Category Archives: Satire

Hound of the Basket Cases

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Copyright Getty images

It was Brother Ivo’s own fault for falling asleep with the radio on.

He was woken by the sound of a BBC  “comedy quiz”, which has come to mean a group of four left of centre people talking to an uncritical audience which regards the height of wit as being  someone asking ” Isn’t Sarah Pallin stupid?”. That always goes down well.

Before he could turn it off, he had been irritated into wakefulness  by one of the contributors, Mr Rufus Hound, fulminating against “balance” in the public space and the publicly funded national media.

Mr Hound is not a man of tolerant judgement. He showed himself to be foolishly prejudiced when, in the course of an earlier controversy over how the aspirations of the National Health Service might best be delivered, he declared that the Prime Minister “wants your children to die-unless you’re rich”.

He was later reported to be standing in this year’s European Elections to “defend the NHS”. What exactly the EU can do about this issue remains unclear and unexplained. 

Brother Ivo fears that he would take an unworthy pleasure in watching Mr Hound on election night, trailing in, tens of thousands of votes behind UKIP and others he purports to loathe. Tsk Tsk.

The more he has thought about it, however, the more he has realised that as with many other issues, his reaction is more complicated than at first appears.

The problem is partly about Mr Hound and his shallow views but that is not the end of it.

There is the underlying problem with the BBC which, by constantly commissioning such shows  is steadily slipping from the previous standards of maintaining balance within its public service broadcasting role. There are many witty people of more diverse views than Mr Hound, only the BBC just can’t seem to find them.

The problem goes beyond the light entertainment and current affairs programing and even touches Breakfast television

Recently, three three major Labour figures were regrettably implicated in excessive liberal attitudes towards the Paedophile Information Exchange. It had laid inadequately explored for years. The facts are largely un-controversial because they have been minuted with occasional notes in the politicians’ own handwriting. Specifically, the current Director of the National Council for Civil Liberties has already offered an unqualified apology for the organisation. Shami Chacrabarti enjoys a high reputation for integrity, not least at the BBC.

When newspaper headlines linked these Labour figures to the promotion of paedophilia, the front pages were studiously omitted from the array of front pages displayed on breakfast television, yet barely a week later, when an adviser to the Conservative government was arrested in connection with the alleged possession of child abuse computer images, there was no such reticence.

Without labouring the matter, we could readily agree a long list of issues on which the BBC has a broadly discernible cultural bias.

EU – pro
Abortion – pro
Israel – anti
Democrat – pro
Republican – anti
Atheism -pro
Cannabis legalisation – pro.
Anthropomorphic Climate Change scepticism – anti

Yet happily, there does still seem to be a conscious inclination by the BBC to offer contributors from both sides of a debate on prominent issues. It may not always be fair and equal, there may be some bias, but some respect is shown to balance. That was always the intention of Lord Reith who shaped its ethos during the 1930’s when intolerances were also prevalent in politics.

Mr Hound evidently finds this irksome. He would like it to change and lets be clear. This is not comedic exaggeration. Many on the Left think that they are so obviously right, that opposing views are not only wrong but morally repugnant. That is why they call their approach “political correctness”. There is no nuance, no room for reaching across to one’s opponent to seek find common ground.

There are, according to Mr Hound and his uncritical audience, issues where one opinion is so obviously correct that offering a tangential view is unacceptable and serves only to confer unworthy credilibilty upon deceivers and fools.

Brother Ivo wonders how much history Mr Hound knows.

Galileo was vilified when he first dared to suggest that the earth was not the static centre of the universe. “Everybody” knew that was nonsense. “What a dangerous fool!”

Thomas Clarkson and William Wilberforce were similarly regarded as dangerously eccentric for threatening the economic order of the day by campaigning against slavery. Wasn’t slavery part of the Natural Law identified by Plato and Aristotle? It was to be found in almost every country from Africa to Mexico, China to New Zealand, though oddly, since 1102, not in England.

This was thanks to Archbishop Anselm, a  fact that is frequently overlooked by progressives. We need a film about that, perhaps with the working title ” 900 years not a slave”

The Big Bang theory proposed by George’s Lemaitre was similarly initially offensive to the scientific consensus of the day because of its worrying echo of Genesis; it overturned the scientific assumption of a solid state universe and re-opened the philosophical question about how everything emerges from nothing. Atheists still haven’t cracked that problem so they rarely talk about it on comedy shows and prefer to vilify Creationists.

