Sunday, April 27, 2003

Indie - the crisis deepens .....

Oh dear ..... David ('the BBC is not biased so please give me that job - school fees are going up next year') Aaronovitch is presenting 'Pick of the Week' on R4. Opening with doggerel poet Benjamin Zephaniah's Bob Marley biography prog (which I listened to and which was actually rather good), he tells us how he loved 'No Woman No Cry' as a student - then blows it by describing the song as 'a kind of 'I Will Survive' for lads'. Come on, David. It doesn't mean 'don't cry if you haven't got a woman', it means 'turn off the waterworks darlin' !' as any fule kno.

Wasn't the flip side 'Kinky Reggae' ?

The Indie is now at water level, the scuppers are awash and they've introduced charging for the website. Even the Times gives you all todays issue online - you don't even get the day's leaders on the Indie ! I guess with sales at their current levels they hope people will pay up for their fix of anti-U.S. bile. No chance at a quid a throw. And to my horror they've infected my PC with some cookie which means that all the Yazza articles in my Internet cache are suddenly unavailable.

Looks like Guardian Online will have more clout than ever. Times is pay-for, only Telegraph is free and it's so slow and cumbersome that I rarely use it.

I agree with Peter Briffa, if one more writer jumped ship it should have been Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, or the Yazzmonster as he affectionately calls her. Natasha Walter is just a less bitter (and why not ?) Joan Smith - let alone not having to read their articles, you could write them as well. A typical article might be headed 'Women Are The Losers In These War-Games' or 'Forget Private Jessica, Why Are Women's Wages In The U.S. Only 71% Of Men's ?'. Reminds me of the spoof New York Times headline 'End of World Announced - Women, Minorities Will Be Hardest Hit'.

Last week saw two anniversaries of crime victims who didn't get justice, the 10th anniversary of Stephen Lawrence's death and the third anniversary of Tony Martin's imprisonment. The first attended by newpaper articles, TV and radio specials, the second unobserved. I listened to a R5 Simon Mayo interview with Duwayne Brooks, the young man who was with Stephen Lawrence when he was attacked and murdered. He’s written a book on the affair (with, inevitably, a Guardian journalist) and was plugging it (he actually answered one question ‘if you want to know you’ve got to buy the book - available at all bookshops’ – you could hear Simon Mayo’s eyebrows being raised and his next question was ‘are you doing this for the money ?’).

It was a sad interview in all sorts of ways, from Stephen Lawrence being ‘different from the normal black school kids – there’s a lot of single parents and he stood out ‘cos at parents evenings he had a mum and dad come’, to the revelation that a psychiatrist had recommended he not be called as a witness in the private prosecution brought against the alleged killers, but the Lawrence team under Imran Khan continued the case ‘for political reasons’.

I am amazed at the English liberal guilt and hysteria which surrounded (and still surrounds) this case. I remember particularly an edition of the R4 show 'Any Questions' soon after the publication of the McPherson report. In my student days we called the programme 'Any Fascists'. How times have changed. Jonathan Dimbleby asked the audience (from a country town - I think in Somerset) if they thought Britain was a racist society. Every hand went up. 'OK', said Dimbleby, 'how many of you would consider yourselves racist ?' Not a hand raised.

At this point I remember thinking there was something wrong with educated English society. Apparently racism was everywhere (but not in this room). There was no reason to think this audience unrepresentative of middle-class England. I thought of Salem and witches. And this feeling was reinforced when Lord Williams of Mostyn said in the Lords a few days later that 'the most dangerous person is the one who says he hasn't got a racist bone in his body. Because he doesn't know what he doesn't know.'(this last line appears to have been dropped from the Hansard record) When the Labour academic Norman Dennis called the McPherson enquiry 'a Stalinist show-trial' I think he was spot-on - in that the enquiry, like the show trials, was a piece of political theatre where the foregone conclusions were reached in spite of, not because of, the evidence.

But the atmosphere around the enquiry, which made the travesty possible, the belief that racism is everywhere (though no racism was ever found by McPherson, hence his invention of 'unconscious or unwitting' racism) - was straight from seventeenth century New England. Think of John Grieve at Scotland Yard, a brave and dedicated man, confessing his racism ('I am a racist. I must be because Sir William Macpherson of Cluny said that I am; the Home Secretary said that I am; countless members of the public at the inquiry hear-ings said that I am ...') like one of those brainwashed U.S. captives in Vietnam.

The legacy ? Apart from the surge in street crime ? Well, if you can call yourself a 'diversity consultant' there are plenty of opportunities.

I was in a Government legal department a day or two ago. The walls and stairs were covered with anti-racist and 'diversity' posters, and as I awaited my appointment I could read the rules against discrimination of any kind on grounds of sex (sorry, gender), race, disability or sexual orientation.

During my interview I noticed a Bible on a shelf, used for swearing affidavits. 'Do you have a Koran ?' I asked. 'Oh yes', said the woman behind the desk, 'but women aren't allowed to touch that - I have to ask a man to get it.'