Question Time last night wasn’t half bad. I did some live tweeting, with the usual results - premature judgements, misspellings, etc.
The right-wing raver slot - which the BBC feels must be part of the panel, in the interests of ‘balance’ - was occupied by Melanie Phillips this week, a regular in this chair. There is no real slot for a left-wing raver because the genuine article is hard to find these days - we have to be satisfied with the likes of George Galloway, who now occupies a political planet entirely of his own creation, a planet - or maybe a rogue asteroid - that now hovers dangerously near to the Scottish Parliament
Bob Crow is sometimes meant to fill the slot, but the format and the chairman usually attempt to contain him within the stereotype of trade union militant. Since Crow is anything but a raver, with a much broader political view that just his union, always displaying an icy, objective calmness in all that he says, and refusing to be contained by anyone, this fails, and the programme comes to life, to the discomfiture of the party and media hacks on the panel, the spluttering indignation of the right wing raver, the impotence of David Dimbleby and the delight of the audience -and me. The Question Time panel is not a place for real people. They are supposed to be confined to the audience.
Melanie, however, is entirely predictable, and has been for many years now, so there were no surprises when the question about Egypt’s revolution came up. On any international issue, anything Melanie says has to be decoded in the light of the foreign policy of Israel and its view of Muslims and international terrorism, which to ultra Zionists are one and the same.
There was a certain irony in the fact that the programme was recorded at the same time - or probably before - the transmission of Louis Theroux’s BBC2 documentary, The Ultra Zionists, at 9.00 p.m. last night.
On other topics, she gives evidence of the penetrating intelligence and incisive comment that once graced the pages of - incredibly - The Guardian. (I remember her from those days, and mourn the loss of the Melanie-that-was.) She is now flits between her two natural journalistic homes, The Spectator and The Daily Mail. Penetrating intelligence and incisiveness are, however, no guarantors of wisdom, clear vision or objectivity, as history - and Melanie - abundantly demonstrate.
My comments on her performance led to a tweeted response from a supporter of Melanie, to the effect that she always spoke the truth, thus enraging ‘the lefties’, among whose number I am delighted to be included. (Such commentators never think of themselves as righties). Indeed, I count it a badge of honour to be described as a leftist separatist, which appellation happily combines my basic political orientation with my Scottish nationalism. My critic also referred to ‘mad’ lefties, and I had to remind him that in my recollection, this epithet had only been applied before to Mad Mitch of Aden and to a political columnist, panellist and journalist whose name escapes me for the moment.
I was once asked to put my political philosophy in a nutshell, and came up with Left is right and Right is wrong, and that still just about describes my position. Of course, if I wanted to take a more anodyne position, I would describe myself as a social democrat, but many on the right of the political spectrum think of themselves as such, so I am wary of that label.
I visited Melanie's website to update myself on her written views, and found the title of her book The World Turned Upside Down - The Global Battle over God, Truth and Power, a suitably apocalpytic title. I reproduce a paragraph from her plug for her book.
The loss of religious belief has meant the West has replaced reason and truth with ideology and prejudice, which it enforces in the manner of a secular inquisition. The result has been a kind of mass derangement, as truth and lies, right and wrong, victim and aggressor are all turned upside down. In medieval-style witch- hunts, scientists who are skeptical of global warming are hounded from their posts; Israel is ferociously demonized; and the United States is vilified over the war on terror-all on the basis of falsehoods and propaganda that are believed as truth.
Since I disagree with every line and every word of that, and believe that it is Melanie, fundamentalist religion, Israel and US foreign policy that have turned the world upside down, risking a return to the Dark Ages, I offer as an antidote another book - Allies for Armageddon by Victoria Clark, which explores with chilling forensic skill, the destructive links between right-wing, American Rapture fundamentalist Christians, the ultra zionists and the Bush/Cheney regime that dragged the world, and the UK under Blair into the present lethal instability of global politics and two disastrous wars.
And that’s about all I have to say for today. Have a good weekend …