The BBC isn’t trying to revive Civilisation – it’s destroying it
THE BBC plans to ‘question the very concept of civilisation’ in a new and lavish TV series. Well, at least they’re being open about it this time. The promise is made by one-time Blairite commissar James Purnell, now a senior BBC mandarin. The most interesting thing about Mr Purnell is that he once managed to appear in a photograph of an event at which he had not been present.
Some other MPs, who were there, said they had left a space for him to be slotted in later, though he said he had no idea this was the plan. Believe what you like. This is at least better than the old Stalinist practice of obliterating people from pictures in which they originally featured, but it is all too typical of the modern elite’s sketchy relationship with ideas of absolute truth or absolute good.
Alas, he is now all-too-present at the BBC. Mr Purnell, whose former total political partiality is of course no sort of problem in the supposedly politically neutral Corporation, promises viewers: ‘We’ll turn to civilisation. Well, Civilisations – inspired by Kenneth Clark’s seminal documentary series, but in many ways the opposite of the original. Rather than a single view of civilisation, we will have three presenters.
‘Rather than looking at Western civilisation, we will look at many, and question the very concept of civilisation.’
That’s interesting. Does he think there would even be a BBC unless there had been an agreed concept of civilisation in the now-forgotten, abolished Britain which first created it?
LET him wander, some spring morning, out of the dreary new plastic palace (already showing its age) that the Corporation has built for itself in the centre of London, and examine its handsome original headquarters next door. There he will find an inscription in Latin, intended to be the first thing seen by everyone entering the building.
I will translate the important parts of it: ‘This temple of the arts and muses is dedicated to Almighty God by the first Governors in the year of our Lord 1931… And they pray that good seed sown may bring forth good harvest, and that all things foul or hostile to peace may be banished thence, and that the people inclining their ear to whatsoever things are lovely and honest, whatsoever things are of good report, may tread the path of virtue and wisdom.’
It leaves no doubt that the stated purpose of the building and the organisation were explicitly Christian. Much of it is actually taken from the Bible. And it pretty fiercely warns that those things which are ‘foul’ or ‘hostile to peace’ are to be banished. But anyone who has many dealings with the BBC, and I have had lots, will know that its idea of what is virtuous, and its idea of what is foul (which sometimes includes me personally), have changed beyond recognition since that inscription was carved 86 years ago.
That is why it now rejects the original idea of civilisation, fundamentally European and eventually Christian, which it still just about tolerated in the 1960s when Kenneth Clark’s famous series on the subject was made.
But what does it favour instead? By offering us three differing ideas, and inviting us to choose which we prefer, it is not, in my view, being open-minded.
It is saying above all that it no longer endorses Lord Clark’s idea, or its own founding charter. Oddly enough, back in the 1960s, its then Director General, Hugh CarletonGreene, was the blazing unconcealed spirit of the British cultural revolution. Like others in that era, he went too far, too fast, was too obvious, and so was reined in. His successors, ever since, have been more cautious and more cunning. It looks as if they have done their job so well that they feel safe to come out into the open again. But what will they do with the old inscription, now that it is actually a lie?