Posts Tagged ‘Radio 4’

IPSO and the Press Story about Princess Di’s Warning to Meghan Markle from beyond the Grave

October 6, 2019

I found another interesting snippet from Private Eye while I was looking through a pile of old copies last night, which adds a slightly different perspective Prince Harry’s decision to prosecute the press.  Harry is rightly angered at the way his and other’s phones were hacked, and it appears that one of the other victims was his mother, Princess Diana. It looks like one of those bearing responsibility for that was Piers Morgan, who was editor of the Mirror and then News of the World when it happened.

https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2019/10/prince-harry-says-they-hacked-diana.html

I’m afraid I’ve misplaced the snippet, but if anyone’s really interested, I’ll try to find it again. But it was a report on a later sent to a complainant by IPSO about an article published in one of the newspapers. This claimed that a pair of ‘psychic twins’ had been contacted by the late Lady Di, who had given them warning from her to be given to Meghan Markle. If the Eye’s account is correct, it was deeply tasteless story. I’m not a sceptic regarding life after death and the possibility of the dead contacting the living, but this is right up there with some of the nonsense spread by mediums like the late Doris Stokes in her prime. And the various celebrity mediums, who’ve come out with messages from everybody from Henry VIII, Julius Caesar and Queen Victoria. It’s nonsense. The person, who complained to IPSO about it apparently objected to it because these claims were being reported as fact. IPSO stated that they decided that it had not. The article had included plenty of terms indicating neutrality towards the truth of the twins’ claim, like ‘perhaps’, and indicated that they were only reporting what they claimed through statements like ‘they said’. And so IPSO turned the complaint down.

The article didn’t say, who had complained to IPSO, carefully preserving their anonymity. And it could have been anyone. Princess Di may be over twenty years’ dead, but she still has her fans. Just as Meghan Markle and Harry also have their admirers amongst the general public, quite apart from their personal friends.

I was never a fan of Princess Diana. She did some good as Prince Charles’ consort, notably in her campaign against landmines. But she was also adept at manipulating the press, and her spat with Charles did diminish the general esteem of the monarchy, even if Charles was the adulterer. Nevertheless, she was killed with Dodi Fayed trying to escape the paparazzi press that followed and exploited her.

This story reminds me of comments Robbie Williams made a few years ago on a programme hosted by Jon Ronson on Radio 4. Ronson and Williams were going to a UFO and alien abductions convention in the US. When asked how he got interested in ufology, the 90s singing sensation replied that it was partly due to the rubbish he had suffered from the press about his mother. She was a medium, and so the papers had run endless stories about Williams, his mother and spooks until he was so sick and tired of it that he couldn’t read the papers. It was then that he started getting into UFOs, as something of a diversion. And on the subject of UFOs, Williams sounded remarkably sensible and grounded. When asked about some of the absurdities of the alien abduction phenomenon and Indigo Children – supposedly aliens incarnated as children to guide us here on Earth – he simply replied that he didn’t believe it or disbelieve it.

You can well understand why Williams would be upset with the press stories about himself and his mother. Just as it would be no mystery to anyone if Harry was upset about similar stories about his own mother and wife. Lady Di was certainly no angel, but she was hounded to her death by the papers. And the papers have been attacking Meghan Markle, with more than an undercurrent of racism beneath. How dare this American woman of colour marry a royal! And anyone would be annoyed at the press for hacking their and their family’s phones.

I therefore have every sympathy for Prince Harry’s decision, and wish him the very best in his suit against the press, particularly Rupert Murdoch and Piers Morgan. I’m sure that many Conservatives will too. I know one, who hated the Sun despite its right-wing bias, because it had taken every opportunity to exploit and run down the monarchy. It looks like now one of the royals is biting back. 

 

 

Advertisements

Radio 4 Programme on Racism and the Marginalisation of the White Poor in Bristol

October 4, 2019

The edition of the Radio 4 programme, Analysis, for Sunday 6th October 2019, is on ‘Whiteness’. The blurb for the programme on page 129 of the Radio Times runs

Neil Maggs, a Bristol-based journalist, is watching the debate on white privilege and race play out across the city he has grown up in. While he accepts much of the discourse on White privilege, he worries that an over-emphasis on race could further marginalise some of the poorer, white inhabitants in Bristol. How can society find a way through this, and what can different groups of white people agree on about their whiteness? 

