Friday, October 20, 2006

Gratuitous moment of good news

On a day that the John Lloyd dates no more precisely than "recent", many luminaries of the BBC and a few invited guests gathered to discuss impartiality. (Don't turn away yet.) The top brass was not lacking: Mark Byford, deputy director general and head of journalism; Jana Bennett, head of television; Alan Yentob, director of drama and entertainment; Helen Boaden, head of news; Mark Damazer, head of Radio 4. They did not discuss whether to use the word 'terrorist' or not. What they agonised about was what Andrew Marr called their "cultural liberal bias".

The corporation's Washington correspondent, Justin Webb, told the assembled unburnished glitterati that the BBC's tone in reporting America tended to scorn and derision and that it didn't give the US "any kind of moral weight". Jeff Randall, an ex- and now editor-at-large (what does that mean?) for the Daily Telegraph labels himself centre-right, but was seen at the Beeb "as an extremist". To his criticism that the BBC accepted multiculturalism uncritically came the reply that "the BBC is not neutral in multiculturalism; it believes in it and it promotes it". His intention to wear Union Jack cufflinks on air elicited, "You can't do that; that's like the National Front".

They also did a role-play. Sacha Baron Cohen appears on Room 101 and chooses to divest us of kosher food, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bible and the Koran. What does the BBC do? The producer Alan Hayling: the first 3 OK, but refer the Koran up. Alan Yentob: all OK, except the Koran. Jana Bennet: the first two OK, but not the Bible and the Koran. Mark Damazer: replace the Bible and the Koran with a book called "organised religion". How surprising is that!? The most pukeable one is the last, but only the most pukeable.

Are you wondering wherein lies the good news bit? They're talking about it. Isn't that something? What do you want, the Balen Report?

This I found in the paper edition of Prospect, which has lots of other goodies as well. The article is available online only to subscribers.

The second item of pianissimo good cheer is from the academy, from several universities in the United States to be precise, where little bleats of joy are to be heard.

We think of the Madison Center at Princeton University, which under the guidance of Robert George has created a vibrant institution-within-an-institution to which students and scholars are flocking, much to the chagrin of the politically correct professoriate at Princeton. We think of the fledgling Center for the American Founding at Amherst College, which under Hadley Arkes promises to end one-party intellectual rule in the People’s Republic of Amherst.
And now at Hamilton College there is something called the Alexander Hamilton Center for the Study of Western Civilization which
proceeds under the premise that the reasoned study of Western civilization, its distinctive achievements as well as its distinctive failures, will further the search for truth and provide the ethical basis necessary for civilized life. The [Center] aspires to create an educational environment of the highest standards in which evidence and argument prevail over ideology and cant… . Thus, for a serious liberal arts college, no more vital understanding of diversity exists than that which would promote intellectual diversity. The proper ends of education imply variegated approaches to the acquisition of knowledge and to the cultivation of intelligence. A liberal arts graduate, properly trained, should possess not only an enhanced capacity to distinguish between career and the good life, but the ability to manage with honesty and dignity the often conflicting claims imposed on adulthood by nature, society, and environment. The great books of Western civilization conserve a distinctive intellectual and spiritual tradition.
Is it too late to save our hollowed institutions? Maybe not. The multitudinous Mohammads may yet do us this service: send us back to what makes us strong.

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