All of these ideas offended the received wisdom of the day, and would have fallen foul of Mr Hound’s ostracising  of the innovative.

Brother Ivo is all for diversity of opinion and tolerance. He opposes the democratic basket cases like Mr Hound who are uncurious about received wisdom especially when it comes from the Left.

Brother Ivo tries to be fair.

He did explore the idea to see if there was any merit in it, and in one regard he has to  concede that Mr Hound might potentially have a point.

Karl Marx never held down a job, could not feed his family and was depended for much of his life upon the  fortune of the mill owning family of Friedrich Engles. Whenever his theories have been put into practice they have failed miserably, and more importantly,they have always brought misery to millions.

Brother Ivo has never heard Mr Hound or any in the progressive movement treating Marxism and its followers to the same kind of visceral rejection and scorn that he reserves for David Cameron or Sarah Pallin.

As Venezuela falls into as much unrest as Ukraine, none of our cultural warriors of the Left are contrasting the outcomes there with the salutes and praise heaped upon the Chavez Government by Diane Abbott and George Galloway.

“Hugo Chavez was a democrat, not a dictator, and showed a progressive alternative to neo-liberalism is both possible and popular” Owen Jones.

Venezuela is an oil rich country where Mr Chavez supporters have created riots on the streets and a toilet paper shortage. You need $40,000 to contemplate buying a car. What do you think are the chances of Mr Hound and his fellow BBC panellists of building a comedy routine references these facts and the premise, “Isn’t Owen Jones stupid?”

The problem is that without balance there is no progress of human thought. Mr Hound and the Left prefer a pre-primed default cultural laughter for their propositions.  It is incidentally a lazy approach. Thus they will never explore the concept ” Isn’t Marxism dreadful”.

Marxists like Mark Thomas are still feted, whereas Ms Palin – who did actually identify the risks to Ukraine from Russia – continue to be reviled.

Despite being sorely tempted to support the notion that the nations comedians should be hounding Marxism from our airwaves and cultural respectability, Brother Ivo is a passionate believer in open and respectful debate, and subscribes to the view that he must defend the rights of all shades of opinion to be expressed proportionately and lawfully whether he agrees with them or not.

This is not entirely as noble as it sounds.

Once, maybe just once, Rufus Hound, by pure chance, must one day say something sensible -or funny.

Brother Ivo would hate to miss it.

Why are there no bloggers in the New Year Honours list?

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Brother Ivo has only been blogging for a short time and so writes disinterestedly in this matter, so he can ask the question -“Why are there no bloggers in the New Year Honours list?”

When the eulogies were written for the late David Frost, the assessments of his life went far beyond his original comedic talents and centred upon his role in ushering in significant media and social change. He and his friends of the satire boom of the 1960’s were credited with hastening the demise of deference and the dismantling of the rigid class structures.

Beyond this, Frost was central to the dismantling of the rigid structures of broadcasting with his role in developing breakfast television in the UK: his independent production company was also groundbreaking, not least in the winning gamble which he took by risking much of his personal fortune to produce the historic interviews with President Nixon.

The tributes were framed in terms of he and his associates being unappreciated and ahead of their time – which US Presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy once wryly observed, only denotes one as having “lousy timing”.

While this was happening, the “radio pirates” took on the BBC monopoly and attracted rapid following because they did not follow the convention of the restricted “play list” system which would scarcely be believed by young people today.

Through a near monopoly position in Broadcasting, there was a cosy cartel between a handful of BBC producers, and the record company record “pluggers”. Each week, the BBC had a meeting at which a restricted play list was negotiated. On the list – you received exposure,- off the list you had no chance to sell records and grow your career. There was no alternative, no competition.

Only when the illegal stations and their motley collection of anarchic DJ’s introduced  wider unregulated variety was the old order forced into change.

It was a textbook illustration of the responsiveness of supply and demand.

