Sunday, July 24, 2011

To the BBC, the past isn't just another country - it's a whole new reality

The fifties were a little before my time, but even so I have a reasonable grasp of what they were like because, growing up in the nineteen sixties, my little corner of Slough was pretty much the same as it was in the decade before.

So I remember enough to understand what Peter Hitchens is driving regarding the Beeb's latest attempt to rewrite history with their new drama "The Hour".

"They really did speak in those strangled accents, and in complete sentences. That is because they thought differently, had grown up with different experiences from those we know. Everyone over 25 could remember the war. Men really were courteous to women, and women – including educated women – genuinely expected to get married and have children and saw nothing wrong in that. The men wore blue or grey suits (often shabby) and knotted their ties tightly."

Of course, Slough was overwhelmingly working class so there wasn't so much of those "strangled accents", but the curious (and rarely heard these days), south Bucks accent that was a sort of cross between West London and West Country - an accent which I'm told I still have (though it doesn't sound like an accent to me!). Apart from that and that the men of Slough, for some reason, seemed to have a preference for brown suits or sports jackets, I pretty much recognise all of what Mr Hitchens describes.

Mr Hitchens ponders why the BBC get the era so wrong in their production - and, indeed, of other recreations of recent times gone by. He comes to the following conclusion.

"The BBC cannot recreate 1956 because it loves the present day too much, and is afraid to admit that anything about the past might have been better."

Well, that is one possible (and plausible) explanation, but I think it goes much deeper than that.

You see, I believe the BBC - and most progressive liberal institutions and supporters - don't love the present day at all. Oh, there are things that they - and I - love about the present day, but they are all technological advancements that would have happened regardless of whether we went all social liberal or stayed socially conservative.

But, they know that by virtually every measure of societal progress things have got much much worse. Crime is rampant, education is broken, the economy is collapsing, community spirit has been torn apart, unemployment is a curse, we're physically sicker and mentally more fragile.

These things can not be hidden. Everyone can see these things with their own eyes and make their onw judgements about the state of society today - it's shattered.

But what they can not do, unless they are over fifty years old at least, is remember what it was like before social liberalism. So, the BBC decides to tell them what it was like through these sort of revisionist dramas. It's not that the BBC loves the present so much - it's because they hate the fact that past society was so much better.

No matter how much of a shiny gloss you put on the present, it is impossible to hide the fact that the country is on the verge of societal as well as economic collapse. The BBC have been trying for donkeys years to tell us how great this time is, but even they no longer believe it.

So, when you can't hide the present, it's much easier to change the past - and that is what they do.

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