City Journal Autumn 2014

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Autumn 2014
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By Stefan Kanfer

The Voodoo That They Did So Well: The Wizards Who Invented the New York Stage.

Eye on the News

Stefan Kanfer
British Broadcast Cowardice
The BBC’s sad decline
10 September 2007

Once upon a war, the British Broadcasting Corporation aired the likes of George Orwell, T. S. Eliot, and Winston Churchill, proudly hailed the valor of the RAF, and extolled the virtues of the Western world. That was then; this is 2007, the epoch of the Beeb, a synonym for mendacity, spinelessness, and political correctness.

Recently, the BBC allowed a blatantly anti-Semitic posting to remain on its website for days. The message from someone using the alias “Iron Naz” read: “Zionism is a racist ideology where jews are given supremacy over all other races and faiths.” Only after complaints from Jewish organizations was the item removed. Then a popular BBC children’s show held a faked phone-in competition. The show led its viewers to believe that the competition was open to the public and that members of the television audience were making the calls. In fact, the winning caller was a member of the production team.

To complete the picture, the BBC presented footage suggesting that Queen Elizabeth II had stormed out of a sitting with celebrity photographer Annie Leibovitz. (Actually, the queen was filmed complaining about her crowded schedule before the two women ever met.) When the gaffe was exposed, the Beeb issued an official statement: “In this trailer there is a sequence that implies that the Queen left a sitting prematurely. This was not the case and the actual sequence of events was misrepresented. The BBC would like to apologize to both the Queen and Annie Leibovitz for any upset this may have caused.”

But wait—there’s more! Under pressure from BBC suits, a drama called Casualty recently made a chilling alteration to one of its scripts. According to reports, the show’s stars “won’t be dealing with an explosion caused by Islamic extremists in case it offends Muslims. Now the bomb will be set off by animal rights campaigners instead.”

Translation: folks like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals may be notorious for offensive demonstrations and statements. They famously dumped a dead raccoon on the table of Anna Wintour, Vogue’s editor in chief, for promoting the use of fur in fashion, and threw pies at her on various occasions. But they don’t detonate bombs in subways, behead those whose beliefs are different, instigate riots and murders because of some impudent cartoons, demand special schools to preach hatred to the young, or condemn those outside their orbit as infidels. Thus, in a strange judo move, the Beeb turned the annoying but nonviolent into murderous villains, and gave the real enemy of Western civilization a pass.

It should come as no surprise, though, to see the BBC in its present state of disgrace. This is, after all, the corporation whose newsreader Anna Ford has just quit because of the Beeb’s “atmosphere of fear”; whose Newsnight presenter, Jeremy Paxman, states that his employer suffers from a “catastrophic, collective loss of nerve”; and whose editor, Peter Barron, complains about the BBC’s incessant harping on unproved global warming. It is “not the corporation’s job to save the planet,” he says. The Beeb’s future appears to be as bleak as November in London.

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