The programme’s on at 9.30 pm.

It’s a good question. There has certainly been more than a degree of resentment about the amount of funding that has gone into St. Paul’s and the other racially-mixed areas in Bristol’s inner city, while the outlying, mostly White working class suburbs to the south of Bristol have largely been ignored. And one of the reasons suggested for the rise of UKIP, now eclipsed by the equally noxious Brexit party, has been that working class White voters felt ignored and left-behind by the Labour party. They were certainly ignored by Blair and New Labour, who were far more keen on picking up votes from more affluent voters in swing constituencies, and appealing to the middle classes by adopting the Tory policies of privatisation and the destruction of the welfare state. And some of the resurgence of racism and anti-feminism in parts of the British working class may well be a reaction to this. Because while Blair and co. courted the middle class, they were also very loud about being anti-racist and feminist. It was an attitude that may well have created over here a constituency of angry White men that in America votes for Trump and the Republicans. Hopefully that is changing now that Corbyn is standing up for the working class as a whole. David Rosenberg has stated several times, and particularly against Margaret Hodge and her policy of doing nothing, that the way to tackle Fascism is to stress working class solidarity and class issues. These are tactics Hodge definitely didn’t follow in Islington, to the point where the BNP actually sent her a bouquet of flowers when they got seven councillors elected in Dagenham and Barking. That’s something the Tory press forgot when they worked themselves up into a lather yesterday when her constituency parties voted to trigger her for re-selection as the local MP.

The BBC programme offers a provocative new perspective on race relations and White identity in Bristol. It might be interesting to hear what it has to say. Providing it doesn’t portray poor or working class White Bristolians as uniformly racist. 

Establishment Media Bias and the Cheltenham Literary Festival

September 23, 2019

Someone really ought to do a study of the way the big literary festivals – Haye-on-Wye, Cheltenham and the others – select the books and media celebs they want to push and the way they try to manipulate public opinion towards the establishment consensus. Because, believe me, it is there.

In a couple of weeks’ time, right at the beginning of October, it’ll be the Cheltenham Literary Festival. As it’s booklet of coming events tells you, it’s been proudly going for 70 years. I think it was set up, or given a great deal of assistance when it was set up, by Alan Hancock, who owned a secondhand bookshop on Cheltenham’s Promenade. It was a fascinating place, where you could acquire some really fascinating, valuable academic books cheaply. But it had the same internal layout as the fictional setting of the 1990’s Channel 4 comedy, Black Books, but without Dylan Moran, Bill Bailey or Tamsin Grieg.

The festival’s overall literary stance is, very roughly, broadsheet papers + BBC, especially Radio 4. It pretty much shows what’s captured the attention of the newspaper literary pages and the BBC news team, several of whom naturally have books coming out, and who are appearing. In past years I’ve seen John Simpson, Simon Hoggart, Quentin Letts, Giles Brandreth and John Humphreys talk or appear on panels. This year they’ve got, amongst others, Emily Maitlis and Humphrey’s again.

Much of the Festival’s content is innocuous enough, even praiseworthy from a left-wing perspective. For example, there are a number of authors talking about their books about empowering women and ethnic minorities. These include Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene talking about their book, Slay in Your Lane: The Black Girl Bible, which is what it says: a guide for Black girls. Other topics and books discussed are on how empowered Black men are, and various feminist works about how gynaecological problems should be discussed openly, and the changing nature of the female muse. Rather than being passive creatures, modern muses are active, liberated women conquering business, sports, the arts and science. There’s also a piece on the future of masculinity, titled ‘Will Boys Still Be Boys’, which asks what will happen to boys now that the idea that there is a natural realm of masculinity, such as superiority and aggression, has been disproved. The concern with ethnic minority authors has always been there, or at least since the 1990s. Then, and in the early part of this century, a frequent theme of the Festival was ‘crossing continents’, which gave a platform to prominent literary authors from outside Europe and the West. It also gave space to Black and Asian literature from the UK. I can remember too, how one of the events staged at the Festival was a celebration of Black British poetry, much of it in Caribbean Patois.

