Posts Tagged ‘Classical Music’

Vox Political on the Part-Privatisation of Channel 4

May 10, 2016

Mike over at Vox Political has also put up a piece today about the government’s proposed partial privatisation of Channel 4 under John Whittingdale. The Torygraph has reported that the government has climbed down from privatising it fully, and instead are just looking for a ‘strategic partner’, like BT. They would also like the network to sell its offices in Westminster and move to somewhere like Birmingham. Its account should also be checked by the NAO, responsible for examining government expenditure, and they would like to change its non-profit status and see it pay a dividend to the Treasury. Mike points out that the network chiefs have taken this as stepping stone towards Channel 4’s full privatisation, and are deciding to reject it. Meanwhile, the Tories don’t want to privatise it fully, because they’ll get the same backlash from their proposals to sell off the Beeb. See Mike’s article at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2016/05/10/only-part-privatisation-for-channel-4-as-tories-fear-another-bbc-style-backlash/

This is another barbarous government attack on public broadcasting in the UK. Channel 4 was set up in the 1980s to be a kind of alternative to the alternative BBC 2, and to cater for tastes and audiences that weren’t being met by the established channels. According to Quentin Letts in one of his books, Denis Thatcher thought this mean putting yachting on the sports’ coverage instead of footie, which shows the limited idea of ‘alternative’ held by Thatcher and her consort. Jeremy Isaacs, its controller, was proud of his outsider status as a Jew in the network, a status he shared with Melvin Bragg, a Northerner. He said that he wanted to put on the new, fledgling channel programmes on miner’s oral history, and performances of the great classics of Britain’s minority cultures, like the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata. He also believed that people had ‘latent needs’ – there were things they wanted to see, which they didn’t yet know they did. He was widely ridiculed for his views. Private Eye gave a sneering review of the book, in which he laid out his plans and opinions, stating that all this guff about people’s ‘latent needs’ showed that he thought he knew more than they did about what people actually wanted. As for being an outsider, the Eye observed rather tartly that they were all outsiders like that now in broadcasting, swimming around endlessly repeating the same views to each other.

In fact, Isaacs was largely right. Quite often people discover that they actually enjoy different subjects and pursuits that they’re not used to, simply because they’ve never encountered them. The Daily Heil columnist, Quentin Letts, comments about the way the network has been dumbed down in one of his books, pointing out how good the networks cultural broadcasting was when it was first set up. The network was particularly good at covering the opera. I can remember they broadcast one such classical music event, which was broadcast throughout Europe, rather like the Eurovision song contest but with dinner suits, ball gowns, lutes and violins rather than pop spangle, Gothic chic, drums and electric guitars. The audiences for its opera broadcasts were below a million, but actually very good, and compared well with the other broadcasters.

As for its programmes aimed at the different ethnic minorities, I knew White lads, who used to watch the films on ‘All-India Goldies’ and the above TV adaptation of the Mahabharata. This last was also given approval by Clive James, one of the great TV critics. James noted it was slow-moving, but still considered it quality television.

The network has, like much of the rest of British broadcasting, been dumbed-down considerably since then. American imports have increased, and much of the content now looks very similar to what’s on the other terrestrial channels. The networks’ ratings have risen, but at the expense of its distinctive character and the obligation to broadcast material of cultural value, which may not be popular. Like opera, foreign language films and epics, art cinema and theatre.

Even with these changes, there’s still very much good television being produced by the network. From the beginning, Channel 4 aimed to have very good news coverage, and this has largely been fulfilled. There have been a number of times when I’ve felt that it’s actually been better than the Beeb’s. In the 1990s the Channel was the first, I believe, to screen a gay soap, Queer as Folk, created by Russell T. Davis, who went on to revive Dr Who. This has carried on with the series Banana, Cucumber, and Tofu. It also helped to bring archaeology to something like a mass audience with Time Team, now defunct. And if you look at what remains of the British film industry, you’ll find that quite often what little of it there is, is the product of either the Beeb or Channel 4 films.

And from the beginning the Right hated it with a passion. Well, it was bound to, if Denis Thatcher’s idea of alternative TV was golf and yachting, and Thatcher really wouldn’t have wanted to watch anything that validated the miners. And it was notorious for putting on explicitly sexual material late at night, as well as shows for sexual minorities, such as discussing lesbianism, when these weren’t anywhere near as acceptable as they are today. As a result, the Heil regularly used to fulminate against all this filth, and branded its controller, Michael Grade, Britain’s ‘pornographer in chief’.

