How the Beeb marked May Day


Theresa May is now Prime Minister, and the coverage was predictably nauseating. Bereft of internet a few days into life at new digs, I sat and watched it on News 24.

Neutrality means offering as broad a range of viewpoints as possible, and not favouring any of them. The BBC always claims it’s neutral, but that’s not what it does at all. Instead, for decades, it’s consistently done something very different: portray anyone or anything conforming to the neoliberal-authoritarian post-Thatcherite consensus in a favourable light (being mildly critical at very best, fawningly biased at worst), and relentlessly undermine anyone who deviates from it. Being pro-establishment and anti-dissident, after all, is basically the default setting of British public life. Continue reading “How the Beeb marked May Day”

Bem Bulletin #6: Ken, Kuenssberg, and climate catastrophe


A few years back I used to put out something I called the Bem Bulletin. Essentially, it was a collection of shorter bits about current goings on I’d write in gaps between rambling pseudo-intellectual essay type things. Now, with full-time work meaning those gaps are getting longer and longer, I decided it was a good time to resurrect the concept – and this one’s largely about last month’s local and mayoral elections and media bias, with a dash of me-standard ecological doom.

This month:

  1. Electoralism blues – Labour and the local elections
  2. Flak attack #1: that Ken Livingstone anti-Semitism thing
  3. Flak attack #2: Kuenssberg/sexism
  4. We should probably just shut the BBC down and be done with it
  5. Obligatory reminder of impending eco-doom

Continue reading “Bem Bulletin #6: Ken, Kuenssberg, and climate catastrophe”

Media Lens on Corbyn-Kuenssberg-Dugher-Doughty


I started writing something about the Corbyn-Kuenssberg-Dugher-Doughty debacle myself, but then found this post by Media Lens which basically says all I wanted to say better (and more exhaustively researched) that I could.

Bem Bulletin #5: March 2015 – Budget 2015, Richard III and Bring Back Clarkson

Budget osborne 2015

THIS MONTH: Vote Defensively (But Voting Isn’t Enough)

Observations on The People’s Strictly (featuring Michael Sheen)

The Capitalist Anti-Capitalism of Yanis Varoufakis

On the menu today:

  1. Budget 2015
  2. Del Boy Shapps
  3. Richard III
  4. Bring Back Clarkson
  5. Russell Brand and Aditya Chakrabortty

Continue reading “Bem Bulletin #5: March 2015 – Budget 2015, Richard III and Bring Back Clarkson”

The NHS in ‘The Apprentice’ Society

Sugar and friends
Sugar and friends

Caring is out. Ruthlessness is in. That’s neoliberal morality.

Recently I had cause to partake of the National Health Service – or, more specifically, I had to accompany someone to an appointment at the Bristol Royal Infirmary, which at least involved riding an NHS-provided bus, sitting in a nice warm NHS waiting room and watching repeats of Grand Designs on an NHS TV.

I’ve been fortunate enough not to need the health service much. Yet. I still think it’s the greatest political achievement in the history of British statecraft. Given that national politics has been monopolised by nest-feathering plutocrats since time immemorial, it admittedly hasn’t got much competition for the title.

As the kind of lentil-munching ultra-leftist the Daily Mail presumes uses the Union Jack to mop the floor, I’m constitutionally obliged to hate dumb, tub-thumping patriotism in all its forms. But if there is something about ‘being British’ that’s genuinely worth being proud of – rather than a piss-poor football team, a plasticated Barbie and Ken monarchy, and a millions-enslaving, famine-inducing, continents-sundering imperial past – it’s the fact that our society commits to providing high-quality healthcare free at the point of use to anyone who needs it.

The NHS was born out of that dismayingly brief period, more of an blip when you look back on it, when top-drawer politics wasn’t entirely dominated by said nest-feathering plutocrats. “No society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means”, proclaimed Nye Bevan, post-war Health Minister, lovely Welsh socialist and exemplary human being.

In the decades since, national politics has slowly but steadily reverted to business as usual. Now we’ve reached a critical mass of high-functioning sociopaths in positions of power, the NHS, like everything else left over from that bountiful five minutes of post-war welfarism, is under relentless attack. Continue reading “The NHS in ‘The Apprentice’ Society”

Auntie and The Greens: BBC Bias and the Leaders’ Debates

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett flanked by Deputies Amelia Womack and Shahrar Ali
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett flanked by Deputies Amelia Womack and Shahrar Ali

The BBC’s handling of the Leaders’ Debates is obviously scandalous, but, given its past conduct, shouldn’t be surprising.

The BBC is refusing to let the Green Party in to the televised debates it’s planning in advance of next year’s General Election. Auntie has decided that Nigel Farage and his hard-right intifada are worthy of admission, and that Natalie Bennett’s Greens aren’t.

In a letter to the Green Party’s communications director, the BBC explained its reasoning: “UKIP has demonstrated a substantial increase in support since 2014 across a range of elections along with a consistent and robust trend across a full range of opinion polls; the Green Party had not demonstrated any comparable increase”.

Green supporters and assorted irked progressives responded: the Greens beat the Lib Dems in this year’s Euro elections, they argued, receiving 1.2m votes, 150,000 more than Clegg and co. They’re now polling neck-and-neck with the Liberals in opinion polls. The Greens are the fifth biggest party in the Scottish Assembly, and the third biggest in the London Assembly. Since January, membership of the Green Party of England and Wales has jumped 45%. They’ve had an MP in Parliament for nearly five years – UKIP have only had one for about five weeks.