The Festival also caters for more popular tastes. In the past it had speaking the Fantasy author, Terry Pratchett, along with the approved, heavyweight literary types. It has events for children’s books, and this year features such media celebrities as Francis Rossi from Status Quo and Paul Merton. So, something for everyone, or so it seems.

But nevertheless, the Establishment bias is there, especially as so many of the speakers, like Maitlis and Humphreys, are drawn from the mainstream media. Back in the 1990s the Festival was sponsored by the Independent. Now it’s sponsored by the Times, the Murdoch rag whose sister paper, the Sunset Times, has spent so much time smearing Corbyn and his supporters as Communist infiltrators or vicious anti-Semites. Maitlis and Humphreys are BBC news team, and so, almost by definition, they’re Conservative propagandists. Especially as Humphreys is retiring, and has given interviews and written pieces for the Heil. Any chance of hearing something from the Cheltenham Festival about the current political situation that doesn’t conform to what the Establishment wants you to hear, or is prepared to tolerate? Answers on a postcard, please. Here’s a couple of examples. One of the topics under discussion is ‘Populism’. I don’t know what they’re planning to include in it, but from previous discussions of this in the media, I’m prepared to bet that they’ll talk about Trump, possibly Boris Johnson, the rise of extreme right-wing movements in Europe and elsewhere in the world, like Marine Le Pen former Front National in France, the AfD in Germany, Orban and so on in Hungary, Bolsonaro in Brazil and the Five Star Movement in Italy. All of whom are definitely populists. But they’ll also probably include Corbyn and Momentum, because Corbyn is genuinely left-wing, challenges the Thatcherite neoliberal consensus and will empower the masses. All of which threatens the Establishment. There are also individual politicians speaking this year, but the only one I found from the Left was Jess Philips. Who isn’t remotely left-wing in the traditional sense, though she is an outspoken feminist.

The other topic is about what should be done with Putin. Now let’s not delude ourselves, Putin is a corrupt thug, and under him Russia has become once again a very autocratic state. Political and religious dissidents, including journalists, are being attacked, jailed and in some cases murdered. Among the religious groups he’s decided are a threat to Mother Russia are the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’m not a member of the denomination, and find their doorstep campaigning as irritating as everyone else. But they are certainly not a dangerous cult or terrorist organisation. And they have stood up to tyrants. They were persecuted by the Nazis during the Third Reich, with their members imprisoned in the concentration camps, including a 17 year old boy, because they wouldn’t accept Hitler as a secular messiah. For which I respect for them. The Arkhiplut has enriched himself, and rewarded his cronies with company directorships, while assassinating the oligarchs, who haven’t toed his line. And I still remember the genocidal butchery he unleashed in Chechnya nearly two decades ago, because they had the temerity to break away.

But geopolitically, I don’t regard Putin as a military threat. In terms of foreign policy it seems that Putin is interested solely in preserving the safety of his country from western encirclement. Hence the invasion of the Ukraine to protect the Russian minority there. If he really wanted to conquer the country, rather than the Donbass, his tanks would be in Kiev by now. I’ve blogged before about how Gorbachev was promised by the West that in return for allowing the former eastern European satellites to break away from the USSR, they would remain neutral and not become members of NATO. That’s been violated. They’ve all become members, and there are NATO military bases now on Russia’s doorstep. The Maidan Revolution of 2012 which overthrew the previous, pro-Russian president of Ukraine was stage managed by the American state department and the National Endowment for Democracy under Hillary Clinton and Victoria Nuland. There’s evidence that the antagonism against Putin’s regime comes from western multinationals, who feel aggrieved at not being able to seize Russian companies as promised by Putin’s predecessor, the corrupt, drunken buffoon Boris Yeltsin. Putin also seems to be quite genuine in his belief in a multipolar world, in which his country, as well as others like China, are also superpowers. But the Americans are interested only in maintaining their position as the world’s only superpower through ‘full spectrum dominance’: that is, absolute military superiority. The US’ military budget supersedes both the Russian and that of the four other major global countries combined. Arguably, Russia ain’t the global threat. America and NATO are.

