Saturday, 24 October 2009

We're so good at Television!

So I see that the episode of Question Time with Nick Griffin got approximately a gazillion more viewers than average. With the highest viewing figures in its history, I decided with inevitability to watch it on youtube. Yes, that's right. Whenever I've been near a TV, I've always flicked channels to get as far away from Dimbleby's patronising face as possible. Yet I felt that I'd have to look it up.

And what a heap of utter crap it was. I mean really, even my the standards of Question Time it was rubbish. Or maybe it became brilliant after twenty minutes. It seemed that everyone there was trying to clarify that Nick Griffin was a racist. Couldn't they just chain up a bear and say they were sure they saw it making a mess in the woods? It would make for a livelier and more interesting debate. And all that nonsense about Churchill. Why do Brits have this creepy personality cult? Churchill was an idiot who first rose to prominence by messing up the Asia Minor campaign in WWI then by his idiotic diplomacy during WWII, his bombing of German cities and his handing over Central/ Eastern Europe to Stalin.

Don't ask me if his brain or conscience would stop him voting BNP. I haven't the foggiest. But doesn't it say something about intellectual life in Britain that guessing which party a cigar smoking dope who died half a century ago would have voted for? (Sadly I can't find Thomsen's rant in Das Boot on Youtube; not a fan of the Kriegsmarine but it cracks me up compared to how the Brits adore him).

To think I could have spent those twenty minutes watching Are You Being Served on Youtube or something equally valuable (oh, for a time when Britain was British: NOT as in 'ethnically British', but as in 'not an American aircraft carrier' British, And isn't that the weirdest irony about the BNP? They are greatly concerned that only 'indigenous' people should be allowed to watch American TV, wear American clothes, eat American food, listen to American music, speak in American slang and talk about American politics in Britain).

Speaking of which I watched a really disturbing but intelligent British film on youtube called 'Blood on Satan's Claw'. Pretty grim stuff overall, but definitely well made, atmospheric and intelligently written. Given its mystical view of the semi-pagan British countryside, I'd imagine it has a few BNP fans. Though I suspect Linda Hayden gave it a broader appeal than Anglo-Saxon nostalgia could provide.


  1. Grego,

    I appreciate the cut of your gib and would like the gift of your gab.

    If you would like to join the new blogging collective at Ars Notoria then email me:

  2. Why do Brits have this creepy personality cult?

    Most people do not have the means to process historical facts and so they buy into illusory fiction sold by the politicians.

  3. WW2 is absolutely central to a lot of British cultural identity, especially because there's no longer an empire for people to feel proud of, and the country's been a bit shit for much of the time since 1945.

    Churchill's the embodiment of the WW2 plucky Britain self-image, hence the creepy personality cult. To some extent it could perhaps be seen as a nostalgia for when Britain was a powerful country.

  4. @Phil
    Thank you for your comment, but I don't do collective unless it either involves singing, incense and candles or chatting about favourite Brit sitcoms of the 70s.

    Entirely agree, but get the impression that it is acutely intensee in Britain. For example the French had DeGaulle who was a pretty crafty geezer when all's said and done, yet they don't all seem to hold him in awe, but what I find oddest about Britain is how people of all political persuasions seem to adore Churchill.

    Well, it depends what you mean by a bit shit. Before our time I guess, but it seems that between Atlee and Callaghan, there was a strong communal feeling in Blighty.

    One aspect of modern history I find quite interesting is the conflict in Northern Ireland, and I find it interesting that whilst many Irish Catholics were treated shockingly, overall the nation did not become the quivering Big Brother state it is now. This was around about the time Ted declared the three-day-week, but whatever the economic troubles, Britain still had some resolve which I think may be worth more than our supposed GDP.

    Incidentally, given some of our recent conversations, I wonder if Nick was really so wrong about Churchill(as you may have seen I finally plucked up the willpower to watch Question Time on youtube it was even worse than I thought).

    Churchill would probably approve of Griffin's taste in mystical watercolours anyway. The bloke who bombed Dresden and quipped 'why isn't Ghandi dead' when hearing of the Indian famine painted sugary twilit English country scenes.

    And his nemesis Herr Hitler also had a mean line in sugary, sentimental, mystical landscapes.

    By contrast when the Nazis declared Munch's paintings of disease, death and despair 'degenerate'. Even before that, Munch made it known that he hated the Nazis.

    I guess that Churchill does have this nostalgiac element that works on people and which I think is fairly similar to the BNP.

    Still, it all proves what I've been trying to say all along, which is that severely disturbed people like to form creepy collectives around concepts of 'normality' whilst the salt of the earth prefer darker edgier artwork. If Hitler watched Under Seige II instead of Disney films and preferred Goya to German Romanticism, the world would be a different place.

  5. Dear Gregor,

    It was nice to witness a British historian (you) putting it bluntly - that Churchill was an idiot. I surely agree with you on this one :-)

  6. @Bogdan
    To be fair he probably realised that Hitler was an even greater idiot. And Hitler did indeed oblige by launching a blitzkrieg against the USSR without anti-freeze.

    Churchill was a skilled propogandist but in terms of both tactics and strategy he was very poor. As for his diplomacy...

  7. It's far more Churchill's earlier life that is really problematic.

    By the way, not sure about the handing over of CEE to Stalin. It was rather more a matter of 'what's the plan?' rather than any 'sellout'. Anyway, the idea of a liberal democracy would have looked equally abhorrent to some Romanians etc...

  8. @Olching
    Thanks for your comment. They say that at Yalta, Churchill teased Stalin, saying 'are you going to take the skin or the meat of the bear', to which Stalin replied 'I'm taking the skin and the meat because I shot it'.

    Which is fair enough perhaps, but was it really worth bankrupting Britain and sending hundreds of thousands of soldiers to be killed, tortured and injured for this outcome? Or putting our civilians at heightened risk by precipitating a savage aerial war?

    I don't think that Churchill envisaged this ending, nor do I think he especially cared how it would end. Especially as the Nazi-Soviet pact was still going when he was calling for war.

    As for liberal democracy, I see this as a stage rather than an ending or an absolute. I don't think it is intrinsically superior to nationalist authoritarianism: look at how liberal democracies have made a narco-fundamentalist state in Kosovo? And what they're doing to Iraq?

  9. Hi Gregor,

    Just to let you know that I replied to your comment about my BNP blog here:

    I said:

    "Well, time will tell about which of us is more correct. Yes, my point was that the BNP don't as you say "have many voters" (at the moment) but it is likely that their share of the vote will increase, and probably at the expense of the Lib-Dem's and Labour. I agree with you that their importance is (currently) being "exaggerated" and the third of your reasons is a factor in the media. The truth is though that there are people with racist attitudes across all classes in Britain (which that disappointing 'Blue-eyed' show last night on Channel 4 illustrated)but it has yet to be harnessed as a political force. This is were the BNP may continue to yield success."

  10. @Brett
    Thanks for your comment. I've been away a few days, but just to reply
    1) Who are the millions of people that you think will vote BNP?
    2) Why haven't they voted BNP so far?
    3) Do you think that our society will change?
    4) Do you think the BNP will change?

    Personally, I think the BNP are a shower of sinister oafs who have no chance of electoral success, but I think the idea that millions of our neighbours will vote for Nazis overnight is a sign of what a paranoid country we now live in.