Brother Ivo’s mind went these DJ’s, Frost and other pioneers of the modern media environment as he scrolled through the 125 pages of names constituting the New Years Honours List. As a “moderniser” the Prime Minister broke some ground by honouring more women than men, and he was also ahead of the field by choosing to recognise whistleblowers.

Yet still missing from the Honours List were the latest incarnation of innovators, the internet bloggers.

If you read Brother Ivo’s opening post  ” Welcome to the Tumbrel”  (you still can) you will know that Brother Ivo reads a number of bloggers on a regular basis. They are not necessarily the most popular and he does not always agree with them, yet some entered the genre at a very early stage exploring, developing and demonstrating how the democratisation of the new medium might work.

He will not invidiously name names,  but readers can consider their own candidates for significant counter cultural innovation and influence.

Such pioneers have developed a challenge to the establishment media narrative, which changes the social power balance in exactly the same way that Frost & Co.- together with the pirate radio DJs- did in their day.

It took years before those pioneers became formally recognised, yet they at least often had early financial reward for their groundbreaking efforts.  Earlier media revolutions always had a potential for monetarisation. Fortunes could be made, and were.

The new innovators tend to have a very different motivation.

The lowly blogger has no such plan or expectation. Whatever the motivation, it is unlikely to be financial and few of them will make friends by speaking truth unto power. For no reward, the innovators think, write and disseminate original and challenging ideas in order to improve the public debate.

If they write well, they prosper, if not, they fail, it is all highly meritocratic and philanthropic. It is a larger version of “Speakers’ Corner”

You might think this would appeal to a Conservative Prime Minister. He probably views them with too short a perspective at present, for few will be demonstrating unqualified support and admiration for him. It would be foolish if they did, for it would scarcely be interesting.

When he constructs his Honours List on the next occasion however David Cameron ought to consider recognising one or two of the blogging pioneers who showed us what is possible, how to achieve it, and moreover, daily demonstrate, commitment, talent, and originality as they offer new ways of looking at Society and its structures.

Their absence from recognition in a Conservative Prime Minister’s honours List is a significant lacuna.

Briefly speaking……

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At Christmas, Brother Ivo was given a small book of 10 second sermons written by the comedian Milton Jones, for whose off beat humour he has a soft spot. The title of the book is in fact “Even more 10 second sermons”, so there is evidently an earlier offering to enjoy.

Many of these truly “mini-sermons” are thought provoking yet profound in their brevity.

George Bernard Shaw once wrote – “ I am writing you a long letter because I haven’t got time to write you a short one.” Distilling one’s thoughts into a few words is an art, and a very important one. Many a preacher could usefully resolve to adopt its mastery as a New Years Resolution. 

There might even be a TV reality show in there somewhere. “ How succinct is your Priest?”

Congregations could call in Milton Jones to critique and instruct loquacious Ministers, leading to the ultimate acclamation at the end of the Service, as the grateful  Congregation’s rises as one in a prolonged standing ovation.

It is one of the merits of twitter that it compels one to think clearly and concisely, and Mr Jones has a facility for practicing what he preaches.

In the briefest of books he manages to offer sermons on all the main concerns of religious folk including,  Faith, God ,Heaven, Judgement, Prayer and many other important topics. As with any sermon, even where he advances a contentious idea, he provokes a worthwhile reaction. It makes you think.

With such a mercifully short work, Brother must not plagiarise or harm sales by quoting extensively, though it is very tempting to do so.

There!

Through this slight volume, Brother Ivo has been made a more considerate fellow already, and he has not yet finished reading  the entire book!

By way of encouragement to buy (for which there is no commission received) Brother Ivo commends two observations.

“Praying seems to be like trying to undo a knot. You never quite know what’s going to work, its just important to keep going. Also, best check what you’re trying to undo isn’t holding up something else that’s important”.

“Coming from a Christian home is like receiving the antidote to a poison on your first birthday. You can’t fully appreciate its worth until you’ve seen the effects of the poison at first hand.”

Having seen the effects of such a poison within many families, that observation lands with particular impact on this reader in particular, Every sermon will be read, heard,  or considered through the prism of one’s individual experience, but the shorter the message the harder it is to misunderstand or impose one’s own gloss .

There is much other wisdom like these and one cannot help but suspect that behind the comic mask is a serious mind. He may not thank us for saying so.