And over the years, the various governments have been trying to privatise it. I think Maggie first tried it sometime in the 1980s. Then they did it again, a few years later, possibly under John Major. This surprised me, as after they privatised it the first time, I thought that was the end of it. Channel 4 had been sold off completely. It seems I was wrong. It seems these were just part privatisations. Now they want to do it again.

It struck me with the second privatisation of Channel 4 that this was an election tactic by the Tory party. Maggie had tried to create a popular, share-owning, capitalist democracy through encouraging the working class to buy shares in the privatised utilities. And for all her faults and the immense hatred she rightly engendered, Maggie was popular with certain sections of the working class. By the time the Tories wanted to privatise the Channel the second time, it struck me that they were floundering around, trying to find a popular policy. The magic had worn of the Thatcherite Revolution, Major was in trouble, and so they were trying to bring back some of the old triumphs of Thatcher’s reign, as they saw it. They needed something big and glamorous they could sell back to the voters. And so they decided to privatise Channel 4. Again.

They want to do the same now. But the fact that they’re looking for ‘a strategic partner’ tells you a lot about how things have changed in the intervening years. This is most definitely not about popular capitalism. Most of the shares held by working people were bought up long ago by the fat cats. In this area, the Thatcherite Revolution has failed, utterly, just as it has in so many others. This is all about selling more of Britain’s broadcasting industry to the Tory’s corporate backers. Much of ITV is owned by the Americans, if not all of it, and Channel 5 certainly is. What’s the odds that Channel 4 will stay British, if it too is privatised?

And so we can look forward to a further decline in public broadcasting in this country, as it more of it is bought by private, and probably foreign, media giants. Quality broadcasting, and the duty of public broadcasters to try and expand their audiences’ horizons by producing the new, the ground-breaking, alternative and unpopular, will suffer. All for the profit of the Tory party and their big business paymasters.

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The Young Turks on American Girls Joining ISIS and the Reality there for Women

April 6, 2015

This is another couple of videos from The Young Turks internet news show. Although this is an American news programme, it addresses an issue that is also very much in the news over here: that of western girls running away from home to join ISIS as jihadi brides.

Western Girls Joining ISIS

This was in the news about a month or so ago, when three Muslim girls from London ran away from their families and school to go to Syria to join the Islamic State there. As the video below shows, this isn’t just confined to Britain. It’s also happened in America. In the video, the Turks’ anchors Cenk Uyghur and Ana Kasparian discuss the case of three girls from Colorado, who ran away from their homes to try and join the jihadis. The were of Somali and Sudanese heritage, and aged between 15-17 years old. They were caught by the German police trying to go from there to Syria after the authorities were contacted by the girls’ families.

Muslim Feelings of Disenfranchisement and Isolation

Uyghur and Kasparian discuss the girls’ motives for going, and the fundamental stupidity of their actions. They make the point that however marginalised and disenfranchised the girls may feel in America, nevertheless they are leaving America and its immense freedoms for ISIS. Uyghur makes it very clear that the girls could only expect a loss of freedom over there. He states that Islamic fundamentalists view women in a lot of ways as chattels, and would regard them as more property arriving.

Low Status of Women in Islamists like ISIS

It’s a very good point. You can certainly find passages in the Qu’ran and Hadith where Muhammad urges Muslims to treat their wives well – he himself helped his wives with the housework, and the Qu’ran, while allowing polygyny, states that a man must treat all his wives equally. Nevertheless, a movement that twists the words of Muslim scripture to justify the terrorisation and mass butchery of civilians and non-combatants probably isn’t going to be too punctilious about observing those verses that encourage respect for women. Especially as one factor in these movements appears to be a reaction against western feminism.

Uyghur himself is from a Turkish Muslim background, although he’s an agnostic/ atheist like most of the Turks. His comments thus come from his experience from within Muslim culture, and therefore should carry far more weight than the bonkers utterances of various members of the Repugs, who frankly haven’t a clue about the Middle East or its peoples.

Jihadi Brides and Western Idolisation of Serial Killers

He also connects the motives of the girls and young women joining ISIS with those of the westerners, who idolise masked killers. They feel disconnected and powerless. Watching murderers like ISIS and domestic serial killers makes them feel powerful. It’s the same motive that inspired Adam Lanza, the maniac responsible for shooting the audience in an American cinema. He was absolutely obsessed with masked spree killers.

