I don’t watch or listen to the BBC these days (because I would have to pay the £155 licence fee if I did), and so it was only because Simon Clark had transcribed a recent BBC interview of him on his blog that I was able to read what was said. It was a useful reminder of why I no longer listen to the BBC. Here’s the BBC interviewer:
Andrew Edwards: But aren’t we dancing around the issue that we all understand which is that smoking is very bad for you, it kills an awful lot of people, and we’ve known that forever, and shouldn’t we just be saying rather, ‘Here’s something that is less harmful,’ we should just be saying, ‘Look, let’s get rid of it altogether.’ And I take your point that you are pro-choice and you think it’s a legal product, nobody is denying that. Shouldn’t we though just be saying, for the sake of the health of the generations to come, our children, our children’s children, ‘Look, let’s just get rid of it.’ Like that texter Jonathan said to me, you know, people will look back on it like some of the madnesses, as they now see it, of taking what turned out to be poisonous things to try and cure our ailments.
This is the BBC floating the idea of complete tobacco prohibition. Deborah Arnott won’t do that herself, of course. So instead you get a piece of work like Andrew Edwards to inject the idea into an interview, not just once, but several times.
‘Aren’t we dancing around here? Isn’t the point that we should just ban smoking tobacco altogether?’
And in this manner you familiarise your viewers and listeners to the idea of tobacco prohibition, so it doesn’t come as quite such a shock to them when tobacco prohibition is introduced, “by public demand”.
It may work. But, rather like the US mainstream media that recently failed to either persuade the US people not to vote for Donald Trump or predict his victory, I suspect that the BBC doesn’t have quite the influence that it used to have.
The BBC is in fact the prime example in Britain of an institution with an internal culture that has gradually parted company from the wider culture of the country. It was always left wing and “progressive”, and now seems to have become even more so. Perhaps now is the time to float the idea of simply closing down the BBC. It is, after all, really just a state propaganda organisation that dates from a time when a few megaphone media outlets entirely dominated the airwaves, and is thus a lumbering dinosaur now being overtaken by leaner, fitter, and nimbler shoestring internet outfits. It really only survives by demanding with menaces a £155 “licence fee” from every Briton it can gouge. Let’s not dance around the issue: Auntie should have her life support switched off. People will look back on it and wonder how it ever managed to survive for so long, like an ancient rusting ironclad battleship in an era of drone warfare. What madness was that?
In fact, I wonder if there is any real point in people like Simon Clark appearing on these sorts of interviews, except to act as a handy foil for the likes of Andrew Edwards as he delivers his predetermined talking points. Why not just let him prattle away on his own to his few remaining listeners, like Hillary Clinton before an empty hall?
Very occasionally I get invited onto these shows, usually at very short notice. But I’ve never actually managed it. And in fact I have no wish to appear on them. Because I don’t want to talk to these bastards. There’s nothing to say. The debate is over. It never started. The only thing that I want to do is to destroy them. Certainly I don’t see the point in preserving the semblance of a debate that never actually happened.
Nor is it even that I find Simon Clark a particularly persuasive “voice of the smoker”. After all, he doesn’t smoke. So how can he speak for smokers? He certainly doesn’t speak for me. I’m not one of the Smoke On The Water crowd. For example:
The overwhelming majority of smokers don’t smoke in a car with children because they know that it’s inconsiderate at best.
Nor do the overwhelming majority light up in children’s play areas or by the school gates.
Health isn’t the issue – they’re outside, for heaven’s sake. The principal reason is that, without legislation, most smokers have decided that it’s probably inappropriate and and have changed their behaviour voluntarily.
What comes to mind reading this is the strong image of my father smoking at the steering wheel of his Bellila, and tapping his cigarette on the dashboard ashtray as he drove the family past malodorous mangrove swamps to the beach at Fajara on the river Gambia 60 years ago. Or my grandfather at the steering wheel of his tiny Ford, lighting a pipe after having just exerted himself for several minutes to start it with a hand crank, before pottering slowly up narrow Sussex lanes to be late for church with tone-deaf Father Mac. Was my father ‘inconsiderate’? Was my grandfather acting ‘inappropriately’? Of course not. And what wasn’t inappropriate or inconsiderate then isn’t inappropriate or inconsiderate today. And what’s really needed in children’s playgrounds these days are some decent sheds behind which they can learn to smoke, as did my generation, and many previous generations before us.
It’s not for the government or the medical profession or the BBC or anyone else to decide what is and isn’t inappropriate or inconsiderate. It’s not their job. The job of the government is to represent the people. The job of the medical profession is to care for the sick. And the job of the BBC is to report the news. Anything else is over and above their remit, and they shouldn’t be doing it. Values and norms are constantly being negotiated and renegotiated between countless ordinary people in the course of their everyday lives, not handed down from above by self-styled authorities of one kind or other, who are anyway all going to be swept away some day soon. And the sooner the better.