Mark Thompson has left the building. Last week in fact.
Perhaps now we can have a genuine outbreak of free speech at the BBC and an open discussion about religion.
We all probably know Thompson’s views on the broadcasting of critical, or what some might deem offensive, programmes based on religion.
If it’s Christianity essentially anything goes…as long as it can be ‘justified artistically’.
Islam…..well that’s a different ball game…for two reasons…first and probably foremost, the threat of extreme violence being perpetuated upon you, second that to criticise Islam is just another form of racism.
The first is a very real threat…and a perfect reason for not actually bowing down and surrendering your values….give up freedom of speech and what do you have to give up next?
The second, criticism of Islam is akin to racism, is a narrative dreamt up by Muslims to silence their critics. They have seen how opponents of mass immigration were forced into silence by being shouted down as ‘racists’ and have adopted that tactic to further their own interests.
For the BBC to adopt this narrative is a policy of extreme danger that shuts down the normal avenues of debate when controversies arise and leaves only more extreme measures to resolve the issue…ironically resulting in the very violence the BBC thinks its policy of submissive silence prevents.
Below is Thompson being interviewed and it is the famous interview in which he agrees his fear of Islamic violence acts as a natural editor as to what he allows on the screen.
Below that is the transcript of a speech by Christopher Hitchens in which he lays out the reasons why everything Mark Thompson stood for in regard to freedom of speech and Islam is wrong….and ultimately dangerous.
Who should George Entwistle listen to? Thompson or Hitchens? Who speaks truth to power, who speaks the unadulterated truth, who speaks without fear of being silenced by some fanatic….no, who speaks his mind despite the fear of being finally and irrevocably silenced by a knife wielding Islamic fanatic?
Thompson believed everything was relative and negotiable…..He had no real principles, just words….that ultimately signified nothing. His legacy….a BBC that is cowed and still as biased, if not more, as when he took over.
This is the reality of the BBC in action:
BBC refuses to screen play about Islamic threat to freedom of speech
Mark Thompson, the BBC’s director-general, says it will not screen the controversial ‘Can We Talk About This?’. Although the BBC was willing to disregard protests from Christians who considered its decision to broadcast Jerry Springer: The Opera as an affront, Mark Thompson, its outgoing director-general, is more wary of giving airtime to Can We Talk About This?, the National Theatre’s examination of how Islam is curtailing freedom of speech.
Perhaps someone at the BBC has read or will read Hitchens’ speech, his plea, for the defence of freedom of speech, not just in relation to those things that we either know aren’t ‘offensive’ or those that we know though offensive will not bring retribution upon us but also those difficult subjects that demand courage to stand up and say when something is wrong no matter what.
Perhaps someone at the BBC will take that plea to heart and act upon it. Somehow I doubt it.
It really is time for the BBC to make its mind up…is it going to defend freedom of speech come what may or is it going to allow itself to be silenced not just by threats of violence but by false considerations of whether or not someone may be offended in their own mind by this or that programme?
Thank God for the Internet!
(in two parts)
In 2005, the BBC broadcast Jerry Springer: The Opera despite protests from Christian groups (read and comment on our case study). The BBC received more than 60,000 complaints about the show – a record at the time. In an interview with Free Speech Debate, Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, explains the broadcaster’s decision to air the show: “It was a serious piece of artistic work.”
In 2008 a decision was made to abolish blasphemy laws in England and Wales, which for centuries had made it illegal to insult Christianity. Thompson says: ”That’s now left our law. Well, I rejoice in that fact.” But would the BBC have broadcast the programme if it had been about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad? Thompson says it probably would not, and offers this explanation: “It’s not as if Islam is spread evenly across the UK population. It’s almost entirely a religion practiced by people who may already feel in other ways isolated, prejudiced against and where they may well regard an attack on their religion, racism by other means.”
Mark Thompson on the BBC and religion
Interview by Timothy Garton Ash, director of Free Speech Debate
MT: Jerry Springer I saw without feeling that it was offensive to me because the intention of the piece was so clearly a satire about an American talk show host and his world rather than the religious figures as such. Now I readily accept that that’s a matter of opinion but that was my view.
MT: Post-Satanic Verses, so if this debate in broadcasting or in British cultural life suddenly got energized by the Satanic Verses, that was an absolute watershed I think for us. It was after that but of course it was before 9/11 and the sense and fear, and so forth, in the sense that some of this could lead to direct violence against individuals.
TGA: It is an ace, isn’t it? And a rather nasty ace if people say, “I feel so strongly about that; if you say it or broadcast it, I will kill you.”
MT: Well clearly it’s a very notable move in the game, I mean without question. “I complain in the strongest possible terms” is d ifferent from “I complain in thestrongest possible terms and I’m loading my AK47 as I write.” This definitely raises the stakes. But I think there’s two or three things going on, so manifestly a threat to murder, which by the way is quite rightly a crime, massively raises the stakes.