Western Recruits to ISIS Will also Kill Other Muslims

Uyghur also makes the point that once there, those westerners joining ISIS would spend most of their time butchering other Muslims, whose religious views don’t match those of the Islamic State, like the Shi’a. Rather than fighting against non-Muslims, they probably wouldn’t see them, and would spend all their time killing their co-religionists. Again, it’s an excellent point, though following Sayyid Qutb, radical Islamic ideology views liberal or secular Muslims as part of the jaihiliyya, the non-Muslim forces of darkness and ignorance. They are seen as irredeemably corrupt through their acceptance of non-Muslim, western ideas and culture.

As for the Shi’a, extremist Sunnis, like the Wahhabis, consider them to be heretics, who are an enemy of true Islam. The grand mufti in Saudi Arabia even declared them to be ‘worthy of death’, in a chilling exhortation to religious genocide. In addition to murdering and enslaving non-Muslims, ISIS also present a murderous threat to other Muslims, who don’t share their brutal views.

Girls Joining ISIS Should also be Prosecuted for Terrorist Offences

They also make another good point in that the girls joining ISIS should, if caught, face some kind of judicial process and punishment for aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation. This shouldn’t mean an adult court, as they are minors, but nevertheless they should face some kind of judicial punishment.

Women’s Lives in ISIS-Controlled Syria

In this second video, John Iadorola and the others discuss a film made by the French showing the reality of life for women in the part of Syria controlled by ISIS. It was made by a courageous lady, who made it with a hidden camera. For western audiences, it’s chilling. There are armed men everywhere, including one woman calmly pushing a baby buggy with a Kalashnikov slung over her shoulder. The dress code for women is very strictly enforced. All the women are swathed with the niqab. At one point a soldier or cop flags the female journalist down, and tells her to cover up properly. Too much of her face is showing, as her veil is transparent. Her face is fully covered, apart from a slit for the eyes.

Women in Internet Café Refuse Parents’ Pleas to Return

In the second segment of the film the Turks show, the journalist goes to an internet café to talk to the women there about why they joined ISIS. They’re talking to their families, who are clearly distraught and desperately trying to persuade them to come back to France. The girls refuse, saying that they want to stay there, and are very definite about this.

Women Motivated not from Lust for Bad Boys, but also Rage at Western Treatment Middle East

Talking about the video, Ana Kasparian makes the point that she isn’t convinced that it’s just about women falling in love with ‘bad boys’, like criminals in jail. She argues instead that much of the girls’ motives for joining ISIS probably comes from rage at the way the Western powers have treated and abused these countries.

No Choice about Wearing Niqab under ISIS and Extreme Muslim States

She also makes a good point about the headscarf. She states that she was against the French mandatory ban on the scarf, as it was a part of their religion. It should, however, be a woman’s own decision whether or not she wears it. Under ISIS, women don’t have a choice. They have to wear the niqab.

On this last point, it needs to be said that the penalties for women, who don’t dress ‘modestly’ under extremely hard-line Islamic states can be fatal. After the Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979, women were legally required to wear the veil. If they did not, the police shot them as prostitutes. I’ve heard that things have loosened up a bit since then. For example, at one time if the Iranian police caught a group of youths with a bottle of vodka, they’d shoot them. Now they just pour the bottle away.

That, however, is contemporary Iran. This is the Islamic State, who seem to have taken over as the most violent and repressive state in the Middle East.

Ban on Music by ISIS; Pop Music in Revolutionary Iran

On a more trivial point, amongst the things the Islamic State has banned is music. The Turks are astonished at this, and can’t work out why. Now there has always been a debate within Islam on whether music is lawful. It is, however, very much a part of modern life and contemporary youth culture around the world. So much so, that many people, like the Turks, cannot imagine a world without music, and would find such a situation almost unbearable.

Again, Iran provides an example. In Iran it was illegal to play contemporary pop music so loud that another person could hear it. It’s not a complete ban on music by any means, and there was no problem with listening to western classical music. Traditional Iranian music was actively discouraged because it had been promoted by the Shah as part of his programme of creating a secular, national identity against that of Islam.

The Beeb’s reporter, John Simpson, in his book on Iran describes the case of an Iranian trucker, who was playing a piece of western pop in his truck. He had the window down, but the sound of the hip ‘n’ happening sounds were drowned out by the noise of the traffic. Except when he had to stop at the traffic lights. He was overheard, arrest, and given something like 60 lashes.