Festivals like that of Cheltenham are important. They’re business arrangements, of course. They exist to sell books. But they also encourage literacy, and allow the public to come face to face with the people, who inform and entertain them through the written word. Although here the books’ pages of Private Eye complained years ago that the Festival and others like it gave more space to celebrities from television, sport, music and other areas, rather than people, whose primary living was from writing. But the information we are given is shaped by the media – by the papers and broadcasters, who give the public the news, and the publishers, who decide which books on which subjects to publish. And then there’s the bias of the individual festivals themselves. And in the case of Cheltenham, it is very establishment. It’s liberal in terms of feminism and multiculturalism, but other conservative, and increasing Conservative, in others. It’s through events like Cheltenham that the media tries to create and support the establishment consensus.

But that consensus is rightly breaking down, as increasingly more people become aware that it is only creating mass poverty. The Establishment’s refusal to tolerate other, competing opinions – their demonisation of Corbyn and his supporters as Communists, Trotskyites and Nazis, for example – is leading to further alienation and disaffection. Working people don’t find their voices and concerns reflected in the media. Which is why they’re turning to the online alternatives. But Festivals like Cheltenham carry on promoting the same establishment agenda, with the odd voice from the opposition, just like the Beeb’s Question Time. And this is going to change any time soon, not with lyingt rags like the Times sponsoring it.

Before We Go to War with Iran, We Should Listen to Michael Moore and Neil Young

September 22, 2019

Yesterday I put up a piece commenting on Secular Talk’s video about the drone strikes on the Saudi oilfields. The host, Kyle Kulinski, stated that he believed the media would start lying and claim that these attacks were completely unprovoked. The reality is that they were committed by the Houthis in Yemen in retaliation for the genocidal war the Saudis are waging against their country. Kulinski also predicted that the media, including the Beeb, would tell us all that Iran, and only Iran, was responsible. He states that it’s possible that the Iranians have helped them, and that elements in Iran do support and celebrate it. But he fears a push for war, and doesn’t trust any of the actors – Trump, Netanyahu or the Saudis – to draw back.

I share his fears. And so, I believe, do very many other people. On my YouTube page the other day I found the video below from that old rocker, Neil Young. It’s of him playing ‘Rocking in the Free World’. I think its from the Michael Moore documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11. In it the Capped Crusader showed how George Dubya, the American-Saudi oil interests and the military industrial complex pushed for war in the Middle East following the terror attack on 9/11. Wars that they were very careful not to let their sons or daughters become physically involved, while actively recruiting the working class, and particularly the Black working class, to be their cannon fodder.

The film ends with Neil Young’s ‘Rocking in the Free World’.

I know people, who don’t like the song because they think it’s actually a celebration of the capitalist west. So did the late Radio 1 DJ John Peel. He chose it as one of his favourite tracks in an interview on Radio 4 I can remember listening to in the ’90s. He didn’t like it for the same reason, until he listened to it properly. It’s an angry, bitter song, and as flag-wavingly patriotic as Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’. They’re both about how America gives working people nothing but poverty while sending them to fight wars.

Consider the lyrics to Young’s song:

There are warning signs on the road ahead

Some people are saying that we’re better off dead….

That’s another kid,

Who’ll never go to school,

Never fall in love,

Never get to be cool….

We got a thousand points of light

for the homeless man.

We got a kinder, gentler machine gun ham. 

The tunes played over footage of demonstrations in America against Bush, Young and his band in concert, recruiting sergeants going round Black neighbourhoods, and the chaos, grief and warfare in Iraq and the Middle East.

The clip begins with Dubya stumbling his way through the saying ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’ But he couldn’t remember it properly, and so ends with stating the saying’s message ‘Don’t get fooled again’. To which Moore adds, ‘For once, we agree’. Then into the song.

