Anti-Establishmentarianism or Media Liberalism?

Home

Comment at end of page

4th August, 2007

Antony Jay – co-writer of “Yes Minister” (read quote here) says -

 

” … we were anti-industry, anti-capitalism, anti-advertising, anti-selling, anti-profit, anti-patriotism, anti-monarchy, anti-Empire, anti-police, anti-armed forces, anti-bomb, anti-authority. Almost anything that made the world a freer, safer and more prosperous place, you name it, we were anti it.”

 

IN DEFENCE OF ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM and other BIG words!

Today I can have some fun – I’m evidently an antidisestablishmentarianist. I’ve always liked this word since my childhood when I realised I could spell it out loud and consistently correct in four seconds flat ;0) but I’ve never had the chance to use it … until now.

Whatever you’d like to call me – and I’m sure there are many suggestions – I’m certainly sickened by today’s media anti-establishmentarianism

This might even be the hot topic of the summer months, when politics, like its bosom buddy the theatre, goes dark. Antony Jay’s ‘Media liberalism’ paper is of fortuitous timing. Perhaps the media will sort it all out BEFORE Parliament resumes, or before the next election, whichever comes first.

Discussed at The Telegraph in depth, Jay’s paper has been distilled below.

Excerpt:

I think I am beginning to see the answer to a question that has puzzled me for the past 40 years. The question is simple – much simpler than the answer: what is behind the opinions and attitudes of what are called the chattering classes? They are that minority characterised (or caricatured) by sandals and macrobiotic diets, but in a less extreme form found in the Guardian, Channel 4, the Church of England, academia, showbusiness and BBC News and Current Affairs, who constitute our metropolitan liberal media consensus – though the word “liberal” would have Adam Smith rotating at maximum velocity in his grave. Let’s call it “media liberalism”.

It is of particular interest to me because for nine years (1955-1964) I was part of this media liberal consensus. For six of those nine years I was working on Tonight, a nightly BBC current affairs television programme. My stint coincided almost exactly with Macmillan’s premiership, and I do not think my ex-colleagues would quibble if I said we were not exactly diehard supporters. But we were not just anti-Macmillan; we were anti-industry, anti-capitalism, anti-advertising, anti-selling, anti-profit, anti-patriotism, anti-monarchy, anti-Empire, anti-police, anti-armed forces, anti-bomb, anti-authority. Almost anything that made the world a freer, safer and more prosperous place, you name it, we were anti it.

It was (and is) essentially, though not exclusively, a graduate phenomenon. From time to time it finds an issue that strikes a chord with the broad mass of the nation, but in most respects it is wildly unrepresentative of national opinion. When the Queen Mother died the media liberal press dismissed it as an event of no particular importance, and were mortified to see the vast crowds lining the route for her funeral, and the great flood of national emotion that it released.


And, for a Tory take on it:

I do hope the Conservative Home’s website won’t be too upset by my referring to this recent article at their site, or in fact, by my pasting their whole analysis of Antony Jay’s pamphlet on Media liberalism here, but it was very good. And I’ll take good ideas or analysis from anywhere!


Media liberalism The Centre for Policy Studies is publishing a paper tomorrow, Confessions of a Reformed BBC Producer, by Antony Jay, co-writer of Yes, Minister. Robin Aitken, a more recent employee of the BBC who has spoken out on its institutional bias with his book, has yet to be interviewed about it by the BBC. The Telegraph has a large extract of Jay’s paper, highlights of which are below:The chattering classes: “They are that minority characterised (or caricatured) by sandals and macrobiotic diets, but in a less extreme form found in the Guardian, Channel 4, the Church of England, academia, showbusiness and BBC News and Current Affairs, who constitute our metropolitan liberal media consensus – though the word “liberal” would have Adam Smith rotating at maximum velocity in his grave. Let’s call it “media liberalism”.”

Tonight programme:
“My stint coincided almost exactly with Macmillan’s premiership, and I do not think my ex-colleagues would quibble if I said we were not exactly diehard supporters. But we were not just anti-Macmillan; we were anti-industry, anti-capitalism, anti-advertising, anti-selling, anti-profit, anti-patriotism, anti-monarchy, anti-Empire, anti-police, anti-armed forces, anti-bomb, anti-authority. Almost anything that made the world a freer, safer and more prosperous place, you name it, we were anti it.”On the Queen Mother: “It was (and is) essentially, though not exclusively, a graduate phenomenon. From time to time it finds an issue that strikes a chord with the broad mass of the nation, but in most respects it is wildly unrepresentative of national opinion. When the Queen Mother died the media liberal press dismissed it as an event of no particular importance, and were mortified to see the vast crowds lining the route for her funeral, and the great flood of national emotion that it released.”

To look down on society from above, from the point of view of the ruling groups, the institutions, is to see the dangers of the organism splitting apart, the individual components shooting off in different directions, until everything dissolves into anarchy. Those who see society in this way are preoccupied with the need for order, discipline, control, authority and organisation.