It the very clarity of the thought which is its principle value. There is much else that Brother Ivo would love to quote, commend, explore and expand upon, but that would not be fair to the time that Mr Jones has put into his reflections, so do just buy it and read it for yourselves.

It will not take long, but it may have a longer lasting effect than you appreciate.

“It was Christmas Day in the Workhouse” – 2013 Revised version

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Most of us are familiar with the opening line of the poem ” It was Christmas Day in the Workhouse” and quote it as an amusing example of Victorian melodrama. It is however worth a seasonal ”re-read”, and when read, it proves to be a searing indictment of “respectable” and “privileged” attitudes towards the poor.

With that inspiration in mind, Brother Ivo thought it might be updated for these modern times and so here is his 2013 revised  version.

It was Christmas Day at the phone-in.
and the studio lights were bright,
there was tinsel, a tree, and some holly,
and the set was a wondrous sight.
With fancy clothes and make-up,
to grace the TV screen,
the celebrities sat on their sofas
for this is the hour they preen.

The poor and humble viewer
is invited to phone in and greet,
to share for two or three minutes
the company of the elite,
who smile, and are condescending,
they banter and sweetly agree,
as they sip their glasses of champagne
all paid by the BBC fee.

The viewers are meek and they’re lowly.
They’re minding their p’s and q’s
enjoying their moment of limelight
For which they’ve all paid their dues.
Save one, who proves to be different,
who will not play the game,
“Do you know what you people cost me?
“You leeches are all the same!!”

The presenters’ smiles freeze in horror,
the producers’ face turned to white.
A viewer not playing the game here?
Are they really hearing this right?
The producer returns to his senses,
he motions to “pull out the plug,”
But some lowly unpaid intern,
refuses to pull out the rug.

” I won’t be watching your programmes,
which you offer with so much pride,
and neither will my old lady,
’cause you banged her up inside!
We never watch Panorama,
and the kids don’t like CBeebies,
so we never bought your “licence”
cause we only watch ITV.

“We never go shoplifting.
When we want something – we pay-
But we never watch your damn programes
though the court didn’t see it that way.
And as for your Strictly Come Dancing
with frocks at three thousand a throw,
what do they know of “austerity”
who no “austerity” know?”

“You offered us Alex Porlizzi
whose grandfathe once owned the Ritz:
she spent hundreds of pounds wrapping presents
– it didn’t half get on me nerves.
Then Armstrong and Coren drank Bollinger,
cocktails, and Chateau Musar,
my Chardonay thought it disgusting
but that didn’t get her too far.”

“My kids don’t have nothing this Christmas,
while you’re overpaid to “present”,
they stare through the glass of the tele,
at the lives of the top one per cent”.
Nigella, I grant is an eyeful,
but she’s nothing like normal folk,
who’ll never make one of her trifles
and can’t afford gammon with coke.

“Now I understand criminal records,
and I know whose a crook,
and I know Chardoney ain’t one,
– at least – not in my book.”
Lord Patten he choked and he spluttered
from the back of a chauffeured Jag
“These paycheques and pensions don’t pay for themselves!”
( The cat had been let out the bag).

“Get me to BBC Central”
he cried with a deep purple face,
” We must stop this truth from emerging!”
but the caller continued his case.
“There’s ‘undreds of thousands of folk just like us
paying fines and sitting in jail,
while you pay out “undreds of thousands of pounds
To cheer up  your mates when they fail.”

“So enjoy your Christmas dinners.
Don’t mind us in the least.
Just think of the kids in the underclass.
as you’re eating your Christmas feast,
and whilst you’re counting  your blessings
In your smug celebrity way,
just remember who’s paying the price-
Think of us on Christmas Day!”

The celebrities faces were ashen,
They’d never considered the facts
They’d never connected the source of their wealth
To the victims of the tax
They had all lost their sense of proportion
mixing only with millionaires
who cheerfully pocket the money
regardless of poor peoples cares.

The intern in charge of the fader,
let the caller speak to the end,
The glitz all around him had faded
and he looked on the man as a friend.
He secretly knew that the caller and he
were actually in the same boat,
so he proudly walked from the studio
and smiled as he collected his coat.