Bremner vs Bush

Among the comments to the previous post I particularly liked this one by Joe N:

What I found rather cute in the R4 documentary, was the way it tried to be reasonable, but resorted to “mockumentary” tacktics anyway.

They had a voice-actor imitating President Bush at each segment, and when they played a series of quotations by him, the background music was of rural banjo fuges, as though it meant to cue the pavlov’s dogs of the listening audience a seeming reference to the movie “deliverance”.

The arrogant, culturally ignorant bastards at the BBC don’t even realize that there is no such tradition in Texas, and that he doesn’t comre from the Appalachian or mountain-south traditions associated with the type of fade-in/fade-out music they played.

Really – they are idiots willing to employ what they think they know about a folk culture to abuse someone! It’s about as sophisticated and shows as much a lack of depth of familiarity as a would-be photo-montage of Barack Obama with a watermelon and a bucket of fried chicken.

I assume Joe N is referring to this programme in which the impressionist Rory Bremner “considers the rhetorical evolution of George W Bush from gaffe-prone candidate to grandiose war president.”

I caught the end of the programme. It could have been worse, I suppose. At least it allowed various of Bush’s speechwriters and so on to have a word, though of course the beginning and end of each segment had to be according to the BBC narrative. I did notice one thing – after actually praising Bush for some good rhetoric, the inevitable contrasting Bush-is-stupid bit was the occasion where Bush said that he was “proud to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hands cut off by Saddam Hussein.”

Ha ha ha.

Now, given that the BBC researchers managed to dig out from the archives a clip of his actual words (52 minutes in) then the programme-makers must have known the context in which this speech was made. The link takes you to a post at the Volokh Conspiracy blog, which (unlike the BBC or the Slate magazine feature that prompted Eugene Volokh’s post) gives the next few lines of the speech:

I’m honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein. I’m with six other Iraqi citizens, as well, who suffered the same fate. They are examples of the brutality of the tyrant.

I am also here with Marvin Zindler, of Houston, Texas. I appreciate Joe Agris, the doctor who helped put these hands on these men; Don North, the documentary producer who made a film of this brutality, which brought the plight of these gentlemen to the attention of Marvin and his foundation. These men had hands restored because of the generosity and love of an American citizen. And I am so proud to welcome them to the Oval Office. . . .

Bush was able to shake this man’s hand because he was among several men who had just been provided with artificial hands by US surgeons. That was what occasioned the speech being made at all. He was saying, wasn’t it great that they did, once again, have functioning hands despite the barbaric punishment inflicted upon them.

As I said, the programme makers must have understood those circumstances. But they – and Rory Bremner – chose a cheap laugh over explaining them.

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25 Responses to Bremner vs Bush

  1. David Vance says:

    Why let details like the whole truth get in the way of a cheap gag?


  2. Original Robin says:


    Tomorrow on You and Yours , Radio 4, they will have a phone in “Is it time to adopt the EUro ?”

    Will they ever have a phonein “is it time to leave the EU ?”


  3. gomez says:

    yes the this kind of manipulation of words by anyone for the sake of cheap laughs (at it seems to me, the expense of people who have suffered is deplorable) people can be misled by what they hear or see though, maybe Bremner is actually just as ignorant as i was when you brought the truth to my attention. Bush is generally perceived as a buffoon by many with good reason and that could why we are not that suprised when he is attributed to such gaffes


  4. Random says:

    The banjo music is as offensive to certain parts of the US as the use of the word “Paki” could ever be. Far more offensive than it was in the context Harry used it. The BBC – double standards.


  5. John Bosworth says:

    “History is lied agreed upon”. Never was a truer word said. The BBC is now myth building big time. We mustn’t let their lies overtake the truth. They are writing their narrative as we speak. Tomorrow will be too late to correct mistakes. But its the same old question: how do we make our voices heard?


  6. AndrewSouthLondon says:

    If you start with the premise that Bush is “stupid” then the “joke” makes perfect sense. But of course he isn’t. And nothing about chopping hands off people is especially funny. Or jokes about beheading British hostages to put on U-tube. In fact the more you know the less funny Bremner gets. But then the sneering crowd never get past the first premise.


  7. george whyte says:

    The BBC is to spend £15million a year of taxpayers’ money on a TV channel aimed at Iranians.

    The corporation launches Persian TV next Wednesday, hoping it will compete with tightly-controlled state media in the Islamic republic.

    But the broadcaster has already come under fire for wasting public money on the channel, which will be largely inaccessible to British TV viewers.

    There are also fears that the BBC’s attempts to force its way into the Iranian media market will cause further diplomatic rows.

