Brexiteers and Scottish nationalists are united by a disturbing enthusiasm for censorship – Euan McColm
Some weeks, the only exercise I get is shuddering with rage at outbursts from the ideologues currently cluttering up public life. Barely a day goes by without some exasperating high-profile Brexiteer or Scottish nationalist lashing out at the dark forces that conspire against them. Top of the list of establishment enemies for both groups is the BBC.
To the Eurosceptic crank, the national broadcaster is complicit in a concerted effort to undermine Brexit. To the furious (the default setting) Scottish nationalist, the Beeb played a leading role in the No campaign’s victory in the 2014 independence referendum. It’s much easier, I suppose, for them all to lash out at the corporation than it is to reflect on the flaws in what pass for their political plans. But, man, it’s exhausting for the rest of us.
The latest attacks on the BBC from these twins of contemporary populism are especially ludicrous. Brexiteers – fired up by former Tory MP and current bore Harvey Proctor – are incandescent that during the televised coverage of the Last Night of the Proms, several members of the audience could be seen waving EU flags. This, said Proctor, was “disgraceful”, adding that the BBC should launch an inquiry.
It’s not entirely clear what such an inquiry might achieve. So far as I am aware, the BBC has no authority to prevent anyone waving EU flags within the Royal Albert Hall. It would be troubling, indeed, if the broadcaster was able to do such a thing.
The usual suspects have, of course, used the sight of those flags being waved as the basis for calls for tougher regulation of the corporation. It’s utterly bleak stuff. Surely the proud Brexiteer, having taken back control, should be basking in our freedom to express ourselves however we wish? Surely, the proud Brexiteer isn’t so pathetic that he can’t bear the sight of a flag?
Not for the first time, angry Scottish nationalists have shown they’ve a damned sight more in common with Brexiteers than they’d like to admit. North of the Border, the Beeb is under fire for having the audacity to broadcast political satire. A skit – not, I’m afraid, terribly amusing – taking the mickey out of Green minister Lorna Slater caused a wave of pearl-clutching throughout nationalist ranks.
“Not sure,” wrote one of the Yes movement’s court journalists, “this is the sort of thing a national radio station should be broadcasting.” Soon, the chorus of complaint grew louder. The clip was “pish” wrote SNP minister Elena Whitham, it was “beyond belief”, said another veteran campaigner. An especially irksome commentator whinged that this particular satire added “nothing creative to public life” to which the only response must be “so what?”
Just about every nationalist, whether of the British and Scottish variety, believes their nationalism is superior to all those other horrible nationalisms that litter history. But for all their protestations, they can’t quite conceal the authoritarian streaks that run through their own ideologies. The enthusiasm with which they would censor the media is hugely disturbing.
If the BBC upsets you because you saw some flags on the telly or you heard someone mocking a government minister on the radio, the problem isn’t the broadcaster, it’s you.
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