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Showing posts with label Radio Times. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Radio Times. Show all posts

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Simon Schama’s Radio Times doublethink - how to be a romantic British nationalist while opposing nationalism

The BBC does its anti-independence propaganda obliquely in Radio Times – it sneaks it in blandly.

On pages 28-29 of the current edition, it carries an article by a Charles Laurence entitled “I’m a Jewish sea dog!” The eponymous Jewish sea dog is Simon Schama, historian, and relates ostensibly to his History of Britain series on BBC Four.

The article is a sort of profile-cum-interview with Schama, who, despite living half his life in America, holding his professorship at Princeton and bringing his family up there,  refuses to become an American citizen.

I’ve told my son I want to be thrown in the Thames when I die. No, not my ashes. All of me!”

An extreme manifestation of English – or British – nationalism? Perhaps, but he then comes out quite gratuitously with this sort of thing, through the words of Charles Laurence -

“His vision of the Britain forged by this history makes him adamantly opposed to Scottish independence and the break-up of the Union. If Scotland goes, he wrote in the FT, “something precious, to this historian at any rate, will have been irreparably destroyed: a nation state whose glory over the centuries has been that it does not correspond with some imagined romance of tribal singularity but has been made up of many peoples, languages, customs, all jumbled together within the expansive, inclusive British home

This is romantic, woolly and historically inaccurate and offensive nonsense.

The British “nation state” that exists today is the rump of brutal, exploitative colonial empire, corrupt and venal in all of its institutions, incompetent, brutally uncaring to the poor and vulnerable, desperately trying to hang on Scotland as the last symbol of its former power, hoping to preserve what his fellow historian Andrew Davies calls in The Isles

a dysfunctional dynastic conglomerate” – the United Kingdom of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Or take this view attributed to him by Charles Laurence -

‘He adds that the same forces threatening to tear Britain apart are “happening in dreadful places, causing ethnic and tribal wars, immense massacres.”’

Given his earlier remarks about Scottish independence, one may conclude that the peaceful, broad-based, multi-nationality, multi-ethnic and legally agreed Scottish independence campaign is one of the “forces threatening to tear Britain apart”.

This is inflammatory nonsense from an apparently extreme, romantic British nationalist.

He is strangely obscure - almost silent - on the State of Israel, its extreme brand of religious and secular nationalism, and its behaviour towards the Palestinian people. A word about that situation, which does threaten the peace and stability of the world, and has done for 66 years, would be most welcome,  Simon Schama.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Man or Myth – a strange article in Radio Times this week

Radio Times carries a full page article on page 25 headed 'Man or Myth’ by Dr. Fiona Watson of Dundee University in a Q&A format, talking to James Gill of Radio Times. The rationale for commissioning this appears to be a link to ‘Bloody Tales’ screened on Monday next by National Geographic channel.

Dr. Watson’s final comment ‘Braveheart is more fiction than  fact ..’ etc. makes reference to Alex Salmond, the SNP, xenophobia, anti-English sentiment and devolution. I have emailed Dr. Watson, a respected historian - whom I am sure has no political motivation in making such comments – to point out that neither Alex Salmond, the SNP nor the independence movement is  anti-English or xenophobic and has never sought to endorse or exploit the ‘Braveheart’ film, with all its manifest Hollywood inaccuracies.

I have also observed that the SNP and the independence movement celebrates William Wallace as a great Scottish historical figure (as do most Scots) who is most certainly not a myth, and I have referred her to the words of the great English historian George Macaulay Trevelyan, the great nephew of  Macaulay and the last historian writing in the Whig traditions, and the following extract from his History of England(1937) -

“A guerrilla chief of genius, a tall man of iron strength, who suddenly appears on the page of history, as if from nowhere, defeated at Stirling Bridge an English Army under its blundering feudal chief, the Earl of Warenne, of quo Warranto fame. Thence William Wallace broke ravaging into Northumberland and Cumberland.

This unknown knight, with little but his great name to identify him in history, had lit a fire which nothing since has ever put out.

Here, in Scotland, contemporaneously with very similar doings in Switzerland, a new ideal and tradition of wonderful potency was brought into the world; it had no name then, but now we should call it democratic patriotism. It was not the outcome of theory. The unconscious qualities of a people had given it reality in a sudden fit of rage. “