We’re probably well in the minority in thinking the leaders’ debates are an awful development, further chiselling down what should be a vast, complex, citizenry-engaging discussion about how societies are run into a rubbish squabble over who gets the top job. They’re a stunningly shallow American export we never should’ve touched, and need scrapping immediately.

Almost inevitably, though, they’re here to stay. And if that’s the case, and some are going to feature upstart xenophobe Nigel Farage, of course they need to include the Greens, if not Plaid Cymru, the SNP, and RESPECT’s George Galloway too. Continue reading “Auntie and The Greens: BBC Bias and the Leaders’ Debates”

“No Money Left” Says BBC

George Osborne and Ed Balls
George Osborne and Ed Balls

During a recent news item on George Osborne’s budget, a chirpy BBC correspondent did one of those smug pieces to camera about the ‘challenges’ facing the Chancellor and his Labour opposite number in the run-up to next year’s general election.

The biggest of all, Mr Reporter glibly declared, was they had to try and win over sceptical voters without being able to give them anything in return. Tax cuts, more health and education spending – they were all out of the question, because, broadcaster man stated like it was the most obvious thing in the world, ‘there’s no money left for big giveaways’.

It’s the message you get from practically all telly pundits nowadays. They blankly trot out the Coalition’s economic narrative as if it’s indisputable truth. Worryingly many probably believe it themselves. After all, it’s the line taken by governments all over the world, and if enough important-looking people in suits say something often enough, it’s quite easy to be duped into thinking it’s true if you’re not an especially questioning human being. Continue reading ““No Money Left” Says BBC”

Jameela Jamil – Porn, What’s The Harm

Jamil intellectually ambushing ex-porn star Gemma Massey
Jamil intellectually ambushing ex-porn star Gemma Massey

Last night, a Radio One DJ hosted an intriguing TV programme about porn. Thanks to the internet, it’s proving increasingly inescapable, she said, and young people are being exposed to it at earlier and earlier ages. Earnest Jameela Jamil clearly cared, and wanted to protect vulnerable kids from exploitation and abuse. But in parts, her show demonstrated just the kind of squeamishness that lies behind so many of our unhealthy attitudes towards sex.

The BBC and market research bods ICM have conducted a survey of young people, asking them about their experiences with porn. Over a thousand 16-21 year-olds were interviewed. Just under a quarter claimed they were 12 or under when they first watched online porn. An eyebrow-raising 7.3% claimed they were under ten. And for Aunty, the pollsters, and bookish private school product turned T4 presenter and Radio One It Girl Jameela Jamil, the results were shocking enough to make a telly programme out of them.

BBC Three’s ‘Porn: What’s the harm?’ began with likeable Jamil delivering a monologue about shagging. ‘I’m very liberated about sex and relationships’, she said. With the best will in the world to someone willing to risk ridicule by speaking out about something she genuinely cares about – decrying the over-sexualisation of modern culture presumably not being the savviest career move in the perennially cold shower-requiring world of shit RnB – a lot of what was to come over the next hour suggested she wasn’t. Continue reading “Jameela Jamil – Porn, What’s The Harm”

Teach First Isn’t Very Good, And Neither Is Rampant Neoliberalism

The 'Tough Young Teachers', posing ridiculously
The ‘Tough Young Teachers’, posing ridiculously

The Bemolution has largely given up watching TV because most of it’s rubbish, but we’re informed by persevering telly-watchers that there’s a programme on about Teach First.

Teach First is a government initiative designed to encourage ‘high-flying’ university leavers to have a go at teaching before they join one of the more conventional graduate employers. Its stated aims are reasonably well-meaning. ‘Top’ graduates rarely go into education, the logic runs. They’ll go to into banking, PR, marketing and the like, but for some reason consistently dodge anything socially useful. If that excellence could be harnessed and directed at educating some of the most disadvantaged people in the country, perhaps it could strike a resounding blow against social inequality.

Successful applicants are put through six weeks training then sent off to work in a school for two years – almost always one in a heavily deprived part of the country. They get a nominated mentor, a fellow teacher at the school, and various other forms of support from Teach First itself, but in the classroom they’re very much on their own. And it’s here, apparently, that the BBC’s Tough Young Teachers looms in to follow the progress of six new Teach Firsters.

Someone who’s watched it told us that the featured newbies were posh and useless. That’s probably unfair, and/or a massive over-generalisation. And if it isn’t, you can hardly blame rich, socially segregated graduates who aren’t much more than kids themselves for being bad teachers when they’re parachuted into the toughest schools in the country after a month or so of PowerPoint presentations. Continue reading “Teach First Isn’t Very Good, And Neither Is Rampant Neoliberalism”

Ooh ‘eck It’s Glastonbury Again (And It’s Probably Sold Out)

Michael Eavis at the Glastonbury Festival
Michael Eavis at the Glastonbury Festival

Practically everything that can be said about Glastonbury selling out, going to the dogs, being slowly but inexorably gentrified or infiltrated by well-heeled hipsters in luxury tepees already has been. The Bemolution isn’t especially qualified to add anything, having never got round to going. This is despite being based within twenty minutes’ drive of Worthy Farm for over twenty years. If the wind’s blowing in the right direction and the crowds are particularly euphoric you can just about hear them from the Bemolutionary hill-fort.

What we do know is that our favourite music shop proprietor and all-round gentlebloke Adrian had been going for thirty years before reluctantly deciding he couldn’t afford it any more. That’s as much down to the slow strangulation of niche independent retailers as any sort of hard-heartedness from Michael Eavis, but the fact that Adrian didn’t seem especially fussed when the time came was more telling. Continue reading “Ooh ‘eck It’s Glastonbury Again (And It’s Probably Sold Out)”