Moore’s absolutely right, as has been corroborated by the former Guardian journo, Greg Palast, in his book, Armed Madhouse. In it he provides copious proof that the Iraq invasion was started, not because Saddam Hussein backed Osama bin Laden, or to liberate the Iraqi people from his dictatorship, but because the Saudi and American oil interests wanted the Iraqi oil reserves. The multinationals wanted to get their grubby hands on Iraqi state enterprises, the Neocons wanted to remove another source of support for the Palestinians, and create the low tax, free market utopia of the kind they want to introduce in the US. The result was absolute chaos. Apart from the carnage of the war, the Iraqi economy was decimated under the impact of foreign imports. Iraqi domestic firms couldn’t compete and collapsed. There was 60 per cent unemployment.

This is what will happen to Iran if we get fooled by the right-wing political elite, the oil industry and the military-industrial complex. It won’t be to liberate the Iranian people from their despotic government, nor to defend an innocent Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are Wahhabis – militant Sunnis – who despise and fear the Shi’a. That’s why they invaded Yemen: the Shi’a Houthi had overthrown the Sunni government. A few years ago one high-ranking Saudi cleric, the Sharif of Mecca or Grand Mufti, declared that Shi’a Muslims were ‘heretics and worthy of death’. Iran supports the Shi’a nations in the Middle East, hence Saudi determination to destroy the country’s regime. Israel and its supporters here also wants the Iranian government overthrown, because they are intensely hostile to Israel, expressing their hate in genocidal language, and support the Palestinians. Western oil interests want to get their hands on the Iranian oil industry, because we used to own it before Prime Minister Mossadeq nationalised it briefly in the 1950s before we had him overthrown, and it was nationalised against during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Our multinationals want to seize Iranian industries, as under current Iranian legislation they cannot be invested in or owned by foreign companies. And this includes the 51 per cent of the economy held by the state or the bonyads, the Islamic charitable funds. In fact, Forbes was whining about how unfree Iranian industry was, meaning that westerners couldn’t get their mitts on it, a few years ago.

These are the forces pressing for war with Iran.

They fooled many people 18 years ago after 9/11. But not everyone. One million people in Britain marched against the invasion of Iraq, including our local priest. Since then, I’ve no doubt more people know how spurious the cause for war was. More people realise that the two chiefly responsible for the war, George Dubya Bush and Tony Blair, are liars and war criminals.

Don’t let them fool our people again!

Not one courageous squaddie should be sent to his or her death killing ordinary Iranians, just to make the oil industry and the multinationals rich!

 

 

 

High Court Judge Calls for Donations to Charity for People without Lawyers

July 30, 2019

Yesterday’s I for Monday, 29th July 2019, carried an article by Brian Farmer on page 13 reporting that Lady Hale, the president of the Supreme Court, had made an appeal for donations to a charity for people, who can’t afford lawyers. This should resonate with everyone supporting Mike in his battle against the false libel claim against him by Riley and Oberman, and for the 17 other victims of their vindictive legal mendacity. The article ran

The UK’s most senior judge has appealed for people to give money to a charity whose volunteers support those embroiled in civil court cases who cannot afford a lawyer.

Lady Hale, president of the Supreme Court, asked for donations to the Personal Support Unit yesterday.

She made this week’s Radio 4 Appeal, a BBC programme in which well-known people ask for donations to charities.

“I know how intimidating the civil and family courts can be for people without legal knowledge of help,” Lady Hale, patron of the Personal Support Unit, told listeners. “Everyone deserves access to justice whether or not they can afford a lawyer.”

She told the story of a woman helped by the unit after becoming involved in a family court fight with a former partner. A year ago, the then most senior family court judge in England and Wales talked about problems caused by increasing numbers of people who found themselves without lawyers.

It seems from this that she was mostly concerned about disputes in the family courts, but it applies right across the board. This has been partly caused by the Tories slashing legal aid, which has made justice unaffordable for all too many poor and working and lower middle class Brits. And Mike’s case appears to be another example of a SLAPP lawsuit, in which the rich and powerful attempt to silence political opponents by punitive legal action, which they hope their victims won’t be able to afford to challenge or defend themselves against. Mike, for example, has been forced to go to crowdfunding to ask for donations for his own defence against Riley and Oberman. He’s also been lucky to have the support of so many people reading his site, like Damo from Cornwall. People who’ve never met him, but enjoy and appreciate his site and the hard work he has put in trying to defend the disabled and their carers against a vicious, persecutory Tory and Lib Dem regime. I know that their contributions to Mike’s fund are greatly appreciated. But he’s not the only one to hit with legal suits he can’t afford to challenge without the support of charity.

