Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Giving a platform to a bigot

It's a while since I've complained to the BBC, but the Pope's Easter message being broadcast was enough to get me riled. "Giving a platform to a bigot" is how I summarized it in under 20 words. This is the extended special edition:

The views of the Pope are homophobic, sexist, possibly anti-semitic and extremely dangerous when it comes to the spreading of HIV. Why is someone who would be marginalized if he was a political leader, or condemned if he was a Muslim cleric, given 34 minutes to air his views at the expense of the license payer, with no-one given a right to reply? You decided to let Nick Griffin on Question Time as an elected MEP, but the Pope has no right to a platform on similar grounds so how can this be justified?

I got a reply from the BBC. This is their justification:
Dear Mr Chafey

Reference **************

Thank you for your correspondence regarding the BBC One programme ‘Urbi et Orbi’.

I understand you’re unhappy because you believe the Pope’s views are homophobic and that the BBC shouldn’t broadcast him on its network.

Given that the occasion was Easter, this was a live broadcast from St Peter's Square in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI gives his Easter message and blessing "to the city and to the world".

We would also check our broadcasts, in that they don’t breach editorial our guidelines, however it would be more difficult in a live rolling environment. Yet the Pope represents hundreds of millions of Catholics across the planet and as Catholics make up a big percentage of the UK population, we need to reflect the interests of our audience while also trying to offer various other interests across our network, for viewers who may not prefer to watch the programme.

I appreciate that you may continue to hold a different view and I'd like to assure you that I've registered your complaint on our Audience Log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that’s made available to all BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

The Audience Logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions on future BBC programmes and content.

Once again, thank you for contacting us.

Kind Regards

BBC Complaints

Is this adequate justification? Your views please...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Terry Jones and "Rowan Williams v the WBC"

I was never quite sure why this man made it on the news. I can only assume that he was mistaken for his Monty Python namesake.

I had assumed before he first gained notoriety last year that Koran burning was a not-unheard-of activity amongst fundamentalists in the USA. I should say that I disagree with Koran burning. Not for any religious reason: if people get offended by a particular book being burned frankly they should stop being so silly. I only disagree with in on the basis that it is fairly pointless, not a good use of paper and emits carbon into the atmosphere.

Don't get me wrong, Terry Jones is a tit. A big tit. He's almost a pair of tits he's that much of a tit. But he has the right to burn a book if he wants.

"People will die because of this". True, the burning of a Koran may lead to deaths, but the moral responsibility for those deaths lies squarely on the vile human beings who kill someone (not even involved) for something as trivial as a book being burned. These people must not think their faith to be very strong if it can be threatened by a mere book burning by some fool on the other side of the world, and we can't allow ourselves to be held to ransom by them.

My attention was drawn to this article, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2011/apr/06/phelps-family-louis-theroux-rowan-williams by a member of the Westboro Baptist Church themselves'. To have been referred to a Guardian article by a Phelps (Jonathan to be precise) was not something I ever thought would happen. But the article itself makes rather a strange point. It acts like Rowan Williams is a staunch and vocal defender of moderate Christianity wielding Biblical quotes against his foes and silencing fundamentalists. Williams is none of these things. Williams is a man who is almost too scared to admit to having any faith at all. He fits in to the category of Christianity mostly found in the UK that has watered-down their beliefs to such an extent as to be impossible to argue against. Rowan Williams is so ludicrously moderate that he advocated using some aspects of Sharia law in the UK. So ecumenical is he desperate to appear that he actively endorses other faiths, despite the fact that the scripture of his own clearly says that everyone else is sinning.

Rowan Williams going to Westboro to interview the Phelps family would be his saying how much he respected their beliefs and concluding that as long as they sort-of believe in Jesus, or even if they don't, God will love them and everyone will be happy. Williams would say that he does not have any specific belief on homosexuality, and he agrees with both sides of the argument. They might even get him to hold a sign.

Why would Stephen Bates want to send Rowan Williams? I would much rather see Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins go and talk some sense into them.

Monday, 4 April 2011

Westboro Banter


@ You God Haters @ SS had/have platform 2 tell kids Not OK 2 b gay. You promote filthy fags/whores above God's word. 

 Axel Yachef 

@ SS probably wouldn't teach many kids to read/count if they started ranting about homosexuality. Cut them some slack.


@ NAMBLA say 8 is too late. WBC say as soon as babies born in pew & raised in nuture/admonition of Lord.

 Axel Yachef 

@ Wouldn't there be a problem if no kids could read cos all they were told was WBC doctrine? Noone could read Bible/your signs

The Hobbit: Tolkien Phantom Menace?

Talk of a Hobbit move has been ongoing ever since the Lord of the Rings was a smash in 2001. But is going back and making the prequel a mistake, particularly considering the reception the Star Wars prequels got from fans?

