The poet Benjamin Zephaniah Says NO to OBEs

The poet Benjamin Zephaniah Says NO to OBEs- especially in the light of the Iraq war. Yes, that’s right- but he also took the air-time on Channel Four News last night to praise the BBC World Service because they had changed their name from the BBC Empire Service. So, apparently the leopard can change its spots. It’s all in a name.

I would never seek to defend a certain old British hegemony, whereby dirty deals were done with local dignitaries to gain soldiery or to nullify opposition. There is an area though where the British do retain a degree of hegemony, as do the French: that is in World News provision. In my last post I criticised the uncritical approach taken to the story of Internet fraud in Nigeria. In my view each story should stand reasonably well on its own legs. We’ve made similar comments about coverage of another legatee of colonialism: Mahathir Mohammed former Prime Minister of Malaysia. Cosying up to strong men seems to be a habit that BBC (Empire) World service and its relations at BBConline have not shaken. They would appear to prefer to tear strips off limited-term western politicians- you know, the ones who will risk their lives for a photo shoot. Honestly Benjamin, are you still a sucker for the real Empire punch? When the BBC extends the olive branch of ‘impartiality’ to these countries, who gets the warm rosy glow? And who gets the scoops?

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7 Responses to The poet Benjamin Zephaniah Says NO to OBEs

  1. Nigel Holland says:

    Benjamin was intervened on channel 4 with Jasmin Alibhai Brown, he spoke of his desire to build a classless society. I find the idea of creating a single class society just as offensive as the BNP’s desire to create a single race society.

    Jasmin was persuaded by him and decided to return her OBE.


  2. Simon Jester says:

    BZ objected to the word Empire. I guess he really doesn’t know much about Ras Tafari…


  3. Nigel Holland says:

    So I can’t spell interviewed, that’s why I write computer software not political commentary.

    BBC retracts slur about Hutton minister,,174-911314,00.html


  4. PJF says:

    Interesting link there, Nigel. As well as demonstrating the slimy behaviour of the BBC during the Hutton enquiry, it shows that a BBC reporter was also a Labour Party parliamentary candidate back in the 90s, and it was all above board.

    Surprised, anyone?


  5. les says:

    “The BBC, which has agreed to pay Mr Bradshaw’s legal costs amounting to several thousands of pounds, also wrote to the Hutton Inquiry asking for the removal of Mr Marsh’s e-mail from the evidence published on its website.”

    It seems that the BBC expects courts to take up its practice of stealth editing.


  6. James says:

    This is a BBC thread, not a Zephaniah one, so I’ll be brief and note that Z turned down his honour whilst at the same time denying (in the Guardian) that any gratitude was due to the UK for its fight against slavery in the nineteenth century. That fight is a serious chunk of ’empire’ history, and whilst most readers here will be very glad that our fathers and grandfathers offloaded the empire, it seems harsh that Z should subsume one of the better moments of our – and now his – history into ‘thousands of years of brutality’ (his phrase).


  7. Joe says:

    The World Service carried it, and what totally blew my mind was the basic nature of his notion (or publicity stunt) – he simply couln’t belive that a black man would or should accept an OBE.

    As if people can’t think for themselves, and that anyone whom he imagines to have some sort of solidarity with would not fully agree with everything he says – how pathetic. In the U.S. the civil rights movement largely got past that more than a decade ago.
    They didn’t want to be patronized by non-blacks, and a great many quickly learned that they certainly didn’t want to be patronized by ANYONE, no matter who they are.

    Doesn’t it seem that having any kind of faith in one’s fellow man is bad to this guy? It seems like the world’s wounds have to permanently stay open for him to have an large audience.