This has to end. Legal aid should be restored to proper levels. And the libel laws should be reformed so that the rich and vindictive cannot use them to silence reasonable, truthful criticism. And legislation is definitely needed to prohibit SLAPP lawsuits by the corporate rich and political right. Only then can the poor really expect justice.

Radio 4 Series Challenging Stereotype that Religion and Science Are at War

June 12, 2019

According to next week’s Radio Times there’s a new, three-part series beginning on Radio 4 next Friday, 21st June, at 11.00 am, Science and Religion about the relationship between the two disciplines. From the pieces about in the magazine, it attacks the idea that science and religion are at war. The blurb for the programme’s first part, ‘The Nature of the Beast’, on page 131, says

Nick Spencer examines the history of science and religion and the extent to which they have been in conflict with each other. Drawing on the expertise of various academics, he begins by exploring what the relationship says about what it means to be human.

The paragraph about the programme on the preceding page, 130, by Sue Robinson, runs

Are science and religion at war? In the first in a three-part series, Nick Spencer (of Goldsmith’s, London, and Christian think-tank Theos) takes a look back wt what he terms the “simplistic warfare narrative” of these supposedly feuding disciplines. From the libraries of the Islamic world to the work of 13th-century bishop Robert Grosseteste in maths and natural sciences, Spencer draws on the expertise of a variety of academics to argue that there has long been an interdependence between the two. I felt one or two moments of consternation (“there are probably more flat-earthers [believing the earth to be flat] around today than there were back then…”) and with so many characters in the unfolding 1,000-year narrative, some may wish for a biographical dictionary at their elbow… I certainly did. Yet somehow Spencer produces an interesting and informative treatise from all the detail. 

We’ve waited a long time for a series like this. I set up this blog partly to argue against the claim made by extremely intolerant atheists like Richard Dawkins that science and religion are and always have been at war. In fact no serious historian of science believes this. It’s a stereotype that comes from three 19th century writers, one of whom was reacting against the religious ethos of Harvard at the time. And some of the incidents that have been used to argue that science was suppressed by the religious authorities were simply invented. Like the story that Christopher Columbus was threatened by the Inquisition for believing that the world war round. Er no, he wasn’t. That was all made up by 19th century author Washington Irvine. European Christians had known and accepted that the world was round by the 9th century. It’s what the orb represents in the Crown Jewels. The story that Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, in his debate on evolution with Charles Darwin, asked the great biologist whether he was descended from an ape on his mother’s or father’s side of the family is also an invention. It was written years after the debate by Darwin’s Bulldog, T.H. Huxley. A few years ago historians looked at the accounts of the debate written at the time by the students and other men of science who were there. They don’t mention any such incident. What they do mention is Wilberforce opening the debate by saying that such questions like evolution needed to be carefully examined, and that if they are true, they have to be accepted, no matter how objectionable they may be. Wilberforce himself was an extremely proficient amateur scientist himself as well as a member of the clergy. Yes, there was opposition from many Christians to Darwin’s idea, but after about 20 years or so most of the mainstream denominations fully accepted evolution. The term ‘fundamentalism’ comes from a book defending and promoting Christianity published as The Fundamentals of Christianity published in the first years of the 20th century. The book includes evolution, which it accepts.

