Thursday 9 January 2014

Why P.J. Harvey has risen and John Humphrys has fallen

I realise that the subtext of all my comments in the last blog (A Christmas Medley) could be summarised in a paraphrase of a Clash song: “I’m so bored with the BBC”. Whilst they didn’t redeem themselves totally with the PJ Harvey-edited edition of Today it gave a very rare glimpse of a more radical worldview. 

The first thing I heard when I tuned in, assuming it was a normal news day, was someone (John Pilger, it turned out) deriding Barack Obama for the crocodile tears he shed in Nelson Mandela’s prison cell in Robben Island. This from the keeper of keys at Guantanamo. And then he turned on Mandela himself, lambasting him as one of the boys whom the Western powers felt they could do business with. I was amazed. I was stupefied. I turned up the radio full blast so that Lozenge could hear it in bed. 

“Tomorrow we’ll have an alternative view of civilian deaths in Iraq,” said presenter Sarah Montague hastily. Yes, I’m sure we will.  

The songs were apropos, showed the taste of a pro musician and were not inchoately angry. The match of song and news is a forgotten art and I welcomed its partial return (a note for Today producers: Stanley Accrington is a genius at crafting topical songs and is more consistently funny than 'Thought For the Day'). The poems were more successful still, thanks to Ralph Fiennes' beautiful diction. Rowan Williams’ contribution actually clarified some of my thinking about the limitations of the protest song. And Charles Simic’s ‘Austerities’ could make you weep. Or not. The reading took about thirty seconds but not one second was spared for it to resonate. Instead, the weather forecast was given its customary breathless trot to meet those inviolate pips on the hour. It's the rigidity of the format (of Today in particular, the medium in general) that makes thought and reflection impossible. 

Find it at 01:56:55 on  

Anyway, it’s business as usual today, I notice, with news of Tesco’s poor Christmas sales performance delivered in grave tones and the usual line-up of politicians, economists and weasels. The official version has been reinstated, as on all the other 364 days of the year. 

I do have a vague recollection of a news programme with a left-wing agenda. BBC2. It boasted contributions from John Pilger, James Cameron (the sainted late journalist and not the bombastic film director) and the late great Ivor Cutler. The thought makes me sigh for long gone yesterdays of hope. Can anyone remember what it was called?   


  1. May have been called "Up Sunday", but I could not remember John Pilger being involved; indeed after some reshuffling, didn't Cameron get replaced by the likes of Kenny Everett, who after his performance in support of Thatcher could only be regarded as left wing in the KKK?

  2. I think Matt Snow is a music journalist. (Previous blog, a Christmas Medley.) Clearly, I need to employ a fact checker before even taking a leak. Up Sunday, eh? No John Pilger? Right-e-o. And wasn't there something called The Eleventh Hour, which was instant satire and sometimes starred Kevin Coyne? Do you remember Second House, presented by Joe Melia? If you do, that's only you and me in the entire world, and I'm a little bit fuzzy.

  3. Ah just slightly concerned that a young mind might have grafted the benign but nevertheless messiah-like figure of The Doctor onto the Genocidal Despot of Donald Sutherland's part in the H/G Trilogy (All the more surprising in that filmed versions of final third of, and his demise in, which is yet to be made. Literacy still offers the radical alternative of course.)

    There might be an interesting discussion here, as to how benign can dictatorship ever be; but It further complication to the manner in which Michael Gove is questioning the portrayal of the Great War to young minds in its centennial commemoration, should they get the idea that the ruling classes were, are and will probably continue to be fools like there rest of us.

    Even if Gove has a valid point, it is a reminder that non-establishment views need to be preserved with a degree of care, should such items be deleted, destroyed or "lost", even in light of The Net it be forgotten that alternative views even existed, to the orthodox version "of things".

  4. Oh yes, there's a bit of revisionism going on about The Great War on its centenary, and it seems like it's now a good war, and we were wrong all this time to think it was the ultimate folly and completely useless. I think I heard this view announced for the first time on Start the Week. Me, I go with the Blackadder version.


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