I've spent the last few weeks vociferously defending the BBC to all who would hear and pointing out that the failings they are being accused of and ripping themselves to shreds over in a downward spiral of defiantly proper behaviour, are barely significant in the world of modern media. What are they being slammed for? The actions of a nasty old pedophile, in their property 30 years ago? Surely some people should be held to account over it but they are either six feet under in a sparkly gold coffin or long, long gone employees. Can you hold the current corporation guilty for not acting on rumours of what a dead guy did while they were still at school?
I understand that the allegation is more to do with the Newsnight report they chose not to show but, well, haven't we just been through a phone hacking scandal? Whilst every other supposed 'news' organisation is allowed to lie, cheat, steal and decimate lives, the BBC isn't allowed to sit on a report that either might be not yet fully confirmed or might damage them? Maybe I'm cynical, having grown up in a world where organisations and those operating within them (along with politicians and, indeed, consumers) put their own well-being above anything else to the point they're happy to strip mine the world, culture and all conceivable human assets to increase profit by a couple of pence in the short term.
I truly don't understand the Lord McAlpine scandal. Sure, it was a journalistic gaffe but it was a genuine mistake, for which they have apologised. The tabloids - which are consumed by a far larger and, excuse my snobbery, FAR stupider and less discerning public - knowingly lie and distort the truth all day every day for profit. Newsnight didn't even actually name McAlpine. Since we're on the subject, at what point did a rich Tory lord who was one of Thatcher's advisors become a worthy victim? Aren't there more deserving people out there we could be outraged on behalf of? You know - ones who suffered genuine injustice and suffering for decades rather than suffered vague implications for a day and then received the swiftest and most public apology of the year? Have The Sun even satisfactorily apologised for their handling of the Hillsborough disaster yet? Hmm.
The bastards are clever. They've found the BBC's achilles heel. Being that an organisation built on decency and integrity and proper behaviour can, in this age, completely self destruct when turned upon itself. Rather than defend itself, the BBC is its own harshest (and its own actual, when you consider the motivations of those attacking it) critic.
For anyone wondering why they should still pay their licence fee at this point, the true answer has nothing to do with tradition and people in glasses wanting to watch highbrow jolly-hockeysticks programming. The true answer is that we need an organisation of such integrity to stop, well, evil. Imagine a Britain without BBC journalism. Even if you vehemently feel they have transgressed standards with these two incidents, you'd have to admit the genuine gusto of their Mea Culpa and resulting actions. Where else does our news come from? It comes from profit-making businesses. It comes from Rupert Murdoch and Richard Desmond. People who are happy, ecstatic, to lie and bend the truth in any way to push forward their political agendas and make as much money as possible.
I'm fairly sure the reason they are currently attacking the BBC so hard is a result of the BBC screening The Leveson Inquiry in its entirety. The Leveson Inquiry is the most significant blow against global media evil that has ever been blown. It showed the tabloids for what they are, it even managed to blow The News of the World out of the water. Without the BBC, even if the inquiry had taken place, we wouldn't have known about it. In a world where information is the most valuable commodity, a large, well-established and well-loved publicly-funded organisation which is designed to put integrity and honesty above all else is the only thing standing in the way of the majority of our mainstream information being corrupt.
But you're reading a blog on The Huffington Post. I'm preaching to the choir with this one. What was meant to be a one paragraph intro has turned into a rant, so I'll leave that there and proceed to do what I intended with this piece - to slam the BBC.
Last night I watched a new high-profile documentary on BBC 2 called 'The Dark Charisma of Adolf Hitler'. As a media-savvy and generally educated Jewish man in his mid-thirties, I have long passed the point in which such things should appeal. I've seen enough documentaries about Hitler. This is not to say the Holocaust should ever be forgotten or stop being treated as a relevant subject for exploration. I just, personally, have seen enough Hitler until I have kids and am ready to teach them what their great-grandparents went through.
I did find myself compelled to watch it, though, Laurence Rees is a respectable name in British historical documentary and if the BBC felt the subject warranted a 3-part series, then I was along for the ride. Despite the fact the title sounded a little too sexy.
What I was confronted with was a strange confection which I consumed with inappropriate glee. Had this been screened on Channel 5, I would have shrugged and turned it off, there are thousands of badly made Hitler documentaries out there. I don't need to watch any of them. What kept me avidly glued to the screen was the fact that this had been not so much commissioned but deemed acceptable for broadcast.
At its core is an intelligence and worthiness that I find undeniable. I think this is an incredibly relevant idea for a high budget documentary. Rather than tell the same old story of the Holocaust, the maker's intention with this series is to look at exactly how Hitler managed to get enough support in Germany and further afield to commit such atrocities. Why is this relevant? Because Boris Johnson is lurching towards Downing Street. Because David Cameron is IN Downing Street. Because Tony Blair WAS in Downing Street. This is exactly why history is always relevant and important - as a species we repeat mistakes over and over again. We must constantly remind ourselves of our past to decide about our future.
The concept is a solid one. I'm no historian, but I'd assume that the show has factual integrity. On Rees' past form, I would expect so. Yet this is the biggest misfire I've ever seen on British TV. The execution of this documentary wasn't just bad, it was absurd. It was comical. If I'm generous, I'd assume the director locked the script and then said to a psychotically over-zealous editor with no knowledge of the delicacy of the subject matter to 'just stick appropriate images in'. It's a tough doc to make, it has no modern interviews in it and is really just a spoken polemic with archive material, and bizarrely unnecessary dramatisation and computer graphic work laid over the top.
The crucial mistake made by whoever's vision this is, is the bizarre notion that the subject matter presented soberly is in some way lacking in drama. I never thought we'd reach the day when someone felt Hitler's actions needed to be 'sexed up' - and sexed up they are. Without employing hyperbole, I genuinely lost count of the number of swastikas engulfed in flames and fireballs appeared onscreen. It was beyond a joke, once I'd identified one or two flaming swastikas, seemingly every few minutes there was a 'no, they couldn't do another one, surely?' moment which was capped by, yes, another flaming swastika.
This alone, was enough to ring the bells of an audience who watched Chris Morris's media-shredding satire Brasseye over a decade ago which predicted television descending into little more than hyperbole and ludicrous use of CGI, but it got worse. At one point, whilst trying to describe Hitler's. Well, dark charisma, we were treated to bizarre CGI creations of lions, tigers and hyenas surrounded in balls of flame to illustrate... well, by that point I was no longer sure. Key words from the polemic were written on the screen and the bounced around a bit. Lots of swastikas, lots of flames, lots of flaming swastikas and a giddy sense that this could only end with the flaming face of 'Lion Hitler' exploding out of the swastika and right into my living room (it didn't, it just ended with another standard flaming swastika)
None of this was helped by a strangely chirpy voiceover. At first, I thought it might even have been Keith Chegwin. The upbeat one of the VO had a strange effect on me and had me constantly questioning whether this film was actually in some way pro-Hitler. Our narrator always sounded palpably impressed by whatever young Adolf was getting up to. The silliness was accentuated by the voice casting employed to read out testimonials in which the Nazis were all read out by someone who sounded suspiciously like the 'voice of the balls' on the National Lottery results whilst the Jews, presumably to appear more downtrodden were apparently voiced by Danny Dyer.
At the heart of this programme is an intelligence and worthiness but I've never seen such self-undermining insensitive and tawdry execution in a big-budget BBC production. Yes, the beeb has always shown crap alongside it's more highbrow offerings but the fact that cross-contamination has occurred in this manner is highly troubling to me.