To look up at society from below, from the point of view of the lowest group, the governed, is to see the dangers of the organism growing ever more rigid and oppressive until it fossilises into a monolithic tyranny. Those who see society in this way are preoccupied with the need for liberty, equality, self-expression, representation, freedom of speech and action and worship, and the rights of the individual.

Inherently anti-institution: “Ever since 1963, the institutions have been the villains of the media liberals. The police, the armed services, the courts, political parties, multinational corporations – when things go wrong, they are the usual suspects. In my media liberal days our attitude to institutions varied from suspicion to hostility.”

On Margaret Thatcher: “It often surprised me how regularly the retired brigadier from Bournemouth and the taxi driver from Ilford were united against our media liberal consensus. Those same media liberals who today demonise Margaret Thatcher simply cannot understand why she won big majorities in three successive general elections and is judged by historians around the world as having been Britain’s most successful peacetime prime minister of the 20th century.”

Disdain for local government:
“We were in a tribal institution, but we were not of it. Nor did we have any geographical tribe; we lived in commuter suburbs, we knew very few of our neighbours, and took not the slightest interest in local government. In fact we looked down on it. Councillors were self-important nobodies and mayors were a pompous joke. We belonged instead to a dispersed ”metropolitan-media-arts-graduate” tribe.”

Group-think: “We met over coffee, lunch, drinks and dinner to reinforce our views on the evils of apartheid, nuclear deterrence, capital punishment, the British Empire, big business, advertising, public relations, the Royal Family, the defence budget… it’s a wonder we ever got home. We so rarely encountered any coherent opposing arguments that we took our group-think as the views of all right-thinking people.”

Ignorance of the realities of government: “We saw ourselves as part of the intellectual élite, full of ideas about how the country should be run, and yet with no involvement in the process or power to do anything about it. Being naïve in the way institutions actually work, yet having good arts degrees from reputable universities, we were convinced that Britain’s problems were the result of the stupidity of the people in charge. We ignored the tedious practicalities of getting institutions to adopt and implement ideas.”

Ignorance of the market economy:
“That ignorance is still there. Say ”Tesco” to a media liberal and the patellar reflex says, “Exploiting African farmers and driving out small shopkeepers”. The achievement of providing the range of goods, the competitive prices, the food quality, the speed of service and the ease of parking that attract millions of shoppers every day does not show up on the media liberal radar.”

Faith-based liberalism: “For a time it puzzled me that after 50 years of tumultuous change the media liberal attitudes could remain almost identical to those I shared in the 1950s. Then it gradually dawned on me: my BBC media liberalism was not a political philosophy, even less a political programme. It was an ideology based not on observation and deduction but on faith and doctrine. We were rather weak on facts and figures, on causes and consequences, and shied away from arguments about practicalities. If defeated on one point we just retreated to another; we did not change our beliefs.”

Media liberalism is now establishment: “Today, we see our old heresy becoming the new orthodoxy: media liberalism has now been adopted by the leaders of all three political parties, by the police, the courts and the Churches. It is enshrined in law – in the human rights act, in much health and safety legislation, in equal opportunities, in employment protections, in race relations and in a whole stream of edicts from Brussels.”


My thoughts on the above

Tony Blair made similar arguments in his Feral Beast speech, as I referred to at this site when the cash-for-honours fiasco was being built up by the press as Blair’s death knell. In the event there was no case to answer, but by then another nail had been banged into the Blair coffin, a gift to Brownites.

Is there, was there a conspiracy? I’m usually an anti-conspiracy-theorist, but since this is the stance from which so many on the liberal left come to many of their conclusions, I’ve decided that there may be value in getting into their mindset. It might just get the message over about the possible consequences of their hounding of politicians.

And following recent bending of the truth by the BBC and other broadcasters, there may be some recalibration of the biases and messages of the media.

We can but hope.


Typical brilliant excerpt from the script of “Yes Minister” – and “Yes Prime Minister”:

“The fact that the Prime Minister needed to know was not known at the time that the now known need to know was known, and therefore those of us who needed to advise and inform felt that the information that we needed as to whether or not to inform the highest authority of the known information was not yet known, and therefore there was no authority for the authority to be informed because the need to know was not yet known, or needed.”

And before you go, watch this video – from “Yes, Prime Minister” and see if it might, or just could, ring any bells for you. (Only 2 minutes long – but very funny. Watch it to the end for one of the best punchlines I can recall in comedy, or politics.)

FORMER PM’s MEMOIRS

‘Yes, Prime Minister: Former Prime Minister’s Memoirs’




Free Hit Counter


One Response to “Anti-Establishmentarianism or Media Liberalism?”

  1. Oh, Mandy – you came and you gave without taking … « Tony Blair Says:

    […] In need of a little light relief after all this intrigue? Go here and scroll to the end to read, watch “Yes, (Prime) Minister.” […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s