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In Defence of a Friend

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Although expected, it has been depressing to witness the amount of criticism received by Polly Jean Harvey after her original and challenging guest edited edition of the Today programme. It has of course also received much praise, dividing opinion - and not necessarily along such defined political lines as some would suggest.

Much of the criticism wasn't actually critical. "Left wing tosh", "liberal drivel", and most patronisingly "sixth-form politics" are pub table insults, and imply that the programme's content was hard to refute.

The predominantly right wing critics may not like to hear those issues being addressed, but apart from the impossible to prove figure of exactly how many Iraqis have died in the war so far, it is very difficult to dispute any of the facts claimed by the contributors.

I believe that it was Polly's intention to put together a show that was both artistically stimulating, and that would create debate around the issues discussed. By insulting rather than engaging critically, the right wing press has tried to strangle this debate.

I don't know whether this is just a knee jerk reaction, or a more sinister deliberate attempt to suppress views that challenge their interpretation of events, in much the same way many ideologues try to blur the line between fact and opinion enabling them to brush off inconvenient facts as political views.

Polly Harvey is my best friend and I know her to be meticulous and considered in everything she does. The amazing line up of guests she was able to draw from is testament to how well thought of she is.

That she was able to playfully subvert the conservative format of the Today programme by including both poignant and funny pieces of music and poetry demonstrated her artistic confidence. I am certainly not saying that she is above criticism. But the insults are beneath her.

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