Back to the Middle Ages, the idea that this was a period when the church suppressed scientific investigation, which only revived with the Humanists of the Renaissance, has now been utterly discredited. Instead it was a period of invention and scientific discovery. Robert Grosseteste, the 13th century bishop of Lincoln, wrote papers arguing that the Moon was responsible for the tides and that the rainbow was produced through light from the sun being split into various colours by water droplets in the atmosphere. He also wrote an account of the six days of creation, the Hexaemeron, which in many ways anticipates the ‘Big Bang’ theory. He believed that the universe was created with a burst of light, which in turn created ‘extension’ – the dimensions of the cosmos, length, width and breadth, and that this light was then formed into the material and immaterial universe. Medieval theologians were also often highly critical of stories of demons and ghosts. The 12th century French bishop, William of Auxerre, believed that nightmares were caused, not by demons, but by indigestion. If you had too big a meal before falling asleep, the weight of the food in the stomach pressed down on the nerves, preventing the proper flow of vital fluids.

The Christian scholars of this period drew extensively on the writings of Muslim philosophers, scientists and mathematicians, who had inherited more of the intellectual legacy of ancient Greece and Rome, along with that of the other civilisations they had conquered, like Persia and India. Scholars like al-Haytham explored optics while the Bani Musa brothers created fascinating machines. And Omar Khayyam, the Sufi mystic and author of the Rubaiyyat, one of the classics of world literature, was himself a brilliant mathematician. Indeed, many scientific and mathematical terms are taken from Arabic. Like alcohol, and algorithm, which comes from the Muslim scholar al-Khwarismi, as well as algebra.

There have been periods of tension between religion and particular scientific doctrines, like the adoption of the Copernican system and Darwin’s theory of evolution by Natural Selection, but the relationship between science and religion is rich, complex and has never been as simple as all out war. This should be a fascinating series and is a very necessary corrective to the simplistic stereotype we’ve all grown up with.

Radio 4 Serialising Ian McEwan’s Robot Book Next Week

April 23, 2019

I don’t belieeeve it! As the great Victor Meldrew used to say. Next week, according to the Radio Times for 27th April – 3rd May 2019, Radio 4 is serialising Ian McEwan’s latest literary offering, Machines Like Me, about a love triangle between a man, his wife and the android he has bought. It’s in ten parts, Monday to Fridays at 12.04 pm, and read by Anton Lesser.

I’ve already put up two posts about the book, which has only just been published. McEwan’s novel is one of a long-line of SF stories about humans falling in love, or pursuing sexual relationships with the humanoid robots they have built, such as Asimov’s ‘Satisfaction Guaranteed’. Genre science fiction writers have explored the issues of machine consciousness and its philosophical and ethical issues, from highbrow authors like Poland’s Stanislaw Lem, to comic book writers like Pat Mills in 2000AD’s ‘ABC Warriors’. The issue I have with McEwan’s book, and other literary authors that are planning similar works of fiction, is that while genre science fiction is still looked down on somewhat by the literary elite, McEwan’s book is going to receive immediate acclaim as proper literature.

Now Radio 4 has serialised a number of great works of SF, including Robert Silverberg’s masterwork Dying Inside, and has, like some of the other channels, Radio 3 and Radio 4 Extra, put on SF plays. Not so long ago there was a series of these, with the title Dangerous Visions. SF buffs will recognise this as the title of the groundbreaking SF anthology edited by Harlan Ellison, that ushered in the SF New Wave over in America. But despite the achievements of genre SF authors, there is still this feeling that it hasn’t quite won critical respectability in the elevated literary circles that support McEwan, Jeanette Winterson, Kazuo Ishiguro and the other regular literary award winners, who are writing or preparing to write books about robots and AI.

As I’ve said, I feel very strongly that if McEwan and co. win literary awards for their SF works, like Machines Like Me, then those awards should have the decency to drop some of the snobbishness and include genre SF authors. Whose latest works I hope the Beeb will also serialise the moment they come out.

Radio 4 Programme Next Week on Attempts to Reverse Rural Depopulation in Spain

April 23, 2019

According to the new Radio Times for 27th April – 3rd May 2019, Radio 4’s Crossing Continents next Thursday, 2nd May, at 11.00 a.m., looks at a movement to repopulate the Spanish countryside, focusing on a group of single women going to meet single men in a village near Madrid. The paragraph about the programme by David McGillivray on page 128 runs

It’s hard to arrest depopulation once it’s started. But Linda Pressly finds the opposite in Spain. Initiatives to reverse the decline of the Spanish countryside include a movement of young people – they have a name, “neo-rurales” – who have begun to occupy abandoned villages. Pressly also uncovers a charming personal story. Maria Carvajal was one of a bus full of single women who arrived in a village north of Madrid to meet single men unable to find female partners. There was no preview available but I infer that she found love iwth lonely shepherd Antonio Cerrado. A caravan of love indeed.

