwark and final pressure-valve.

Despite the BNP’s elected politicians, the debate centred around the EDL and its concerns, so that a programme entitled Is Islam was synonymous with terrorism turned to Muslim paedophile gangs. With concerns about, for example, the sale of seven-year-old girls for marriage in Niger (legal under Sharia law), it seems our struggle is the talk of Africa.

Akintayo ended by giving both sides food for thought, reminding Tommy that Nigeria’s Boko Haram kill Muslims as much as Christians; and asking Nadim whether it’s right for Muslims to come to Great Britain from overseas and tell their hosts how to live. I’ll watch The Hot Seat again.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Read on English Defence website: Is Islam synonymous with terrorism? Tommy Robinson on Vox Africa

Click here to watch the debate
or watch below:

Is Islam synonymous with Terrorism? Tommy... by EDLrelated

Saturday, 9 June 2012

open letter to Fearne Cotton: the BBC's a bully too

Dear Fearne, read about Fearne's remarks in the Telegraph

I am sad that you have been subjected to personal abuse on social media that you were right to label as bullying. You were undoubtedly under orders to comment on Diamond Jubilee sick bags.

I have to tell you that your employer, the BBC, is also a bully.

It’s not your fault. Many of us have worked for bullies, and some of the nastiest are among your bosses. read Anna Ford on BBC racism and misogyny

Take the misogyny. I hope you enjoy your very good looks for a long time before you start to learn, alongside colleagues like Mariella Frostrup and Anna Ford, that when the lines start you’re no longer required front-of-shop. read Lindsay John on racism in Britain, including the BBC

And the racism. Race is a chimera, but discrimination on grounds of characteristics once associated with race abounds, with the BBC a major offender. On one hand there’s Greg Dyke’s remark that the BBC is "hideously white", and on the other Lindsay Johns hits home when he attacks the corporation for thinking it’s connecting with black people when Radio 1 Xtra plays rap, and asks "where’s the black Radio 4?"

Last in a selection of the BBC’s many bullying traits is the licence fee. If something upsets me on a commercial channel I switch over and don’t get too bothered; but if the BBC transmits offensive material like Jerry Springer: The Opera or the Ross and Brand débâcle (which was pre-recorded), whether or not I watch it, I am forced to pay for it by being blackmailed with a £1000 fine should I withhold my licence fee in protest.

I hope you take this letter in the spirit it was written, which is one of solicitude for your future well-being. You are a highly talented media personality, and I think your interests would be best-served by ditching the BBC before it ditches you.


Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Here's FEarne's Bullyproof tips on YouTube:

Thursday, 7 June 2012

ITV's Lewis and racism in post-race society

click to go to the Lewis page on the ITV website

The ITV series Lewis deserves its place as a Great British institution. Originally a spin-off of Inspector Morse, inspired by Colin Dexter’s novels and starring John Thaw, Lewis follows the cases of the Inspector who was a Detective Sergeant in the Morse programmes.

The current series finale, The Indelible Stain, followed the Dexter M.O. of a nuanced web of mystery and tangled human lives proceeding from an ostensibly simple start. So much so that the episode’s theme was easy to miss: race or, more precisely, what racism means in post-racial society.

We see a speech by a controversial American criminologist interrupted by a baying mob of anti-racists who, we learn, are "all white, of course". The head anti-racist is an upper-middle-class woman living in a palatial villa who, I imagine, would have no idea of life on a multi-ethnic housing estate. A black girl receives abusive text-messages which turn out to be from a love rival who resents not her race but her beauty.

I don’t want to spoil things for my fellow crime-fiction buffs. All I can say is that issues of race, which appear to have been at the start at the heart of the investigation, peter away and show race itself to be the chimera that it is.

The social comment I felt The Indelible Stain made was that if we want a society that has deconstructed the notion of race, we must also stop holding onto that of racism. The further implication would be that the minority of people who would have their peers cling to notions of victimhood as to a lifebelt, and tar the majority with the prejudices of a bigoted rump, need to realise that the past is history and they stand where we all do: shoulder to shoulder, facing the coming storm.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Click to go to the Lewis page on the ITV website
Check out Lewis on Amazon!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Diamond Jubilee weekend

So how was your Jubilee weekend?

I’m glad to say that rain didn’t stop play in our village, gazebos having been donated for Sunday’s street-party. The turnout, comprising all ages, was great. A hog-roast was supplied by the butcher for cost price (if that) and his staff volunteered to clean up the High Street afterwards. A Queen is Crowned: click for review on amazon

On Monday our local hall put on A Queen is Crowned. Laurence Olivier had done a workmanlike job of narrating the colour record of the Coronation – another rainy day! – marred only by his occasional inability to control his enthusiasm. We were then treated to a 60s cover band performing note-perfect renditions of some of the best popular music produced during her Majesty’s reign.

Afterwards my better half and I watched the Thames Jubilee Pageant on i-Player, and thought: come back Laurence, all is forgiven. Only the BBC could turn an event on a scale unparalleled since 1662 into the apotheosis of banality. As one letter-writer to the Telegraph noted, "the viewing numbers reflected not quality but monopoly". The same went for Tuesday’s coverage of the National Service of Thanksgiving in Westminster Abbey, where the nadir was surely provided by Fearne Cotton extolling the virtues of a Diamond Jubilee-themed sick bag. click for the Diamond Jubilee Concert

Some redemption came with the Diamond Jubilee Concert, especially Gary Barlow’s Sing, starring musicians from across the commonwealth, with the Military Wives’ Choir providing a thoroughly British touch. Furthermore, in Barlow’s Making Of…, the absence of celeb tears when in the Dagoretti settlement to recruit Kenyan percussionists the Slum Drummers was refreshing.

It was the Queen and her people who saved the Diamond Jubilee from the BBC’s efforts to reduce this remarkable woman to the status of a sofa-surfing celebrity. When looking back on it, I suspect A Queen is Crowned will be the high-point - along with, of course, the subject of the film as she was on the day: her own inimitable and dignified self.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Friday, 1 June 2012

Scottish boy rapist case: the attack on adolescence

The case of a Scottish 12-year-old with "unfettered access" to internet porn who raped a 9-year-old girl will, inevitably, raise further fears about attacks on childhood. These fears aren’t quite on target. The attacks, as just seen, are certainly harmful to children, but are aimed at adolescence.

Adolescence as it exists now began, as far as we can tell, in Plato’s Athens: rich young men would remain in education until twenty, while girls would marry at about 15. After falling into disuse it was reinstated when the age of consent for sex was raised from 13 to 16 in 1885.

In the article Adult Anxieties, Youthful Passions, Susan Ferentinos outlines modern anxieties about adolescent sexuality when she refers to "this tension between growing and going too far, between guidance and control".

Add to this the pressures on both genders identified by the American Psychiatric Association in The Sexualisation of Girls – the media, cartoons, music videos; that’s before we come to internet porn.

Once, dirty movies came as videos that had by law to have plots and were limited as to their explicitness. Rules were broken, of course, but now the anarchy built into the internet renders rules, and therefore boundaries, meaningless.

Once a video was bought it ceased raising money for its makers: but anybody, of any age, who views internet porn exposes themselves to advertising and/or the desired viruses in this trade that is worth £3bn annually. No wonder Google cavils about controls!

Adolescence is a time of children’s lives when adults undertake to protect them from themselves and from us, and this undertaking is the hit-counter’s enemy. Factor in abusive sex education and pressures from cultures which regard adolescence as alien, and the only surprise about the Scottish rape case is that it hasn’t happened until now.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Click for an explanation of why pornography is addictive