    Iranian officials have claimed the TV service, aired in the Farsi language, will be used by British intelligence for ‘espionage and psychological warfare’.

    President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s regime, which already blocks the BBC Persian website to large sections of its population, has described Persian TV as ‘ suspicious and illegal’ and ‘working against the interests of the Islamic republic’.

    The BBC says viewers must decide for themselves if it is safe for them to use the channel, which has already been refused permission to have a correspondent based in Tehran.

    Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps is also said to have told citizens to avoid contact with the ‘lie-spreading’ network.

    The corporation’s website (above) has been blocked by the Iranian government, meaning ordinary people cannot access it

    Even British politicians fear the the BBC has been urged to launch the channel to try to spread Western values into Iran.

    Conservative MP Philip Davies, who sits on the culture, media and sport select committee, said: ‘For me this is absolutely laughable that they should be spending all this money on a Persian TV channel, when the Iranian government already block access to its website.

    ‘The BBC has lost all sense of what it should be about.

    ‘Most disturbing is that because it is so ludicrous from a journalism point of view, in that they will not even have their own reporters in Iran, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that they are being leant upon by the British government to do it.’

    Accusing the BBC of ‘ empire building’, he added: ‘Having a BBC Persian channel is not going to change the way Iran conducts itself.’

    The BBC says that the service, manned by 150 mostly Londonbased staff, will be available to millions of Persian-speakers.

    As well as an estimated 70 million Persian speakers in Iran, there are said to be another 20million in Afghanistan and 10million in neighbouring Tajikistan.

    But the BBC will struggle to get maximum coverage for the service, which will broadcast for eight hours a day, as satellite dish receivers are banned by Iranian authorities.

    The World Service said that despite the rules, about 40 per cent of people still have the equipment, meaning 20million in Iran could get the service.

    In the UK, only those with certain types of satellite dish will be able to receive the service but it will also be available on

    As well as news broadcasts, it will also show programmes on music, technology, sports and culture.

    Like the rest of the World Service, Persian TV will be paid for by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office – and ultimately by British taxpayers.

    The BBC has already launched an £25million-a-year Arabic television service to compete with the likes of Al Jazeera.

    A BBC spokesman said research had shown that people in the region valued the corporation’s independence and impartiality.

    And Nigel Chapman, director of BBC World Service, said: ‘BBC Persian TV builds on our distinguished history of broadcasting in Persian and brings the best of the BBC’s news and documentary programmes to audiences.’


  8. Original Robin says:

    To the BBC banjo music means Redneck Hillbilly, and country folk in America and Britain can be laughed at.
    Subsidised EUropean farmers are deserving folk though. As are all Third World farmers.


  9. The Cattle Prod of Destiny says:

    Did they do the ‘most of our imports come from overseas’ quote. This is often a favourite on the BBC.

    And you can see why, if you aren’t aware that the US has two land borders. So it’s not as stupid as they make out.

    I also seem to remember someone on this site, some years ago, pointing out a site that listed so called ‘Bushisms’ and pointed out that the same quotes were used against Dan Quayle and Ronald Reagan.

    I wonder if we’ll ever get a programme on how the Democrats use ad hominem attacks to cover up the shortcomings of their laughable policies?

    Oh look pork on the wing ….


  10. Sarah says:

    How does sneering at Americans at every opportunity, and completely misrepresenting our culture fit into the BBC’s model of a “multi-cultural society”?

    When President Ahmedenijad leaves office, can we look forward to some offensive, culturally incorrect, stereotyping about Iran?

    Or would that be racist?


  11. David Preiser (USA) says:


    At the very least, you can probably expect an encomium from the BBC about how Ahmadimjihadi outlasted Bush.


  12. Sarah says:

    Heh heh, David. Like our hero Castro, ya mean?

    I want the offensive stereotyping, dammit :(. I pay good money for the BBC to put other people down in sneery, snide way to make me feel good about myself.


  13. will says:

    At the very least, you can probably expect an encomium from the BBC about how Ahmadimjihadi outlasted Bush.
    David Preiser (USA) | 12.01.09 – 7:58 pm

    In the same way the BBC have drooled over how many US Presidents have been outlasted by Fidel.

    Castro: Profile of the great survivor

    Although the US has tried hard to get rid of him, President Castro outlasted no fewer than nine American presidents since he took power in 1959.


  14. will says:

    beat me to the punch, Sarah!


  15. Lurker in a Burqua says:

    Perhaps we ought to forget the British Leftists and allow President Bush to speak for himself.

    Final press conference in parts here


  16. joe says:

    off-topic, however the general comments section is sooo old.