As I’ve said, Iran appears to have become somewhat looser since then. There are pop groups in Iran, including one that made the news by having both male and female musicians on stage together at the same time. This contravenes the regime’s policy of strictly segregating the sexes. Nevertheless, the Iranian experience after the Revolution gives some idea of the nature of the strictures imposed by the regime in ISIS. Any westerner going there should know that when they do, they’re going to have to give up their ipods and CDs.

Jihadi Girls Want to Marry ‘Warriors’

I’ve posted these videos as they add an interesting, foreign perspective on something that has happened here, and is being discussed in the British press and the BBC. After the three London girls from Bethnal Green fled to Syria, the Beeb’s One Show had one of the Corporation’s female Muslim newsreaders on as a guest to discuss the issue. She put some of it down to the attraction to some girls of marrying a warrior, and the excitement of joining a military organisation, especially one that claimed it was defending their faith.

Girls who Go Won’t Return

She also made the point that those who went, probably wouldn’t come back. It was extremely difficult for those, who wanted to leave, to return to Europe. She cited the case of a foreign women, who joined ISIS, married one of the commanders and had his child. She then decided she’d had enough, and wanted to leave. She couldn’t, and her situation became very difficult.

But she also made the bleak point that most of the girls wouldn’t be returning to Europe and America, simply because they wanted to be there, a fact that must surely break their parents’ hearts.

Difficulty and Dangers in Pregnancy and Child Birth in War Zone

She also made the point that if the girls wanted to get pregnant and have children, then they would have to give birth in a warzone with very limited medical provision. Pregnancy and childbirth is a difficult time for expectant mothers and their partners anyway, even with advanced western medical care. In those areas fought over by ISIS, the risks become much higher.

ISIS Propaganda Tailored to Appeal to Girls and Women

Following this brief item on the One Show, the Beeb are screening this week a documentary on women joining the Islamic State. This makes the point that the internet propaganda perpetrated by the jihadis is extremely pernicious and insidious. Along with the propaganda about fighting for Islam, or rather, ISIS’ version of it, their propaganda also includes items designed to appeal to young women and girls, like fluffy kittens and food.

Girls’ Applause of Brutal Murder American Aid Worker Shows Them to be Sadistic Psychopaths

Now it strikes me as bizarre that the women and girls, who have got drawn into ISIS, have any kind of finer feelings at all, including sentimentality over cute animals. One of the British girls, who ran off to join ISIS, was a fan of beheading videos. She had commented on the video of the brutal execution of an American aid worker ISIS had captured, saying ‘that was gut-wrenchingly awesome’ and pleading ‘more beheadings please!’ I see absolutely nothing in that comment except sadism and bloodlust. It’s the comment of a psychopath, who has absolutely no feelings for the suffering of others, and in fact only derives pleasure and amusement from them.

I realise that kids getting sick pleasure from watching the suffering and deaths of others on video is hardly confined to Muslims. A friend of mine told me years ago how one of his friends – who was definitely White, and non-Muslim – had a copy of the video, Executions. This was ostensibly produced by an organisation opposed to the death penalty, and purported to show how horrific execution actually was. My friend was shocked by the way his friend was just laughing and sniggering at the last, desperate actions of those killed.

The girl’s applauding of the murder of the American aid worker goes beyond this. She wasn’t just a passive spectator; she demanded more, and in doing so became complicit in further atrocities, even if she did not, in fact, commit them herself. As for the victim, if he is the person of whom I’m thinking, then his death was even more iniquitous than the usual run of murders. The man was an aid worker, who had dedicated his life to helping the local people. He had identified with them so much, that he had converted to Islam. By no stretch of the imagination could he ever be considered a threat to Islam or its people.

Except in the twisted minds of ISIS, who captured him purely because he was an American. When the Americans refused to make a deal for his release, they butchered him. Just like they’ve butchered so many others.

I have every sympathy for the parents of children, who have gone to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS, from those of the girls from Bethnal Green to the parents of ‘Jihadi John’ Emwezee. Clearly they wanted the best for their children, as most parents do across the world, regardless of race or faith. The last thing they wanted was for them to join monsters and mass-murderers.

But this is what has happened. And I’m not convinced that the girls, who ran off to join ISIS should be seen as somehow more innocent than the boys and young men, who did so. Considering the atrocities committed by the Islamic State, they should be seen exactly as modern counterparts to the women, who volunteered as guards for the female sections of the Nazi concentration camps, and who showed themselves as brutal as the men.