MT: It’s not unreasonable to ask what the consequences of broadcasting something, or writing something will be for a particular individual or for a community, especially communities who may reasonably – I think that’s perhaps an important word to use – reasonably take the thing to be an attack, or to be threatening.
MT: I do not think that it’s appropriate that there should be laws inhibiting freedom of speech in the interest of protecting religions.
As I said…all fine words but in reality?
The Video of the speech
The (partial) transcript of a speech by Christopher Hitchens from a debate at Hart House, University of Toronto, 15 November 2006. “Be It Resolved: Freedom of Speech Includes the Freedom to Hate.” Hitchens argued the affirmative position
Now, I am absolutely convinced that the main source of hatred in the world is religion, and organized religion. Absolutely convinced of it.
I speak as someone who is a very regular target of this, and not just in rhetorical form. I have been the target of many death threats, I know within a short distance of where I am currently living in Washington, I can name two or three people whose names you probably know, people who can’t go anywhere now without a security detail because of the criticisms they’ve made on one monotheism in particular. And this is in the capital city of the United States.
So I know what I’m talking about, and I also have to notice, that the sort of people who ring me up and say they know where my children go to school, and they certainly know what my home number is and where I live, and what they are going to do to them and to my wife, and to me and who I have to take seriously because they already have done it to people I know, are just the people who are going to seek the protection of the hate speech law, if I say what I think about their religion, which I am now going to do.
I’m beginning to resent the confusion that’s being imposed on us now and there was some of it this evening between religious belief, blasphemy, ethnicity, profanity and what one might call multicultural etiquette.
It’s quite common these days for people now to use the expression for example anti-Islamic racism, as if an attack on a religion was an attack on an ethnic group. The word Islamophobia in fact is beginning to acquire the opprobrium that was once reserved for racial prejudice. This is a subtle and very nasty insinuation that needs to be met head on.
Somebody said that the anti-Semitism and Kristallnacht in Germany was the result of ten years of Jew-baiting. Ten years?! You must be joking! It’s the result of 2,000 years of Christianity, based on one verse of one chapter of St. John’s Gospel, which led to a pogrom after every Easter sermon every year for hundreds of years. What are you going to do about that? Where is your piddling sub-section now?! Does it say St. John’s Gospel must be censored?!
We believe in the truths of holy books that are so stupid and so fabricated that a child can and all children do, as you can tell by their questions, actually see through them. And I think religion should be treated with ridicule, and hatred and contempt. And I claim that right.
Now let’s not dance around, not all monotheisms are exactly the same at the moment. They’re all based on the same illusion, they’re all plagiarisms of each other, but there is one in particular that at the moment is proposing a serious menace not just to freedom of speech and freedom of expression, but to quite a lot of other freedoms too. And this is the religion that exhibits the horrible trio of self-hatred, self-righteousness and self-pity.
I am talking about militant Islam.
Globally it’s a gigantic power. It controls an enormous amount of oil wealth, several large countries and states with an enormous fortune, it’s pumping the ideology of Wahhabism and Salafism around the world, poisoning societies where it goes, ruining the minds of children, stultifying the young and its madrassas, training people in violence, making a culture death and suicide and murder. That’s what it does globally, it’s quite strong.
In our society it poses as a cringing minority, who’s faith you might offend, which deserves all the protection that a small and vulnerable group might need.
Now, it makes quite large claims for itself, doesn’t it? It says it’s the final revelation. It says that god spoke to one illiterate businessman in the Arabian Peninsula, and the resulting material which was largely plagiarized from the Old and the New Testament, almost all of it actually plagiarised, ineptly from the Old and the New Testament, is to be accepted as a divine revelation and as the final and unalterable one and those who do not accept this revelation are fit to be treated as cattle, infidels, potential chattel, slaves and victims.
Well I tell you what, I don’t think Mohammad ever heard those voices. I don’t believe it.
But who is the one under threat? The person who propagates this and says I’d better listen because if I don’t I’m in danger, or me who says No, I think this is so silly you could even publish a cartoon about it?
And up go the placards and up go the yells and the howls and the screams, Behead those who cartoon Islam, this is in London, this is in Toronto and this is in New York, it is right in our midst now…. Behead those, Behead those who cartoon Islam.
Do they get arrested for hate speech? No. Might I get in trouble for saying what I’ve just said about the prophet Mohammad? Yes, I might. Where are your priorities ladies and gentlemen? You’re giving away what’s most precious in your own society, and you’re giving it away without a fight and you’re even praising the people who want to deny you the right to resist it. Shame on you while you do this. Make the best use of the time you’ve got left. This is really serious.
Look anywhere you like in the world for the warrant for slavery, for the subjection of women as chattel, for the burning and flogging of homosexuals, for ethnic cleansing, for anti-Semitism, for all of this, you look no further than a famous book that’s on every pulpit in this city, and in every synagogue and in every mosque.
And then just see whether you can square the fact that the force of the main source of hatred is also the main caller for censorship.