This could be worth listening to. About a year ago Mike wondered how Labour could win in rural areas, like his part of Wales. It’s a good question, as there’s a real crisis in the countryside with poor locals being priced out of housing by wealthy outsiders, looking for second or retirement homes. Bus services into country areas are being cut, and local shops, like pubs, post offices and general stores, are closing down. There are parts of Europe where the process of depopulation is particularly acute. I was listening to a conversation between male feminist and anti-Fascist Kevin Logan and another anti-Fascist about the rise of the far right. They agreed that one of the stimuli behind the rise of the vile Alternative fuer Deutschland and its horrendous Nazi links was the massive, devastating depopulation of parts of the former East Germany, where whole small towns have been abandoned as their populations have moved west in search of better opportunities.

Rural depopulation also concerned the Nazis, who saw themselves very much as the party of the peasants. They developed a series of policies designed to reverse it, and create a healthy, ideologically and racially pure peasantry, who would feed Germany and provide the basis for its new value system. This involved a banning foreign imports, lowering taxation on agricultural goods and products, loans for people wishing to move to the countryside. They were also concerned to provide them with secure tenure. So secure, in fact, that they wouldn’t be able to escape it, and they and their descendants would be tied to the soil like serfs.

I did think that some of their ideas might be worth discussing, aside from the obviously horrific and unacceptable connections to the Nazi regime itself. However, with all the anti-Semitism smears directed against Corbyn and his supporters, the last thing I wanted to do was give the smear merchants more ammunition. They’d just love it if a left-wing blogger started discussing whether some aspects of Nazi policy was worth implementing, even if it was about farming and absolutely rejected and condemned their horrific, genocidal racism and totalitarianism.

But the Crossing Continents programme may be worth listening to, and provide some ideas on how Britain could also start to regenerate its countryside. Perhaps we need a British version of the neo-rurales?

Radio 4 Programme on Journalistic Impartiality

April 16, 2019

According to next week’s Radio Times, for 20th-26th April 2019, Radio 4 are due to broadcast a programme questioning the notion of journalistic impartiality, ‘Call Yourself an Impartial Journalist?’, hosted by Jonathan Coffey. The blurb for the programme by Simon O’Hagan on page 138 of the magazine runs

In a febrile political age, fuelled by social media, the BBC has felt the heat as possibly never before – guilty, in its accusers’ eyes, of failing to reflect the full spectrum of opinion over not just Brexit but such culture-wars issues as transgenderism. With the BBC due to publish a new set of editorial guidelines in June (the first since 2010), Jonathan Coffey explores the idea of impartiality and whether any sort of consensus around it is possible. Contributors include the Spectator columnist Rod Liddle, the BBC’s director of editorial and policy standards, David Jordan, and Kerry-Anne Mendoza, the editor of online media The Canary.

The programme’s on at 11.00 am.

I don’t think there’s much doubt about the Beeb’s political bias. Academics at the media monitoring units of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Cardiff universities found that the Beeb was twice as likely to seek the opinions of Conservative MPs and financial experts as Labour MPs and trade unionists. Barry and Savile Kushner also describe how the Beeb pushed the austerity agenda in their book, Who Needs the Cuts?, to the point that the opponents of austerity were rarely invited onto their news and politics programmes to put their case. When they were, the presenters actually tried to silence them, even by shouting them down. And years ago Tony Benn in one of his books said that the Beeb considered itself impartial, because its bias was largely slightly to the left of the Tories at the time, but way to right of everyone else.

There could be some interesting things said on the programme, particularly by the excellent Kerry-Anne Mendoza, but my fear is that it’s going to be like the Beeb’s programme, Points of View, and just be an exercise in the corporation justifying itself and its own bias.