Biased Broadcasting Corporation

The Independent Online Edition
Why I’m happy to see Christians finally on the march
Would the BBC, you wonder, care to commission a comedy satirising the Koran?
By DJ Taylor
10 January 2005

As a Christian, a church-goer and – I hope – a concerned citizen, I sat down and watched BBC2’s Saturday night post-watershed screening of Jerry Springer – The Opera with a certain amount of interest. As someone who regularly laments the absence of anything remotely satirical from terrestrial TV, I ended up thinking it rather funny: well choreographed, full of good lines and gaining most of its impact from the weird juxtaposition of mundane dialogue and mock-high art setting. No particular worries about the supposed blasphemy or even the blitz of bad language, for I knew that if any of the children had surreptitiously chanced upon it, they would have switched off in about 20 seconds.

Not everybody, alas, was so sanguine. According to the latest estimates, approximately 45,000 other concerned citizens complained in advance to the BBC. Hundreds of outraged Christians, meanwhile, demonstrated in the street outside Broadcasting House, while the corporation was thought to be taking legal action against a website operated by Christian Voice that had printed the home telephone numbers of certain of its senior executives. A report that Roly Keating, the controller of BBC2, had been forced into hiding by the resultant volley of abusive phone calls was denied.

The truly depressing thing about this stand-off – one which looks set to become an increasingly common feature of the 21st-century cultural landscape – is the absolute predictability of the attitudes on display and the complete absence of any dialogue. On the one hand, thousands of rabid evangelicals, scarcely 10 of whom will have seen the show in question, dutifully following where their leaders direct; on the other A C Grayling and the spokesperson from the British Humanist Association, whatever that is, primly regretting this “ignoble” threat to the freedom of speech. No attempt by the offended to engage with the thing that is offending them, and no attempt by liberal newspaper pundits to respond with anything other than amused superciliousness. As for the BBC’s proud trumpeting of its mandate to screen challenging artistic work, this would look a great deal more plausible if the rest of its schedules weren’t packed out with gardening programmes and Trinny and Susannah.

However deplorable the thought of the likes of Roly Keating being terrified to pick up their phones, the sight of militant Christianity taking the trouble to mobilise in the face of something it dislikes is actually a rather welcome development , if only because it may finally draw attention to the 45 degree-angled playing field on which debates about freedom of speech and religious tolerance take place. Of all the religions currently drawn up on the media firing range, Christianity is the softest target of all, dragged down by a public vulnerability that is generally enhanced by the actions of the people put up to defend it. Invite a bishop on to the Today programme to debate with Richard Dawkins, it may be said, and all that will follow is five minutes’ worth of craven defensiveness.

One sees this immediately in the contending responses to Jerry Springer – The Opera and Behzti, the play that so enraged the Sikh protesters on its staging last month in Birmingham: on the one side, enlightened condescension; on the other, death threats, outraged local politicians and community leaders, and self-censorship. The Sikhs, one sometimes feel, are much better at these things than us timorous Bible-bashers. Would the BBC, you wonder, care to commission Behzti for its Saturday night schedule, or a comedy satirising the Koran? No, because the ethnic minorities thereby offended take these things seriously, and Mr Keating really would have to take himself away on holiday.

A similar, though less widely reported, spat of this kind took place three or four years ago in Glasgow, when the local branch of HMV was found to be selling a T-shirt advertising the oeuvre of a death-metal band called Cradle of Filth and emblazoned with the slogan “Jesus is a Cunt”. HMV declined to withdraw the garment on the grounds that they were opposed to censorship. An exemplary response, no doubt, but would HMV have been equally eager to stock a shirt printed with the words “Mohammed is a Motherfucker” or “Vishnu Sucks”? Somehow, one rather thinks not.

All this gestures at a maxim lost amid the spectacle of politicians sucking up to their electoral sponsors. Either one has freedom of speech or one does not. We inhabit a cultural landscape where one religion, largely because of its association with that increasingly mythical “establishment”, is fair game, while others remain sacrosanct for fear of offending the predominantly brown-skinned people who practise them. As a good liberal, I support the right of the BBC to broadcast a programme mocking the God I happen to worship. At the same time – again as a good liberal – I hope that the next time any Cradle of Filth Jesus T-shirts go on sale, the local Christians will be outside baying abuse and searching for the phone numbers of the retail executives responsible. You can’t have it both ways.

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Just the Facts, Mam

I felt uncomfortable when I saw a Channel News Asia journalist appearing as a guest on this morning’s breakfast show on television.

She was describing her experiences in covering the tsunami disaster in Indonesia.

It is one of those things where you feel that something is not right but you don’t really know what is wrong.

I’m trying to figure it all out.

For someone who reports the news on television, being objective, factual and unemotive, even detached, these are important to me. I’ll take a “Just the Facts, mam” attitude anytime. I don’t want to know too many personal details or accounts of experiences that are framed in subjectivity. I know it’s impossible to be totally objective, but if you make an effort, people will know and appreciate it.

If a news anchor would ask her for a short comment when she was reporting the news, I think that’s fine. Especially considering the scale of the disaster. But this was a morning breakfast show, and she spoke for a long time, I would say 10 minutes at least.

I don’t know whether I’m right on this but what I know was, I was uncomfortable. And I think when I see her on air reporting, my opinion of her, which was formed through the interview, would cloud whatever she says.

I think the news should be the news, the newsmakers should be the newsmakers and the reporters who report the news should just report the damm news.