    Will Newsnight or the Today show be highlighting this piece of dismal news for Labour?.


  17. will says:

    Re that Press Conference, the White House Press corps had to choose between ungraciousness & hypocrisy. with Bush’s exit from the room being marked by 3 claps from fewer clappers they obviously chose to continue to shoe their contempt for the man.


  18. Lurker in a Burqua says:

    Re that Press Conference, the White House Press corps had to choose between ungraciousness & hypocrisy. with Bush’s exit from the room being marked by 3 claps from fewer clappers they obviously chose to continue to shoe their contempt for the man.
    will | 12.01.09 – 8:26 pm | #

    We would not really want to see journos applauding politicians……….any politicians!

    I’m pretty sure that Saint Obama will get plenty though. And of course the uncritical BBC will be tugging at their forelocks.


  19. lucklucky says:

    “In the same way the BBC have drooled over how many US Presidents have been outlasted by Fidel.

    Castro: Profile of the great survivor

    Although the US has tried hard to get rid of him, President Castro outlasted no fewer than nine American presidents since he took power in 1959.”

    Yep. That’s BBC High Culture for you: The iron hand of Dictatorships are good things to laugh about.


  20. Mark says:

    “To the BBC banjo music means Redneck Hillbilly, and country folk in America and Britain can be laughed at.”

    Hillbillies are traditionally associated with inhabitants of the Ozark Plateau – which takes in large parts of Missouri and – wait for it – ARKANSAS !

    Shouldn’t the Deliverance theme be a musical characterisation of Clinton -wouldn’t that give a whole new meaning to duelling banjos, or maybe we should ask Ms Lewinsky or Ms Flowers, heh, heh !


  21. Anonymous says:

    The deliberate misrepresentation of President Bush’s words about the Iraqis provided with prosthetic hands (highlighted by Natalie in this post) is surely an example of the endemic dishonesty at the BBC that the ‘Safeguarding Trust’ courses that all BBC staff were required to attend were supposed to root out.


  22. Liam H says:

    This last summer I went for lunch to Michael Parkinson’s restaurant near Maidenhead (actually it might be his son’s). Anyway I sat outside with my girlfriend and ate a lovely meal.

    Unfortunately the experience was spoiled somewhat by a loud person sat at another table. That person was Rory Bremner. Bremner was sat with Parkinson and that chap who does the cricket on Channel 4 and their wives/partners.

    I am not a fan of Parky but I could not fail to notice that he was very polite with the staff, and did not throw his weight around or act the star. Although it is easy to ogle when a famous person is around it was easy to forget Parky was eating at the table next to us.

    I would have ignored the table but for Bremner. He was like some noisy six former. I can’t remember much of what he was broadcasting for all to hear. But I do remember him going on an on that in the good old days famous people were famous for a reason and that these days anybody could be famous and that was a terrible thing.

    It got so bad and Bremner was so achingly annoying that my girlfriend, who is slow to lose her temper, suggested we skip pudding and leave. He really was that bad, loud, doing impressions, looking for laughs, and letting everyone else know who he was and who he was with. It was one of the most cringeworthy displays I have ever witnessed.

    My impression of Bremner: silly, immature, not too bright and more than anything desperate to be recognised. I was surprised by this. Although I don’t like his stuff I expected him to come across as at least middlebrow. I got the impression that perhaps his scriptwriters (if he has them) are the bright ones.

    BTW Parky’s place is a very nice place to eat, the food is superb and the staff are very relaxed and easy going.


  23. Martin C says:

    Excellent piece Natalie. measured, accurate, telling it like it is, ruthlessly exposing the bias and leaving it with nowhere to hide. And in doing this simply and sadly, surveying the wreck of what was once the proud, rigidly honest, upright and unbiassed source of news and current affairs that once was the BBC.
    John Reith (the real one) would turn in his grave.


  24. AndrewSouthLondon says:

    I had the pleasure of watching Bremner live recording one of his TV spectaculars at Teddington Studios – one of the delights of being briefly AndrewWestLondon. He was constantly in and out of consultation with his “writer”, a middle aged guy with long black hair and a maroon velvet jacket – a fashion oddity if ever.

    Bremner was incredibly quick-witted, can’t fault that. All the more reason why his cheap shallow take is inexcusable. He knows better.


  25. Joe N. says:

    Yes indeed, it was the Bremner piece I was referring to. The production wasn’t openly vicious but in turns it was openly abusive in its’ mocking.

    After all, they amplified to Bush-hatred to no end and made that audience – now they have to dance with the ones that brung ’em.