It would be hard to argue Star Wars I-III weren't successful. They made tons of cash, flogged a shed load more merchandise, old and new, and were fairly well received by critics (all certified 'fresh' on Rotten Tomatoes). I don't doubt that the Hobbit films will be successful in these ways, but what will the fans think?

The Lord of the Rings was, of course, mega successful in all ways it's possible for a film to be successful, so the demand for the Hobbit films was always there. However, it wasn't as straight-forward as that as there was controversy over the rights, and Peter Jackson had not left production company New Line on the best of terms, following a legal battle over merchandising.

When the Lord of the Rings was made, there was the challenge of cramming such an enormous book into 3 long films. A lot had to be cut out, but the soul of the books remained and fans were happy. The Hobbit faces the opposite problem. Its source book is the perfect length and structure for a 2hr film. It's almost as if it was written to be made into a film. However, the film's producers have opted to make two, either stretching the narrative of the book over two films, or having one Hobbit film and one film of 'other tales' from Middle Earth. Now I'm not a cynic, not when it comes to Peter Jackson and Tolkien-based films, but I can think of no other angle to view this from than an attempt to milk more money out of a short novel.

This is pretty similar to Star Wars. The original trilogy was being made up as they went along, but the prequels could never go far from the baggage of explaining Darth Vader, which was essentially their purpose, so were limited in the course the story could take. So it felt that there was a bit of stretching going on, taking 3 films to explain what could have been done in one.

Also there's the issue of familiarity. The Hobbit has a very different tone from Lord of the Rings, and only a couple of the same characters pop up (Elrond, Gandalf, Bilbo and Gollum), yet it has been announced that Elijah Wood and Cate Blanchett are to return (Galadriel and Frodo). How can this be? This lends support to the 'other stories' theory. This also emphasises how prequels were never part of the original plan, as older actors will be playing younger characters, like what happened to Hannibal Lecter in Red Dragon or The Emperor in Star Wars I-III.

There's also the issue of anticlimax. LOTR was about going against the odds and saving all the free peoples' of Middle Earth, and ends with  our much-loved characters sailing to the West. The Hobbit is about a bunch of Dwarves (half of whom are basically just running jokes, like fat Bombur) going on a treasure hunt. How is seeing Sir Ian take Tim from The Office to steal some treasure going to compare with the epic battle with the Balrog, or the painstaking crawl up the slopes of Mount Doom? Even if they do a great job making the films, they will never compare to the originals.

I will just have to put all my faith in movie franchises in The Dark Knight Rises, which seems to be bubbling along nicely...

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Michael Jackson immortalised..at Fulham

This story is so weird I have to right about it just to get its weirdness out of my system.

Firstly, there is the idea that MJ and Mo Al Fayed were friends. Already a bit odd. Although they do share a fetish for trashy Egyptian replica artefacts. What's stranger is the idea that a statue of Jackson has been erected at Fulham football club. Apparently Mo was originally going to put it in Harrods, but then sold Harrods. Oh, the problems of billionaires.

What I don't understand is the fans of Fulham being pissed off. Your club is owned by the guy who tried to sue the royal family for killing his son, based on some bizarre conspiracy theory involving a Peugeut. What do you expect? If putting up a statue of a dead pop star is the worst thing he does, count yourselves lucky. According to Fayed "He loved Fulham and he wanted to attend all of the matches". But only attended one. And somehow I don't think it was because he was busy working.

What was better than these criticisms, however, was Fayed's response. It matched Cameron's single great soundbite that "If the Iranians don't want to come [to the olympics], don't come - we won't miss you."
Fayed went for a verbal finger-sticking-up in the form of "If some stupid fans don't understand and appreciate such a gift this guy gave to the world they can go to hell...I don't want them to be fans...If they don't understand and don't believe in things I believe in they can go to Chelsea, they can go to anywhere else."
Ever heard of "the customer is always right"?

Obviously, Fayed is sure of the statue's success: "People will queue to come and visit it from all over the UK and it is something that I and everybody else should be proud of". Judging by the crowd at the launch, who looked like they were there to see a local radio DJ open a supermarket, this seems unlikely. Also, there is a bit of an Emperor's New Clothes moment when no-one mentions it doesn't actually look that much like Michael Jackson.

To add to the heap of verbal bullshit growing around this non-story, the BBC asked some football-type people for their opinions. Brede Hangeland, a defender for Fulham (apparently) summed up the situation with the incredibly wise assertion that "Some of our players are Michael Jackson fans, some aren't, and that's the same in the general population". Saying 'no shit, Sherlock' seems too obvious. Brede followed this up by saying "We have the deepest respect for everything about the chairman. If he wants to do this then it is all good" which sounds like someone commenting on Mao at a show-trial.