Of Trays and Man

I was at Tiong Bahru Plaza food court when this happened.

2 ladies were sitting at a table. They had just bought their food. One of them cleared her tray and put the plates of food on her clean and uncluttered table. With the empty tray in her hand, she looked around. She spotted the table next to her. There was a couple there eating away. There was an empty tray on their table and some dirty plates, probably left behind by the previous occupants.

So this lady, went over to their table and asked nicely whether she could put her tray on their table. They said yes and so she put her tray on their dirty, messy table and went back to her clean, uncluttered table.

Hmmm. I don’t know about you but I find this strange.

It’s like I have a empty box in my clean and uncluttered home. I want to get rid of it and I noticed my neighbor’s house is dirty and cluttered. And so, I will just walk over and ask them nicely, “Would you mind if I put this box in your house”?

Should I do this or should I just walk over to the nearest disposal bin and throw it away myself?

I dont’ get it.

God & the Tsunami

“How do we find God after losing so much in a historic tragedy? How much is our faith and a higher power tested by the tsunami killing more than 150,000 people in a matter of moments?” – Larry King Live, Jan 7th 2005

It was interesting hearing the various perspectives from the different faiths about God’s role in the Tsunami.

This was something that was at the back of my mind but I never gave it much thought.

As a Christian, I believe that God is sovereign. Which means that He allows this to happen. Is He then responsible for this? Some Christians have a definite answer, where they explain with logic and reason, the reasons why such devastation and loss has to happen. Frankly, I don’t have an answer. And I’m comfortable with that.

Christian education has a branch called Apologetics which is a systematic, positive and intelligent defense of the Christian faith. It is not negative, as it does not condemn the other faiths, although comparative religion is often included.

While Christian Apologetics is invaluable and has its place, there can be instances where Christians can use reason and intelligent argument to answer difficult questions in a way that makes things too simplistic.

Like the Tsunami question.

Personally, I think the best answer is – We really don’t know.

But we have faith in God.

Faith is one of the pillars of Christianity, along with Hope and Love. In fact, the Bible says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. So, it’s ok not to have all the answers but it’s important to believe.

To believe in a God who loves us. Who died for us. Who gave us life. Who commanded us to live a life of fruifulness. Who commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. Who commanded us to take care of the orphans and the widows.

We may not have all the answers, but we have enough answers to play a massive role in relieving the suffering of people all over the world. Perhaps it’s time to stop asking questions.

It’s time to provide the answers.

Burning Bridges

A friend of mine quit her job yesterday.

Suddenly. Dramatically. Painfully.

Blink.

I have been asking her to leave her poorly-managed organization (an oxymoronic term for this entity) for the longest time, so I’m happy for her. At the same time, I’m concerned as there are financial consequences.

Reminded me of the time when I quit my job 7 months ago. I had a job offer but that was for a 3 month engagement. Was risky but I took the chance. I quit but before I took that offer, I was offered a position at my present company.

One of the things that inspired me to quit despite the risk was something I read.

“A long while ago, a great warrior faced a situation which made it necessary for him to make a decision which insured his success on the battlefield. He was about to send his armies against a powerful foe, whose men outnumbered his own. He loaded his soldiers into boats, sailed to the enemy’s country, unloaded soldiers and equipment, then gave the order to burn the ships that had carried them. Addressing his men before the first battle, he said, “You see the boats going up in smoke. That means that we cannot leave these shores alive unless we win! We now have no choice—we win, or we perish!

They won. Every person who wins in any undertaking must be willing to burn his ships and cut all sources of retreat. Only by so doing can one be sure of maintaining that state of mind known as a BURNING DESIRE TO WIN, essential to success. “

Napoleon Hill calls this idea – Burning Bridges.

Burning Bridges can be painful, but I’m confident, my friend, it will be all good.

In the end.

Blink Blink

For those of you who don’t know who Malcolm Gladwell is, he’s responsible for the monsterously phenomenonal The Tipping Point.

But if you’re like me, and choose to read his new book, Blink, in the store and wait for the library to bring it in, there’s a couple of free resources you can turn to.

His website, http://www.gladwell.com/archive.html, has a wonderful archive of his writings. Many of the ideas in Blink actually came from some his articles for the New Yorker.

Blink excerpts can be found here.

You can choose to put him on your iPod, at least for half an hour, if you go here.

i sleep with myself

i thought i’ll just blink.

i sleep with myself. my pillow is soft. a valley, a person, usually different, but always soft.

i sleep with myself. the dreams do come. out there. but they haven’t come lately. like a missing period.

i sleep with myself. she tells me. why the anger? no why the lack of it.

do i care? i do but i think. and you don’t?

i sleep with myself. do monsters come? i wish they do. i wish they come. unleash hell, fire balls, and kiss me deadly. like a vampire, i rise only to realize that the blood the blood the blood.

i sleep with myself because death delays. when she does, it is deader than life. i cry. she weeps. we live.

i sleep with myself. there is another who sleeps. where is she? no what is she? she lives? flesh and blood?

does she float? then i want to be light. light. fight. flight.

i sleep with myself. there is no other.

act 2 begins when i sleep the sleep of death, only to rise, again. but why am in act 1?

again, i sleep with myself. but there she lies.

(ok, i just needed to write. doesn’t make sense to you? doesn’t make sense to me either. i’m alright – just needed to write. Peace)